How to Find Perspective in Your Own Leadership Ability

gaining perspective

Having the right perspective in life is vitally important, but it has special meaning for people in leadership positions.

Maintaining the right perspective is sometimes hard to do.

During a recent trip to Las Vegas to speak during the AWS re:Invent conference, I had the chance to take a side trip out to the Grand Canyon. More specifically, I flew in a helicopter hovering just above the rim of the canyon.

gaining perspective in the Grand Canyon

We were flying at 5,000 feet but it looked like (and felt like) we were almost touching the rocks beneath us. Yet even from the rim, the drop to the canyon floor was huge. The perspective was hard to judge at first.

We had been cruising around the rim for a few minutes when we approached the Skywalk observation deck on the west end. The whole compound looked like a dot on the landscape. Yet that visitor center cycles thousands of visitors around the Skywalk every day.

It proved just how magnificent the Grand Canyon truly is. The Skywalk was a mere speck on the horizon and our helicopter was even smaller compared to the canyon itself.

When you as a leader look around your situation at work, at home, or in your community, you have to find the correct perspective to gain the most from the self-reflection process.

Using Assessment Tools

I often work with companies that use the Hogan Personality Assessment tools. Hogan has been around for decades. Their process uses predictive analysis to look at a leader’s personality, giving you a look forward at who and what you might be to those around you.

Hogan provides a multi-dimensional personality profile analysis. Among many positive indicators it tracks, it also includes one very critical analysis called “derailers”. These are personality attributes that can undermine your effectiveness as a leader if used to an extreme.

Like my view of the Grand Canyon from a seat in the helicopter, you have to get the right perspective when looking at the derailers in your personality.

If you take the feedback too lightly, you may miss the significance of the meaning. Absorb them too harshly (i.e. judging yourself too strictly) and you over-correct.

Finding a healthy way to receive any feedback you get and then apply it to your leadership style is the best way to grow as a leader.

Easier Said Than Done

However, that is much easier said than done. So how can you find the right perspective from derailers and apply good corrective measures to achieve more?

First, look at the input. Using highly developed tools like a Hogan assessment is one way to get reliable data. I’m highlighting Hogan here, but there are many others.

One free tool you can self-administer is from 16 Personalities. I have found their results to be compelling and similar to the results you get from many of the higher-priced tools.

Getting good data is better than simply spending a weekend meditating about things you think you need to look at. Using comprehensive analysis tools will uncover blind spots.

Next, take the results from your profiling and share it with a trusted advisor/friend. Ask them to verify what the report tells you. They too can add color to the findings. More importantly, they can help you gauge just how extreme a trait might be.

trusted advisor

Lastly, find a mentor/coach to help you map a plan for implementing the right dose of corrective measures to grow as a leader. A coach can be your guide on the journey to improving and growing as a leader.

Footnote and Disclaimer: Mention of Hogan Assessments and 16Personalities does not represent a personal gain from either of those companies. I share information about tools and tips I have used myself and find helpful.

Here’s a shot just before takeoff.

Leaders Build Stepping Stones

What do you think of when someone says something about a stepping stone? The origin comes from placement of stones across a stream so that a pedestrian can walk across the flow of the water without getting wet.

Courtesy 123rf.com

Often the stones are placed by hikers trying to make a crossing in a river. The stones can be randomly placed or symmetrical.

I like to picture these stones when I think of key people who have been major influencers in my life. Likely, you too have had mentors or significant personalities that have played a role as a stepping stone in your life.

The Back Story

When someone stands up or stands in to provide support, they become a stepping stone. For me, I grew up the only child of a single Mom. My Father passed away when I was only 2 years old. Mom was determined to provide me with significant male role models to aid in my development as a man.

