Who’s Going to Lead Them?

leadership

Better than anticipated results have recently been reported for the US job market.  According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, “Employers added 223,000 jobs last month, more than economists expected and an uptick from April’s hiring rate of 159,000.”  The US Department of Labor released more data.

leadership[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]“Never before have we had an economy where the number of open jobs exceeds the number of job seekers,” said US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.[/perfectpullquote]

With the lowest unemployment rate in over 18 years and the rise in new opportunities, the competition among employers for qualified candidates is strong. And, with a growing job force, the need for qualified leaders grows too. There is an ever-increasing need for qualified managers with effective leadership skills to guide businesses to achieve the results they expect.

Next Man/Woman Up

Sadly, we are plagued with a business mindset that resorts to promoting the best performer when there is an open manager seat. And, without effective leadership coaching, the person who gets this job either sinks or swims. If they sink, the company loses in many ways. If they swim awhile, they might even get promoted further. All of that without effective leadership training.

In the small business and entrepreneurial realm, we see people with great product and service ideas start companies, but fail within the first 5 years. Why? Generally, because the great thinkers aren’t always the best managers and leaders. The bright idea may only go so far without strong leadership muscle. “If you build it they will come” doesn’t work very often either. Without leadership that can sustain forward progress and growth for the enterprise, the business folds.

Leadership Coaching Naysayers

In another article circulated on LinkedIn, the author questioned the impact of leadership coaching, calling it the “buzz du jour.” He argued we all can’t be leaders, citing an army of generals and no soldiers. The basic word picture is true, we don’t need everyone equipped to lead at the highest levels. Yet we must equip leaders who are put into those positions so that the outcome potential for the organization is realized.

Back to my First Statement

I’ve known too many professionals and business owners who land on great opportunities but quickly hit the ceiling of their own ability to lead. We know this phenomenon as the “Peter Principle.” Or, the observation that in an organizational hierarchy, people tend to rise to “their level of incompetence.”

As people are promoted, they become progressively less-effective because good performance in one job does not guarantee similar performance in another. Named after the Canadian researcher Dr. Laurence J. Peter (1910-90) who popularized this observation in his 1969 book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.

The perceived incompetence for senior managers is seldom about technical ability. Rather it is about the ability to manage and lead a larger team, balancing people issues with business growth and change. John Maxwell calls the Peter Principle “The Law of the Lid”. Leadership coaching can help raise the lid on leadership effectiveness.

Don’t Invest in Coaching, Invest In Results

Busy executives and business owners don’t need reasons to spend money, they need results. Leadership coaching can help you get the right results:

  • Find new ways to better utilize direct reports
  • Improve communication
  • Foster higher levels of team trust
  • Provide sound advice for change management initiatives
  • Uncover blind spots in a person’s leadership ability
  • Raise executive presence

In addition to all of those opportunities, solid leadership coaching also provides the Executive with a private and confidential sounding board for ideas, fears, doubts, and concerns.

“It’s lonely at the top” is a very real and present danger for leaders. You can’t share just anything with anyone. Having a coach to hear the thoughts keeping you awake at night can be very freeing.

On that note let me stress, coaching is not psychotherapy. That is reserved for other licensed professionals. Coaching is about looking forward to a future state you plan to achieve, not looking back at one’s past.

coaching call

The Choice Is Yours

Whether you believe in coaching or not, someone is going to have to lead the next wave of our growing workforce. Why leave it up to chance?

Before you choose an executive coach, there are things you should consider. Learn more about what to look for from your coach. Click Here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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A Leader’s Vision Needs Buy-In

While there are many attributes that define good leadership, we usually think of a leader’s ability to share a vision as the real indicator of that leader’s reputation. Vision is often thought of as being synonymous with leadership. Having a vision for where the team is going is what being a leader is about, right?

a Leader's vision needs buy-in

You don’t have to be the owner or CEO to commit to a vision for growth and success. You can lead from within an organization by being able to inspire others to get on track for driving toward a vision; a vision set by others above you.

However, there is a breakdown that can occur when a person in authority tries to execute on a vision. I’ve seen managers, very senior managers, who know the vision. They helped write it. Yet their ability to lead others to achieve that vision fails. Why?

Once a vision is crafted and carefully written, you have to get buy-in from those who must execute the vision. Your team has to embrace the merits of the vision. They need to understand why and ‘what’s in it for me?’ Those are fair questions for employees to be asking.

