Are You Managing Your World or Is Your World Managing You?

managing world

With so many of us confined to limited movement during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been touching base (OK touching is a bad word) with colleagues, clients and close friends. The gist of the discussions have to do with “what do we do now?”

An old title from my archives came to mind. I thought I’d dust it off and share. I hope this thought will be helpful to you as you figure out your “new normal.”

Here it is from  the vault.


We all suffer the daily grind. Some days are better than others. For anyone in management or leadership, you need to take a pause to make some critical assessments. I like to call it recalibration. This is a key leadership quality.

Let’s face it, the demands on your time and your life can get overwhelming. In today’s tumultuous market, we really never know from day to day what next may come.

A Story

In my consulting days, I was project manager of a very large engagement with over 600 consultants working for me. It was a coast to coast assignment with teams scattered across 7 job sites. I had nine different work streams running concurrently, with cross-over dependencies between teams.

The hours were long and the travel compounded the pressure. The client was a large national banking institution and the mission was to help the bank respond to a critical regulatory mandate. To say the least, the stakes were great. It could have been easy to get overwhelmed with the scope of the situation. I confess, at times I did feel consumed.

Fortunately, my many years of prior training, both military and civilian, had prepared me for just such a mission. I was a long time practitioner of the principle I am about to share

If you let these pressures mount without routinely asking yourselves some essential questions, you run the risk of spinning off into some other orbit that you never intended.

I suggest that one of the most essential questions to ask yourself is :

Are you managing your world or is your world managing you?

The Frog

There is an old story of the frog in the pot. The story says that if you drop a frog in boiling water he immediately jumps out. But if you set him in cool water and slowly add the heat, he’ll boil to death. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be like the frog.

boiling-frog

You have to gauge the temperature on a regular basis. Are you getting comfortable with the heat rising?

You have to pay attention to the circumstances around you. There needs to be the routine recalibration of your own role in the middle of the work demands going on around you.

React or Respond?

Here’s another point. If a doctor prescribes medication and I have a reaction to it, that is NOT GOOD. Yet if I respond to it, I am going to get over the condition. Just like with the medicine, being reactive to the things in our world really will not help the situation. Of course there are things that may happen that are totally unexpected. We have to deal with that.

At the core of this idea is the challenge between being proactive or reactive. The point here is that we should not let everything that happens become a topic of reaction. Truly we should be able to do some things to be proactive with what may come. Proactive people are better positioned to respond to the situation and manage their world. However, being reactive allows the events of the day to manage YOU.

So where do you stand? Are you more inclined to be in control of the things happening around you or have you started just reacting?

People Can Mess Things Up

people mess things up

You may think you have developed the best plan in the world to attack the next chapter of your life (ok, maybe just the next few hours). Then, what do you know, the very first person who walks into the office seems to blow the whole plan out of the water. What do you do?

Don’t react! Force yourself to pause and process the matter according to your plan. This is how you manage things rather than let things manage you.

Is it easy? Of course not! That’s why we so often feel overwhelmed at the end of the day.

Even if you are successful at maintaining the focus on your plan, it likely will take lots of energy and effort. But people who have been able to adopt a discipline for doing this find it becomes easier to do. If your outward aura is true to this inner control, the people around you will start to get the picture. Their demands will become less intrusive, plus they will learn they cannot get “the reaction” out you they used to be able to do.

LIFE IS A SELF-HELP JOURNEY

Managers getting it right

Maybe self-help books are not as popular as they once were. The truth is, this journey we call life is full of self-help moments. Rather than waiting on others to pitch in or hoping that circumstances may change, you need to take control of your own destiny.

Personal and professional growth only happens when you choose to make it happen.

At each and every step of the way, keep asking yourself if you are managing your world or does your world manage you? Take the time to recalibrate. Get back on plan.

Question: When was the last time you were able to stand back and realize your world was managing you? How did you regain control?

Here’s the View from My Seat on the Bus

My seat on the bus

Managers at various levels struggle with common issues. Regardless of the industry where you serve, leadership challenges are very similar. There are some common themes I see played out time and time again. This article will explore those themes. But first, a story.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Throwerby Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

You might be the One

If you have management responsibility, you have control over certain situations. Keeping your eyes and ears, heart and mind open to new ideas just might make YOU the one who can make a difference.

We who attempt to provide coaching services to executives and business owners operate like the little boy on the beach. Yes, there are thousands of professionals who go to work every day, trying to do something right. For managers, you model your behaviors after others or you “fake it ’til you make it.” Those of you in executive roles have an even greater burden to establish vision and guide direction, navigating troubled waters.

