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

Inspect Expect
Inspect what you expect and article from @dougthorpe_com

Inspect what you expect.

This is an old saying that I learned decades ago.

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

Well…

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

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

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

Here’s my story.

The Military Way

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

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

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

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

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

To achieve the best results, you must inspect.

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

We suspected drug activity coming from this barracks.

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

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

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

Our target was achieved.

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

This principle also applies to the success of most businesses.

Why?

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

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

They must be focused.

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

Good project management comes from inspecting what you expect.

Have you heard of Six Sigma or DMAIC?

“Six Sigma”

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

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

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

DMAIC

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

…or, simply inspecting what you expect.

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

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

The devil is in the details.

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

Great leaders walk the floor.

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

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

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

You have to constantly test and review events and circumstances.

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

If you don’t, people could get hurt.

Three easy steps to inspect:

1. Expect

Set expectations; specific expectations.

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

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

2. Be Consistent

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

3. Stay Visible

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

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

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

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

So…do you inspect what you expect?

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

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader, and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!

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

Are You a FAST Leader?

The 5 C’s of a Trusted Leader

Leadership Effectiveness Can Work with Simple Triggers

7 Strategies for Being a Better Manager

team leadership and better managers

Most managers get their start because they were good workers. There is nothing wrong with that, except…

Being a good manager requires a level of leadership. Without the right training and development, you might find that being a manager is a struggle.

“Management is about process. Leadership is about people.”

To reach your leadership potential, you need to be a fearless, bold, and effective coach. But where do you start? Check out these 7 strategies that will help you become the manager your employees (and company) need you to be:

Talk less, listen more

We have two ears but only one mouth; great managers should keep that ratio in mind as they help employees grow. Instead of talking at employees, use that time to listen. They all have career ambitions they’d like to achieve, but that won’t happen if managers are more focused on their own points of view.

As a manager, you should guide the discussion, but ultimately, it’s the employee’s voice that needs to be heard.

There’s something called empathetic listening. That’s when you, as the manager, are fully engaged; really hearing what the employee is saying. You not only hear their words, but begin to feel their passion about the topic. With this level of connection, you can build better trust with that employee.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Zig Ziglar

Play to your (and your team’s) strengths

Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses can really change how you coach and give feedback. While you, the manager, might be a great verbal communicator, you’ll need to acknowledge when your direct reports may not have the same skills.

Tailor your relationship to what enables them to be the most open about their goals; if possible, leverage your learning & development solution to strategically address weaknesses and encourage their personal growth.

I’ve written before about ways to perform your own personal SWOT analysis. Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses while you engage and learn your team members’ too.

swot analysis

Manage teams, not individuals

Performance reviews typically look at individuals, but managers are ultimately responsible for their team’s performance. By identifying individual strengths and skills gaps, you can encourage team members with complementary skills to team up; this promotes teamwork, learning opportunities, and increases the likelihood of project successes.

For more on team performance and building team trust visit my program here. I have a whole 6-step model that defines the process for creating a team environment with high trust, collaboration, and support.

building team trust

Accentuate the positive

We all know our professional strengths, but our weaknesses represent our best chance for growth. Celebrate employees’ talents, but also acknowledge areas that need to be developed. By addressing them through training, you may turn a negative into a major strength.

Also, don’t be afraid to celebrate the “wins”. There’s a strange attitude among high performers. When you win, you feel like it’s no big deal. “I was supposed to do that.” is the logic. The reality is that you cannot sustain long term high performance without taking a moment to celebrate the win.

As a manager, you need to decide on ways to celebrate with your team. Use your next team meeting to have a celebration. Cater lunch or have an ice cream afternoon. Do something to let the team know you know they deserve a celebration.

Be inspirational

The most successful companies have one thing in common: they inspire more success by publicly acknowledging employee achievements and talents. Whether an employee earned a new certification or learned a new skill, celebrate this among the team. When team members see their colleagues being rewarded for growing, they’ll take it upon themselves to seek out development opportunities.

Give feedback frequently

Acknowledging achievement is Management 101: give feedback frequently – it means more in real-time than 6 months later – and do it publicly when appropriate.

Yet when you need to correct the occasional misstep, be direct and private about it. Just ensure you make it clear you’re talking about the employee’s action, not them as a person. Above all, honesty will make sure your feedback carries the most weight.