As a result, my stepping stones evolved thanks to the contributions of at least 6 of these caring and giving men. The time they spent teaching me things like baseball, golf, fishing, tennis, woodworking, and camping, taught me much more than the basics. Yes, I learned how to hit a fastball, bait a hook, fly a plane, light a good fire, and varnish a mahogany cabinet, but more importantly, I learned about hard work, seeking wisdom, and living by faith.

The other interesting aspect of this mentoring experience is that these men were not rock stars. They were neither Titans of business nor famous celebrity motivators like a Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell. They were regular guys who lived life day-by-day, attempting as best they could to do the right thing.

Ladies, I do not want to forget you. What I am saying here applies to women as well. I have known plenty of young ladies who likewise received counsel from a mentor. Everything I am suggesting about this principle applies to both genders.

If you have been blessed by someone, a stepping stone, I hope you now have a desire to mentor. You don’t have to achieve some big celebrity status or have a big footprint in the media. You can make a huge difference in some young person’s life.

Here are the basic parts of being a mentor (in no particular order).

1. Availability –  Just showing up is a good place to start. Whatever the strength or skill set, whatever the core values you possess, making yourself available is key to setting the stage and the environment for mentoring.

2. Trust –  Earning the trust of your mentee is so necessary in order to make the sharing work. It will not matter how wise or helpful your experience may be if the person does not trust you.

3. Reliability –  Once a trust expectation begins to develop, your reliability to engage and respond is critical. Nothing does a young heart more harm than an unmet promise. Promises like “I’ll be there at 3:00” then no-show.

4. Patience –  Young students will do dumb things. Roll with it. Yes, you can assert some form of discipline, but gauge your student and apply the firmness wisely.

5. Candor –  Being open to share who and what you are is important. That is the ultimate teaching tool. Mentoring is about giving the mentee someone to emulate. If they don’t know YOU, then the best is not coming out.

6. Honesty –  Don’t make stuff up. If your candidate asks something you don’t know, admit it. Guide the person in exploring together where and how to find the answer.

7. Giving –  Be able to give. This is not about money. It requires all of the attributes above. A giving, servant’s heart and open mind is what makes you a good mentor.

One last note. I believe mentoring is different from coaching. Coaches can be good mentors, but a mentor can be effective without the more stern and disciplined aspects of what a coach should be doing for you. Mentors have a special passion about their gift. The way they give to others and inspire those around them to grow, is the center of a great mentorship experience.

Accountable

The point is, there are very effective mentoring opportunities that do not require coaching skills. So do not hold back when a situation comes up where you could be a mentor to a young person. You, too, can be a stepping stone for someone’s greatness.

In closing, I will tell you it has been over 40 years since I last saw some of the men I mentioned above. Yet almost every day some small aspect of my life reminds me of something they taught me or showed me. Their work and their gifts became a part of my actual psyche and emotional intelligence. The stepping stones they laid in my life remain strong.

If you are wondering about leaving a legacy, become a mentor to those around you.

Hear the podcast associated with this article.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Tags: mentoring, management, leadership, mindset

Living With a Gratitude Attitude

Across the wide spectrum of mindsets you might have when you walk through the door each day, how often does gratitude make it to the front of your list? If you’re like many of the executive leaders out there, you probably aren’t thinking about being thankful on a daily basis.

Not everyone thinks gratitude is an easy or desirable thing. Joseph Stalin said, “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.” Actually, dogs are great at saying thanks. They practically make themselves ill expressing their enthusiastic gratitude for even the smallest gift.

Acknowledging life’s every little miracle (like a dog might do) is a habit that humans would benefit to learn. What a wonderful change it would be to view the world through grateful eyes.

Too often your mindset is impacted by the burdens of yesterday or deadlines you face tomorrow. Perhaps you get distracted by the lousy commute you just endured or the fight you had with your spouse or kids on the way out the door.

There are so many things that can shape our outlook at work before we even step into the building. Today, though, we’re going to talk about gratitude.

Gratitude is a word we usually don’t hear about enough. Maybe your minister, priest or rabbi says something occasionally. Yet when we stop and think about it, being grateful can have a big impact on the rest of our thinking.