Obtaining buy-in is where a Manager may fail as a Leader

Buy-in is hard to achieve because people don’t buy into ideas, they buy into people. The person sharing the idea must be credible, relatable, and someone with whom others can identify.

Your people need to buy-in to you before they buy-in to your vision. Being just another talking head in a management seat will not go very far.

[easyazon_link keywords=”John Maxwell” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]John Maxwell[/easyazon_link] writes about the principle of the buy-in in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”John Maxwell” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″]People don’t follow worthy causes, they follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.[/perfectpullquote]

Having an understanding of that will change your whole approach to leadership. When your team begins to process the content of the message you may be sharing, they first filter it through you.

Ask Yourself This Question

What is the current level of buy-in for the people you lead? If your team is small, make a list. Rate each team member’s buy-in on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means they wouldn’t follow anything you say. A 10 means they’d follow you anywhere. If your overall ranking is low, you have a lot of work to do before the team decides to find another leader.

coaching call

What to Do?

Here are some ways you can earn credibility and increase your leadership.

  • Develop better working relationships
  • Be honest and authentic as you earn their trust
  • Hold yourself to high standards, setting a good example
  • Give them the tools to do a better job
  • Help them achieve personal goals at work
  • Develop others as leaders; mentoring them along the way

Make your strategy unique to each person. As Maxwell says “If you make it your primary goal to add value to all of them, your credibility factor will rise rapidly.”

Question: How are you doing with earning buy-in from your team?

How Does EQ Impact the Bottom Line?

iceberg

The CEO was fed up. If she got one more complaint about the VP of Operations she was going to fire him.  It was obvious when he was in a bad mood because he yelled at his people and slammed doors.  The team was easily upset and often distracted which affected their productivity. The outbursts from the VP influenced how the team dealt with customers.  Clearly, the ripple effect of the VP’s bad moods negatively impacted the company’s bottom line.

iceberg

Human behavior is like an iceberg.  We see how people behave but we don’t always understand what drives the behavior.  Using Emotional Intelligence is like putting on your scuba gear to check out what is hidden beneath the surface.  Once you know which emotions are influencing your behavior, you can use those emotions more effectively.

What is EQ?

Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as Emotional quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ),[1] is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately. EQ can be used to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).

In his book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman cites research indicating that leaders whose styles had a positive emotional impact on their teams generated measurably better financial results.  Teams with higher engagement have lower turnover, above average productivity, higher customer loyalty and higher profitability.

Ways to Improve

Below are some ways in which you can cultivate and increase your EQ:

  • Self-awareness.
    This is the ability to label, recognize, and understand your own emotions. Self-awareness requires us to tune in to our feelings and not avoid our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and sadness. Recognizing our own emotional states and how they affect our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions is the key to cultivating self-awareness.
  • Emotional regulation.
    Emotional regulation has to do with our ability to control strong emotions by not acting on raw feelings in an impulsive or destructive manner. Developing the ability to sit with unpleasant feelings and to give ourselves the time and space to decide how we may alleviate or reduce negative feelings cultivates self-confidence. Emotional regulation also helps us develop the ability to consider various solutions to a particular situation or problem. Not reacting solely to an emotionally charged state results in better decision-making outcomes.
  • Empathy.
    When we empathize with others, we develop deeper, more intimate relationships. Empathy is the ability to recognize how and why people feel the way they do. Empathy allows us to anticipate how our actions and behaviors influence other people as well as our own. Developing empathy skills enhances our experiences, relationships, and general understanding of ourselves, other people and the world around us.
  • Social skills.
    This is a very broad term. In general, having strong social skills means having the ability to communicate in a clear, concise, and courteous manner. In a nutshell, good social skills are the summation of all of the components of EQ: self-awareness, emotional regulation, and empathy.

The Fix

If you want to positively impact your bottom line, find a coach or trusted advisor who can provide assessments and suggestions for improving EQ for yourself or someone on your team.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Cheryl Smith Bryan, an ICF Certified Coach, and advisor. Cheryl has served as a board member of the Houston Chapter of the International Coach Federation, a committee chair for the Women’s Energy Network and a mentor for at-risk children. She has been quoted in local and national business publications and has made presentations to a number of industry and professional associations. Visit her blog HERE

Leaders: Solving Problems Through Re-framing

reframing

Many leaders build their careers and reputations solving problems. Often, the problem as you know it is not really the problem. Finding ways to maximize success, reduce risk, and win the day is what can make a leader’s problem-solving skills so special.

reframing

Yet when faced with a new challenge, you sometimes feel stuck. How do you get unstuck? “Re-framing” is one of the most effective ways to find creative solutions to pending problems.