Learn more about powerful ways to deliver feedback by using the Big 5 performance tool.

Make performance reviews about people

Performance reviews are ultimately about blending employee goals with company strategy. Demonstrate how their efforts drive the bottom line so they feel less siloed and that their work is a big part of the company’s growth. This boosts engagement and productivity.

However, a performance review should not be limited to the annual prescribed company tools. Great managers have performance check-ins routinely. One very powerful yet simple way to do that is with a tool called Big 5. You can learn more about Big 5 here.

Get going

By following these 7 principles, you will rise above the crowd as an effective and respected leader. To receive more tips and ideas for up-leveling your game as a manager, subscribe to this bog. I’ll send weekly updates to get you going toward better performance as a leader.

Note: Portions of this article were inspired by my friends at Cornerstone on Demand, a talent development company specializing in building effective teams and leaders.

SWOT Yourself

swot analysis

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

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

SWOT

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

Personal Review Using SWOT

A plan of action using a Personal SWOT Analysis can be developed for every aspect of development and execution because there are always three critical components in every chosen role you may serve. Whether you are husband, wife, father, mother, community leader, volunteer or other, you can SWOT your contribution to that effort.

Why? Because every role we serve has three key components.

Identity, Purpose, and Intention.

These three components form a process of right action. Without understanding who you are or what your business or organizational core competence is and what is the purpose you intend, you are always going to be guessing more than you have to.

In the following analysis, you are taken step by step through a proven process of creating clarity of right action.

However, to do so we have to begin with a simple way of fleshing out the context within which you intend to work. It doesn’t matter what context or role you choose, each of them requires you to be clear.

In order to reach clarity we take some simple, yet critically important steps. The first steps begin with a SWOT Analysis.

You will focus on the following overriding questions:

  • Do you know your personal purpose?
  • What are your goals or objectives?
  • What are your values?
  • HOW Can YOU match your STRENGTHS to OPPORTUNITIES/Openings?
  • How can you reduce the impact of your WEAKNESSES and THREATS?
  • How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?

Strengths

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

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

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

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

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

Weaknesses

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

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

Opportunities

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

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

Threats

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

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

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

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

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

Performing a Periodic Personal Review

Just as every successful business invests time to perform SWOT analysis from time to time, you too should perform this review with your work life, home life, and career balance.

See what the data may tell you about the direction you are heading. Use the informed analysis to redirect your path, redefine goals, and set a new course.

Have a great and prosperous New Year!

If you want to know more about the ways I can help you or your business, click the button below.

Managers: 5 Key Questions About Grace

grace

 

2020 has been a dumpster fire. Pandemic, economic trials, election battles, remote working, killer hornets, hurricanes, and mandated lockouts. What else can go wrong, right?

2020 dumpster fire

And it’s hard to believe we’re poised to launch into 2021 just a few short weeks away. Can you say “Yippee”!

With year-end upon us and a new year right ahead, people start thinking about new year planning. This article is not another push for goal setting. It will not be about the next great program or self-help eBook. The topic I’d like to share seldom gets mentioned in any Top 10 list of attributes for managers. Yet, I feel obligated to bring it up. What am I talking about?

The topic is GRACE; not a person or a thing. Rather, in my humble opinion, grace is a state of mind. We can’t earn it. Many feel they don’t deserve it. So, I believe that is why I have yet to find the topic of grace being spoken about in any of the management and leadership books I follow.

Maybe you first heard about grace from a Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. No, this will NOT be a Bible study article. I simply want to tell you about adding grace to several parts of your life as you close 2020 and enter the New Year.

What is Grace?

Please allow me to explain my thoughts about grace, then we will apply them to your situation.

First, I said grace is a mindset. It lives halfway between your head and your heart. You can over-think it, thus killing the spirit of it. Or, you can over-give it, thus defying the logic of what you might need to be doing with it. It is a delicate balance of thought, logic, emotion, and self-worth.

Next, it does include a dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness not just for a moment, then later to be revoked, but permanent. Wiped clean, wiped off, wiped out.

Then, in modern terms, grace gives us the break you need as in ‘give me a break’. It cuts you some slack. It soothes the hurt. It takes away the sting. It is the essence of ‘let it go’. My eldest son calls this ‘breathe’.

