Leadership: It’s in the Bag, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf shot shapes

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

The Parallels 

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

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

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

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

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

Managing the Course

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing Your Equipment

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

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

Practice and Feedback

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

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

Good Days and Bad Days

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Are We Being Big Data Stupid?

The biggest buzzword in Human Resources these days seems to be “Big Data”—the idea that we can now gather so much complex information about our workforce processes and can churn that data into a meaningful analysis that will help us better manage our business. Like our federal government, however, we in HR can sometimes be accused of over-engineering, as in the proverbial definition of a camel being a “racehorse designed by Human Resources”.  Still, we spend lots of time and resources on gathering and crunching numbers to either improve our processes or possibly to justify our professional existence.

Entrepreneurship

 

In my last corporate assignment, our Big Data arrived each month in the form of a four-page report that contained about 125 statistics.  I, personally, thought that only about three of them were really significant.  That could explain why I no longer work there, I guess. Still, the question… have we become so fascinated with Big Data that we continually miss what I consider to be one of the most singularly important pieces of data in the HR world?

Deloitte’s Review

One of the largest public accounting firms in the world, Deloitte, conducted research that showed that their 55,000 employees were spending 2,000,000 hours per year on the annual, employee performance appraisal process (“Reinventing Performance Management”, Harvard Business Review, April 2015). On average, that computes to over 36 hours per year, per employee.

Deloitte determined that the return on that time and expense investment was unacceptable. Only 42% of their executives believed in any correlation between the appraisal process and increased employee engagement, improved performance, or enhanced bottom line. Like others, they have made some adjustments to their process but at last report, they continue to complete an annual, year-end, summary process.

Unlike others, however, Deloitte should be credited for gathering this data. Many Human Resources and C-suite executives in other companies seem to accept the inevitability of the annual appraisal without question.

The Dating Game

The vice-president of HR of one of the largest online dating services in the world, when asked about their program’s effectiveness responded: “While I don’t have any data, per se, I know my people and our process works well here.”  Why do so many organizations spend so much time tracking and improving efficiency and profitability in other operational units while HR, at least on this issue, seems to get a “pass”?

How much time are employees spending on the annual review process? The research is sparse but telling. The least documented time data is found in the Society for Human Resources Management website, showing managers spending as little as eleven hours per year on the process. Research conducted by iSi Human Resources Consulting in Houston shows managers spending significantly more.

Big Numbers for Big Companies

The general manager of the Fluor Corporation’s Houston office tracked his actual hours spent on the process in 2008 and found that he invested 400 hours (ten weeks a year), of his time in the process.  That ten-week commitment to the traditional process was verbally validated by the same online dating service HR executive mentioned above.  An engineering manager at NASA who was recently interviewed said that he is responsible for producing formal appraisals for 43 different employees, three times per year and he is not allowed to delegate any of that responsibility. He spends about 1,000 hours on the process each year; almost one-half of his occupational life!

Take Ownership

While these numbers may first seem unrealistically large, caution is advised.  HR professionals will want to take ownership of this issue, conducting research to assure an adequate return-on-investment for their organization. Everyone in the HR world seems to be concerned with “big data”. It is difficult to imagine any bigger data than knowing the total amount of time, money, and resources organizations are committing to the appraisal process and, of course, the dollar value of the benefits or outcomes.

HR executives who determine that “the juice is not worth the squeeze,” will want to consider creative alternatives like Big Five Performance Management at www.bigfiveperformance.com. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]”What have my people done and what are they going to do?”[/perfectpullquote] “Big 5” has been in use since the late 80’s but has only recently been thrust into the corporate limelight. Big 5 is a simple, yet sophisticated way to cut to the heart of the employee performance issue.

The whole Big 5 process can be summed up this way. At the end of every month, have each employee submits twp shortlists:

  • What are the five biggest accomplishments this past month?
  • What are my next 5 priorities for the new month?

This process takes no more than 10 minutes per month per person but gives employees the chance to tell-their-story, taking credit for their contributions.  Managers then have the opportunity to respond with affirmation/praise, coaching, and even correction, re-directing the team member’s efforts.  DaVinci said that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  We could not agree more.

When a full year passes, you now have 60 data points from which you make your assessment decisions; employee rankings, merit awards, bonuses, etc. No need for really big data here.

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Roger C. Ferguson,  author, and creator of Big 5. Visit him at Big Five Performance

Who’s the Brightest Bulb?

This is a question I’ve heard asked far too many times in a boardroom or around the table when trying to select new managers. It comes from the full phrase “He/she may be the brightest bulb in the string (string of lights)”. It runs in the same vein as “Sharpest knife in the drawer”, “best crayon in the box”, and so on.

