To Be a Great Leader, You Must Inspect What You Expect

Inspect Expect
Inspect what you expect and article from @dougthorpe_com

This article was originally published on April 2, 2018 and has been updated.

Inspect what you expect.

This is an old saying that I learned decades ago.

What does it mean, exactly? And what does it have to do with leadership?

Well…

Have you been guilty of spouting a directive then letting it die a natural death? We’ve all done it at one point or another—whether accidentally or intentionally, we’re all guilty.

When a leader sets out a goal or directive, that goal can only be achieved with good monitoring, or, inspection.

Whether you run a big business, a team, or are working on a small project, in order to achieve any sort of success, you have to be mindful of these simple words: inspect what you expect.

Here’s my story.

The Military Way

Great leadership principles you need to know. Leadership powered by common sense

The “inspect what you expect” principle takes many forms.

During my days as a second lieutenant, we conducted regular health and welfare inspections.

While the military inspects a lot of things, this was unique. Those of you who have served in the military know why.

Those of you who don’t: buckle your seatbelts.

To achieve the best results, you must inspect.

One early morning at 3:30 a.m., the entire cadre (all of the managers and supervisors) of our training unit surrounded a barracks where a portion of our troops lived.

We suspected drug activity coming from this barracks.

This “health and welfare inspection” was actually a search and seizure mission.

We burst into the barracks and surprised all of the soldiers sleeping there. They were ousted from their bunks and told to stand at attention beside their footlockers while we searched the premises.

Sure enough, we found a stash of drugs and some paraphernalia tucked inside one of the footlockers.

Our target was achieved.

We could have preached and threatened the law about drugs, but we had to inspect what we expected.

This principle also applies to the success of most businesses.

Why?

Because even the best strategic planning simply won’t matter without proper execution.

A great leader must push forward to make things happen. They cannot stand still; they must be in constant motion, pushing towards a goal to reach success.

They must be focused.

Every plan and strategy associated with a goal must always be monitored and inspected to ensure proper execution and achievement.

Good project management comes from inspecting what you expect.

Have you heard of Six Sigma or DMAIC?

“Six Sigma”

Six Sigma is a specific set of tools and techniques used to to help businesses improve their processes.

Inspecting what you expect is an integral part of Six Sigma. It is also an integral part of overall good project management.

For process improvement, a concept known as DMAIC is applied.

DMAIC

DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control

…or, simply inspecting what you expect.

With DMAIC, you analyze results as they occur, checking them against expected outcomes.

If you find yourself off the mark, adjust and do it all over again. In other words, you are staying alert—at all times—to the things happening around you that affect your process and your progress.

The devil is in the details.

There is so much more to being a great leader than stating your plans and giving directives.

Great leaders walk the floor.

If you’re not walking the floor, you’re not being a good leader. You’re doing it wrong.

Leaders who don’t walk the floor find that things are not happening as they expect. Always remember: the devil is in the details.

You have to constantly be checking in, seeing what’s going on—walking the floor. You have to constantly ensure the appropriate measures are being put in place to achieve the right outcome.

You have to constantly test and review events and circumstances.

For example: if your business enforces things like safety or regulatory compliance, your role as a leader is to inspect and review events and circumstances. You have to check work every single day to ensure proper compliance.

If you don’t, people could get hurt.

Three easy steps to inspect:

1. Expect

Set expectations; specific expectations.

When issuing a directive, always be clear about your expectations. Be as specific as possible.

Volumes, dollars, incidence rates, hours, cost saves, the list goes on. The expectation you give will determine the outcome.

2. Be Consistent

Constantly inspect, and keep your inspections consistent. Keep communication open and be consistent in everything you do. Be open and don’t beat around the bush. Share your results.

3. Stay Visible

People need to know you are engaged and involved in the review process. Don’t get stuck behind your office door. Show your team you are active in the process. Be around them. Answer their questions. Motivate them.

Remember: you are the leader guiding the vision to the final outcome. Be available to talk it through with those who have questions. Walk the floor.

If your team is spread out geographically, remain visible with the right frequency of check-in calls and team meetings.

Let your team know that part of executing the mission is routine reviews.

So…do you inspect what you expect?

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Making the Most from Working at Home

Work at Home

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

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

Work at Home

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

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

Make Space

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

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

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

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

Don’t Skimp on Equipment

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

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

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

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

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Test your career satisfaction – take this personal survey

Consider Your Emotions

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

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

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

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

Get on a Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Set Boundaries

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

Handle Big Rocks First

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

My Resource List

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

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

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

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

It’s Hard to Write About Christmas

Merry Christmas! This year, Christmas Day falls on my usual blog post publishing day.

I have to tell you as a writer, I always struggle to craft a Christmas message.