The Background

A “frame” or frame of reference is a complex set of unquestioned beliefs and values we use when inferring meaning. The meaning changes if any part of the frame is changed (hence ‘reframing’). Then the meaning that is inferred may change.

To “reframe” is to step back from what is being said to consider the frame or ‘lens’ through which this reality is being created. Understand the unspoken assumptions, including beliefs and schema that are being used.

Then consider alternative lenses, effectively saying ‘Let’s look at it another way.’ Challenge the beliefs or other aspects of the frame. Stand in another frame and describe what you see. Change attributes of the frame to a reverse meaning. Select and ignore aspects of certain words or actions, and reframe to emphasize and downplay various elements.

Thus, for example, you can reframe:

  • See a problem as an opportunity
  • See a weakness as a strength
  • View an impossibility as a distant possibility
  • See a distant possibility as a near possibility
  • Look at oppression (‘against me’) as neutral (‘doesn’t care about me’)
  • Think of unkindness as lack of understanding

You can often change a person’s frame simply by changing their emotional state, making them happier, more aggressive, etc. When they are happier, for example, they will be more positive and optimistic (and vice versa).

The Challenge

Reframing may sound easy. However, it is not. We all have a natural tendency to rely on past experience to drive future results. If your track record is a good one, why wouldn’t you use old answers for new problems?

The chief reason NOT to rely on old solutions is that new problems may contain just enough variation in facts or circumstance that your old answers no longer fit.

Reframing creates a new vision. By looking at things through a different lens, you see new opportunities. Taking contrarian views can even eliminate some situations that may otherwise be seen as problems.

Making Your Own Changes

Re-framing is also very helpful when you are trying to make changes in your own life. Your visions for the “new you” may create natural roadblocks. Limited thinking might prohibit forward motion. Yet by re-framing the proposition, you can make progress.

Throughout my life, I hated going to the gym. I just wasn’t a gym rat. It was a big turn off for me. Then one day talking to friends, I decided it was time to make some big changes for long-term health. The master plan included finding a workout activity that made sense. Ultimately it involved a gym membership.

My decision to make the bigger changes had me re-framing my view of the gym. It was no longer simply about doing some time there. It was about adding to the plan I had developed. Plus, by shopping for a suitable solution, I found a place with a different culture. It was more of a community event than a solitary workout. I scheduled my sessions that were group workouts led by qualified coaches. The energy created by the group pushing and encouraging one another made the experience far more rewarding.

Try for Yourself

When the next big change or challenge happens, try re-framing. Flip it around. Don’t let old habits influence your view of the new opportunity. Instead of telling yourself what won’t work, list the benefits that might happen.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Managing “UP” the Organization or Fixing a Bad Boss

bad boss

Do you have one of those hard-to-work-for bad bosses? OK, that’s too kind. Is your boss a jerk? Do you sometimes want to pull your hair out? Or even throw things after a talk with Mr./Mrs. Wonderful?

bad boss

Bad bosses almost always lack emotional intelligence. They play favorites, gossip, and have private agendas not always in the best interest of the team. They can’t handle the fact that someone else on the team could be as smart/smarter and they do not like to be challenged.

Bosses who exhibit bad people skills or who fail at problem-solving do not deserve the title of “leader”. They might be the owner, founder, or boss, but Leader? No way.

If you have the misfortune of working for one of these people, you have a lot of work to do. Clients often ask me about managing this situation. Most call it “managing up” the organization. That’s an interesting concept, easier said than done. Here’s why.

You can’t make them change

A senior executive or a company owner who has a less than favorable management style is not likely to want to change. That a ‘Leopard can’t change its spots’ holds true for most of us in one respect or another. The Idiom from the Old Testament speaks to the fact that certain basic traits of a person can never change, just like the spots on a Leopard.

Fooling yourself into thinking you have an opportunity to change the basic traits of a bad boss could be a waste of valuable time. When your boss performs within a narrow band of acceptable behavior, but has frequent forays into unacceptable territory, thereby making the situation almost unbearable, you have some choices you need to consider.

Bad Bosses usually fail in several ways

Here are the most common ways I see bad bosses failing to be effective.