The idea is that we all have top performers on our teams. When a manager job opens up, we turn to high potentials to fill the role. The definition of high potential may be very formal or very simple. Who’s my best performer? Let’s make them the boss. It sounds genuine and logical, but not so fast.

The basic observations that get us thinking about ‘bright bulbs’ might be slightly valid but are seldom complete. The usual metrics such as quantitative data (volumes and output) plus qualitative values (like accuracy and effectiveness) are only part of the right consideration when picking your next team leader or unit manager. Just because someone is one of your best producers doesn’t mean they will be good managers.

If you look at why we think this way, you likely will realize that the argument does make sense. High producers and good workers “get it”. They are committed to the company and their fellow workers. They play nice with others and get along at work. Why wouldn’t you want a manager doing the same thing, right? I argue why would you?

Academic Study

In the late 80’s, the Head of the Management School at Texas A&M University’s Mays School of Business started a program called the College of Business Administration (CBA) Fellows. The premise was to evaluate sophomores in the Business College. Academic performance (i.e. production) was only part of the evaluation. To be considered, other attributes were included; extracurricular activities, leadership positions in student and community organizations, and other demonstrated behaviors across the campus. Students were selected/invited to join the program. It was deemed an honor to be considered.

Once inducted into the program, students were given extra training and experience like internships and exposure to business leaders of Fortune 500 companies to build their leadership potential. The intent was to track these students long after graduation to monitor their advancement in the business world. The long-term performance of this group was compared to other business graduates who had not had the benefit of the extra development. It was no surprise that the CBA group outperformed the rest of the business school grads.

Extra development did enhance long-term outcome. The takeaway here is that while good production and indications of high potential may exist, you have no guarantee of successful movement into management without some form of added development.

How Does It Work Where You Are?

What do you do when evaluating talent for promotion into management? Do you let your gut tell you who to promote next or do you have a more objective way to define and measure someone’s potential for success? Here are some ways others make better choices:

Define the expectations of managers – First, you have to have a clear definition of measuring a manager’s success. By listing the elements of success, you can better benchmark the potential within a new candidate.

Look beyond current production – Dig deeper into the bright bulb’s wheelhouse. Do they even want to become a manager? Is that a talent they think they have? Use assessments to measure personalities and dispositions for a fit in management.

Evaluate other attributes – Think about other contributing factors that make good managers in your company. Are there work demands like sales, negotiations, or other technical skills required? Are there social demands like meeting clients, public speaking, or attending trade shows?

If you find yourself asking who’s the brightest bulb, stop and rethink your plans.

Question: How do you decide who should become the next manager on your team?

coaching callOriginally posted on DougThorpe.com

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A Leader’s Vision Needs Buy-In

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

a Leader's vision needs buy-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself This Question

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

coaching call

What to Do?

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

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

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

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

Managing “UP” the Organization or Fixing a Bad Boss

bad boss

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

bad boss

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

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

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

You can’t make them change

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

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

Bad Bosses usually fail in several ways

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

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

How do you deal with a Bad Boss?

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

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

The way out

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

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

Images courtesy: Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Great Leaders Talk Last

Have you ever wondered why your team doesn’t seem to participate in any discussions at meetings? Or can you cut the air with a knife at one of your team sessions? Perhaps you are the reason there is so little collaboration and contribution.

Managers or owners who call a meeting, but then proceed to spout the answers aren’t looking for input at all. They just need an audience. That’s not leadership. It’s not even effective management.

Good leaders, who truly inspire their teams, hold meetings much differently. Effective leadership allows everyone in the room to speak if the people so choose. Plus, the comments that are shared are received with an open mind and genuine empathy.

The good process plays out something like this.

BOSS – Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming. There is a topic/issue we have here (fill in the details). I’d like to hear what you think we should be doing.

Then open the floor for discussion.

BOSS – These are some great ideas. This has been very helpful. If we connect all of this, it sounds like we are saying …… I think we can use this to go this way…..

The Wrong Way

BOSS – Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming. There is a topic/issue we have here (fill in the details). Here’s what I’ve been thinking. Blah blah blah… How does that sound?

SILENCE – CRICKETS – MORE SILENCE

BOSS – Ok great, then that’s what we’ll do.

There is such a major difference in conducting your meetings the right way first. When you open with your official position and all your stated opinions before anyone in the room can contribute, you stifle any other ideas.

After all, who’s going to contradict the boss? By holding your comments to the last, you can get maximum output from the team. Of course, you have to be able to genuinely receive the input without shooting it down when you do speak. Granted not all ideas may be great ones, but even the less than acceptable suggestions from the team can be handled with grace and dignity.