There is so much more to grace, but I will leave it at this for now. So with these ideas in mind, how should you and I apply grace? I have several recommendations.

Courtesy 123rf.com / racorn

Where Does Grace Need to Be Applied?

First and foremost, apply it to your own life. No one ever grades us harder than we grade ourselves. Grace allows you to add a curve to the grading. It gives you bonus points.

Giving yourself grace for the things that have not worked out helps to eliminate negative forces that can cripple our effort to move forward. When you look back at 2020 or beyond, are you haunted by things not done? Do you lament the decisions you made? Do you beat yourself up over relationships that went wrong or business deals that did not work out?

If you said YES to any of those, you, my friend, need some grace in your life. Decide when, where, and how you will give yourself some grace so that the New Year can get going without hurdles.

Next, if you manage people, what grace do you give them? We all know there are boundaries and standards that must be applied at work. But your co-workers are human. You need to extend some grace. It is a certainty that someone somewhere in your circle will fall short of a goal.

Once the required administration of the situation is complete, do you offer grace? You can demonstrate grace by establishing a work environment where the employee feels the slate is truly wiped clean once any offense is addressed.

Sidebar –  Yes, I know managers must deal with disciplinary matters that set up probationary periods. So there will be a cloud over the employee while that period is in force. While this is happening, will you treat all other aspects of the person’s work effort with grace?

The other area in your life where grace is vitally needed is family; starting with your spouse (if married), then your children. Have these people committed some offense for which you have yet to forgive? Have you thought about giving them grace?

Being a leader requires the ability to give grace.

 

Here are 5 key questions about grace.

  1. When was the last time you visited the topic of grace?
  2. Has grace been given to you lately?
  3. Do you owe yourself some grace?
  4. Who do you know that needs you to give them grace?
  5. Will you add grace to your leadership toolkit in 2021?

Thank you for your faithful following this past year. Here’s to a bright and prosperous 2021!

call a coach

PS – Here’s a little fun video for you to enjoy about 2020 by Penn Holderness; an amazing artist.

What is Trust Anyway?

You and I share many different things. As leaders, we share common needs, goals, and attributes. Depending on who you talk to, you and I score at different levels depending on the topic we choose to ask about. However, there is one key area frequently cited as a critical factor in determining whether a leader is effective or not. That factor is TRUST.

Business leaders don’t consciously go about their day specifically trying to build trust. This would be like having ‘building trust’ on your to-do list. Let’s see, go to the bank, check; wash the car, check; build trust, wait, what? No, that’s silly.

They will let their decisions and their actions impact the level of trust bestowed on them by others. Age-old wisdom says trust is earned. Children are taught at an early age. Leaders know it too.

A Manager’s Challenge

Anyone who has ever assumed management duties understands how critical trust can be in persuading a team to perform. The collective efforts of the team can be hurt if individuals on that team have doubts about the boss.

There is usually some kind of default mindset at work between employees and the employer. Workers often start out not trusting the boss. Sadly, too many bosses start out not trusting their teams either. It truly is a two-way street.

Experts found that trust, social connectivity, and a general sense of well-being are all intertwined. There are scientific studies revealing that two sections of the brain involved in sensing trust.

Based on perceptions of trust, the participants (in the study) reported positive interactions with the “close friend” to be more rewarding than interactions with a stranger—and were more likely to interact with this player. This illustrates our innate human desire to connect with others and create close-knit bonds even if these ties are based on blind trust or lead to [other bad outcomes].

Brain imaging of the participants showed that two specific brain regions were actively engaged when someone thought they were trusting a close friend. Increased activity of the ventral striatum and medial prefrontal cortex were correlated with positive social value signals when participants made decisions based on a belief they were playing with a good friend.

But science aside, what makes trust so hard to build? Think about all of your own experiences with friends, co-workers, bosses, and leaders. You likely watched three levels of interaction that factored into how deeply you felt you could trust the other person.

Technical Ability

In a work setting, the team leader must demonstrate a certain level of technical ability to begin earning trust from the team. New, first-time managers struggle with this because they might have been promoted in recognition of their skills in one area, but they lack comprehensive knowledge of the whole team’s scope of responsibility.