If you live in modern culture, you should be more grateful than two-thirds of the rest of the world. You should recall that some two-thirds of the world still lives within the immediate need for good soil to farm and live animals to sustain their lives.

Yet if you’re reading this article from a laptop or other mobile device, you likely rely upon some deli or grocery store to buy your food; far removed from the earth producing it.

How does it apply to work?

While we can be thankful for material possessions around us, how can we be grateful for work and the things about your job?

gratitude smile

First, are you grateful you have a job? When was the last time you wondered when or from where the next paycheck would come? If yours is a steady situation, be thankful for that.

Read more about leadership with gratitude here.

Next, what about the team around you? Unless you truly work absolutely alone (and there are few of us who really do that), are you grateful for the team?

Or is your attitude about your team less flattering as in, “these guys are trouble.” Or, “It is such a hassle to work with them.”

Shift that thinking to be grateful for the talents, skills, and resources the team can offer. They were hired for a reason, right? Unless you had full control of the hiring process and blew the call, the team assigned to you are precious resources. Be thankful.

Read more about building team trust here.

What about the work itself?

Are you grateful for the scope, depth, and breadth of the work itself? Are you challenged? Do you see the opportunity around you? If so, be VERY grateful.

Here are 16 quotes from wiser minds to remind you to say thanks every day:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

Brian Tracy

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all .”

~Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

Seneca

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her . A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”

Elie Wiesel


“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I got the in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”

Irving Berlin

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Willie Nelson


“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.”

Helen Keller


“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude leads me to be happy.

Will Arnett

“Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.”

Wayne Dyer

Owners and Leaders: Why Live a Groundhog’s Day?

groundhog day

In his classic dramedy “Groundhog’s Day”, actor and funnyman Bill Murray plays a hapless TV anchor/weatherman named Phil Connors who gets stuck covering the annual appearance of Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary weather predicting groundhog.

If you aren’t familiar with the legend of the groundhog day tradition, the critter predicts whether there will more Winter or a warming Spring.

groundhog dayAs the story unfolds, we discover it is Murray’s character who must relive each and every day. He starts out being a very self-absorbed, full of himself person.

As the one 24 hour period starts replaying event by event, he begins to see the possibilities of becoming a better person. The inspiration is the “girl” played by Andie MacDowell aka “Rita”.

Phil realizes he must be a much better person in order to win Rita’s affection.

It’s a great story, worthy of adding to your leadership toolkit. Here’s why.

You Too Can Be Stuck

Face it, we all find ourselves occasionally reliving events and circumstances from our work and home lives. The same negative events repeat themselves without positive change.

Our occasional efforts to attempt change work sometimes, but not all the time. That is if your heart is not in the intentional change.

Yet when you commit to making permanent changes, you start making progress toward a better outcome. You might have to let cycles repeat a few more times, but the intentional change can take hold and turn things around.

Experience Drives Future Behavior

It is human nature to let prior experience become a heavy influence on future behavior. This is why behavior-based interviewing is so effective.

When I’m interviewing someone for a new job, I ask them to “tell me about a time when ‘blank’” and then I fill in the blank with an experience that is a key factor in my team’s success.

Examples might be:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to meet a large deadline.
  • Tell me about a time when your payroll system crashed 24 hours before your payroll.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to recover from a data breach.

Prior behavior is a big indicator of future performance. It is not the only indicator but can be a reliable one. For managers and leaders, your own record of achievement can work for you but can work against you too.

However, old solutions might not be suitable for new problems. If you approach things with a groundhog mentality, you might be surprised at how far off you can be.

That is, using the same old approach for a new problem may never make a difference.

Bad Habits Become Big Hurdles

In the case of Bill Murray’s character, his poor interpersonal skills became huge obstacles for winning Rita. She watched him belittle people and is very put off by his horrible demeanor.