Occasionally, someone in a leadership role, whether elected, selected or neglected, decides to ask for some help. You know there is more, but you have no idea where to go or how to get there.

Manager Challenges

As I meet with clients, here are some of the common themes I hear.

I want to do something really different from where I am but the company culture won’t allow it. First let me say, how sad an indictment. When a well-meaning manager feels so bound by the culture that they are afraid to act, you have a pretty lousy culture. No empowerment. No inclusion. And even less diversity.

I tell these folks to be bold and ask for the ear of their boss. Share openly, but candidly without making threats or pointing the finger as to blame someone. Instead make it a suggestion i.e. use a “no harm, no foul” spirit in the discussion. Don’t challenge the boss but offer your idea as an observation and suggestion.

I have no clue what I need to do next. Truer words have never been spoken. But few managers ever come close to saying this out loud. Finding the right Master Coach may be a huge blessing. Why? Because speaking the truth about your situation may be the fastest way to resolution and achievement. You cannot make a change if you don’t name the issue.

I am so busy, some things just have to wait. There are busy calendars and there are effective people. Usually, both never meet. Said another way, when I see calendars booked 2 deep, I seldom see a powerful, influential leader.

overwhelmed

Instead, I find a frustrated, tired, and burned out human being. How does your calendar look? Have you found effective ways to better manage the demands on your time?

It’s time to get serious about delegation. There are likely many things you can ask others on your team to do. Trust them and let them fly.

Free up space on your calendar to reflect. Create some margin in the time you have each day. 

The solution is not perfect, so I need to wait before executing the plan. It has been said that Perfect is the enemy of Good. I believe that. While I’d never advocate for going off half-cocked and ill-prepared, I’ve seen far too many projects stifled by over-thinking in the spirit of perfection. You won’t ever achieve perfection.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

Even the Appolo moon shots had some degree of chance in the tiniest of components.

I need to figure out how to be like George or Sally. No, you don’t! There is only one of you and that job is taken. Become the best version of YOU. Forget matching up to others. Give yourself the freedom to act as you know best. Sure, get good data and be informed about your decisions, but don’t let someone else’s personality or style impact who you need impact. Stop comparing to others.

These are just a few of my observations. Hope you enjoy. Feel free to send me your favorites. I am sure I’ll have a story to match up.

Great Leadership Builds Trust – Here’s Why It Matters

In any relationship, trust is a key element. Without it, things don’t last very long. With trust, you can withstand most anything. Managers at every level of an organization must seek first to build a foundation of trust within their circle of influence.

The world is craving a new story about leadership and business, one that underscores the way people trust and contribute to each other. Without trust, the chances for a long-term success are diminished. Those who recognize the importance of building business and leadership foundation on trust are likely to find themselves doing what is right and what is good for stakeholders in the long run. ~Lolly Daskal

Trust is King

In business, trust operates at many levels. A company’s customers or clients must obtain a level of trust in the product or service before agreeing to buy. Achieving this dynamic can work in either of two ways. First, the prospective customer gets to know the representatives of the company. If they learn to like these people, over time, a trust builds. Once that trust is established, the decision to buy is easier (not automatic, just easier).

On the other hand, a product or service gets a reputation for reliability and performance. Trust grows, clients consume. Sometimes the public never really knows the people behind the product, they just know they trust the brand. Think about Google or Apple. Most of us never get to know an individual Googler or an Apple genius in person, right? Yet we trust the brand to bring us the service we crave.

Team Work

We all know it takes teams to build a brand. Within those teams, the highest performing ones have their own levels of trust. Therefore, while we may never know the people behind the product we like and trust, they make it happen nonetheless.

That brings us to the leadership that drives those teams. Here is a six-part model that clearly defines a breakdown of the primary elements for building a high trust team who will perform at higher levels.

Team Trust
Team Trust

Following this process, you can find ways to build trust within your team, growing the depth of the trust relationship. Once trust is established, there is no limit on the things your team can produce.

Here is more about the 6 steps to building trust within your team

The People –  Trust begins with each employee answering their own key question “Do I even want to be on this team?”

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great”, calls it getting the right people on the bus. Clearly your hiring decisions impact the potential for a positive answer to this question. If you hired the wrong person, they may quickly question whether they even want to be on the team. Yet even with the best hiring decisions, the individual must answer this question for themselves once they land. After orientation, there is a buy-in period that is inevitable. Trust cannot begin until everyone on the team is positive that “yes, I want to be here”.

