Leaders: Here’s Why Multi-Tasking is a Bad Idea

The idea of multi-tasking is a widely popular idea. People brag about how much cool stuff they can do all at the same time. The advent of smartphones, tablets, and smart watches make us all feel like multi-tasking Ninjas.

Multi-tasking does not work

The truth is, it is all a smoke screen. Very rarely do any of us truly multitask. You might move from one thing to another at lightning speed, nano-second stuff, but it is never really simultaneous. It just feels that way.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller notes that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” This constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. [Published Jul 15, 2015]

Here’s the Rub

To be able to string a series of activities together to do what we all thought of as multitasking, we load up on menial tasks like opening email or tweets. Then we squeeze some work on the big project in the middle. Or maybe you have a deadline for an important delivery of an assignment, so you try to chip away at that while doing other things.

Either way, none of us are ever really multitasking. The surveys and studies tell us how fooled we were. The human brain only multi-tasks for the key things that help us live (like breathing and keeping our hearts pumping). All the rest is a linear thread of thought and neuron firing inside our heads i.e. you can’t really multitask.

Any effort to try is more about creating performance numbing confusion. Yes, you think you got a bunch of things checked off your to-do list, but in fact, most of what you did had marginal results at best. Example: did you really absorb the message in the email or did you miss a few points causing the sender to have to re-state or clarify your misunderstanding?

I can’t tell you how many times I get feedback from people who clearly never read the original message. Their stated understanding was all wrong. Why? Because they gave the email the brief cursory review, never properly absorbing it before moving on to something else.

Heck, you may be doing that right now with this article. Odds are high that is exactly what you are doing.

Focus

Multi-tasking is the opposite of focus. You cannot be fully engaged on a matter when you are already taking in something about another message or task. It’s impossible to do. Why? Because you have not allowed yourself to focus. Therefore, content and substance whizzes by. If a few keywords get recognized, you subconsciously allow them to trigger a standard response.

The response that becomes your reaction is wrong more often than not. The confusion is avoided with a little more focus.

Don’t Work Below Your Pay Grade

I see far too many owners, executives, and managers taking on tasks that are far below their pay grade. What does that mean? It means doing work that another person should be doing.

Once there was a coaching client who could not delegate very well. Anything they tried giving to a member of the team was taken back and re-worked by the manager before being finalized. If the manager was making $85,000 and the team member was at $40,000, then the manager taking away the task and doing it himself was performing way below his pay grade, by almost half.

This scenario raises two questions.

  1. Is the manager overpaid? If not, they sure acted like it.
  2. Is the worker really not capable of completing the task? If yes, then you need coaching, mentoring, or re-training.

Entrepreneurs frequently try to cut corners by doing things all themselves. Yes, it might save some dollars, but, as Ben Franklin famously quipped “Are you being penny wise and pound foolish?” You might be saving a buck at the expense of having someone else do something, but what opportunity did you miss by not being available at that moment to handle a bigger, more significant matter?

I was guilty of this myself. At one point in my old company, I used to rush to the mail drop each day. The mail carrier came on a regular basis around 1:00. I’d be waiting because the mail meant we were getting checks from our customers. As the founder/owner, I felt the pressure of being sure there was enough cash in the bank every day. Opening the mail made cash happen.

The irony here is that if I let someone else open the mail, I could be originating more business and hence, more checks coming in. My shortsighted view of things though had me anxiously waiting for the mail. Ridiculous for sure! This choice was way below my perceived pay grade.

Outsourcing

A very successful entrepreneur I know has a mantra that has served him well for decades. He learned the value of outsourcing before it was popular. To him, outsourcing is merely allocating paid hours the right way. Again, it’s about the value and proper allocation.

In my friend’s case, he runs a large regional real estate business. His agents can be worth $400 an hour if they are producing lease agreements. But if they spend too much time at a keyboard posting sales funnel details, they are worth more like an admin at $25 an hour. Which would you rather be $400 an hour or $25 an hour? Yes, it can be that extreme.

Take a Look

Think about the things you decide to take on each day. There are 86,400 seconds in the day. That is one universal truth we all share, regardless of station in life. The way you spend those 86,400 seconds makes all the difference in the world for determining your success.

Focus on the big things you need to knock out each day. Do those first. Give them your full attention, no multi-tasking. You can add back the smaller tasks, later. Yet be sure you choose wisely whether to offload menial tasks below your pay grade.