Lacking that technical knowledge, they are deemed incapable of performing as team lead, so trust is denied.

New bosses moved in from outside the department suffer this same kind of gap. Until they can prove they know their stuff, the team will be reluctant to give the trust that might be needed for respecting the ‘new guy’.

I once was a department head of a large administrative group supporting a $5 billion asset portfolio at a large regional bank. I had several teams reporting to me, responsible for 5 different lines of business. One day, while walking through the department, one of the administrators stopped me and asked a fairly technical question. I paused and began coaching him on the topic, explaining the process and the calculations he needed for the problem he presented. He seemed shocked. I asked why? He said, “I didn’t think the Big Dog would know this stuff.” To which I grinned and replied, “How’d you think I got to be the Big Dog?”

Cultural

The next level is what I will call cultural trust. After technical trust is established there is still a void at the cultural or corporate level. The key question here is whether you demonstrate consistent, reliable actions and behaviors.

No one can trust someone or something that acts inconsistently. Roger Ferguson, founder of ISI HR Consulting and creator of “Big Five Performance” talks about this corporate trust as whether a leader is known to be trustworthy, delivers as promised, and is generally known to be a person of character.

Being consistent in the way you act and interact creates a level of trust that grows with each passing day. As soon as you make a serious deviation from the pattern you start, trust takes a step backward. This is why it is so critical for leaders to be mindful of the direction they want to go, centered on core principles, and committed to consistent behavior as a leader.

Personal

This is the most intimate of trust levels. This is the deep, one-on-one trust. This kind of trust with individual employees has people thinking “I don’t care what others say, I know what I believe about this boss, and I am very good with it.” Further “I will follow them wherever they want me to go.”

Why would someone be willing to say that? Because the other two levels have been satisfied and now opportunities to deal personally with the person have proven to be reliable and solid. The pattern is there, the details are there, and, even more importantly, the experience is there.

Complexity

This is why trust cannot be won overnight. It has to be earned. All three levels have to be engaged. You cannot make it to the gold ribbon level of personal trust without first achieving the other two levels.

Think about personal relationships. These same three levels are at work. Anyone who starts dating someone runs the same sequence of steps trying to test for trust. When you are the person wanting to earn someone’s trust, you have to be faithful to build these stages, carefully and thoughtfully.

More relationships crater over breakdowns in trust at one of these three levels. Repeated disappointment is the reason for the eventual failure of any relationship.

We just don’t want to be around people we cannot trust. Certainly not for any meaningful reason.

Leadership Lessons

For team leaders and executives at all levels, I teach a program called Team Trust. In it, we explore ways that teams and their leaders can use a proven, reliable, and repeatable process to build trust, eliminate unneeded distractions, and improve performance.

There are core disciplines that can be deployed to improve team performance by building trust at all levels of the organization.

call a coach

Executive Leadership and Woodworking

My wife said she wanted a new kitchen pantry for her birthday. I like doing what my wife asks. Fortunately for me, ripping out the old pantry and building a new one was something I enjoy doing.

When I was growing up, a neighbor friend was a master craftsman. He had an amazing woodshop that made me get so excited everytime he opened the doors. George was his name.

George took me under his wing and let me apprentice for him for several years. His specialty was building gorgeous custom cabinets that suited just about anything the buyer wanted to do.

Big Projects

Back then, music systems came in huge component pieces. Turntables, tape decks, amplifiers and tuners all needed a cabinet to fit into. Great speakers came in big boxes. George made amazing cabinets out of mahogany, maple and other exotic woods. The custom cabinets George built were features in various celebrity homes in the area; golfers, singers and other entertainers.

It was so much fun to go with George on a delivery. I never knew who I might meet.

He taught me how to work with all of the tools and build solid, dependable joints for cabinets. I learned his ways of measuring and designing very nice cabinets.

All of my adult life I’ve treasured the special tools I have found. I love having a project to do. It serves as my outlet for decompressing and restoring my spirit.

Every time I start a project and as I am working through it, I think of ‘George-isms’. While his teachings were specific to woodworking, they also represented great learning for leaders.

George-isms

Under George’s tutoring he taught many many concepts. As I’ve gotten older and wiser (I hope), it strikes me that these sayings have a broader fit for life lessons and leadership theory too.