The Purpose –  Team trust requires an agreement with what the team is trying to accomplish.

In “Tribes”, Seth Godin talks about the nature of a tribe as being aligned with a central purpose. Every work team is its own tribe. The purpose must be aligned.

Businesses build operating units for a purpose. Teams within those units operate as a contributor to the overall success of the organization. Trust grows from the alignment with team purpose, and, again, individual understanding of that purpose. A leader has to build understanding. If the purpose is not clearly articulated to everyone, then trust lags.

The Plan –  How will the team get this done? Many of us are planners, others are followers. Either way, knowing about the existence of the plan makes the way forward more achievable. Belief in the plan also builds trust.

Even when employee buy-in happens and a clear purpose is understood, the plan is critical for establishing trust. The plan helps the team understand steps, goals, and means to get their work accomplished.

The Practice –  Is what we are going to do consistent with the plan?

Are skills sets accounted for? Are resources made available? Said another way, have we eliminated any notion of being set-up to fail?

Policies, procedures, and practice make the way clear for high trust performance. If rules and regulations become a hindrance, then trust erodes. In other words, the confidence for being able to perform is put in doubt.

The Performance –  Once we begin working, is our performance going to be measured in ways that are accurate, meaningful, and valuable?

Measuring performance offers proper feedback for fine tuning the purpose, plan, and practice. Therefore, adequate performance measurement is vital.

Employees who never receive coaching about their performance cannot be expected to give trust and higher performance. This is why more modern tools like Big 5 Performance Management make such a big difference. Rather than waiting on tired and untimely reports like the old-fashioned annual reviews, Big 5 offers real-time feedback that can be communicated and coached every month.

The Payoff – Success begets success.

Momentum is like the big flywheel. It takes time to start turning, but once it is in motion, it is hard to stop. As a result, teams who celebrate success can taste it. Realizing that all of the effort used for steps 1 thru 5 result in success builds higher trust within the team. The payoff instills a desire for more effort and more momentum.

Trust Reward

The end result is a high trust team environment. Once the tribe establishes this bond of trust, there are few things that can deter their ongoing success.

The manager/leader who sets the tone for building this kind of trust will themselves reap the rewards for higher performance from the team. For more information about the Leader’s role in building trust, see “Connect, Then Lead”  in the Harvard Business Review. In that article, Amy J.C. Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger talk about the critical fact that Leaders must first connect with their team before trust can begin.

In upcoming articles, I will dive deeper into each step. In addition, I will be offering practical tools the leader can use to perfect each step.

Question: Do you have an experience operating within a high trust team environment? Please share your story here.

Or, if you want to start NOW with improving your team’s level of trust, call me for speaking, coaching, or facilitation of a team exercise.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Leadership: It’s in the Bag, Part II

When coaching an executive or business owner about leadership, there is a word picture that tells so much more than all the other metaphors. That word picture is golf. Those of you might ‘hate golf’ or don’t know much about it, please stay with me.

The game of golf is a collection of challenges intentionally designed to test your skills. In a standard round of golf, there are 18 holes, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Some of the holes are longer than others. Some have water obstacles, others have sand. Often you have both. Elevations change, grass changes, shapes, and cuts give every hole a special personality.

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You tee off on each hole, hoping to reach the green in as few strokes as possible. Once you have reached the green, all that remains are a few shorter touches to sink the ball into the cup, but oh how hard those last strokes can be. The turns and twists of the surface of the green make some hard uphill runs while others are slippery downhill slopes. Here, even the length and density of the grass can influence your effectiveness at putting.

There is a target score called “par” which means you have successfully navigated the designed hazards and achieved a positive outcome.

To conquer these challenges, we buy a “full set of clubs”. The rules of golf allow you to carry 14 clubs in your bag. You get to choose what the 14 sticks include. These clubs become your tools for mastering the course.  The shafts vary in length as will the club heads vary in angle and density. Each one has a designed purpose so that you control both the length and trajectory of the flight of the ball.

People who achieve the best skills at golf can “shape a shot”; making the flight of the ball bend left or right depending on the angle they need to compensate for topography or wind direction.  The best golfers do this “shot shaping” at will; whenever a shot is needed.

Golf shot shapes

So how does all of this apply to management and leadership?

The Parallels 

The golf course can represent the work in front of you; the people, the tasks, the goals, and objectives. Each aspect of your work will have a different dimension, shape, or trait. This applies to the people who work for you as well as the business of the company. New projects take on new shapes. The list can be long and the complexities very diverse.