[reminder]What are you doing right now that might be below your pay-grade? [/reminder]

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Finding the Wheelhouse of Passion and Purpose

Living with passion

Sometimes you just need to ask the question “am I living my passion?” Too many people get late into life and discover that all those years at work meant very little. That can be the saddest indictment ever given.

Living with passion

From time to time I find my coaching clients struggling with a sense of being disconnected. Disconnected from a meaningful purpose for their work. Or perhaps a misalignment of skill sets and attributes.

Here’s a Story

I was coaching someone I had known for over 15 years. A new opportunity that unfolded about 2 years ago seemed so promising at the time. Yet now, this person was being told they were “not contributing what management expected.” OUCH! What does that mean? Well besides the obvious, you can add to it whatever you want based on your own experience in a similar situation.

In this case, we talked at length about the situation. In reality, my client was expressing a disconnect in the job requirements versus their personal strengths. We came to a conclusion that the job was requiring a supercharged, Type A+ personality, which my client does not have. Now mind you this person is gifted and talented but has a much more gentle personality; hardly the power charged Type A profile. Discovering that new management wanted more Type A coming from this person creates a misalignment.

The Wheelhouse

When you think in terms of your own wheelhouse, the place where you do the most good, the highest performance, you likely are including attributes that are fueled by your passion. You do things best when you are inspired to do them. Self-motivation comes from a natural passion and drive. Without that passion, the effort is only half done.

It is hard to muster great effort without having the passion to do it. Sure you can do that in spurts, making the sacrifice to accomplish an immediate task. However, long-term, sustained quality effort will not be achieved without some kind of deep passion for the work or the task.

Making Changes

In 2008 when the U.S. economy had its recession, the jobless rate climbed to great highs. Various markets saw unemployment above 15%. I started a non-profit to help job seekers with making the transition. The organization coached over 4,500 in a span of 5 years.

One of the immediate realizations I saw was the frustration so many had about leaving jobs that really had never meant that much to them. Yes, they needed paychecks to feed families, but the truth was, they never were all that happy at work. I began teaching a 6 step program for job search success that started with surveying your job history, identifying the functions and accomplishments that gave the most reward. I encouraged people to reconnect with their passion, their wellspring of drive.

I suggested that before they simply tried to update their resumes, they needed to redefine who and what they were, identifying key attributes, strengths, and interests. Basically, they were encouraged to rebuild the wheelhouse.

I had hundreds of job seekers make wide-sweeping changes in direction. Some with a job history of over 20 years shifted focus to new and totally different endeavors.

The message? You were forced into a change, why not make a big change? People started sharing the frustration with having gone down paths in industries and careers that held little meaning. Pay had been good, but fulfillment was lacking. Now, with a new vision, they were inspired again.

The positive mindsets drove energy and inspiration that shined during job interviews. This was different than the outlook for staying in an unfulfilling career and simply finding more work.

For me, watching so many be energized and renewed proved the importance of tapping into the passion, that purpose again.

You Owe it to Yourself

Before you make a commitment to a new venture or a new job, you owe it to yourself to re-evaluate your purpose and your passion. Don’t simply pursue more of the same old same old. Take a look at what might really light your lights.

Entrepreneurs and business people can get trapped in moving to the next opportunity or the next promotion without staying true to a passion. A false sense of responsibility may be the force making you do that. Yet when realigning your passions with your opportunities, you will experience far greater reward.

Here’s What to Do

If you’ve lost sight or maybe never thought about this passion thing, ask a few trusted friends and associates. Have a small circle of friends each give you three words they would use to describe you. Tell them you are seriously considering some key decisions and having this identity defined for you would be very helpful. Three words from each person. Make yourself a list of these words. I promise a picture will unfold. People who know you best will hit on the attributes that are proof of who and what you are.

Let this information become the foundation of your thinking about your new future. Just maybe you are already in proper alignment. If you are, congratulations, you are blessed! Likely though, you are not. Now, you have a new opportunity.

Today is the day. Don’t wait another 5, 10 or 20 years to figure this out.

Important Characteristics Every Entrepreneur Must Have

entrepreneurship

Are you planning to start and run your own business? Do you know the right qualifications and characteristics an entrepreneur must have to succeed? Does your profile match that of a successful entrepreneur? In this article, we will explore and discuss the essential characteristics that every entrepreneur must have. There are several important traits and values that are common among successful entrepreneurs.

entrepreneurshipBefore you go and start your enterprise, it will be very helpful to think and reflect whether you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. If not, you can also start developing these character traits.