First, I think I know my audience. I am keenly aware that many of you do not acknowledge Christmas nor celebrate it because of its “Christian” basis.

I respect that. Yet, as someone who was raised in a so-called Christian household, the wonder and blessing of Christmas are deeply entwined in my DNA.

What I think may be valuable during this holiday season is a reflection on the mystery and wonder that a young person finds in Christmas. More importantly, I am reflecting on the impact such an experience has many years later in life. At least it does in my life.

A Magical Time

At my house, Christmas was magical. The promise of surprises from Santa, mixed with the amazing foods, and special celebrations that might just pop up with no notice mad being a kid at Christmas a joy that was worth thinking about the other 364 days.

As I look back on those moments I’ve tried to analyze and dissect the makings of the wonder. The best I can conclude is that there was a special hope that flowed as the undercurrent of the whole experience.

Hope was seldom denied. Oh sure, some of the packages didn’t contain the toy I was certain was wrapped there, but what was found in the wrapping was often much more than even my imagination could muster.

It is that childlike hope I have held on to. Even at my age, Christmas can still bring that out again.

Business Leaders Take Notice

If you are a business leader, don’t take away anyone’s hope. Sometime you might not be able to fulfill every wish of every employee, but you don’t have to crush their spirits in announcing changes or turning down requests.

Remember, your best people still have their own dreams. Use the excitement and energy that might come with those dreams to harness greater commitment and help improve productivity.

Heck, you might even make a New Year’s resolution to celebrate small wins more often with your folks. You’ll be amazed at the goodwill just that act of empathy can create.

Merry Christmas!

So there I said it again. However, please hear my plea. Be a leader who supports hope and encourages those who work  for you to celebrate their victories.

Find ways to make working with you something to be excited about. Sure you can’t produce surprises every day of every week, but you can promote the individual joy that comes with knowing when you’ve worked hard and made something happen. Let your people have that and know that. They will celebrate with you.

Created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

Leadership Avoiding the Split

In a recent Ted Talk, Simon Sinek eloquently describes the most critical pivot point in the life of all companies, communities, and tribes. He presents the principle that all organizations are formed around ideas formulated by the founders. Yet as success grows, the connection to the original vision may get lost.

 

Think about the great entrepreneurial ventures today; Apple, Google, Amazon, and Uber just to name a few. In every case, a person or persons gathered together to design an idea and put that idea in motion. In doing so they simultaneously created two parallel initiatives; success and vision.

By pursuing the vision one would hope for some measure of success. As long as the enterprise stays small and closely connected to the founders, the vision tracks very closely with the success. But as success grows and the company expands, more people must be hired who hire others, who hire others, and soon the success trajectory exceeds the vision path.

Success and Vision

While success grows, the vision may falter. We have all likely experienced this when we hear the people who were close to the founders say “it’s not like it used to be”. If the connection to the vision gets lost or diluted by success companies start trying to find themselves again.

Think about the history at Apple. Steve Jobs founded the company but left. After he left, the company floundered and he was invited to return. The same thing happened at Starbucks and Dell too. The founders created success, left, and had to return.

The point at which the success deviates from the vision is something Sinek calls the “Split”. The split can cause an otherwise very successful idea to lose its way.

So What?

If the Split is a highly probable event on the timeline of your company, what is a leader to do?

First, stay true to core beliefs that got you going in the first place. The Hedgehog Concept was originally based on an ancient Greek parable. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” [/perfectpullquote]

Business researcher and consultant, Jim Collins, used this concept as a metaphor for business in his influential book, “Good to Great.” Hedgehogs live their lives with basically one thing to do; be a good hedgehog. They don’t get distracted nor waver in their pursuit of life.

In business, it’s easy to get distracted, take your eye off the ball, and run after shiny objects. If you’ve achieved some level of success, the rewards may convince you to buy new equipment or expand beyond your capabilities. Doing any such thing without a consistent plan for growth is a fast way to deviate from the original vision.

Sharing the Vision

Leaders are usually associated with visionary thinking. OK, you have a vision. Great. Have you effectively shared that vision with those around you?

I have clients who are in fact, good leaders. Without exception, when asked about their vision for their company or team, they describe a large landscape picture in their mind. Every moving part and every detail of the end-game is painted into that picture. They see the integral movement of the pieces. They know the critical paths to success.

Yet the challenge these brilliant leaders face is the ability to share the vision with their team. Too much detail may overwhelm people. Too little detail leaves subordinates guessing.

Steve Jobs is often cited as saying he never wanted Apple to build the best equipment. No, he wanted a new user experience connecting to technology. There is a critical difference in that vision.

Leaders need to know when and how to share the exact parts of the vision map with the team members so that the work is in line with the vision.

