Are you feeling stuck? It’s like walking in quicksand. You can’t make any forward progress.
We’ve all been there before. This feeling is a common event in most people’s lives. As the chapters of life unfold, there are moments when everything seems to just get stuck and you start to lose the vision of the way ahead. Some may think of this as drifting through life.
The future vision is missing, lost, or forgotten. You just want to make it through another day. You, my friend, need to know there is more waiting for you. Here are three steps to get past feeling stuck.
First, you need to make a shift. There needs to be a disruptive force or series of events that can shake things up. Mostly this is a shift that needs to happen in your mind; the way you are thinking needs to change.
I see so many people every day who are stuck in their mindset. Their head is filled with negative, limiting thoughts. “I can’t do that”, “I am too weak”, “I don’t have that skill”, “I don’t know that subject”.
You may also need to shift the people who are around you, especially if they serve to enforce those negative thoughts. If you speak a limiting thought and they agree with you, they are not being any help. Find some new friends.
Start growing away from old, bad thoughts. Read new books, watch some TED talk videos, open your mind to new ideas. Get a refresh!
By engaging a shift mindset, you can begin to pull out of the muck where you are stuck.
As the shift builds momentum, you will get a feeling of lift. Just like the wind passing over the wings of a bird or an airplane, there is lift. The whole body rises into flight.
Pressure and stress will ease. Old burdens will fall away and you will feel a growing energy.
Lift creates a move to new direction. You sense a freedom of thought, action, and purpose. You are renewed.
As you rise above the old state of mind, you achieve a newness; a renewed sense of purpose. You get a fresh look at the world ahead. Empowered by the new energy you will become a gift to those around you.
As a manager and leader, your fresh view of things can become contagious. Your smile and energy will impact others. You can help them begin their own shift out of ‘stuckness’.
If you need help embarking on a life change like this, I’d be happy to explain my coaching programs. I’ve helped hundreds of seasoned professionals get unstuck.
What do you think of when someone says something about a stepping stone? The origin comes from placement of stones across a stream so that a pedestrian can walk across the flow of the water without getting wet.
Often the stones are placed by hikers trying to make a crossing in a river. The stones can be randomly placed or symmetrical.
I like to picture these stones when I think of key people who have been major influencers in my life. Likely, you too have had mentors or significant personalities that have played a role as a stepping stone in your life.
The Back Story
When someone stands up or stands in to provide support, they become a stepping stone. For me, I grew up the only child of a single Mom. My Father passed away when I was only 2 years old. Mom was determined to provide me with significant male role models to aid in my development as a man.
As a result, my stepping stones evolved thanks to the contributions of at least 6 of these caring and giving men. The time they spent teaching me things like baseball, golf, fishing, tennis, woodworking, and camping, taught me much more than the basics. Yes, I learned how to hit a fastball, bait a hook, fly a plane, light a good fire, and varnish a mahogany cabinet, but more importantly, I learned about hard work, seeking wisdom, and living by faith.
The other interesting aspect of this mentoring experience is that these men were not rock stars. They were neither Titans of business nor famous celebrity motivators like a Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell. They were regular guys who lived life day-by-day, attempting as best they could to do the right thing.
Ladies, I do not want to forget you. What I am saying here applies to women as well. I have known plenty of young ladies who likewise received counsel from a mentor. Everything I am suggesting about this principle applies to both genders.
If you have been blessed by someone, a stepping stone, I hope you now have a desire to mentor. You don’t have to achieve some big celebrity status or have a big footprint in the media. You can make a huge difference in some young person’s life.
Here are the basic parts of being a mentor (in no particular order).
1. Availability – Just showing up is a good place to start. Whatever the strength or skill set, whatever the core values you possess, making yourself available is key to setting the stage and the environment for mentoring.
2. Trust – Earning the trust of your mentee is so necessary in order to make the sharing work. It will not matter how wise or helpful your experience may be if the person does not trust you.
3. Reliability – Once a trust expectation begins to develop, your reliability to engage and respond is critical. Nothing does a young heart more harm than an unmet promise. Promises like “I’ll be there at 3:00” then no-show.
4. Patience – Young students will do dumb things. Roll with it. Yes, you can assert some form of discipline, but gauge your student and apply the firmness wisely.
5. Candor – Being open to share who and what you are is important. That is the ultimate teaching tool. Mentoring is about giving the mentee someone to emulate. If they don’t know YOU, then the best is not coming out.