Successful Entrepreneurs are Self-Confident – to succeed in the highly competitive business world, confidence and trust in oneself is an indispensable trait. Self-confidence means trusting your own powers and capabilities. The world of entrepreneurship is not without failure and disappointment. To survive in such a cutthroat world, an entrepreneur must have the ability to look within himself and find the drive and persistence to pursue his dreams. An entrepreneur must have the gumption to face any adversity and tackle any problems that may be encountered in the world of business.

It may take time for your idea to take root. You will encounter plenty of people who will discourage you. They may even challenge your character for even “thinking such a thing” (as your idea). Having self-confidence can protect you from much of the negative energy that may come your way.

Successful Entrepreneurs are Risk-takers – being an entrepreneur means having the ability to trust your hunches and acting on them. Great business ideas sometimes start as a hunch which enterprising individuals act upon. There is always the risk of loss in any endeavor, and entrepreneurs have just the right confidence to take calculated risks to achieve their objective. However, an entrepreneur’s risk-taking does not depend on luck, but on sheer effort and hard work.

Risk must be measured against reward. There is no need to be a dare-devil. But there is a good reason to accept some amount of risk in order to achieve your goals.

Successful Entrepreneurs know the value of money and are careful about their finances – to succeed in any business; an entrepreneur must understand the value of money and the cost of things. Typically, successful entrepreneurs learned how to earn and value money at a young age. Most of them started out by earning loose change as teenagers mowing lawns, doing groceries, babysitting for neighbors, etc.

Successful entrepreneurs have the so-called head for business – many entrepreneurs are gifted with intuition: they know what product or service is going to ‘click’ next. However, this ability does not involve clairvoyance or extrasensory powers of some sort, but rather, keen observation and understanding of what is going on around him. A good entrepreneur is always on the lookout for new ideas and new ways to make money.

Sometimes though, the entrepreneurial idea is not enough to win success. You need counsel for things you may not know about running a business. It is often said many start-up founders don’t know what they don’t know. Seeking out a reliable mentor is a good practice for helping to shorten the learning curve. Making early mistakes can be costly, if not fatal to your business. Surrounding yourself with trusted advisers can create a safety net.

Successful Entrepreneurs are competitive – the world of business is a very competitive environment. An entrepreneur must be aggressive enough to pursue his goal despite having many rivals and competitors. An entrepreneur must know how to stay ahead of his competitors, either by introducing new ideas and exploring new ventures, all in the spirit of expanding his business.

There is a big difference between being competitive and arrogant. A strong will to win is fine, but should not bleed over into an egotistical arrogance. Ego will block the ability to take feedback and input from those who want you to win. Be competitive, but be sensitive to the temptation to get carried away with the attitude.

Successful Entrepreneurs are honorable and have a good work ethic – although it is a fact that the business world is ruthless, the successful entrepreneur will strive to make every business deal honorable. The mark of a successful entrepreneur lies in a good personal work ethic that ultimately leads to good business practices, excellent reputation and good association with industry peers and business partners.

Becoming a business owner people can trust carries a great long-term value. The reputation you build is as important as the earnings you gather along the way. Your reputation will allow you to build other businesses at a later stage.

Successful Entrepreneurs know the importance of leisure time – hard work and determination are very important values every entrepreneur must have. However, a good entrepreneur knows when it’s time to take a step back from all the rigors of business and enjoy some downtime with their family. Besides, we all do need a little relaxation to refresh the body and mind before plunging back into the challenging (and stressful) world of business.

I like to call this time “re-calibration”. The stress and pressure of the daily grind demand periods of rest and recovery. Miss this and your endurance will suffer, if not your health.

SUMMARY

These are just seven of the most important characteristics of an entrepreneur. Of course, the characteristics every entrepreneur must have are not limited to the ones mentioned here. Having these characteristics is not a guarantee that an entrepreneur will be successful. Yet with these characteristics, an entrepreneur has just the right ingredients for success. All one needs to do is to find the right mix of these values, excellent timing, perhaps a bit of luck and, of course, faith in oneself.

So, do you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Go over these characteristics and values again. Ask yourself if you are ready to take the entrepreneurial plunge.

[reminder]Do you think you have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur?[/reminder]

 

Leaders: Which Way Do You Shift?