It took several repetitions of the same circumstances for Phil (the character) to get it right.

As leaders, your own habits may be big obstacles too. Remember, people don’t really care what you say.

They focus on what you do. Take time to reconsider your approach. If the same old situations keep popping up, maybe it is your approach hindering the change.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Living in a comfort zone, whether good or bad, makes for boring results. Repeating the same routine day after day, week after week, and year after year will seldom realize any growth or change.

Making progress toward new goals often involves some element of risk. A little risk might help move the needle.

Plus, we naturally hate change. So keep that in mind. As the leader, you are the catalyst for change. Being an ‘executive’ anything means you execute on the work. Making things happen is change, so learn to embrace it.

The Big ‘So What’

We’ve explored reasons we get stuck on groundhog’s day. What may be your next move?

Do you even know you’re there, stuck in some spin cycle? Why not make an intentional change for new outcomes?

You can make a difference right where you are. The difference can help you, your team, and your home or community. Let Punxsutawney Phil and Phil Connors have their Groundhog Day.

Stop living yours! 


Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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

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

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Change and Progress, Are They Twins?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rhetoric

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

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

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

Those are great objectives.

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

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

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

Living Through the Curve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Progress

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

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

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

Some People Are Just Haters

Angry person blowing steam

The life of a manager/business leader certainly has its benefits, but there are downsides to being a leader too. Not long ago, I received an email from someone who had served on a large project with me. Their recall of my leadership role was, let’s say, “less than flattering.”

The project in question was a large one. We started with a team of 457 professionals and grew it to over 700 before the project ended. I was the lead executive running the show.

The effort called for organizing 9 different work teams, handling 9 distinctly different focus topics and work plans. In the middle of it was a just-in-time software development project. That alone would have been a big enough challenge all by itself.

The work was spread coast to coast in 4 large work centers. To say we had occasional personnel problems would be an understatement.

My duty to lead and manage this group was a really big challenge. Thankfully, I had a close, but effective support staff with me. My deputy, second in command, became my traveling problem solver.

Back to the Email Message

This blog is about leadership. I share experience and learning from 30+ years in the trenches, on the front lines. So, yes, I try to be some type of sherpa.

The person who wrote me the email actually said I was a hypocrite for writing about management and leadership becasue he had a very clear recall of my role there.

He went on to call me one of those “stiffs” who sat in the glass offices and didn’t come out much. While some may say I fell short in a few areas during that project, getting out and around to the work teams was not one of the failings. In fact, my support crew saw me early in the morning then seldom saw me until late in the day.

Keeping on the Move

Why? Because I was moving from team to team, meeting to meeting, or training to training, dealing directly with the teams and their unit managers. I was as much cheerleader for the vision of the project as I was operator and executive.

Teamwork graphic

Frankly, I am proud of the project and the team we recruited. I met some amazing professionals who worked tirelessly to accomplish our goals, all under a tight time clock of deadlines and deliverables. The fact that some who were present either didn’t see it this way or have their own different opinions are just reality.

I am a Realist

If I’ve learned much of anything in my years as an executive, I’ve learned you have to be real about people’s expectations. You will never win them all. I am convinced that if you recruit three people to be on the same team, you will find one negative Ned or Nelly. Heck, this can even happen just hiring two people.

The Challenge as a Leader is Threefold

First, you must do the best you can at recruiting and selecting people for your team. For a small business, this can be the most difficult challenge an owner undertakes. It is certainly true in big business too. You will not win them all here either, but you can do things to make better selections through detailed screening, background checks, and by giving practical tests to applicants.

If you have specific skills you need to be performed, you have to test for those skills. The “soft stuff” like customer service can be a bigger challenge. After all, people have learned how to ace interviews and smile pretty. Yet, once they land, you can only wait to see whether they fit correctly into your roles and execute on the duties?