6. Honesty – Don’t make stuff up. If your candidate asks something you don’t know, admit it. Guide the person in exploring together where and how to find the answer.
7. Giving – Be able to give. This is not about money. It requires all of the attributes above. A giving, servant’s heart and open mind is what makes you a good mentor.
One last note. I believe mentoring is different from coaching. Coaches can be good mentors, but a mentor can be effective without the more stern and disciplined aspects of what a coach should be doing for you. Mentors have a special passion about their gift. The way they give to others and inspire those around them to grow, is the center of a great mentorship experience.
The point is, there are very effective mentoring opportunities that do not require coaching skills. So do not hold back when a situation comes up where you could be a mentor to a young person. You, too, can be a stepping stone for someone’s greatness.
In closing, I will tell you it has been over 40 years since I last saw some of the men I mentioned above. Yet almost every day some small aspect of my life reminds me of something they taught me or showed me. Their work and their gifts became a part of my actual psyche and emotional intelligence. The stepping stones they laid in my life remain strong.
If you are wondering about leaving a legacy, become a mentor to those around you.
There is an old Beach Boys song with this lyric. “The surf is up before the tsunami.”
It makes me think of a phenomenon I have seen time and again in business. After almost 20 years in commercial banking, I saw a lot of highs and lows with my business customers. Companies on a good, perhaps even great, growth track are sometimes headed for a big storm. I am not talking about the tide shift when the economic conditions go bad. No, I am talking about having the success of the company outpace the change within.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When the company’s leadership fails to recognize and act upon the things that need to change to sustain growth and prosperity, the company may ultimately fail. I’ve named this condition “The Paradox of Success”.[/perfectpullquote]
All companies will go through various life cycle stages. As they mature from start-up to being a going concern, there are critical changes that the leadership and management must execute. These are things like capital investment in equipment or facilities, people, and process. The thrill of riding a wave of early success can obstruct your view of things to come.
A Sad Tale
I once knew a company owned by a very successful husband and wife team. Their little baby (the business) grew mightily. First, they dominated a local market. Then they branched into statewide operations. That too was very successful. It seemed they had a Midas touch for turning everything they touched into gold. Eventually, they went national with their service offerings. That’s when the trouble started.
At the local level, it was easy to keep the owner’s hands in all things. Even at the state level, it was more difficult to control but relatively easy to expand the support functions by adding a few key people, still keeping the owners involved in virtually every key decision required to run the show.
However, once they launched nationally, the business challenges grew exponentially.
There were state regulators with different requirements.
Remote operations were needed to expedite the timing of service deliveries.
Cash flows were more complex.
Worst of all, some of the key staff members who helped build the original business were just not capable of handling the diverse nature of all the new problems the national market created.
The business outgrew its team.
The Big So What
Sometimes the leadership team itself needs to grow or change. Founders often fail to see these things coming. Often with entrepreneurs, the business gets bigger than their own management ability. The wise founder will accept advice from consultants, coaches or investors and allow the reins of control to be handed to other, more qualified leadership.
A talent management friend likes to remind owners “If you want to grow your business from $5 million to $10 million, don’t hire more $5MM people to do it. Hire the guy who already operates with a $10MM mindset. Let them bring their system to you.”
It is this kind of change that is most difficult for entrepreneurs to recognize and adjust. Just because things are going well, be ready for the next growth spurt. Embrace the change that is needed, make plans, seek wise counsel, and deal with making the right change.
Question; Is your company on the brink of a growth cycle? Are you really ready for it?
Leaders are looking for advice. Business people often need it. New challenges and ever-changing priorities leave us looking for fresh ideas.
Businesses operate at such a fast pace that owners and leaders are looking for advice wherever it is available. More often than not, you may reach toward the wrong resources. Un-tested advisors and questionable sources can send you down the wrong rabbit holes.
There are so many demands upon entrepreneurs and senior management of companies. Each organization is confronted with challenges and opportunities, both real and perceived. Without new ideas, it is tough to tackle all the obstacles and feel that substantial progress is being made.
It Is Lonely at the Top
From the owner’s seat, the need exists for comprehensive business ideas and growth strategies. Problem-solving solutions are valuable commodities. Couple these with the ever-present need for leadership development among senior executives and finding improved management skills, you have a serious thirst for new thoughts and ideas.
Top management regularly needs the creative inspiration to take the company to new heights. Cutting-edge executives (the very top and those about to take the mantle) need seasoned advice and inspiration.
The Go-To Ways We Find Answers
Here is where senior leaders and managers tend to go to get ideas, strategies, and help; in the order commonly used. The lower numbers represent the early choices. The higher numbers are where you should be reaching.