Shifting

Shift is a simple word, yet it has so many possible meanings. Shift is a motion word. It implies change. We shift gears when we drive. We also make life choices that involve shifting about. First you’re right here, then you’re not. That is shift. More importantly, when it comes to leadership, the shift you make may be critical.

Shifting
Shifting

My wife and I are blessed with a small army of grandkids, all under the age of 4. When they are together, there is a lot of shifting going on. Getting one or more of them to sit still is almost impossible. They have this natural energy to move. One of the boys, a two year old, loves climbing up in my lap to watch his shows. Yet even when he tries to be focused on the cartoon or program on the screen there is movement. It’s just there.

As we grow older though, the ways we shift and the reasons for a shift take on new significance.

First the Downside

Motion or action does not mean success. I know people who can get very busy and accomplish nothing. I’ve been guilty of that myself. If all your effort has no plan or purpose, you might be shifting for the wrong reasons. Hopping from task to task or even job to job may feel like progress, but in reality, it is not.

Causing change in your personal life or work life just for the sake of change is a problem. Before you decide on a new direction, be sure it is consistent with a plan. Napoleon Hill, in his epic book “Think and Grow Rich”, suggests that only 2 people in 100 have ever designed a life plan.

From many years in coaching people through career change, I learned the vast majority of American workers land jobs out of school just to have a paycheck. Then they get stuck doing something that has nothing to do with their real passion in life. It takes years, if not decades, to realize what the passion should have been. A few fortunate souls make the shift and get aligned with what their heart desires for vocation.

There is great success in finding the right balance between your heart’s affection and your mind’s attention. Be sure you get those in right balance and you will have a far more successful career.

When to Shift

There are the wrong kinds of shifting, then the right ones. The right kind of shift happens when we:

  • Realize a conflict has arisen that we must avoid
  • Recognize a situation as being immoral, unethical, or illegal
  • Feel a need to grow
  • Take on a new challenge

Dealing with Conflict

As conflict arises, you might need a shift. Perhaps your mindset needs adjusting. Your attitude about a subject may be the contributing factor to the conflict. As a leader, conflict is not welcome. You need to be the peace maker.

Yes, there may be a critical decision that is all on you. When you make the decision, some conflict might come up. Yet the way you choose to handle it (a shift in mindset) may be the greatest contribution you can make. Draw deep into your inner core. Use your values and leadership principles to set the course, making the shift as smoothly as you can.

Not all of your decisions will be seen as perfect, but you can minimize conflict by having your own willingness to shift your approach as needed without compromising your values and vision.

Facing a Bad Situation

From time to time, you may find yourself inadvertently getting pulled into a circumstance that is either immoral, illegal, or unethical. One of my early mentors in banking was a very senior executive who was a well respected banker. When we brought new loan requests to him, we would review the risk reward factors, but then he would ask “Is there anything about this person or this company that is illegal, immoral or unethical?” You knew he was always going to ask that question. However, it always gave us pause.

I’ve also known business partners who may get into a bind and one or the other person reaches a little too far into this area in hopes of solving the problem. As soon as you sense that a partner is veering off course, you must make the shift to return things to center or abandon the deal. Your reputation is at stake.

If your moral compass (some call it your BS meter) is going wild, check the signals. Avoid the trouble, it’s not worth it. This kind of shift away from destruction is healthy, wise, and prudent.

The Need to Grow

We all have moments in our professional lives where we begin to sense a need to grow. The job is stale. The opportunity is capped. Or you’re just bored. You may need a shift for growth.

Now, I must caution my Millennial readers that this kind of boredom should not set in on a job inside of 90 days. Job opportunities take longer than that to reveal what the job really involves. If you feel bored within 90 days, you made a bad choice to start. It’s not the company or the boss. It is your decision to take the job that needs adjusting. Leave if you must but figure out why you made the bad choice and learn something from that before you go to work somewhere else.

Growth may also come without a job change. You may just feel the need to learn more about your role. You realize you need deeper knowledge of a subject or more technical know-how to perform at a higher level. A growth shift is in order.

Taking on a New Challenge

A shift is required when change happens. Whether the change is in your position or your duties at work. Or maybe it involves relocation. New challenges come in the birth of a child or grandchild. All of the other major life events create change that requires a shift of some sort or another. Making the right shift is critical to having the best possible outcome.

The life shifts we make to handle the changes around us will dictate whether we succeed or fail. Choose wisely my friend.