Equip to Win

Next, you must equip them to win. As a leader, you must impart the best information you can provide to help them understand the job, the requirements, and winning factors that work for the specific need you have them fill. That is on you as the leader to provide this understanding.

As soon as an employee demonstrates an unwillingness to embrace the framework and perform against the standards, you need to begin remediation actions. Whether that is retraining, reassignment, relocation, or removal, the manager must move swiftly to eliminate the lingering impact of an underachiever.

Lastly, there will still be those who hate your leadership. Regardless how much you work to win the hearts and minds of your team, you will have some who don’t get it. No leader anywhere should expect of themselves the ability to win everyone over. There are just enough personalities in this world to occasionally find the ones who won’t mesh well.

I like to say it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. When you identify the difference, you have to accept it for what it is.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

On occasion when you get some really negative feedback from a former employee (or current one), take it with a  grain of salt. They pay you the proverbial big bucks to have the thick skin to take it.

Let the haters hate – It’s what they do.

Thoughtful person

If there is substance in the feedback, embrace it. Use the input to improve your leadership skills. However, when you know you gave it your best shot, proven by the feedback from those who mattered at the time (your client, your boss, and the team around you) forget about the Hater. Haters will hate. That’s what they do.

Be bold. Be strong. Don’t let one loud voice drown out your ability to make a difference for everyone else.

Oh, by the way. After over 30 years managing and directing thousands and a current day social media following of over 100,000, I’ve gotten two such letters in five years.

Not bad. Not bad at all. (President Whitmore –  Independence Day)

Leadership Lessons Learned in the Trenches

team leadership

In my consulting days, I used to manage teams of people who were contractors, assembled for specific projects, then released once the project was over. These talented people were “gig workers” before that was a thing.

The projects were often high intensity with very little cushion on the deadlines. As manager of these teams, I saw a lot of examples of hard work and true grit under pressure. The work required me to be a nimble manager with the ability to think on my feet.

The experiences in the field often served to remind me of business leadership principles I learned a long time ago, but have to revisit frequently if I choose to keep them fresh and effective.

Guiding Principles

Throughout my project assignments, my ‘master list’ of guiding principles was tested on several occasions. I wanted to share with you my thoughts and remind other leaders about the importance of staying centered on these valuable principles. Here they are.

If you claim to be a servant leader, have empathy and sympathy

On one assignment I ran into a team of folks who were new to me, but who had worked together for years before I arrived. They had just been informed that their workplace was undergoing a somewhat hostile takeover; hostile from the circumstances that caused the life-changing events.

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

I needed the full cooperation and dedication from the staff left behind. I was immediately reminded of the need to empathize by placing myself mentally and emotionally in their shoes.

I needed to sympathize with the things I was hearing. The old phrase came to mind, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Make the tough calls

I had to quickly start assessing the situation around me, digest facts and data, then make some quick decisions. I couldn’t wait on more data. That was not an option.

Knowing what I needed to know was important, but more critical was the willingness to take the intelligence/information I was being given and then make a decision.

business leader

Difficult people need to be corralled and managed

The impact of a ‘difficult’ personality in the workplace can have tremendous ripple effects.

On this project, the client stationed a senior manager with whom I was tasked to work. He proved to be a very difficult personality.

Fortunately, I was able to get a read on him early on in the project, identify the issues, and make plans for managing across the work team to minimize the influence of the more negative things that he occasionally dumped.

On one particularly challenging day, this individual had spewed a lot of venom across the office; foul language, abusive comments. When he went home, I gathered my troops for a sit-down meeting. I told them simply that “I, as their team leader, wanted to apologize to them on his behalf. The things said and done that day were not appropriate among professionals. I told them I hoped they could see that for what it was and not be deterred in their dedication to the mission by having endured this day.”

Rely on your team

Make team projects a true team event by admitting your own shortcomings and use the skills and abilities the team can bring. Do not ever act so big and proud that you have to know it all. People don’t like ‘that guy’.