1. Hearsay and third hand – the “low lying fruit”, easy to find in abundance. Examples are comments heard at parties and networking functions, uninformed sources, friends of friends, high participation networkers, random research, and surveys.
2. Special Interests – narrows the expertise just a little more. These sources include websites containing educational material as a way to sell services, surveys, and their feedback.
3. People Selling Stuff – the Internet and social media is flooded with teaser offers to look like good information; vendors who distract you, using expressions like “funding to grow your business”, online marketing firms, Internet solicitors and sellers, website consulting
4. Internal Management – your own team should be reliable sources but can be risky at times. These are the people you work with, Mid-managers and supervisors, and Corporate leadership
5. Niche Experts and Consultants – moving up the chain further towards more reliable information: Trainers, Freelance consultants, niche solutions like banking, insurance benefits, human resources, etc. Then there are technology consulting firms and researchers.
In general, consultants are ranked lower on this scale for two reasons. First, the consulting field is over-crowded with sole practitioners who have lost jobs and cannot find work elsewhere.
Selecting a consultant is tricky business, not always much better than choices 1, 2 and 3 above. Plus, the better, more proven consultants quickly advance themselves to the higher ranking categories below; senior business advisors or outright gurus.
6. Educational Programs – better still might be dedicated educational platforms like speakers, seminars, panels at forums, workshops, trade conferences, webinars, and material published or broadcast in the media.
7. Books and Articles – sounds old school, but still valuable inspirations and information; books that withstand the test of time, articles excerpted for meetings, blog material posted online, self-published books by people with credible platforms, online articles and blogs, reputable authors already recognized as experts, and lastly cutting-edge books with original material (think Seth Grodin and Simon Sinek).
8. Advocacy Groups – these are everywhere. Some have long tenure, others not so much. Evaluate the reputation as you know it. Yet these can be rich resources for counsel and advice.
Chambers of commerce
People with whom you work in community and charity leadership roles
Boards of directors
The Better Business Bureau
Small Business Development Center
Trade industry groups
Consortiums of business
Cross-industry cooperative initiatives
9. Mentors – having a trusted advisor serving in a mentoring relationship can be a rich and rewarding experience for valuable ideas and wisdom. These are some of the better-known sources:
Corporate heir apparent training or high potential programs
Programs such as Shark Tank, Fox Den, Ted Talks
10. Senior Business Advisors – these are the professional service firms, including lawyers, accountants, marketing, public relations, quality management.
11. Major Business Gurus – top of the heap, proven thought leaders with wide, effective audiences who have used their advice and prospered. These experts have proven track records with many years in strategic advising, consulting or mentoring. The price point might be high, but the results are often 5x to 10x the investment.
Choose Wisely My Friend
With the field so full of choices, you must select wisely where you look for ideas, Then you must carefully decide which information to use for your next big decision.
Question: Where do you turn to look for inspiration and clear thinking about new ideas?
Hank Moore is that rare 1 out of 100,000 senior business advisors, a Big Picture strategist, with original, cutting-edge ideas for creating, implementing and sustaining corporate growth throughout every sector of the organization. His Business Tree™ is a trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business while mastering change.
If you are already in a leadership position or want to be in one, you should reflect why? Are there certain skills you demonstrate? Have you always been in leadership? Or do you know you have potential that others may not yet recognize?
While our adult life and the effort to earn a reasonable wage both create opportunities to use leadership skills, there are core values that begin much earlier. Leadership begins at home.
Sunday, June 17th will be Father’s Day. The tradition started roughly around 100 years ago, but its exact origins are disputed. Some historians believe it began as an American movement.
But there are two different accounts as to who invented it and the reason behind it. Some believe the holiday was founded in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908. A year and a half before, there was a mine explosion in a nearby town called Monongah. 360 men died, 200 of whom were fathers, who left behind widows and children.
A woman called Grace Golden Clayton was moved by this and went to visit her Pastor, Reverend Robert Thomas Webb. She suggested that there should be a special day dedicated to honoring fathers. Grace chose July 5, 1908, to celebrate the first Father’s Day, because it was the nearest date to her late father’s birthday.
Unfortunately, Grace’s Father’s Day was unsuccessful, as it was not promoted outside of the town, and more importantly, her town held a huge July 4, Independence Day festival which overshadowed her event.