When was the last time you had to shift? Was it the right kind of shift?

Dealing With Pressure

Dealing with pressure

Leaders must know how to handle pressure. Pressure is one of those “not if, but when” factors in life. You will face pressure. The key question is how do you deal with pressure? Is your leadership style changed when pressure comes?

When you face the outward forces crashing in on you, the heat rising, or the magnitude of consequences growing, you sense the pressure. Will the force of pressure draw you closer to your core or drive you away from it? What do I mean by “core”?

The Foundation

Your core is your foundation for leadership. You must routinely seek to build your foundation. Values, principles, and disciplines make up your foundation or core. Without a strong foundation, no structure can endure. So it is with your ability to lead.

Your foundation gives you the under-girding that is necessary to be an effective leader. You cannot give what you don’t have. So your foundation is also the source of strength to guide and direct your leadership efforts.

When pressure comes around, does it send you back to your core or drive you away from it? The best response is to revert to your core or foundation based principles, practices and beliefs. Be true to yourself.

Ask yourself whether the forces of pressure are testing your core. Respond with core-centered action. Do not take the alternative approach and run to some other system of belief or set of principles. Get back to your basics. Likely you were placed in leadership for a reason. The reputation and character that got you into your position is a function of the foundation you used.

When pressure rises, get back in touch with that foundation. Use the solid experience you know about to guide you through the current challenge.

It Truly Is Inward

If you analyze the situation or circumstance that you view as pressure, you will find that factors or elements that make up the sense of pressure are usually identifiable. The big difference is how you inwardly react to those factors.

Your reaction might be radically different form another leader’s reaction, yet the circumstances are exactly the same. What makes the difference?

The answer is your inward process. The way you choose to react or respond to the pressure is the key. Here are some important questions to consider.

Do you react the same way to pressure or does it matter what the details include?

Do you respond or react?

Think about when the doctor gives you medicine. If you respond to it, you are healing. If you react to it, you have more problems.

The way you handle pressure is much the same. By simply reacting, you may be increasing the consequences of your pressure. An inappropriate reaction may draw others into the battle or the circumstances may get worse before they get better. You may create your own compounding effect.

Instead, think in terms of responding to the pressure. Use your experience, your values, your leadership principles. Craft an emotionally intelligent response, not a reaction.

Unmask the Lone Ranger

There was once a story character called The Lone Ranger. It was set in the wild west. As the name suggests, he did most everything by himself. Yet not really. He had a trusted Indian sidekick named Tonto. The whole story is no longer PC, but that’s not my point right now. Pressure may make you feel like trying to find answers by yourself. That should be the last thing you need to do.

Instead you need to rally your support network. Gather the trusted advisers you have recruited. Oh wait, you don’t have any of those? Well, when you’re between high pressure situations, you should work on finding a few individuals who can serve as this personal Mastermind group for you. Let them come along side to provide encouragement and guidance.

Then, when you face pressure, make your assessment of the situation and turn to your network of advisers to assist with ideas for weathering the storm.

[reminder]When was the last time you faced pressure? How did you respond?[/reminder]

 

How to Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Lead-follow-getoutofway

It’s an old saying you’ve likely heard before. For anyone who owns a business, this phrase is counsel that may be hard to do. For all the owners out there, all three counts in this simple mantra may be nearly impossible.

Lead-follow-getoutofway
Lead-follow-getoutofway

First, to Lead

On one hand that seems obvious. You own the business, who else would be leading it? Well, it might not be you. Leadership is much different from management. You might be managing the dickens out of your business, but still not really leading it.

You might even be crazy busy, but not providing key leadership when it is needed. Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are driven. They have vision. They are inspired to do something great. Yet having those wonderful ideas and inspirations won’t make you a leader. Yes, you will have the power of the position, but you will not be leading.

The drive that makes an entrepreneur want to do something can become your worst enemy. If you suffer from SOS (shiny object syndrome), you will never plot a course for success. The next big thing might be a distraction rather than benefit.

The cure is taking time to learn about leadership. Seek counsel. Unless you are one of the rare few who were exposed to leadership thought and theory along the way, you will need to grow before you become a true leader. Yes, there are an even more rare few who seem to have been with natural leadership talents. Congratulations if this is you. Sadly, for the vast majority, leadership is a refined and leaned skill that must be nurtured.