Being able to hold off is a skill that takes some effort to develop. Young managers think they must know all the answers so they are quick to commandeer the meeting, spreading their pearls of wisdom along the way.

Even seasoned managers can be guilty of killing team spirit by shooting at ideas too soon, or never even allowing them to see the light of day.

If your meetings are not producing the level of collaboration you might want, try this simple technique.

1. State the problem or issue you want to discuss.

2. Sit back and facilitate the discussion rather than command the talk.

3. Watch for people’s reactions to things being said. Encourage comments from those who seem to be holding back.

4. Once the discussion seems to have exhausted itself, then, and only then, state your recap of what you have heard. Yes, you can still assert your views. But you can do so in a constructive way, helping the team to feel their voice was heard and is valued.

Try this approach a few times. I’ll bet your outcome will be far more productive. And remember, your actions can talk so loud, people won’t hear what you are saying. That statement cuts both ways.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Decisions: The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

The squeeze

Making things happen takes effort. Leaders know that sometimes all the best effort gets wasted on outcomes that fall short of expectations. You face leadership decisions throughout your day. How do you make the effort worthwhile?

The squeeze about decisionsConsistently making the best of your own effort and that of your team is what separates one leader from another.

You know the types of decisions:

  • Organizational change
  • Moving your facilities/offices
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Simply growing the business
  • Expanding your vision

What ways can you drive better outcome and avoid the squeeze?

Planning

Much is written about data-driven decisions. In big business gathering the data is both more achievable (deeper pockets to spend on big data) and harder to do (broader range of variables). Yet you don’t need the high end, rocket science-like data to drive your planning. You do need valid information.

For smaller companies and entrepreneurial endeavors, you need simple trend line information like:

  • Recent sales, perhaps seasonal data
  • Expenses, what are you spending?
  • Payroll information
  • Materials/supply usage
  • Buyer profiles, who’s buying your product or service?

The process of planning for your next big decision can uncover blind spots, things you haven’t yet thought about. Once the unknown is revealed, you may decide the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. That is, you will not realize the return you expected for the effort and resources you may be planning to spend.

Culture

The culture of your team drives everything. The team effort derived from a healthy work culture can often produce amazing results. Culture can overcome limited resources.

Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Sources say he never meant that literally, but it does indicate a bias toward the power of a high trust team effort. A powerful and empowering culture within your team is a more reliable path to success.

Culture isn’t inherently about workspaces and perks, like comfy chairs and ping pong tables. It’s about the habits people have formed, how they make decisions, how they respond to challenges, pressure, and discomfort, and what they believe is good or bad for success. Culture is based on what’s been incentivized, rewarded, reinforced, and possibly even punished in their workplace.

Process

What process has your company or team developed to be able to execute on decisions made?

Ready, Fire, Aim! Is not a process. It’s a train wreck. ~Doug Thorpe

The process you devise for achieving success accomplishes several things, all at once.

First, it allows you to score some wins. Finding the right blend of people, technology, and a procedure is a process. When a particular combination of those elements is producing good results, you have a winning process.

Scoring wins for your team builds momentum. Strong, viable businesses have their unique momentum. But you must have some wins to be able to build momentum. Overnight success is seldom that. Rather it comes from sustained hard work and dedication to winning ways.

Keep finding ways to improve the process. The business world is not static, it’s dynamic. That is, it keeps changing. So, too, must you.

The Bottom Line

While you certainly have learned a lot about making better decisions, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to executive decision making. And that’s why I’d like to conclude by pointing out a few resources to help you get the most out of the decisions you make:

Check them out – you’ll be glad you did!

Question: What are some ways you avoid making decisions that “aren’t worth the squeeze?” Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Click here to subscribe right now! or schedule a brief introductory call.

It’s Not Over til It’s Over

finish strong

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

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

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

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

Finishing Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

finish strong

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Management is Not for Everyone

management

What’s the big deal with becoming a Manager? Why do some try to do that? And why do companies promote people who end up being terrible managers and lousy bosses? More importantly, if you are one of the people being put into management, what can you do to make it a success?

management

Being in management is associated with a position, title, and certain responsibilities and compensation. People naturally strive to make those career advancements, but it’s not for everyone. Sadly, few consider becoming a real leader in the role. You can truly manage something without ever becoming a good leader.

You can press the buttons, push the paper, and make people do their work (fear, power, and oppression/intimidation) but that doesn’t inspire productivity and loyalty. When a work team is run this way, there is low morale and high turnover. Plus you get tagged “bad boss”.