Accountable

Inspire people by identifying their strong suits early, and then create applicable opportunities where the use of those individual skills can shine.

Also, share among the team who is doing what and how important the outcome can be. Spread the wealth evenly. Consider this as “know your people”. People respond very well when they know their self-worth is being used appropriately for key contributions to the effort.

Have a little fun

Every day does not have to be all starched and polished. Let your own hair down a little and find opportunities for a little innocent fun. Let the people’s personalities shine too.

By creating an environment for a little friendly banter among the crew, you can keep spirits light and fresh. But watch out for off color jokes and comments or anything that starts to sound cutting or personal. Keep it light. Help make people want to come back to work.

place a call

Maintain your own personal integrity

There are many ways to do this, but chief among them is making and keeping promises. Communicating clearly, openly, and fairly whenever possible.

Of course managers sometimes have to hold things close to the vest. But as soon as you can share with your team, do so.

CONCLUSION

Leaders must be clear on a set of guiding principles that fit their style and belief system. I hope my list helps you. Please comment below on these topics and share others you have used.

Making the Most from Working at Home

Work at Home

The gig economy has produced a large population of people working from home. The lure and excitement of being able to shorten the commute from hours and miles down to feet and inches (as in the length of the walk from your kitchen to your home office) often fade fast.

It turns out not everyone is equipped to work at home. I frequently get asked for tips and tricks on how to make the stay-at-home gig work well.

Work at Home

I’ve been working from a home office for almost 20 years. Yes, I frequently get called to client offices or travel on-site to assist with business deals. Yet the bulk of my time is spent right outside my kitchen door, a few feet down the hallway.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your work-at-home experience.

Make Space

First, make a dedicated space. The more walls and doors the better. You need seclusion from the rest of the activity in the house.

My life now includes 7 grandkids. They are here a lot and not just on weekends.

My wife and I love that part of life, but I still work full time so need the separation when I have work to be done.

The built-in desk just off the breakfast nook won’t work. You need an office area that can give you separation and handle your work tools; likely a computer, telephone, and even video hookups.

Don’t Skimp on Equipment

If your company or client doesn’t provide the right equipment for you to do your work, invest in some of your own. The right desktop or laptop is essential. This includes printers, phones, and whatever video set-up may make sense.

Pay for the bandwidth too. Get a service that provides the best possible data connectivity you can afford in your area. Reliability is also critical here.

If you will be doing work with video conferencing, webinar production or other camera work, check your lighting. Invest in a few moderately priced light sets to help brighten the area where the camera work is happening.

At the end of this article I’ll provide my own list of office equipment I like and the services I use.

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Test your career satisfaction – take this personal survey

Consider Your Emotions

The psycho-emotional aspects of working at home are not a good fit for everyone. Face it, you’ll be alone. If you live off the chatter at the water-cooler, you won’t get that here.

If you think you need to feed off others at work, then working at home won’t be a happy time for you.

You’ll need to find other ways to get that energy. I set at least three breakfast, lunch or coffee meetings per week if I am not directly handling clients. I use those encounters to fuel my inner beast’s hunger for human interaction.

For me, I keep my trusty rescue pooch, Teddy by my side. He loves it with me at home.

Get on a Schedule

Nothing is harder to do when you work at home than to keep on a schedule. Look at your workload and set a calendar. Stick to it.

Block out appointments for yourself to handle critical pieces of your work, setting your own deadlines if others haven’t already set them for you.

I like what a friend does. Now mind you he’s in his 80’s but he still works full time. He sets 10 boxes on his calendar. Morning and afternoon each day get a separate box. Two boxes per day and five days a week, you get 10 boxes. His primary goal is to fill every box. He intentionally blocks out time to get things done.

If it’s not on your calendar, it will either get neglected or forgotten. Make time and plan time.

This includes being able to make time for your spouse and family needs.