  • They create a low or no trust environment. Bad bosses have ways of killing the trust factor. They violate trust by telling others something you told them in confidence. Or they twist information shared in trust. And they often betray the trust by promising to one thing and then doing something else.
  • They strip empowerment. Any hopes of having a confident, empowered work team can be destroyed by a bad boss. Often these bad guys delegate a task, then immediately begin micromanaging the mission, thus gutting the sense of empowerment from the person given the assignment.
  • They have behaviors that violate moral standards. Bad bosses tend to be the ones caught abusing employees with emotional or even physical advances. I firmly believe that if you could uncover all the stories about the people being accused in the “me too” movement, you would find their overall behavior in the workplace is pretty poor; definitely not demonstrated leadership.
  • They violate ethical, and sometimes legal standards. Cutting corners to win deals or make a profit is often associated with poor management. Employees with higher ethical standards who find themselves working for bad bosses must make tough choices.

How do you deal with a Bad Boss?

When I am asked the question about managing up, I share these things.

  1. You must choose to be the bigger person. What do I mean? You don’t have to confront the bad boss at every turn, but rather let whatever blowup comes from an encounter with them stay isolated. You cannot take your frustration down to your own team. Avoid the temptation to broadcast the idiocy of your boss’s behavior to your team. Instead, filter the message. If the boss gave you a task for your team, just deliver the particulars of the task. Do not get into the details of how bad it was to deal with the boss.
  2. Be the Leader among your peers. The other direct reports who suffer at the hands of your boss need encouragement. You can gather with them offline to discuss the frustrations about the boss, but at the end of it all, you should be the one to say “Ok folks, this stays right here. Now let’s go do our jobs.”
  3. Play within the boundaries. Your company should have its own set of policies and procedures for dealing with most employment situations. If the company is small though, and the founder is the bad boss, you might not have options per the policy. The point here is that you need to be without your own blemish in dealing with the situation. You should not violate some standard to create an opportunity to get back at the boss.
  4. Lastly, and this one always gets people, you need to consider the option to leave. If it becomes crystal clear that the boss is perpetually bad, you may have no choice but to resign. Your reputation is at stake. In larger companies, you might ask for a reassignment. The options are limited for smaller companies.

The way out

By now you can tell I don’t believe in “managing up” an organization. It just doesn’t work.  At least in my 30+ years in the workforce, I’ve never seen it accomplished. Bad bosses are part of our work life. If you’ve never had one, just wait. More importantly, if you stayed with this message this far, and you might be one of the bad bosses, take a moment to decide where you want to go with your responsibilities. Find an outside voice to review your style and approach, Get an independent opinion about your work. Maybe you have some blind spots that can be fixed.

Executive coaching can identify the areas where bad boss behaviors exist. With the right coaching, bad bosses can be rehabilitated, and, in some cases, even cured.

Images courtesy: Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Making It Real with People, Productivity, and Profitability

Lead-follow-getoutofway

Executive coaching is a growing business. It is no longer limited to Fortune 500 companies. Entrepreneurs and owners of private businesses of all sizes have turned to coaching for business and personal growth.

Lead-follow-getoutofway

Back in 2004, the Harvard Business Review reported that executive coaching got started in the 1980s, yet still lacked reliable information for measuring success. The report estimated $1 billion spent on corporate coaching in 2004. It was anticipated that the coaching industry would continue to grow due to the considerable need for executive improvement.

Even after the 2008 recession, the executive coaching industry has continued its wide adoption by leaders everywhere. The attraction is simple: executive coaching prepares new executives to lead and equips established executives to master their own abilities. This potent combination has driven the substantial growth seen in the executive education marketplace. A 2012 study released by the International Coach Federation (ICF) “estimated the industry’s annual revenue at about $2 billion,” according to Frank Kalman of CLO Media.

While the individual executive coaching practice has been widely adopted, business coaching has emerged as its own specialty. With business coaching, the client hires a coach to provide an independent, third-party look at what is going on in the business. Coaching eliminates the blind spots business owners and operators tend to develop.

Yet with all of this market growth, I still get asked from time to time about the exact benefits of executive coaching. Occasionally, people think “coaching” is still too vague. On one hand, I find an odd disconnect here. Some of the same business owners who question the validity of business or executive coaching spend thousands of dollars at the gym on personal trainers or with golf coaches. My answer to them rings with the same logic from the sports world. If you want to move your game to a new level as a business leader, you should consider hiring a coach.