Here are some of the ones I like best.

Use the right tool for the right job. Per George, if you don’t you will either hurt the tool, hurt the material, or hurt yourself.

If you’ve ever tried home fix-it projects, it’s tempting to grab the screwdriver to pry something apart. Screwdrivers aren’t made to be pry bars. Usually, they bend first.

The pressure of the prying can warp the shaft of the screwdriver, making your next attempt to actually drive a screw next to impossible.

Leaders make mistakes by assigning tasks to the wrong people. Use the wrong person for a job and you will either hurt the project or hurt the person, maybe both.

You can set people up to fail. A leader needs to watch for moments when an unintentional decision can lead to unexpected damage.

Measure twice, cut once. This may be the most famous of all carpentry sayings. It was not a George original, but nonetheless one very important lesson. If the two measurements aren’t the same, you need a third one to verify.

In the woodshop, materials can be expensive. One wrong cut and you’ve ruined a piece of wood. There is no making a piece longer once it gets cut. On the other hand, cutting too long creates a waste of time.

Delivery of finished projects always had time constraints. Wasting time on extra cuts burned the schedule.

As a leader, you need to check your facts before making a decision. Get extra data just like the second or third measurement.

Save time in the long run by being more accurate with your information. Don’t waste people’s time and resources re-doing a process.

Don’t work tired. George had a day job. So his cabinetry happened during off-hours, nights, and weekends. On occasion, he would go into the shop to unwind. But if he was too tired or mentally fatigued from his day, it was not a good idea.

The inability to focus and pay good attention could cause problems like messing up materials or hurting yourself. Not to be too morose, but George was missing the last digit on one pinky finger. Years prior he admitted losing focus and allowing his hand to get too close to a saw blade.

He claimed to be thankful it wasn’t a more severe injury. But he used it to remind me of potential dangers if you don’t respect the work area.

Leaders getting too tired can lose focus also. Take care of yourself. Find rest. Stay healthy. You can hurt someone or hurt yourself.

Lastly, mind your temper. I saw George ‘lose it’ a few times. As much as I loved the man, he had his occasional moments of throwing his temper. Never at me mind you, but if something didn’t go right, he could have a fit.

A wood shop with a larger array of power-tools is not a good place to have a temper. (Not that anyplace is good to have a temper). Things have sharp edges and heavy weights. Slamming, throwing, or flinging things is just not cool.

George was remorseful at my witnessing such outbursts. And we would talk about the circumstances.

Leaders and business owners need to mind their temper at all times. Nothing is more demoralizing to a staff than seeing the boss lose it. In most business settings I’ve ever known, there is no clawing it back once it is unleashed.

Contemplate

Think about these 4 basic ideas. See how they fit into your leadership framework. If you’ve never considered one of them, try it out.

Oh, and here’s a bonus message I learned later. Not a George-ism but could be.

Think about it.

hammer and nails

A Little Change Makes a Big Difference

one small change

Hi, my name is Doug. I am hopelessly addicted to taking a little white ball, hitting it with a stick, and trying to get it into a small hole 475 yards away from where I am standing. Hi Doug!

Yes, I am talking about playing golf. One day, a friend and I were out to play a round. We were having a great day of fellowship and friendship, but the golf game was not going well. Scores were higher than the Texas heat.

This round of golf was shaping up to be just like my last 3 months. For some reason, my game had dropped to an all-time low, or high when you focus on the scoring. I was playing really bad golf. The computers at NASA could not keep up with my score.

After 16 tough holes on the course (they were tough because of the way I was playing), I realized I had run out of the fancy and somewhat expensive golf balls my son had encouraged me to play. Digging around in my golf bag, I found a sleeve of some other brand of golf ball. I had liked playing the game with this particular brand but had agreed to try the other ones my son recommended.

Seeing a Change

I teed up the new ball and Whack! My shot was a straight, beautiful arc headed right at the flag on a long par 3 hole. The ball landed firm, bounced a few feet, rolled, and came to rest solidly secured on the green. Now my excitement here may seem a bit overzealous, but given the day I had been having, this shot was perhaps the most gorgeous thing I had done all day. As I strolled up, I realized I had quite a long putt. But hey, I was putting. I putted twice to score a PAR! Wow, PAR!