In management and leadership, you have to plot the course and make plans to achieve the desired outcome. With golf, beating “par” is the goal.

In leadership, having the equivalent of the lowest score (beating par) would mean getting the best results as quickly as possible, mastering the uniqueness of the situation, making good selections, and executing on those selections.

The approach and methods you choose for each situation mimic the need for various golf clubs. Even once a club is selected, the way you swing determines the shape of the shot. Leadership requires a variety of approaches and techniques. There is no one answer that fits all situations.

Leaders who use one style and a “my way or the highway” mindset can be effective for a little while. However, using variations on your leadership approach will allow you to fit the situation and achieve far greater results.

Managing the Course

In golf, we talk a lot about course management. This means knowing the twists and turns and adding to that information the data you have each day about the weather, wind, and overall playing conditions.

When a course gets hot and dry, the ball cannot be controlled as well. If a shot is hit too far or too hard, the hardened surface will allow the ball to run away from the target. On the other hand, a course that has had a lot of rain will play softer. Even when you want a ball to run, it may not due to the wet conditions.

Working with a course management mindset helps to set-up the rest of the game for shot selection (club selection) and approach.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]At work, we must course manage every day. As circumstances change, so must our choices for solutions. [/perfectpullquote]

While we might have made a tactical decision early on i.e. a way we are planning to handle a customer, a supplier, or an employee, the situation with that relationship may change day by day. This requires us to alter our decisions about the way we need to handle things.

Knowing Your Equipment

Today, golf manufacturers introduce new and improved equipment almost weekly. Keeping up with the latest technological improvements for feel, control, and response with the clubs can be a full-time endeavor. Yet, the need to become proficient with what you own can only happen with repetition through practice. Constantly changing equipment creates the need for adapting to the new tool.

It can be this way too with management and leadership tools and training. Attending seminars and buying programs to teach new techniques for leadership will not work without full adoption and practice. Giving in to the temptation to be buying every new idea is just like the weekend golfer who buys every new club in hopes that this latest tweak will be the magic bullet to solve the problems in his game. Instead, it would be more beneficial for him to use what he owns to practice making each of the shots he might need one day.

Practice and Feedback

Leadership is a solitary endeavor. Just like golf, a person can labor quietly to improve their game. Constant practice is the best way to figure out how you can hit each club. Then rendition helps to lock in muscle memory to aid in the execution of a shot when the time comes. In golf, feedback is pretty instant. The ball either goes where you want it to or not.

In leadership, feedback can be this quick too, but more likely is not. You don’t always know how well your selection of club and shot (your approach) worked out. This is especially true with leading people. Though you may get pretty good at knowing how to handle certain people, to be a better leader you must become well versed in inspiring all people.

Good Days and Bad Days

Anyone who has been a golfer knows there are good days and bad days. You might be able to play a number of rounds and shoot really good scores. Then all of a sudden, you go out one day, and BANG! Everything goes wrong.

Management and leadership have those days too. Things happen. You must let the bad days pass. Stay true to what you know about yourself and your team. Don’t start making major adjustments to your leadership methods before you can resolve whether big changes are truly needed.

If all that is needed is a cooling off period, tearing into your whole method and approach for leadership can be damaging.

Summary

Effective leadership has never been a one size fits all solution. Great leaders know how to adapt, change, and adjust their tools and methods depending on the situation.

Just like making a golf club selection when you are facing a dogleg left with a slight breeze in your face, there are many different details to measure and include in leadership decision making.

Be flexible, be willing to shape your shot. Hey, it’s in the bag!

Author’s note: This topic first appeared in 2016 and was highly regarded as a popular post. So with a few updates and edits, I present it again as a reminder to leaders everywhere.

Saying Thanks to Old Mentors for Their Inspiration

This week families across the USA gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It means many different things to different people. As one of my clients shared when I asked about his plans, “lots of food, too much to drink, and too much football.” (Sounds like my kind of gathering, but I digress).

The spirit of this holiday is to pause and reflect. More importantly, it’s a time to offer thanks for the many blessings in life, whether material, emotional, or spiritual.

Thanking Leaders from the Past

I was reminded this past week there is another kind of thanks we seldom share. A good friend and fellow coach whom I’ve known for decades was telling me how she recently wrote a blog citing mentors and leaders she has known. The central theme was a note of gratitude to those former bosses for being great leaders; senior managers who inspired and motivated their following.