Measure What Matters

With any business endeavor, whether entrepreneurial start-ups or bigger corporate giants, the results from executive coaching can be measured in one of three ways. Good leaders impact all three.

 

People

Unless you are that very rare entrepreneur who operates all by themselves, you need a team to conduct business. The people making up the teams just may be the most valuable measure of the effectiveness of an executive’s growth from coaching. As a leader, your ability to influence the team around you makes up the essence of your effectiveness.

Leaders who broaden their influence and strengthen their ability to lead can realize significant gains with the people they lead. When a leader is on his game you can measure:

  • Team morale
  • Devotion to the purpose of the team
  • Alignment with vision and mission
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Continuity
  • Reduction in turnover
  • Reduced talent acquisition costs

Productivity

Finding ways to do more with what you have is productivity. Time, money and materials can be wasted or optimized with effective productivity. The leader can directly impact productivity by finding ways to streamline procedures and process, improve workplace conditions, set reasonable goals, and inspire the team.

The leader must see the process from end to end. If the business owner or senior executive is struggling with seeing the big picture, productivity can suffer. I’ve said before, you must inspect what you expect. Knowing when and how to do that can increase productivity.

Profitability

Profitability, the last measure of coaching effectiveness is obvious. Seeing profitability improve is a direct gauge of executive effectiveness. Making the right changes, implementing the best practices, negotiating good deals, and all the other aspects of running a business result in bottom-line performance.

As the senior executive, your own ability to impact profitability can make or break your success. Entrepreneurs who have great ideas, but no business skills, need help. Executives who climb the ladder but never get training for the technical aspects of business management need help.

Best Practices

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask how they measure what they intend to do for you. If the outcome doesn’t include one or all of these three areas, you may have the wrong coach.

Coaching can be measurable, whether for your personal growth or your business growth. Ask your prospective coach to walk you through these tangible ways to gauge success from the coaching. If they either can’t or won’t do that, you may need a new coach.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Leaders – Wonder How to Blend Ink with Inc?

Ink vs Inc

Tattooing is a popular way for some people to express themselves. Whether the ink someone wears is a sign of independence or a not-so-subtle message, I’ve seen a lot of really impressive artwork on forearms, calves, ankles, and shoulders. Nowadays, age doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor for all things ink. Using this ancient art form gives many an amazing outlet for expression.

Ink vs Inc

Employees sporting tattoos pose interesting challenges for companies of all sizes. Do you allow it or not? If a person has a tattoo, do they have to cover it while on duty? There are many things to consider. Simply put, the corporate or business mindset may often clash with those wearing ink. It can be styled ‘Ink vs Inc’.

As I was thinking through the obvious aspects of this debate, I was struck by another side of this paradox as it applies to leaders.

If “Inc.” represents the formal elements (policy, procedure, and governing rules of the road) of running a business and being a good leader, then “Ink” will be about personal expression. I suggest that effective leadership should be a blend of both.

Charisma

Leadership has often been confused with charisma. Yes, there are famous leaders who were/are incredibly charismatic. Charisma has a way of setting the leader apart from the crowd. We tend to like our leaders better if they demonstrate a little charisma. It’s that little glimmer of personality, confidence, or spark that makes the leader likable and relatable.

You could argue that INK (personal expression) plays into charisma. It’s that dose of style that makes the edge. I don’t suggest running out and getting yourself tattooed if you don’t already have one. Rather I am saying that finding your own bit of personal edge that can play into your leadership style can make a big difference.

Managers coming up through the ranks can become stiff. It’s as though there is this idea that you must be stern and rigid to be a good leader. Not so. Being able to flash a bright smile (if that’s your thing) can win the hearts of those around you. Breaking the ice with a good (and appropriate) story is also a good skill to work on. Displaying other, more subtle traits can add to your style too.

Here is a list for you to consider:

Empathetic Listening

Type-A personality leaders have a tendency to charge through discussions with team members. Once a statement is made, this kind of leader plows full steam ahead. They tend to be “all business”.  The employee who thought they offered a good suggestion gets no sense of recognition for the idea. They begin to feel taken for granted.

Hard-charging leaders should work even harder to learn empathetic listening skills. When you intend to have team discussions, then take it in. Savor the moment. Acknowledge the things others are saying by feeding it back or asking clarifying questions. If you like the idea, say so.

Better Interaction

It’s an old-school management teaching that says you can’t be friends with your employees. That is still true in many ways. Yet you can be relevant and relatable. How? By engaging.