Meanwhile, other historians believe a woman called Sonora Dodd from Washington invented the holiday instead. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day in 1910, Senora began to wonder why there wasn’t a day dedicated to fathers. Sonora and her siblings were raised by their father, following their mother’s death.
She wanted Father’s Day to be celebrated on June 5, her dad’s birthday, but the church felt they needed more time to prepare, so instead June 19 was chosen.
The United Kingdom’s celebration of Father’s Day is thought to have been inspired by the American version.
The Father Figure
Our experience with our Fathers influence who and what we become. If you were blessed with a Dad who was your first mentor, you are very fortunate. Life lessons, coping skills, hobbies, crafts, sports, and other life-long behaviors are nurtured by loving, caring Dads.
Sadly, too many of us suffer from relationships with Fathers that leave much to be desired. Perhaps even physical or emotional wounds were created that take years to overcome.
If you were in the first category, congratulations. Hopefully, the teaching and encouragement provided by your Father helped shape and mold the leadership values you use today.
However, if you count yourself in the second group, you have work to do. Throughout my career, I have encountered professionals who had the bad home life. Interestingly, they do one of two things. Either they perpetuate the brutish behaviors and emotional abuses with co-workers and employees or they turn 180 to run in an opposite direction, vowing never to be “that guy”.
The ones wanting to improve and grow beyond their bad start often make amazing leaders. Why? Because they are open and receptive to the things that can shape them into much better people. If your heart is open to that, good leadership frequently follows.
I never knew my Dad. He died before my second birthday. Fortunately, my Mother had the wisdom and foresight to know I would need mentoring from men. She worked diligently to build a small but dedicated network of men in our community who were willing to take me under their wing. Over the years I watched these men model what they told me.
Jack was my Scout Master. From ages 9 to 12, he was my rock. He was there for everything a young boy ever wanted to ask. Then there was George who taught me woodworking. But the lessons in the shop were not limited to just the tools and the wood. There were life lessons like don’t try something important when you are angry. Don’t use the wrong tool for the job, you’ll break the tool, ruin the material, or hurt yourself. Closer to high school Dan came along. He showed me his business. He taught me about inventory, cash flow, and sales. Those lessons were often discussed on the tennis court or wading in a stream, catching fish.
The collection of influence I received helped me to realize natural gifts and talents I could use while I learned other things. Leadership started at an early age and has grown ever since.
It Begins at Home
Regardless of your position in life right now, if you are a parent, you have a big responsibility. I’m not talking about the obvious care, feeding, and safety of your kids. Instead, I am talking about creating an environment for learning, growth, decision making, and creating in your kids their own sense of responsibility to others.
Setting a moral compass with strong core values of right and wrong, service to others, and love of something much greater than yourself; those are principles that build strong leaders. Our country and the world need the next generation of leaders prepared and ready when they become the “next one up”. You can start now building that legacy for yourself, your family, and the community around you. YOU can make a difference.
Are you curious when you read a headline about leadership “Top 10”? I know I am. There are certainly some great thoughts that get covered in the popular lists of success factors attributed to great leadership. Goodness knows we need good leadership.
Yet there is one topic that seldom gets mentioned in any Top 10 list of attributes for managers. I feel obligated to bring it up. What am I talking about?
It is GRACE; not a person or a thing. Rather, in my humble opinion, grace is a state of mind. We can’t earn it. Many feel they don’t deserve it. So, I believe that is why I have yet to find the topic of grace being spoken about in any of the management and leadership books I follow.
Maybe you first heard about grace from a Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. No, this will NOT be a Bible study article. I simply want to tell you about adding grace to several parts of your life. Perhaps it will be the missing ingredient you need to round out your leadership toolkit.
What is Grace?
Please allow me to explain my thoughts about grace, then we will apply them to your situation.
1. I said grace is a mindset. It lives halfway between our head and our heart. We can over-think it, thus killing the spirit of it. Or, we can over-give it, thus defying the logic of what we might need to be doing with it. It is a delicate balance of thought, logic, emotion, and self-worth.
2. It does include a dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness not just for a moment, then later to be revoked, but permanent. Wiped clean, wiped off, wiped out.
3. In modern terms, grace gives us the ‘break’ in ‘give me a break‘. It cuts you some slack. Grace soothes the hurt. Having grace takes away the sting. It is the essence of ‘let it go’. My eldest son suggested ‘breathe’.
There is so much more to grace, but I will leave it at this for now. So with these ideas in mind, how should you and I apply grace? I have several recommendations.
Where Does Grace Need to Be Applied?