To Follow

Being a follower is not a bad thing. One of the best leadership principles I was ever taught centered on the idea that in order to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower.

Following is not just blind faith. Rather it is commitment to pay attention t the one who might be leading. Observe the good with the bad. Learn from the experience following others. If you are blessed with a good, perhaps even great leader, watch what they do. Study how they inspire and draw others in.

If, on the other hand, your leader is not so good, be diligent in the discipline of following anyway. The worst case scenario is that you might learn what never to do again.

Get Out of the Way

If either of the first two choices are not available, then door number three is needed; get out of the way. Never become a stumbling block for those around you who might be leading the charge forward with a faithful following. If you are not chosen to lead, and you don’t want to follow, then never be the bad egg who sits and pouts, making trouble for everyone else.

I’ve watched whole careers waste away as someone chooses to be disgruntled over the state of affairs. Others are getting promoted and the ideas that are happening are not acceptable either. Folks with this mindset are very frustrated human beings. You likely have know a few.

The simple answer may have been to merely get out of the way.

[reminder]Where are you today? Are able to lead, follow or get out of the way?[/reminder]

It’s your choice. GO for it!

PS – This post was written weeks ago and scheduled for today. Ironically, where I live, just outside of Houston, Texas, the whole area has been hammered by historic and “catastrophic” rains from Hurricane Harvey that have caused thousands to lose their homes to flooding. Leadership is at a premium. Local leaders, politicians, first-responders, Coast Guard personnel, and dozens of other agencies I can’t even list here have mobilized to respond. Lead , follow, or get out of the way has been the battle cry. I am proud of the ways all parties have circled their efforts to coordinate and collaborate.

Yes, as this event drags out, certainly nerves will fray and exhaustion will set in. Then we will see who the true leaders may be. We will also see who the pretenders are. True leadership will win the day. I have trust in many. They have proven their stripes with similar circumstances and will do so again. Pray for this region as we deal with record-breaking water accumulation, run-off, and flash flooding.

houston-floods

 

Leaders: Are You Coachable?

groupthink

In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask the question “are you coachable?” It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable. How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.

Business owners and professionals at all levels sometimes struggle with being coached. Success and achievement creates a false sense of not having any need for change. If you are getting results, why interrupt the methods that got you there? That may be a good mindset in the short run, but long term success requires growth.

To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable. When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Jerry Rice), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.

Recently Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer, was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice. Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.

Here are the a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.

  1. Do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all? Being open to the pursuit of growth as a professional is key. The best individuals in any aspect of life will be constantly trying to improve. Whether that includes technical knowledge, insight, or wisdom, the effort is there. Those who excel believe there is always more to learn or be.

  2. When you get advice do you act on it; following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action? Using what you learn is important. In leadership, it takes practice. Once you learn and understand a skill, you must apply it to your tool kit. By using your newly found understanding, you help to create confidence in its worth. Just as athletes work to build muscle memory for critical physical moves, leaders can build “influence memory” to work to their advantage.

  3. Do you seek follow-up from the coach to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice? Even the best coaches require feedback from the client to know whether the teaching and training is working. Be proactive in giving that feedback to your coach. When you realize you are working on a new dimension of your training, open up the communication with the coach. Let them know what feels right or needs better explanation.

Make Your Decision

If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.

We Interrupt This Blog to Get Real

Starting a business is not for the weak at heart. A big bright idea for a product or service is not enough to create success. Are you a real entrepreneur?

Being in business takes execution; not the kind Mark Twain spoke about:

Did you hear about the execution? No, but I am in favor of it, said Twain.

Execution for a small business is about putting together a plan for producing and delivering the good or service you intend to make. Yet selling ice to an Eskimo is not necessarily the right thing to do. Just because you are intent on an idea, the rest of the world out there may have no need for that thing.

Here’s My Story

I experienced this personally a few years ago. In the late 90’s the whole global outsourcing craze was in full swing. Companies large and small were either using it or trying to figure out how to do it. In a consulting capacity, I helped two large companies build domestic outsourcing platforms. Then, after what I believed were successful exits from those engagements. I pulled together some investors to start my own company. The business model had been perfected, or so I thought.

My company slowly grew and seemed like it might turn the corner, but the process was painful. Clients were few and far between. The value proposition seemed to take a lot of convincing to get buyers. Lead times were long, so sales acquisition was costly. I had plenty of competition because several other companies were in the market, including the previous two I had helped build.