Business doesn’t have to be full on, 24×7. Take that extra moment at the coffee bar or water cooler to say hello, ask how people are doing. If you have heard about a family situation, acknowledge it. Ask how things are going. Be genuine when you do.

Take that short few minutes before a meeting, when people are gathering in the hall, to put down your phone and interact. Small, but genuine talk, goes a long way to add warmth to your style of leadership.

Celebrate Wins

As you and your team achieve goals and make deadlines, celebrate the victory. Enjoy your wins. You cannot sustain a great team by chalking off the wins to “well, that’s what we were supposed to do.”

Figure out a way to have a touchdown dance in the end zone. Enjoy the achievement. Let others do so too. Most teams intend to work hard. When a goal is reached or a deadline is met, your team deserves recognition. If nothing else have a short team meeting to do nothing but say “Way to go guys!”

Setting Your Style

Every leader has a style. Good or bad, you get pegged for having some distinct approach to leading your teams and business. Likable or not, effective or not, you get labeled as having some kind of style.

Rather than having the stuffy INC spirit, why not add a little INK?

Question: What’s your leadership style? Leave a comment

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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It’s Not Over til It’s Over

finish strong

There’s an interesting phenomenon in business and in personal affairs. When a work project or season of life has been particularly protracted, some of us have a hard time staying the course to reach the period at the end. People don’t always finish well.

sliding homeThere is something about sensing the finish line that causes us to lose focus as we stop doing those things which have proven successful or when we celebrate prematurely.

Here’s a quote from a colleague who was sharing experiences at a big client project.

You’re halfway between 3rd base and home. Don’t start sliding now.

Finishing Well

Some long-running TV shows are notorious for having less than satisfying ending. Skeptical? Think fade to black for “Sopranos”. Or the confusing ending to “Lost”. Even the wildly popular “Seinfeld” had its detractors when the final episode aired.

It’s not easy to finish well. Finishing is a great deal more difficult than starting. Day 1 holds much more excitement than both Day 2 and certainly more than Day 176. It is why New Year’s resolutions die early deaths. We don’t finish well.

What can we do? Here are five things to consider.

  1. Renegotiate your relationship with Perfect. Perfectionism is the enemy of good. Too many of us stop what we have started because we realize it won’t be perfect. Instead of accepting a good outcome, we stop altogether. If we believe it cannot be perfect we decide to abandon the effort.

How sad. Would perfect have really made that much difference? How much is the incremental difference between good and perfect worth anyway? Change your need to be perfect. Get a new deal. Then use your skills and talents to generate as much good as you can muster. Forget about being perfect.

  1. Manage the right thing or things. Is time management really more important than managing your energy? Regardless of the time of day, energy levels vary. You can produce better outcomes when your energy levels are at their peak.

Brain function and awareness operate better with increased energy levels. Instead of watching the clock, learn to pay attention to your energy cycles. Save the really big tasks for windows of time when energy levels are high.

  1. Set achievable, incremental (and achievable) goals. Leave the huge, impractical ones alone. Those will only serve to frustrate and overwhelm you. The guys who choose to climb Mount Everest do so by training on smaller climbs. They work up to the big goal.

Remember the old joke about “how do you eat an elephant?” Answer “one bite at a time”. Goals are like that. By failing to choose the right set of incremental goals, we can become discouraged by one monumental goal.

Keep your goals measurable, achievable, and shorter duration. Build up the cumulative effect of completing a consistent series of smaller goals.

  1. Build in accountability. I tend to be somewhat a loner. Solitude is actually good for me; I like it. Yet staying in a solitary operating mode gives me way too much opportunity to avoid deadlines. I can find dozens of convenient excuses to not do the important things I should be doing.

This is where accountability comes in. Being accountable to a partner or a team wipes out the easy excuses. Promising deliverables to others makes you aware of the need to complete the task at hand.

finish strong

  1. Don’t stop short. Just like the baseball quote above, don’t start sliding into home base too early. You’ll never get there.

Run through the finish line. Sprinters even lean into the tape. They don’t hit it in an upright position. They lean in.

Make whatever last lap effort you must to give yourself the power to finish strong. Lean into your finish. You can relax and celebrate after you reach the end of your task.

Question: What have you done lately to finish strong? Leave a comment

PS – This article’s title came of course from the great Yogi Berra. American baseball legend Yogi Berra first uttered the phrase about baseball’s 1973 National League pennant race. His team was a long way behind when he said it and they did eventually rally to win the division title.