Take a moment today and ask yourself “Is what we are doing right now consistent with what we intended to do when we started?” If yes, then congratulations. If not, take a fresh look at the original vision. Peel away the people and things that have taken you off course. Make the conscious decision to get back to the original vision.

If you need help working through the tough calls to get back to the right vision, perhaps a coach can help. My team and I will be happy to come alongside.

The Character of a Man

Like millions of others around the globe, I watched the ceremony and celebration as George H.W. Bush, “41” was laid to rest. Being a native Houstonian, I took special pride in calling him neighbor. 

You can argue the politics, but you will be hard pressed to doubt the character of this man. Was he flawless? I doubt it. Being a serviceman myself, I know firsthand the flaws we all possess. Yet as you study the spirit and inner nature of this man, you will be equally hard pressed to find a better model for decency, humility, unquenchable spirit, and a passion for mankind.

41 was famously spotted at venues all over Houston. He was quick to drop in on a local eatery (sending Secret Service agents into a frenzy I am sure). While there, he mingled as a good neighbor would. There was no air of superiority about the Bush’s. They loved their town, the people in it, and the joy of letting us know.

When his passing was announced, the media went into a virtual 24 hour, round the clock coverage; at least that’s what we got here in Houston. It was wonderful. The outpouring of stories about HW was amazing. I paid special attention to the references to the substance that made this man. 

According to all of the stories, people were moved by the brief moments they spent with him. They knew they had been touched by a special spirit, and tenderness that they seldom feel. 

Think about that. If you are searching to make a difference somewhere, look at what George H.W. Bush did in his time on this planet. Again, you can debate his politics, but you cannot deny his character.

Mr. President 41, THANK YOU from a neighbor. You did it well. We are grateful.

#4141 #GeorgeHWBush #leadership

Great Leadership Builds Trust – Here’s Why It Matters

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

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

Trust is King

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

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

Team Work

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

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

Team Trust
Team Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Payoff – Success begets success.

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

Trust Reward

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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

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Leadership: It’s in the Bag, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf shot shapes

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

The Parallels 

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

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

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

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

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

Managing the Course

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing Your Equipment

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

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

Practice and Feedback

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

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

Good Days and Bad Days

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Living in the Meantime

There are times when nothing particularly big is happening. You’re in between assignments, projects, or deadlines. You have work to do and places to be, but the sense of purpose goes on autopilot. The time between one occurrence and another; an interval is the meantime.

Should that bother you? I say not necessarily unless it lingers too long.

I call this “living in the meantime.” You just finished something and are waiting for the next thing to arrive or start. Yet life is going on. You must wait or endure in the meantime.

Meantime can be a good time if you choose to use it wisely. We all need recovery times after running a fast pace, high energy cycle. See my prior article on this very important aspect of stress management. But we can also use the meantime for growth and learning.

Leaders need to wisely use the meantime. You can use the time both personally and professionally.

Team

What might otherwise feel like a lull can be a powerful way to reconnect with the team. Running at a fast pace has a way of distancing your more personal relationships at work. I am talking about those interactions one on one with your team. I’ll guess that when the projects are flying at a wild pace, you likely do less of your one on one meetings. Typically you let those slide in favor of group sessions.

When the meantime comes, take time to rebuild the one on one.

Personally

Leaders need to recalibrate. You too can get off track with personal disciplines when the workload is bigger than you are used to. Again, you likely forego your routines like eating right and going to the gym when the daily schedule is packed too tight.

Use the meantime to reset. Focus your daily planner on the things that work well for you. Get back to the right routines.

Professionally

Living in the meantime can have other benefits too. Stephen Covey talks about “sharpening the saw.” This is finding books or other sources of inspiration and learning to keep moving forward. If the last big push at work revealed some opportunities for you to grow, then use the meantime to do it. Perhaps your last review showed areas for improvement. Meantime is the time to invest in improving where you need to so that you can be the best YOU you need to be.

Living in the meantime is really a great time. Use it wisely.

Question: What have you done lately to redeem the meantime in your life?

 

The Power of Positivity: 5 Way to Get More in Your Life

There is a general consensus among clients I serve that says “the pace of business is greater than it’s ever been.” Fast pace usually includes a focus on performance; do more, be more.

I’m a big fan of improving performance at all levels both personal and professional. At work, team performance is a big deal too. If you lead a work team, you likely suffer your own pressure for higher and better performance. Yet in the face of all the push to perform, what has gotten left out?

The word is POSITIVITY

For many of us, being positive does not always come naturally. We get busy and we get centered on the task at hand. We leave the good-natured, positive outlook behind. A friend or spouse may ask “what’s going on?” Our response is usually just “I’m busy.” Then bust becomes a habit and positivity is forgotten.