Sadly, the U.S. recession of 2008 hit and my business closed. Today, when I study the landscape, there are no remnants of the outsource model I and my competitors were selling. None. The service was clearly not one the market needed or wanted. However, some very smart people with a lot of money had ventured down that path together thinking our ideas about domestic outsourcing were the cure for all things bad that outsourcing had become in those days. (PS –  I am not knocking outsourcing, I still believes it serves a great purpose under the right circumstances).

The idea alone was not enough to create success.

Throttle Your Ego

So, what is the entrepreneur to do? First thing is to get over yourself. Kudos that you are bold with your idea. Great! That’s a good step one. Once the business is put in motion you have to throttle any ego that goes with it. Yes, you have to stay on course as the chief visionary and evangelist for your idea. You have to sell it everywhere you go. There is no denying that.

However, your ego cannot become a stumbling block to progress. As soon as you decide to hire your first wave of employees, you have layers of challenges that are exponential in proportion. Your pride might just be the biggest hurdle you have to overcome. What if one of those new employees comes up with an idea that is just slightly better than the one you started with?

Stifling contributions from the team you put around you is a certain way to kill the business. Instead you must build a culture where the people you hire are fitting into valuable seats at the table. Each seat should have a clear and defined reason for being there. Hiring your brother in law is a bad idea unless he can serve a dedicated function that has value.

Learn How to Take Criticism

As an entrepreneur you’ll have plenty of naysayer’s. Sometimes the negative comments should be heard. Maybe you are being told your precious idea is a stinker. Yes, you have to filter this kind of input carefully. On one hand you should not be easily discouraged. If you are, then maybe you are not cut out for the entrepreneurial lifestyle.

However, in the face of criticism, you might hear some great alternative thoughts about how to proceed. Pay attention. Process the good ideas and throw away the bad ones.

Deal With Change

Be ready to face change. Just because your idea was launched, there will always be changes. Handling change is positive ways is vital to you effort to sustain your growth. Keep learning. When mistakes happen, and they will, learn from them. Study them. Do after action reports. Make adjustments to your process and your procedures.

Above all, be willing to change YOU!! Keep growing as an owner. If you find you don’t know what you don’t know about running a business, find a business coach or mentor to review your whole operation, top to bottom. Get a health check on your business.

Then fix the things that are broken or missing. Patch the holes. Strengthen your foundation.

Finding the Edge

As your budding baby idea of a business begins to grow, keep looking for the edge. Finding the edge is the optimum ways to deliver on your idea whether it is a product or service. Be sure customers are coming back. Use their experience in trading with you to learn about their interests and buying habits. Why did they choose you? What was it that attracted them? Can you repeat that experience for others?

Right now, I am helping independent business owners with what I call the $10K Challenge. Give me 45 minutes to review your business with you. I guarantee I can find $10,000 for you. Wouldn’t that be worth your time to explore?

[reminder]Where is your business right now with you as its leader?[/reminder]

Where Do the Other Guys Go?

Where do the Other Guys go?

Have you ever been to a leadership conference where everyone in the room tries to give you the impression they already know the answers? You spend the day or two making small talk, perhaps exploring some “new ideas”, yet there is an overwhelming sense that all the people there have already climbed the mountain.

Where do the Other Guys go?
Where do the Other Guys go?

If that’s true, where did all the other guys go? Surely there are some colleagues in your industry who don’t have all the answers. You know it’s true because you deal with some of them on a regular basis.

I never seem to meet the executives who are the “bad guys”; the ones who are bad bosses. Where do they go? Is there a bad boss conference that is secretly held at some discreet location halfway around the globe?

Or is it possible the bad bosses are just simply so bad they aren’t even aware they need help?

Enter the 80/20

The practical reality is The Pareto Principle. You may know it as the 80/20 rule. Yes, I firmly believe only about 20% of our business executives can be rated as good leaders. The other 80% might be rated as OK managers, but they fail to achieve effective leadership.

The good ones are the ones that keep looking for ways to improve. They are hungry to participate in industry groups, networking, TED Talks, round-tables, or workshops attended by other like-minded leaders. They keep growing. They even help facilitate and organize events to attract great leaders.

Sadly, the other 80% keep going to work making life relatively miserable for employees or volunteers.