It’s not the only offbeat quote from the sportsman – there’s also the existential “It’s like deja-vu all over again” or the wry “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours” – but there is something about the never-say-die, no-matter-the-odds-we-can-do-this spirit of “It ain’t over…” that finds a place to inspire, time and time again.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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What Are You Waiting For?

waiting

There comes a time in life when you’ve done all the thinking, study, analysis, and planning you can do. You reach a decision point. Then it happens. You freeze. You cannot go forward. You’re stuck.

waiting

The question is then, what are you waiting for? What is it that holds you back, makes you balk? How can you make the call?

Leadership is about being able to avoid the waiting. Making decisions is the big “so what” about being a leader. As the leader, your team is waiting for you to decide. Which way are we going, if at all? When? How?

While your ability to decide can make the difference, the timing of the decision is just as important.

First a story

I’ve often told the story of my banking experience during the implementation of ATM machines. The machines were new, unproven technology. Analysts agreed this was the next big thing. My bank had not yet entered the fight. The competition was running fast to adopt the technology.

We held a big executive summit with our senior leadership team. Case studies were prepared and presented. Our chairman and CEO, Ben Love, absorbed all of the information as only he could do. Then in the blink of an eye, he said “No, we’re going to wait this out. Let’s let the other guys get the arrows in their back.”

His analogy of course meant that pioneers were the ones who suffered the most when exploring new territory. We waited for a period, something like 18–24 months. Then we entered the market.

Not only did we avoid the high cost of early adoption failures (and there were many), but we dominated the space. We helped form the Pulse network which was the early version of the utility service that allowed all the machines to talk to each other and exchange transaction data. There was a cost to be on the network, a fee we profited from for quite some time.

In this case, Ben’s waiting was prudent, wise, and ultimately very profitable. However, too often the wait is a fail all its own.

The flip side

In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team. The idea was that Netflix would run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores. Hastings got laughed out of the room.

We all know what happened next. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is now a $28 billion dollar company, about ten times what Blockbuster was worth. Today, Hastings is widely hailed as a genius and Antioco is considered a fool. Yet that is far too unfair an explanation.

Antioco was, in fact, a very competent executive — many considered him a retail genius — with a long history of success. Yet for all his operational acumen, he failed to see that market forces were moving in a new direction.

Let’s make it personal

Waiting

Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of business case studies where CEOs failed to make the right call. But this issue is more personal.

Each of us with any leadership duty at all, whether at work, at home, or in the community, face the challenge to make decisions on behalf of our tribe.

When we freeze in place, we jeopardize everything we may have been working on. Here are three main reasons we wait before making the decision. And a little something to do about each one.

Fear

Fear is the obvious and easy answer to why we wait. When faced with an unknown about the future we have fear. As the reality settles in that our decision may have big consequences, fear rises up.

Fear can be overcome by determination. When I sense fear about making a decision, I look first at those who rely on me. I ask the question, will they be better off moving forward or staying stuck where we are.

If the consequences of my decision will not directly harm my tribe, I can move ahead with more determination.

Confidence

Confidence, or lack thereof, is a distant relative of fear. Building confidence as a leader is one of the most common expressions of concern I hear from my coaching clients. Lack of confidence causes us to wait.

There is not a good executive out there who hasn’t felt a little doubt from time to time, tugging at their confidence. Prior success only goes so far in helping to make new decisions with confidence. Yet building momentum as a leader can do more for confidence than anything else I know.

High achievers seldom celebrate wins in the day. Beating a deadline, making a delivery, executing a difficult task, are all examples of wins you can and should be celebrating in your own way. I’m not talking about becoming arrogant. Rather I am talking about realizing the momentum that might be building on your team.

Celebrate that. Let it help build your confidence as a leader.

Procrastination

Yes, just old-fashioned procrastination can cause us to wait. Ironically, people with tendencies toward perfectionism are the biggest procrastinators I know.

The logic goes like this. I need this to be perfect, so I’ll wait for the right time, resources, or events to align so that the outcome will be perfect.

Perfect is the enemy of good. ~Voltaire

You don’t have to be perfect to be a winner. Success comes from action. Feel the urge to wait because of trying to be perfect? Decide first what good can look like. Then do it.

Question: What are you waiting for?