You can be focused on performance and still build a climate of positive energy in what you and your team may be doing. If you struggle with finding your own positivity, here are five habits that I’ve used that will attract more positivity into your life.

5 Ways to Get More Positive

Make a daily gratitude list

Each day, either in the morning or before you go to sleep, write down at least one thing that you’re thankful for in your life. When you do this on a consistent basis, you naturally begin to focus on the positive and see more of the good things that are happening around you instead of the bad.

Perform acts of kindness

Doing something nice for someone, even the smallest of unexpected gestures, not only makes others happy, it adds positivity to your life as well. Make acts of kindness a frequent habit. You could pay the tab for the person behind you at Starbucks. Bring coffee for the security guard at your office. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Write a thank you note to someone who helped you. Not sure what to do, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas.

Be fully present

We are constantly distracted, always looking at our phones and thinking about everything we have to do, or should be doing. While we’re engrossed in our Facebook timelines and playing games, we’re missing all of the positive things that are going on around us, and in some cases sitting directly across from us. Being fully present takes practice, but it pays huge dividends. Ten minutes of meditation each day can increase your awareness and focus on being present.

Reduce negative influences

The things we surround ourselves with and listen to have a big impact on our mindset, both negative and positive. Think about what you’re watching, reading and listening to throughout the day. When you fill your mind with negativity, it becomes easier to dwell on the negativity in your life. Be careful of who you spend your time, too. Do your best to stay away from other negative people. You become like the people you spend the most time with.

Spend time at the start of each day to improve YOU.

With all the demands on our time, there’s always other priorities and people vying for our attention. That’s why so many of us don’t make time to work on ourselves. It’s easy to use the “but I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired” excuse, especially if you don’t put yourself first at the start of the day. Stop snoozing your alarm and get up 30 – 60 minutes earlier and create a morning routine that consists of mindfulness, visualization, reading, exercise, and journaling. Speaking from my experience, you will be amazed at the impact this has on your life.

Note: some excerpts provided by Tyler C. Beaty

Questions, Questions, Questions – Asking Better Leadership Questions

questions

Our headlines are filled with questions. Did he? Did she? Who did what and when? Why? All of these questions consume our attention and build tensions between opposing factions. For what real good? (Ha, another question!)

questions

Questions can be used for good or bad. Well-intended questions can add clarity. A properly structured question uttered in the context of a healthy discussion can help two parties share information and grow together; learning can happen and prosperity emerges. However, questions asked with hidden meaning or mean spirit can only serve to undermine confidence and credibility.

The Leadership Question

For executives, managers, and business owners, the effective use of a proper question is very powerful. Yet using an ill-timed or poorly thought out question only serves to muddy the waters.

I speak with clients all the time who express concerns that their questions cause disruption rather than unity. Managers who like to manage by walking around can’t help but ask questions out on the floor. While the messages are usually very innocent, they can stir quite a controversy without any good framework.

There are business leaders who like to know what’s going on. How else can you do that BUT by asking questions? Then there’s the situation where you just got hired or promoted to fill a big role, but you don’t know what you don’t know, so you start asking questions.

Inevitably the questions do more harm than good. Here are some the usual reactions employees have after your question gets asked:

  • Why did he/she ask that?
  • Is there something I am missing?
  • Are we changing directions?
  • I thought he should know that.

Stump the Chump

Questions can also become “gamey”. Ask too many questions and people start to feel like you are playing stump the chump. You know, the game where the “expert” gets asked a hundred questions to determine whether they really know their stuff or not.

I tell the story of walking the floor one day in my banking days. I managed a large team of loan administrators. One of my senior administrative people stopped me. He said he had some questions. I agreed to weigh in.

He proceeded to test me on the calculations he had done. I answered all the issues then asked him why such questions because there really weren’t any open items to discuss.

He said he was curious if “the Big Dog” knew his stuff. My response? “How do you think I got to be the BIG DOG?”

The Answer

Here’s my advice to executives worried about the questions they ask. I recommend using a technique I call the bookend approach. Open with one bookend. Frame your question with context. Start by explaining where you might be going. Examples are “I need to know more about X.” Or “Remember we talked about ________, please tell me more.”

Then proceed with the question or questions. But close the interaction with another bookend. “Ok this helps me a lot.” or “I didn’t realize how that worked.” Even more important “Good, this is right on target with our vision and direction.”

By using bookends, you open and close the exchange with specific ideas. You eliminate the wondering and wandering that people’s thoughts may do merely by you asking a question out of the clear blue.

The added bonus is you get credit for being an effective communicator.

Try this the next time you are out talking with your team. I promise you will see better reactions.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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