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Beating Procrastination at Its Own Game – and Ways to Thrive

People often ask me about ways to beat procrastination. I usually say “I’ll get back to you.” Just kidding.

Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day.

procrastinate1

If you do a Google search, there are over 380,000 references to “overcoming procrastination”.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort.

Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari (1).

I too struggle with procrastination. From my own observations with decades of clients behind me, plus my own ever-present struggle with it, here are the key reasons for procrastination.

  1. Desire to achieve perfection –  When a normally high energy, high achiever procrastinates, it’s usually due to the desire to achieve perfection. Perfection though is unachievable, especially in most business settings.
  2. Lack of direction –  You can’t leave for a trip if you don’t know where you’re going. Without a good sense of where you want to go with a project or a task, you likely wont want to start.
  3. Self-talk – Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.” But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying “this isn’t important.” Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  4. It’s unpleasant –  Not everything we need to do each day is fun and exciting. Things can be downright unappealing, so we put them off.

Here are the most popular ways to overcome procrastination (2).

STEP 1: Recognize you ARE A PROCRASTINATOR.

Here’s a fun little test for you to take. CLICK HERE

Here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you’re procrastinating:

  • Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List.
  • Reading e-mails several times without starting work on them or deciding what you’re going to do with them.
  • Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee.
  • Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it’s important.
  • Regularly saying “Yes” to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
  • Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.

Step 2: Work Out WHY You’re Procrastinating

Even if you’re organized, you can feel overwhelmed by the task. You may doubt that you have the skills or resources you think you need, so you seek comfort in doing tasks you know you’re capable of completing. Unfortunately, the big task isn’t going to go away – truly important tasks rarely do. You may also fear success as much as failure. For example, you may think that success will lead to you being swamped with more requests to do this type of task, or that you’ll be pushed to take on things that you feel are beyond you.

Step 3: Adopt Anti-Procrastination Strategies

Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior. That means that you won’t just break it overnight. Habits only stop being habits when you have persistently stopped practicing them, so use as many approaches as possible to maximize your chances of beating them. Some tips will work better for some people than for others, and for some tasks than others. And, sometimes, you may simply need to try a fresh approach to beat the “procrastination peril”!

These general tips will help motivate you to get moving:

  • Make up your own rewards. For example, promise yourself a piece of tasty flapjack at lunchtime if you’ve completed a certain task. And make sure you notice how good it feels to finish things!
  • Ask someone else to check up on you. Peer pressure works! This is the principle behind slimming and other self-help groups, and it is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
  • Identify the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task.
  • Work out the cost of your time  to your employer. As your employers are paying you to do the things that they think are important, you’re not delivering value for money if you’re not doing those things. Shame yourself into getting going!

If you’re procrastinating because you’re disorganized, here’s how to get organized!

Use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle to help prioritize your To-Do List so that you cannot try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it is unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.

eisenhower-box

If you’re putting off starting a project because you find it overwhelming, you need to take a different approach. Here are some tips:

  • Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. You may find it helpful to create an action plan.
  • Start with some quick, small tasks if you can, even if these aren’t the logical first actions. You’ll feel that you’re achieving things, and so perhaps the whole project won’t be so overwhelming after all.

If you’re doing it because you find the task unpleasant:

  • Many procrastinators overestimate the unpleasantness of a task. So give it a try! You may find that it’s not as bad as you thought!
  • Hold the unpleasant consequences of not doing the work at the front of your mind.
  • Reward yourself for doing the task.

Here’s a bonus. Have you seen the story about rocks, pebbles and sand? Watch this video

(1) Quotes courtesy of Psychology Today and Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

(2) Other references courtesy of Mindtools.com

Lessons in Leadership: Soaring with the Winds of Life

windsock

 

In learning how to fly an airplane, one of the first lessons has to do with understanding winds. Winds come in basically three types;

  • Head winds – those hit you right in the face
  • Tail winds – those from behind
  • Cross winds – those at angles from the side

I believe the challenges we face in life and in business model these three types of wind as well. If we consider all the forms of challenge we face, we can boil it down into these three categories. However, it might be interesting to compare the pilot’s concern with each of these winds as we think about our daily responses to life’s winds…..

Head Wind

First, the head winds. Too often we might be prone to think of these negatively. As wind hits us in the face, it slows us down, forces us to press harder against the wind. Bob Seger wrote a great ballad titled “Against the Wind…stronger now still just running…against the wind”.

When a pilot encounters head wind during flight it can be a challenge. Fuel consumption is increased as air speed decreases. The time it takes to reach a destination increases. Stress and fatigue can set in. But did you know it is preferable to take off and land “against the wind”? Why? Because the increased force of that head wind causes “lift” on the wings which is the force that makes planes fly.

A good steady head wind actually makes take-offs and landings easier, more comfortable and effective. So the next time you sense a head wind in life, ask yourself whether it has been provided to allow more lift for a better take off to a new place in life or whether it is there to afford a safer, smoother landing from where you have just come.

Tail Wind

Next let’s talk about tail wind. This is just the opposite from a head wind. We tend to think of tail wind as favorable. During flight that might be true. It can serve to push us forward, reduce effort and speed the time towards the destination.

But did you know it is the most difficult force with which to reckon during take off and landing? At those times, it actually impairs control, reduces efficiency and creates danger.

Maybe in life we need to be cautious of the perceived tail winds. Rather than gliding along with them, we need to watching for hindrances to gaining new achievement or resolving old challenges.

Cross Wind

The final force is cross wind. All things considered, crosswind is the most challenging of all flying situations. That is true in life and business too.

Crosswind means what it implies… a force crossing you at an angle to the direction you intend to fly. During flight, a cross wind will blow you “off course”. A constant watch must be given to direction and compass heading while flying in crosswinds. There is no cruising during crosswind conditions. It is a constant battle.

doug flying
Me piloting a cross country to Shreveport LA

Take off and landing is even more severe. Very special techniques are required to manage a crosswind situation. This is why you see planes doing a crab landing, angling sideways right before touchdown. In some situations the crosswind can be so severe that its force exceeds the designed strength of the air frame on the airplane, which makes the good pilot seek an alternative landing site, one where the winds are more favorable.

Life has crosswind too. It is the skill and grace with which we handle life’s crosswinds that determines our ultimate success. Failure to recognize and manage a crosswind can cause certain disaster. Either we ignore the presence of that crosswind or we acknowledge it but underestimate the consequences. Forging ahead means grave results.

So next time you feel a certain extraordinary force influencing your life, consider the pilot. Is the wind you feel one of these? If so, which one and how will you choose to handle it?

If you need help discerning the winds in your path right now or want to find better ways to navigate those winds, schedule a time for a free consultation.

What is Trust Anyway?

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

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

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

A Manager’s Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical Ability

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

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

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

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

Cultural

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

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

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

Personal

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

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

Complexity

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

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

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

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

Leadership Lessons

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

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

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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.

43607996_s

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