Set Boundaries

I just talked about making a calendar that includes time for spouse and family. However, you need to set some honest expectations with them too. They need to help make you successful by respecting times that you deem as work hours. Unplanned interruptions can throw your calendar off schedule.

Handle Big Rocks First

There’s a fabulous teaching experience that demonstrates the value of handling big rocks first. Here’s a video of the principle.

My Resource List

Here’s a list of some of the tools I have that I love.

  1. My Desktop – I’m still a PC guy. I run an Intel-based desktop, small form factor Lenovo. It’s served me very well. I made one upgrade to install a solid state drive versus the old school hard drives. The SSD cost about $129 for 500GB of storage. That’s not huge by today’s standards, but keep in mind I store my archives in the cloud.
  2. Cloud Storage – With Google Drive. For me, it was tricky to sync it up properly, but now that it is running, it works flawlessly.
  3. Video – Camera is a simple Logitech HD 1080p Webcam 920. It has built-in sound/mic configuration. The quality is great. Set-up was straight forward.
  4. Video Conferencing – I switched to Zoom.us a few years ago. I like their service so much more than all the others. The recording features are super and fit well into my video interviews. Webinar production is easy too with Zoom.
  5. Web HostingSiteground has served me very well for several years now. The service is very cost effective. I find their support 24×7 is superior to all the others I’ve tried.
  6. Blogging Platform – WordPress is my go-to source. I’ll need another dedicated article to tell you about this if you don’t already know something about WP.

I hope this helps you get a better grip on working from home. Call or write with any questions.

Disclaimer: Some of the tools and services mentioned above do involve affiliate relationships with me and my company HeadwayExec, LLC. But I assure you, I don’t promote anything I haven’t used myself.

Being an Authentic Leader Does Not Always Come Naturally

Authentic leadership

One of the highest valued attributes of great leaders is their authenticity. Being authentic does not always come naturally. The good news is, you can develop a more authentic leadership style.

On one hand, being authentic requires having a sense of “true north.”

True North

Ask a room full of people to close their eyes and point North. When everyone opens their eyes, fingers are pointing all over the place. (Try this some time; it’s a great ice breaker).

The message is that “north”, can conjure various meanings depending on one’s perception. Yet, true north is available for specific identification and location using the right equipment. It doesn’t change.

Your leadership should have this same kind certainty about it. You have to decide on your definition of true north, then stick to it.

When issues swirl around you and your team, you should have a reputation for responding to certain things in certain ways. If your people know this about you, then there will be a confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Accepting Feedback

Being truly open to feedback helps build the sense of leadership authenticity. By accepting input from others, you demonstrate a desire to learn and grow.

We all have tendencies to fall into a kind of rut. We find a rhythm to our life and we put things on cruise control. However, if that path takes you away from the authenticity you seek, you need a nudge to get back on the better path.

Here’s what to do. Say to those around you “Here’s my vision and my plan for how I intend to operate. If you see me doing something to the contrary, I invite you to say so.”

The other benefit of soliciting feedback is that you come across as genuinely engaged with the people you count on. Rather than constantly demanding something from them in terms of performance and accomplishment, you give them a chance to “shoot back”.

A healthy exchange of ideas can add great value to your relationships at work and everywhere else. You’ll become a more authentic leader.

One Caution

One word of caution though. Don’t “over-share”. Your people don’t need your burdens, but they will appreciate knowing you too have life outside the office.

As an example, you can casually say something about your daughter’s birthday party coming up, but you don’t need to share all the details and drama that might be going with the event.

Take Inventory

If you aren’t sure how authentic you might be, ask. Get some feedback.

Huddle with a circle of trusted advisors and ask them to provide you with a description of how they grade your authenticity. You might also ask them about ways they could see you improving.

If all of this is still a puzzle to you, I’d be happy to book a short call to help you learn more. Click the link below to schedule a call.

Click box to schedule a call with Doug Thorpe