Hearing my friend share this poignant idea, I was convicted that I have not done enough to say thanks to those who have guided me. I’ve been blessed with some amazing people who have come into my life at various stages, investing time and energy to share their views and experience. The collective wisdom has helped me make better choices along the way. It has shaped my values and principles.

As I think through my list, the reality is that many, not all, of those I count as great inspirations, have passed away. Their legacy remains with me, but I no longer have the chance to say thank you to all of them personally.

I’m going to list the names but won’t go into detail about their impact. Simply stated, I thank you, one and all for spending the time you spent to help a young man. So in no particular order:

  • Jack Whitaker
  • George Jared
  • Tim Balter
  • MSG Jimmy Howard
  • Col. Hal Gaines
  • J. Wayne Stark
  • Col. Gaither Bray
  • LTC Jap Champion
  • Everett Gambrell
  • Dr. John Bisagno
  • Gene Elliott
  • Harriet Wasserstrum
  • Lane Sloan
  • Mary Kole
  • Dick Hendee
  • Mel Maltz
  • Dr. John Lockhart

Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. You didn’t have to do it, but you did/do.

Who In Your Life?

Take a moment and think about those in your life who made the commitment to mentor. If you can contact them, do so. Spend a minute to give back.

Use the lessons they gave to continue your leadership growth toward the ability to make a difference. They did. Why shouldn’t you? It’s your turn to be a stepping stone for someone.

 

 

What Are Your Defining Moments?

Defining moments. What do they mean to you? I don’t hear people talk much these days about defining moments, but we all share them. No, not the exact situation or set of circumstances, but the reality of having things happen to us or through us that make big changes in the way we see the world.

Often defining moments come via life events; relationships that come and go plans we thought we had with great potential, disappointments, or big fears overcome. The list of possible defining moments or “aha” moments varies for each of us.

A Few Stories

In my own case, the list of these moments seems long. As the only child of a single, working Mom, I was a latch-key kid before that was a thing. Facing certain fears of coming home from school and going into an empty house had to be overcome. At seven or eight years old, that was huge. Yet I did it. My sense of self-confidence began growing at such an early age. It was fight or flight. I did neither.

In middle school, there was a situation when I felt wronged by the administration for missing a deadline due to a minor illness. This wasn’t a disciplinary matter, but an opportunity to run for student council that required filing deadlines. Mom refused to fight my battle. She said if I believed in what the issue was about I needed to fight for what I believed. At age 13 I marched into the principal’s office and delivered what was a well-rehearsed pleading for justice. Clearly, it worked. My filing exception was granted and I ran a successful campaign. Life lessons were being taught.

The Big Cheese

Fast forward some 18 years. I was working in my first few years at a large regional bank. A very senior executive jumped me one day in a large meeting. He essentially chewed me out for delivering some bad news for his department. It was definitely embarrassing for me. I was the proverbial messenger and nothing more. That night I thought about it long and hard.

This executive was famous for arriving at the bank before anyone else. So I was there too. I went to his office and knocked on his door. It startled him. He was not used to seeing anyone for at least another hour. I asked if he had a moment to talk. Visibly shaken, he agreed and invited me in. Again I was prepared. I told him I thought the situation yesterday was uncalled for. I was merely the messenger. Further, I said that I planned to have a long career there and I knew that because of his already senior leadership role, I needed to work well with him. To that end I wanted him to know that while I respected his position he needed to respect me too for what I could contribute.

He smiled and said “Doug you are perfectly correct. I apologize. And I look forward to our days and years ahead.” Another defining moment.

By the way. A few months later this same executive called me back into his office. He handed me an envelope which turned out to be my first bonus check at that bank.

The ‘So What’

Defining moments are only valuable once you can point to a specific moment in time and realize something big changed. As I said earlier, we all have defining moments. However, it is what we do with them that makes the difference.

If a particular situation happens and you ignore it, then likely it is by no means a defining moment. Yet when the really special moment happens you usually know it right away. You discover a new you or you change your outlook in an instant.

I suggest that there is value in revisiting those moments throughout your career. Use them as stepping stones to keep moving forward. If you start feeling down or defeated, just remember one of those earlier defining moments. Grab the strength and resolve from them to renew your spirit and rekindle the purpose you need.

Remember, overnight success is a myth. Name anyone who has been considered an overnight success and you will find they actually spent years perfecting their offering. The same is true of great business and community leaders. It takes years of intentional effort to build a reputation as a leader. Your defining moments can shape you and mold you for the right opportunity.