The next and last hole is a long par 5. It is a relatively straight hole but has water right in front of the green. I set up my tee shot, took my swing, and saw the ball launch into the blue azure of the Texas sky, tracking straight down the fairway. Hmmm, could this be a trend?

As my friend and I motored down the course, I was feeling renewed and redeemed. The second shot was still a long way away, so I strategically decided to “lay-up”. This means I was not going to play Tin Cup and shoot for the green, with all that water in front. I took out a hybrid club and lined up. Swing! Wow, here we go again.

Making Change Happen

No, not into trouble, but straight at the target area I had chosen. This magical ball spun and flew right where I wanted it to go. So now for the approach to the green. I take my trusty 8 iron and practice a few swings. Now I am ready to launch my assault.

Just then a huge wind blew into my face. Oh no; water, wind, and still some distance to overcome. I am undaunted. I have the miracle ball.

Swing! The ball rises straight up into the air, chasing forward. The wind catches and starts to push a bit left. Could it be? YES! It lands on the green.

Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s a monster putt from where this thing lands, but I am on the green of a par 5 in three shots. By the way, my friend was having his own out-of-body experience doing pretty much the same. He too was sitting right up on the green. We strode onto the putting surface like gladiators. We had our trusty putting sabers in our hands. We were going to finish this beast once and for all.

As I got closer I realized this putt was going to be my longest of the day. I paced it off at 55 feet. My friend was almost the same distance for his putt, likely 50 feet. I stood over my shot, gathered my focus, and pulled back the mighty putting saber. Swoosh! The ball jumped off the club head and started its journey over hill and dale to make its way to the hole. Then it happened. Clunk!

Right in the dead center of the hole. I had scored a birdie! One UNDER par. What a way to finish! My friend was happy for me. Then he tried his shot. And amazingly he too heard that same glorious CLUNK! Another birdie! It was a great way to finish the day.

So why do I share all of this? I am not gloating about my golf game. Believe me, gloat is the last thing someone with my score should be doing.

A change made the difference.

I switched the brand of the ball I was hitting.

All manufacturers of golf balls strive to create a look and feel that influences the play of the game. Some golf balls are softer than others. Some spin faster due to the design of the little dimples on the cover. Some don’t spin much at all. The list of attributes goes on and on.

Then I realized my game had started going bad when I started using the higher-priced balls. By returning to a brand of golf ball that had been good for me made my last two holes play entirely different.

The AH-HA Moment

Change comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes when we least expect it and then later becomes the “AH HA” moment.

I did not consciously change the golf ball I was using until I ran out of the former brand. A moment of necessity forced a change for me. But once I made the change, the outcome was far more rewarding.

Yes, I know, the likelihood of long term success is yet to be seen. However, given all the other inputs yesterday, the only variable that changed was my golf ball. So I am glad the change happened.

Whether you own your own company or run a large business unit for someone, you can make small changes that can yield big results. If you’d like, we can arrange a short exploratory call to talk about ways you too can realize big change with small adjustments.

Join the discussion. Leave a comment or share it with a friend.

Are You Coachable?

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.

The Test

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.

Leadership on the Road: 6 Key Thoughts

Here’s something from my archives. It’s worth the read. First shared in 2014.

I have been out on a client assignment at a remote job site. Truth be told not all that remote, but in my book, anything 25+ miles ‘outside of X’ is remote to me. Being that far off a beaten path can often leave you in rural farmland or cattle country. It’s all been great mind you, but for a life-long city boy, the surroundings can be challenging. The locals I had had the chance to meet and work with have been wonderful people. Their hearts are bigger than the big sky we see daily (no, that’s not a hint for the location, just a generalization of the observations). The exact location does not matter. What matters here is a series of experiences I’d like to share. From the start of the project some 5 months ago, to its successful completion this week, there have been ups and downs, twists and turns, but no real gnashing of teeth; just lots of good honest hard work.

So here we go. The experiences in the field often serve to remind me of business leadership principles I learned a long time ago, but have to revisit frequently if I choose to keep them fresh and effective. Through this project, my ‘master list’ of guiding principles was tested on several occasions. I wanted to share my thoughts and refresh my readers about the importance of staying centered with these valuable ideas.