Leaders inspire their team. They create trust and loyalty. They naturally motivate people, turnover is low.

I don’t advocate anything about management practice alone. I feel (and experience has proven) that someone who focuses only on management won’t be around long.

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Leaders make the difference

When you take on a management role, you should begin thinking about what it takes to become a leader. If you’ve never studied leadership, here are five ways you can get a jump start on rising above the crowd.

Read –  Yes, read about successful leaders. Ask around to get references for some great books. John Maxwell is a world renown expert on leadership theory, practice, and teaching. He’s written some 25 books, sold 16 million copies, and presented leadership conferences in over 30 countries. He’d be a good start.

Find a Model –  A role model that is. Identify someone at your work or in your community who stands out as a role model for good leadership. Just ask them if they will be willing to spend some time sharing ideas and helping you build some leadership muscle.

Preferably you find a mentor who will agree to a longer term relationship; someone with whom you can explore leadership ideas.

Hire a Coach –  OK, yes, I am a coach, so I think hiring one is smart. Forget me for a minute. Think about where coaching is used elsewhere. Coaches have been around for a long time in all things sports. Why? Players need help developing their “better self” to get stronger, more flexible, more agile, and better informed about the sport.

We think of sports coaches as a natural fit. So why not career coaches or executive coaches to help build leadership muscle. More and more, professionals in all walks are turning to coaching to help build better leadership skills.

Join a Mastermind –  Iron sharpens iron. Find or create a group of like-minded managers who also want to grow. Share ideas and experiences in a highly confidential and trustworthy way. Help each other grow.

Practice –  Back to the sports connection. You won’t get better without practice. Take the information you receive and put it into practice. See what works and what doesn’t work. By using the principles you learn, you exercise that leadership muscle, helping it grow.

With practice, you will find more confidence in your ability to lead the team. Your decisions will come easier and be more reliable.

Don’t get stuck or left behind

Moving into management can be a great opportunity. Just don’t get bogged down in the weeds. Get the job going, but then focus on developing as a leader. Take the simple but important steps to move forward each day. Find ways to grow your awareness of the big difference between just being a manager or becoming a leader.

The world needs leaders everywhere; at work, at home, and in the community. By growing your own capacity to lead, you can make a difference in this world, right where you are.

[reminder]If you are a manager, what are you doing to make a better difference?[/reminder]

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP – 5 STEPS TO HELP YOU DELEGATE AND ELEVATE

delegating-at-work

Is your time getting away from you? What would it look like if you only worked the hours you want to, but got everything done? Can you effectively delegate?

delegating-at-work

One of the surest ways to break through the ceiling and get to where you want to go is to delegate and elevate yourself to your God-given unique abilities.

If you’re like most business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, you’re probably feeling a little stuck, with way too much on your plate. There are just not enough hours in the day. You may be feeling like you could and should be accomplishing a heck of a lot more than you are. If so, these five steps will take you to the next level:

Step 1: Define your 100% – Your 100% is your maximum number of hours per week you want to work and still remain balanced. For me, it’s around 60 hours a week, but this is different for everyone. You can’t move to the next step without answering this question. All progress begins here. The answer to this question represents your 100%.

Step 2: Determine if you’re over capacity – How much time will it take to do everything you need to do well? While this calculation is not entirely easy, it is vital. If your answer exceeds your 100%, it’s time to delegate and elevate. Therefore, move to step 3.

Step 3: List everything you do every day – It may seem daunting, but it’s worth 30 minutes and will save you hundreds of hours every year going forward. Literally list each and every activity, big and small, and then move on to step 4.

Step 4: Create your two columns – Take everything from the previous list in step 3 and put them in one of two columns. Column one is where you list everything you love and/or like to do and are great and/or good at. Column two is where you list everything remaining from the step 3 list. Once everything from step 3 is in one of the two columns, move to step 5.

Step 5: Delegate and elevate – Either stop doing or delegate the excess capacity items in the second column to the people around you until you’re comfortably within your 100%. You should also consider outsourcing the tasks that don’t fit on your perfect list. Get a virtual assistant, or find solutions where new partners can handle the workload on a contract basis. Don’t work below your pay grade.

Find the Sweet Spot

As a leader in your organization, you must operate in your sweet spot. By spending most of your time on “column 1” activities, you will. You owe it to yourself and your company. This makes you more valuable, gives you more energy, and makes you happier, which then leads to you being a much better leader for your people.

This piece was contributed by a good friend and colleague, Jeff Bain of Team Traction. Jeff is an EOS Implementer. If you want to know more about the EOS principles for growing and managing your business, contact Jeff at his website.