If you’re having trouble seeing the storyline unfold, an executive coach might be the right answer.

When You Lose, Are You Bitter or Better?

bitter or better

Here’s the scenario: life throws you a curve ball. Things don’t go your way. You suffer an embarrassing moment in front of colleagues, your spouse or your kids. You lose the deal, the game, the promotion, or the moment. The other guy wins. You failed. What are your responses?

Yes, I believe there is more than one. Of course, you’ll have an immediate response. However, the sting of losing can linger near term, long term and for life. How do you react?

I’ve certainly lost out a few times. It’s a natural part of a competitive commerce model. The chance to win or lose is all around us.

The key question is a very simple one… Do you become Bitter or Better?

Bitter

Do you get bitter over the issue? Will you allow anger or other negative emotions to rule the little place in that video library of your mind?

Every time the mention of that moment comes up, will you lash out, thinking or making very vile comments, turning red, and huffing off to simmer in the juices of self-pity all over again? Do you let relationships suffer over that moment?

Sometimes people make a vow to “never let that happen again”.

Staying bitter over the issue has no real positive effects at all. In fact, being bitter has been proven to impact your health. Blood pressure, ulcers, and a host of other factors can build over time as we stew over the bad thoughts and bitterness caused by losing moments.

Those who study emotional intelligence will tell you the way you shift out of being bitter and the speed at which you do it is an indicator of your emotional intelligence scale.

Better

Or are you the kind of person that will make it better? By better, I am talking about assessing the whole truth of the circumstance openly and objectively. Then finding a nugget of gold with which you may prosper by changing some area of your life and thinking:

  • your technical/professional knowledge
  • your behaviors
  • your emotions;

By making one or all of these choices, the next time something similar arises, (and it will), you can respond in a much more positive way.

John Maxwell says “Experience is not good learning. Only informed learning from experience teaches us new things.”

Being better also means forgiving any person or group who may have been the source of the bad moment. That little mental video I mentioned should not include the replay of the look on someone else’s face when they “got you”.

Let it go. Be BETTER!

By the Way

If you have found some difficulty in working through these kinds of moments, perhaps a coach and mentor can make a difference. Finding an objective third party to hear your story may help shed some different light on the matter. You might have a blind spot when it comes to certain things that have happened to you before. A coach can help reveal ways to move forward with a better perspective. If I can help, click on the image below to schedule a call.

coaching call

Leadership and Life – Walking the Fine Lines

walking-fine-lines

Travel around the sun a few times and you learn things. If I’ve learned anything traveling my journey around the sun (I’ve done it 65 times), I see people all around who trip on the fine lines. What do I mean? I am talking about those oh so subtle differences between things that are very good and those that are just plain bad.

walking-fine-lines

Life requires us to walk fine lines every day. Leadership demands great execution on walking fine lines.

Here are a few examples.

Coaching clients occasionally ask me how to become more confident. This is particularly true in younger, less experienced managers who have been promoted into bigger jobs. They think they have the experience it may take but are easily embarrassed when sitting at the “bigger table”. Having confidence in your own ability is important.

By building your confidence, you can represent your team or your cause with greater authority and thus increase your influence. However, too much confidence crosses the line and becomes arrogance.

Not long ago I received a note from someone in my tribe who shared his concern for getting hired by the right company. He proceeded to tell me all about his accomplishments and his attributes. The list turned out to be a long one. The more he explained the more arrogant the tone became. Clearly, there was some emotion tied to the message. What could have been an appropriately confident message became a rant of arrogant nature.

I advised the young man to check his motives and emotions, sharing directly with him the way the tone turned me off. The logical presumption was that if he spoke with hiring managers this way, it would be easy to see why he doesn’t get offers.

Be Like Mike

Another fine line is the balance between aspiring to behave like certain people versus becoming them. If you identify with a particular person and say to yourself “I’d like to be more like them.” you can grow and learn. But if you cross the fine line and decide “I will BE them.” you fail. You can never be someone else; that job is taken.

You can, however, learn from others’ behaviors and add to your own skill sets and values.

Yet by trying to be someone you are not, you lose your own identity. Going too far away from the core of who and what you are can be detrimental. In our world of rapid response and social media, we get bombarded with FOMO messages. Fear of missing out clouds our lines of sight for the true and essential people we should be.

Making Adjustments

When you think you need to make an adjustment, often there is another fine line. Correct too much and you veer out of control.