  1. If you claim to be a servant leader, have empathy and sympathy – I had to run headlong into a team of folks who were new to me, but who had worked together for years before I arrived. They had just been informed that their workplace was undergoing a somewhat hostile takeover; not hostile because of the people taking it over, but hostile from the circumstances that caused the life-changing events.

    Former management had been caught doing very wrong things. My team was to serve as interim managers to ‘right the ship’ so to speak.

    I needed the full cooperation and dedication from the staff left behind. I was immediately reminded of the need to empathize by placing myself mentally and emotionally in their shoes. I needed to sympathize with things I was hearing. The old phrase came to mind, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

  2. Make the tough calls – I had to quickly start assessing the situation around me, digest facts and data, then make some quick decisions. Avoiding making certain decisions because I wanted to wait on more data was not really an option. Knowing what I needed to know was important, but more critical was the willingness to take the intelligence I was being given and then make a decision.
  3. Difficult people need to be corralled and managed – The impact of a ‘difficult’ personality in the workplace can have tremendous ripple effects. On this project, a pretty senior designee with whom I was tasked to work proved to be one of those difficult personalities. Fortunately, I was able to read him early on in the project, identify the issues, and make plans for managing across the work team to minimize the influence of the more negative things that were occasionally spewed. On one particularly challenging day, this individual had strewn a lot of venom across the office. When he went home, I gathered my troops for a sit-down meeting. I told them simply that I, as their team leader, wanted to apologize to them on his behalf. The things said and done that day were not appropriate among professionals. I told them I hoped they could see that for what it was and not be deterred in their dedication to the mission by having endured this day.
  4. Rely on your team – Make team projects a true team event by admitting your own shortcomings and use the skills and abilities the team can bring. Do not ever act so big and proud that you have to know it all. People don’t like ‘that guy’. Inspire people by identifying their strong suits early, and then create applicable opportunities where the use of those individual skills can shine. Also share among the team who is doing what and how important the outcome can be. Spread the wealth evenly. Consider this as “know your people”. People respond very well when they know their self-worth is being used appropriately for key contributions to the effort.
  5. Have a little fun – Every day does not have to be all starched and polished. Let your own hair down a little and find opportunities for a little innocent fun. Let the people’s personalities shine too. By creating an environment for a little friendly banter among the crew, you can keep spirits light and fresh. But watch out for off-color jokes and comments or anything that starts to sound cutting or personal. Keep it light. Help make people want to come back to work.
  6. Maintain your own personal integrity – There are many ways to do this, but chief among them is making and keeping promises. Communicating clearly, openly, and fairly whenever possible. Of course, managers sometimes have to hold things close to the vest. But as soon as you can share with your team, do so.

I hope this helps. Please comment below on these topics and others you have used with great success.

For more information visit HeadwayExec.com

First Published June 2014

Start Your Own Blog Today

business man using internet on smart phone and laptop

Recently I’ve had clients mention that they may want to start blogging. I wrote this article several years ago and have shared it twice before. But for those just now thinking about blogging, but I am updating it and sharing it again.

There are plenty of reasons seasoned professionals should write their own blogs. I’ve been blogging since 2009 when I founded Jobs Ministry Southwest. Back then, it was a great way to share information with the people using our career transition services.

That modest effort got me excited about the power of blogging. From its humble start, my blog has grown into the site you see now with over 200,000 followers and growing.

Blog Writing

Now, as my coaching and consulting businesses have grown, I use the blog to share articles on key topics for managers and business leaders, sharing thoughts about leadership and entrepreneurship (my two favorite topics). Blogging helps cast a wider net, spreading your message across the globe.

I am going to share some of the quick and easy steps I use to build the blog.

Domain names – Get yourself a custom domain name. Most registrations may cost you $12 a year (or close to that). Reasonably cheap for the significance of pointing to a brand name you build.

SiteGround Hosting services – Unless you have a brother-in-law with insane computer networking skills, subscribe to a hosting service. I’ve tried several, but have landed on SiteGround. I love their responsiveness (the site loads quickly despite a lot of overhead/functionality going on). I’ve also found their support to be world-class good. To check them out click this link.
Web Hosting

WordPress – I’ve become a huge fan of the WordPress framework. The themes and templates give you so many options. Some custom themes you buy, but many are free. The free ones can give you a great looking site to get you started. WordPress was created for blogging and has grown into a whole discipline of its own.