When I try to broach this topic at a leadership mastermind, I get mixed responses. On one hand, I get reactions like the preachers see every Sunday at church. When a touchy subject is mentioned, people squirm in their seats, but look around as if to say, “certainly that is not me, it must be the other person over there”. On the other hand, I have people say “yes, I want to work on this”.

Executives who have been thrown into management roles are seldom fully prepared to be in the position. They were identified as a high potential or a leading single performer. For that effort, they are rewarded with a promotion into management. Yet they lack the preparation to lead, so there is a need to grow. The other option is the fake-it-until-you-make-it mindset. Maybe they will be successful, likely not.

Lastly, there is a small percentage of talent in the leadership pool who move around between companies and industries because they have achieved proven results. Then there are those “up-and-comers” who are demonstrating leadership talent and who will one day be the next wave of key leaders.

Where Are You?

Where do you fit in this spectrum? Have you recognized the need to do more or be more to be a better leader? There may be forces working against you.

When your company asks you to take on a management role, are you ready to accept it and admit you need help? Probably not. You dive in, using the same energy and zeal that got you recognized as a key contributor. You work harder. Maybe you spend more hours at the office or take work home.

The pressure will mount. Various things you try to do are received with mixed results. Some things work. Other things do not. Your team is getting restless. You know there is a gap in what the job requires versus what you can deliver. What can you do?

[callout]

Hiring an Executive Coach might be the best investment you can make.
You might want to talk to someone on our team today
to discuss ways to achieve measurable results from executive coaching.
[/callout]

Three Things to Master

Maintain your confidence –  stay true to yourself. You were selected because the company needed you in that job. They had a reason to give it a try. Be confident in knowing that. Come back to that truth as often as you need to. Use trusted advisors to prop up your confidence. Share what you can with close associates (not work colleagues).

Core competencies –  there will be key elements of the job you should master. Whether it is technical knowledge or subject matter expertise, become the guru on those topics. Read more, search more; get the most information you can to show the team you have a mastery of the work.

Stay centered –  don’t let the demands of the job take you off your game. Re-establish your core beliefs about who and what you are, how you can contribute, and the ways you can make a difference. Be true to those beliefs. Maintain an identity as the person you want to be at work. I’m not talking about arrogance. I’m talking about reliability and trust.

Highly effective and well-respected leaders didn’t get there by chance. They work an intentional plan. They grow, they seek counsel, and they are constantly learning.

[reminder]Where are you in the leadership growth process?[/reminder]

[callout]

If you own or operate a mid-stage company, you may want to explore ways to strengthen your leadership team. I am here to help make that transition.
[/callout]
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Independence Day

independence day

Tomorrow is July 4th. In the U.S. we call it Independence Day. It is a good time to reflect on the real meaning of deep, personal independence.

Courtesy 123rf.com
Courtesy 123rf.com

I love this picture showing the dawning of a new day. When we declare independence, there is a new day, a fresh beginning. Independence implies a freeing from something. The history of the United States declares a freedom from rulers who, at the time, were seen as oppressive, demanding laws without representation. Yet the quest for independence can be very personal and far more significant.

When any of us is impacted by a force that controls us, we need independence. The control can be a bad boss, an unethical company, a work environment that is oppressive and cruel. The control can be internal; like a mindset, substance abuse, limiting thoughts, or emotional scars from prior experiences.

As my pastor says, “There’s a story on every pew.” People all around us face challenges to release themselves from something.

  • Bad habits
  • Bad relationships
  • Poor choices
  • Health problems
  • Financial problems
  • Bad bosses
  • And the list goes on . . .

Regardless of the force or factors from which you are claiming your independence, the stage is set for a new day. Facing the truths of who you are and what you believe can give rise to making a fresh new start.

Helping others overcome tough odds is a noble and honored effort. Countless numbers of good neighbors do that in communities large and small every day. Each victory is deserving of a celebration.

Yet, I think the toughest challenge most people face is driving change for themselves; overcoming those personal things that hold us back. Yes, joining a community or a tribe of like-minded souls who, themselves are trying to make a change, can be a big help. However, the ultimate change is up to you and you alone.

For those of you who, as I do, hold dear to a deep faith in God, we have Him to hold onto while we fight to claim our independence. He is an unending source of power and courage through the fight. Take a moment and reflect. Ask yourself these important questions.

[reminder]What is your fight today? Have you made progress to overcome your foe(s)? What strength will you choose?[/reminder]

Happy Independence Day! One day your fight will be won. Why not let this day be the first day of the rest of your new life!