I learned this training for my pilot’s license. Most aircraft are designed to fly. Strange concept right? But seriously, they fly very well, almost without a human pilot. When I get behind the stick, I may have a tendency to over-correct for adjustments in need to make in pitch, trim, and speed. Learning how to fly straight and level is harder than you might think. Yet if I can get the plane positioned on the course I choose, I can trim the flight controls and take my hands off the stick. It runs much smoother that way.

But if I am constantly chasing the horizon or turning off course, I waste precious flight time. Too severe an adjustment up or down, left or right and the flight is not as smooth as it could be.

The same is true in life. Make tiny adjustments when you think you need to make any adjustments. Let the change you make take hold. See where you’re going.

Make Your Own List

I’m guessing I only scratched the surface of fine lines you can think of. Share a few more in the comments. Hit the like (or not).

PS – As I am wrapping this up, I had another example of making small adjustments. I was out pulling my small utility trailer which I use helping folks with odd jobs. It’s a smallish trailer so backing it up can be tricky. The motions to back it in a straight line are ever-so-small. Too much correction and I can jack-knife the trailer in a heartbeat. Try it yourself one day. It’s a great picture of how over-steering can lead you way off course.

The Unsung Role of Leadership

managing up the organization

It is time to dedicate some blog space to a segment of my audience that gets little direct attention. I am talking about the females who serve in leadership roles. I always write with an open mind about the topics I share, and I seldom differentiate between male or female. I still believe “leadership is leadership”, regardless of gender.

advice

Yet with all we’ve tried to implement in the modern workforce to enlighten ourselves, engage work teams, and inform new generations, I still see age-old trends emerging from time to time. In male-dominated organizations, the female role gets compromised.

I’m going to go out on a limb and address several of the most egregious ones I know.

First a Background Story

If you’ve followed my blog or heard me speak, you know I am the only son of a hard-working single Mom. So my familiarity with these topics started at the dinner table when I was a young boy. I watched as my own mother, who was a talented and capable business manager, come home most nights tired and weary from fighting battles; not just the usual battles, but the extra battles of defending her right to be in the room at work.

She had a hard plight. She worked for a home builder in an incredibly macho-man industry. As I got older I watched her go toe to toe on a job site with foremen twice her size. She worked closely with the architects so she knew what had to be done with a new build. Yet the foremen would often try to cut corners and expedite things, leaving out key design features she was trying to introduce into a stale market. Interestingly, Mom usually won.

She didn’t win by using her female charm which could have been easy at 5’5″ with a 16-inch waist and legs to die for (yes, I know I am talking about my Mom). Rather she chose to employ solid fact and logic with a great deal of technical detail that left most of those old grizzled hired hands’ heads spinning. She also knew how to effectively use the “help me help you” technique before that was a thing.

Her scuffles on the job sites became legendary among the various project leads the company hired. In no time she had her own reputation for being tough but fair on making her demands come to life out in the field.

So please don’t tell me I cannot appreciate what women in the workforce are dealing with. I’ve heard a lot over the years. If you think “Me Too” is a new concept, try dialing back the clock to the 50’s and 60’s.

Now Onward

Here are the issues I run into from time to time. I list them in no particular order.

Dealing with Female Executives

First, there is “We don’t know what to do with ‘them’.” Yes, I’ve actually heard that from a group of male executives. My answer is “Really?” The obvious solution is to forget gender and deal with the matter in the same way you would deal with a male counterpart. Any mindset closely related to this is so incredibly naive and archaic. A senior manager who utters such nonsense is really not much of a leader.

I’m encouraged when I enter fairly high-intensity work sites and the female bosses get to act and behave in concert with their male peers. They can give and take with the best of them.

Type-A’s

Next, there is the conundrum of a Type-A, hard-driving male boss being called a ‘tough but effective leader’ while the same Type-A, hard-driving woman executive is just a B#*&H. Again, how sophomoric and low on the emotional intelligence scale. The mindset needs to be adjusted to view these same traits as equals. Yes, I know some female executives who are terrible bosses but painting all of them with one wide brush is very inappropriate. There is an equal if not greater percentage of male bosses who simply suck at what they do.

The PayScale

Yes, it’s a worn out cry from the field, but sadly still true in many situations. The gender gap on the pay scale has closed in recent years with most publicly traded companies settling up, but small, privately owned businesses still suffer the curse here.

On this point, I double checked my position with several female executive coaches I know who specialize in working with other female leaders. The unequal pay conundrum is still very much alive and well.