Plugins – These are add-on tools you can add to your WordPress framework. With plugins, you can add awesome features like social media sharing, guest list management, shopping carts, etc. There are three critical plugins I have chosen to use.

  • Jetpack – a collection of tools that maximize the operation of WordPress, keep statistics, and provide hacker protection
  • Yoast SEO – helps optimize the valuable search engine optimization aspects of your site and all its content
  • Vaultpress – file backup; you never want to lose your blog

RSS Feeds – Build an RSS feed to allow your content to get distributed to other social media channels automatically as each post gets released. I use Google’s Feedburner.com tools for this task. Opening an account is free. You can customize the tool to grab your posts and push them to channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram all automatically and spontaneously with each post.

LeadPages.net – I use LeadPages to help me promote and manage product offerings, events, seminars, webinars, and my other client attraction efforts. Build your own landing pages with LeadPages. As an example, my promo for Big 5 Performance Management is done with LeadPages.

MailChimp – Email management tools. Using an effective email management service is vital. I’ve tried several and have landed on MailChimp. I like the ease of use and the straightforward tools they offer. I know there are other services that are equally effective, but after several disappointments (and higher costs) I landed with MailChimp.

Update – As with all technology, there are leapfrog effects. One solution comes out with cool features that seem superior, then pretty soon, the competition jumps over them with better features. Aweber is doing that right now IMHO.  MailChimp is still unbeatable for its free version, but as soon as your list gets bigger, you may need to switch.

Fiverr – Occasionally you need some freelance skill sets to augment what you are doing. Fiverr.com is tremendous for this. Fiverr is a collection of freelancers from all around the world. They call their projects “gigs”. As the name might imply, you can get help for as little as $5 per “gig”. I’ve used Fiverr resources for things like graphic design (videos, book covers, and logos) or getting a press release written. I’ve also used them for social media promotions to reach a broader audience for book releases or other promotions I am doing. Yes, occasionally I get a less than acceptable outcome, but I only invested a few dollars versus hundreds through other sources or contractors. It’s a winner for simple outsourcing.

MeetEdgar – This is a new addition to my list of great tools. MeetEdgar.com provides social media scheduling tools. You can set it and forget it. A coaching colleague introduced me to these guys and I was hooked at hello.

About Content

There are numerous opinions about content creation; write it yourself, borrow others, merely re-post, etc. I’ve taken the basic approach that is at the core of blogging, “my message, my voice”. Yes, I study many different sources and try to compile credible resources to cobble my articles together. Anything I use gets proper attribution for its source.

The content I write is intended solely for your use. If I can’t help you, a busy professional, do more right where you are, then I’ve missed the mark. If you decide to start a blog, you need to decide what your purpose and message will be about.

There are also great debates about when to publish and how often. The golden rule I learned early on is simply “be consistent”.

To that end, I choose to write at least 1x per week. By using the great scheduling features of WordPress I can accumulate a volume of articles and stage them for automatic release on whatever schedule I choose. By using this queueing method, I never have to worry about publication deadlines and getting writer’s block over the deadline pressure. Typically, I have content scheduled at least three weeks ahead, sometimes more.

I’ve juggled the release days of the week, experimenting with response rates and open rates. There are other blog writers I know who limit publication to once a week. If it works, great! Just be consistent. Allow your following to become reliant on your consistency.

One Last Thought About Scaling

If you have grand ideas for scaling your online business, there are tools to think about. Software like Infusionsoft (now called “Keap” because the market nicknamed them ‘confusion soft’), ConvertKit, Kajabi, and SamCart is great. However, be advised… these require a whole extra layer of sophistication in your effort to grow a business. There is a learning curve. The tools are great (I’m using some of them), but that is another level you can wait to explore once you have real customers coming in.

Disclosure: By clicking some of the links above, I may receive a small affiliate commission from the service provider. Rest assured I would not promote anything I don’t use myself. But even if I didn’t get any commissions, I really like these tools, and I think you will too.

If you want to let me help you with organizing your online presence, send an email to my assistant Karla 

 

coaching with dooug thorpe