Tips for Living Through Change

managing change

It just seems we can never get away from change. It’s an ever-present topic that leaders and business owners struggle to manage and survive. What is so darn hard about managing change?

managing change

Lately, I have been surrounded by various types of change. It seems every one of my clients, my volunteer efforts, and even portions of my personal life are facing major change events. Situations range from major organizational change being implemented by a Fortune 100 company to executive moves/retirement, staff shakeup at a nonprofit, and the upcoming birthday of a five-year-old grandson. Change is everywhere.

It’s not a surprise that I carefully observe each of these situations with guarded optimism coupled with caution and anticipation. Why? Because I’ve been around the block enough times to see people’s reactions coming a mile away, yet it cannot be stopped.

We face change at work, at home, and in the community around us. Couples watching kids grow and leave the nest face daily change moments. That sweet cuddly toddler becomes a terrible two or thirteen. Then it’s off to college or work. Relationships get tested, sometimes broken.

As we begin to think about finding our special someone we face changes in meeting new people and trying to establish the right relationship. Too often people ignore big red flags in choosing their relationships. Why? Because change is too painful after a certain amount of time is invested. I love that thought. Invested in a bad relationship. Really? I digress.

Why don’t people handle change very well? It’s an age-old problem that scholars and technicians have tried to solve. I’ve read articles from brain surgeons who have theories about synapse firing in the brain and chemical changes brought on by change (fight or flight syndrome anyone?).

More important to me is the key question: what should a leader do in the winds of change?

The Job Description

Leaders by definition execute on things. That’s why we’re called executives. The CEO is the chief executive officer; the head guy for making change happen. Our role and job description churns change. Yet we have to be sensitive to the impact of change. There is a clear and present problem with effectuating change while controlling the chaos that ensues.

The dynamic doesn’t change. Regardless of how big the organization or the charter it may be formed under, the people on the team either thrive or dive with change. Leaders can and should make the difference.

Far too often I see the chief executive or at least the senior officer get sucked into the energy being spun up by the pushback from the team. Either they overreact or they become paralyzed. I’ve seen both of these scenarios in the situations I mentioned above.

It’s All About the Fear

From my experience, the biggest noise in the face of change is all about fear. Most people fear the unknown. The new guy or the new structure or the new policy or the new program sets fear in high gear. Very few of us get excited about change.

Moving away from the known to the unknown is the biggest problem I see.

For the new manager who is thrust into a role where change has been ordained from above, as in the case of corporate reorganization, people don’t blame the corporation, they blame the boss.

In mergers, the “winning” side usually takes the lead in making things settle in, but that comes at the angst of those who came over from the “acquired” firm. Yes sometimes the buyer is sensitive to these aspects and places leaders from the opposite side into key roles, but the shakeup is just that, a shakeup. Trust is crumbled and must be rebuilt.

Every person who takes on a new role faces the same thing. The team wants to know who you are, what you think, and how you operate. If the predecessor was highly regarded by the staff, the new guys get points off just for not being the old guy. The trust has to be rebuilt.

Better is Not Always Better

I’ve seen situations where an outgoing person gets replaced by someone who is supposed to upgrade the role. Those changes impact the way things were. Even when the former person was considered a marginal performer in a role, the new guy has to overcome an unfair bias. It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted the new person may be, the crew expects nothing to change.

If things do start to change, feelings get hurt. It’s that fear thing again.

When your status quo is not quo anymore (bad grammar, but solid thought), you start to imagine things that may never become problems. Change causes that kind of irrational logic.

What’s a Leader to Do?

There are several key things I recommend. I think they speak for themselves.

  • Face the music. Realize change does cause unrest. Deal with it.
  • Don’t give in, but let the people have their voice. Talk through the concerns.
  • Work hard on building trust. Lead don’t push.
  • Avoid taking sides early. Be objective. Get both sides of the story before making any declaration.
  • Manage up when you have to. The executive who mandated the change might not realize what they have launched.
  • Keep communication lines open. Demand free flow of discussion about the changes. Don’t let opinions fester and brew.
  • Shine the brightest light you can on what surfaces as the biggest problem.
  • Invest in a high-quality brandy for after work (OK I’m getting silly now, you get the picture)

Change is GOING TO HAPPEN

No one lives in a vacuum. There will be change. Leaders must do more to embrace the recognition of this absolutely guaranteed aspect of moving a business, a relationship, or a team forward. The way we deal with change becomes a big yardstick for how effective we might be as leaders.

PS – I’ve got more thoughts about living through change coming later this week. Stay around.

[reminder]What are some of the ways you manage change where you are?[/reminder]

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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

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