Work-Life Balance

The working Mom’s were the first to attempt to open the discussion about work-life balance. Why? Not because it was a nice cozy idea, but because it was a necessity. Juggling the load for being Mom and worker just didn’t always even out. Dropping kids at school and picking them up took its toll. And yes, there are some great “Mr. Moms” who have chosen to shoulder the kid management duties of the house to free the wife up for career pursuit, but the tug is still there.

Why shouldn’t we figure out a better balance of workload versus personal need? Seldom is everything a priority at work. I know companies who build a culture around jam-packed calendars and endless meetings but is that really necessary? If you run one of those companies, you can make adjustments and productivity might actually increase.

Mentorship

Creating succession plans is not limited to the bigger, publicly traded companies. Even entrepreneurial shops need good continuity planning. Allowing younger females equal opportunity for fast track and high potential program access should be a priority. Yet, for most of the reasons I’ve already covered above, there is a disparity that remains.

Providing effective mentorship and coaching for up and coming workers, regardless of gender, should be a priority.

THERE IT’S DONE

This is my list. If you know more examples, please share in the comments. This is a dialogue that should not be left unattended.

coaching call

 

If Serving is Beneath You, Leadership is Beyond You

servant leader

What a quote! “If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you.”

servant leader

If you ever struggle with being willing to serve a greater good and another human being, you should reconsider any desire you have to become a manager or a leader. Being in a position of authority has a great responsibility. If you are already in a leadership role and you shirk the notion of service to others, please resign.

This concept was instilled in me during my freshman year of college. I had enrolled at Texas A&M and joined the Corps of Cadets. In the Corps, freshmen are called ‘fish”. The sole purpose of surviving your first year as a fish was to learn one principle.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]You will never be a leader if you don’t know how to be a follower.[/perfectpullquote]

As a fish, I endured all manner of pressure from the upperclassmen. Yes, it was a different time back then, so the physical and mental challenges we were given were much more daunting than today’s politically correct standard, but it taught me something. Actually, it taught me a lot. By contrast, any training I was later subjected to in the regular Army (both basic and advanced individual training) seemed easy compared to being a fish.

At the hands of upperclassmen I was introduced to a full spectrum of leadership ability; ranging from very good leaders to not good at all, and everything in between. Most of all I learned the original principle. To be a leader, you must first be willing to be a follower.

Servant Leadership

Take a look at this video. I had the opportunity to interview an old friend and long-time colleague, Louis W. (Bill) Weber, U.S. Army Brigadier General (retired) [see bio below].

Our discussion centered on Bill’s observations about leadership and management, with a special focus on young, aspiring professionals who are put into action for the very first time. Our topics include:

  • Making the move into leadership for the first time
  • Working through the first 6 months
  • Servant leadership – what is it, where does it work?

Join me for my visit with Bill.

BIO – BILL WEBER

Bill Weber, headshot, 2015, US Army BG Ret.

After soldiering for 32 years as a U.S. Army Armor officer, Bill retired at the end of 2007.  He has extensive experience in leadership, training, organizational management, budget management, and operations.  He worked as the Vice President of Business Development for McLane Advanced Technologies, as the Chief Operations Officer for three years with Advanced Concepts and Technologies International, and with Knowledge Point as an advisor to the United Arab Emirates Army leading reorganization and transformation efforts.  From September 2012 through July 2013, he worked for the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) as the Associate Director for the UTA Research Institute.  He is currently consulting with several organizations, including the Department of the Army.

Bill commanded numerous units and organizations throughout his military career and is a veteran of combat operations in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.  His last Army assignment was as the Vice Director of the Army Staff, preceded by serving as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Sarajevo, Bosnia and a two-year assignment as the Director of Training on the Army Staff.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree (Business Management) from Texas A&M University and a Masters Degree with Distinction in National Security Affairs (Middle East Studies) from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.  He also attended Georgetown University as an Army War College Fellow, served as an Army Congressional Fellow, and has over 25 years of experience related to the Middle East.

He attended the Moroccan Staff School for a year of immersion in French and Foreign Area Officer in-country training and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East.  He maintains currency on events and social, economic, military, and political situations throughout the Middle East.

His decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, UN Medal, the NATO Medal, the Presidential Unit Award, and the Valorous Unit Award. He was also Ranger and Airborne trained and qualified.

He served as Mayor of the City of Woodway, Texas from May 2010 through October 2011.

Married to his wife Robin for 32 years, their daughter is a 2011 Baylor graduate and USAF pilot and their son is a 2012 Texas A&M nuclear engineer graduate.