First and foremost, apply it to your own life. No one ever grades us harder than we grade ourselves. Grace allows you to add a curve to the grading. It gives you bonus points.
Giving yourself grace for the things that have not worked out helps to eliminate negative forces that can cripple your effort to move forward. When you look back in life, are you haunted by things not done? Do you lament decisions you made? Are there any serious regrets? Do you beat yourself up over relationships that went wrong or business deals that did not work out?
If you said YES to any of those, you, my friend, need some grace in your life. Decide when, where, and how you will give yourself some grace so that you can move forward without hurdles.
Next, if you manage people, what grace do you give them? There are boundaries and standards that must be applied at work, but your co-workers are human. You need to extend some grace.
It is a certainty that someone somewhere in your circle will fall short of a goal. Once the required administration of the situation is complete, do you offer grace? You can demonstrate grace by establishing a work environment where the employee feels the slate is truly wiped clean once any offense is addressed.
Sidebar – Yes, I know managers must deal with disciplinary matters that set up probationary periods. So there will be a cloud over the employee while that period is in force. While this is happening, will you treat all other aspects of the person’s work effort with grace?
Family is the other area in your life where grace is vitally needed. Starting with your spouse (if married), then your children. Have these people committed some offense for which you have yet to forgive? Have you thought about giving them grace?
Being a leader requires the ability to give grace.
Here are 5 key questions about grace.
When was the last time you visited the topic of grace?
Have you received any grace lately?
Do you owe yourself some grace?
Who do you know that needs you to give them grace?
Will you add grace to your leadership toolkit?
Think about your use of grace; at work, at home, and in your relationships. Are there ways you can share more grace?
Busy professionals face many similar challenges. Finding the elusive work-life balance is likely one of the biggest problems.
You spend your days leading teams, making decisions, solving problems, and guiding the big work effort, but how do you make the transition going home? I’m talking about the change that happens as you leave the office or facility and walk through the door at home.
At home, you face a spouse, children, the pets and many other combinations of personal living arrangements. They may not care what kind of day YOU had. They had their own issues.
How do you avoid the kick-the-dog entry or worse yet, the lashing out to your life partner or kids? How can that be avoided?
I’m the guy who loves simple, but elegant solutions. Remember I speak a lot about finding common sense ideas to improve your leadership effectiveness.
Are you ready? Here is the most basic, yet powerful set of tools I can recommend to solve this homeward bound transition. This is how you get ready to walk in the door at home and be a better YOU.
I’m going to give you 4 simple questions to ask yourself during the commute. Print them out, put them on a reminder note. Stick it on the visor of your car or on the flap of your briefcase or backpack.
Every day as you begin the trip home, ask yourself these 4 questions:
1.What did I learn today that’s going to be valuable?
2. What did I do well today?
3. What are the 3 greatest blessings in my life?
4. How can I be the best _________ (Mom, Dad, Spouse or friend) I’ve ever been, right here, tonight?
Make the Shift
To find and keep your sense of balance between work and life, you must allow yourself a shift. Few of us can make the change with a snap of our fingers.
While I coach on a whole-person basis, the reality is few of us live one perfectly harmonized existence between home and work. Somewhere there is a change we make. Sadly for some, the change may not be effective, so problems get created with the family.
They don’t deserve the tension and pressure you may be feeling. As a leader, you have to figure out your own way to decompress from the day.
Centering your attention on these 4 simple questions just might make a big difference that can save a marriage, or endear a family member.
I like to ask the question “do those you lead endure you or are you endearing?” Endure or endear? Wow. Think about that.
We make plans and have dreams, but then life happens. The day to day takes over, having a mysterious way of clouding those great visions we have for ourselves. Here’s a little bit of life coaching for you.
Compared to many of you who read my articles, I sit with a few extra trips around the sun. From that bonus advantage, I want to share some basic observations. For the really big things in life, I see three distinct phases or cycles. I call them WAGE, PAGE, and SAGE. Let’s explore each one.
In our early years, much of what we do is about the wage; finding a job to earn a paycheck so we can survive. Having a steady paycheck or not has its way of defining us. At least that is true very early in adulthood.
Those who are blessed with high paying jobs right out of school become the upper crust so to speak. Others who struggle with mediocre jobs do OK but live with a burning desire for more.
Then there are those who by chance or by choice do little to find meaningful work and become downtrodden; perhaps even welfare recipients.
A distinct class system develops. I don’t say any of this to start a socio-political debate but merely state the obvious. These conditions are something seen in most parts of the world. The wage we find defines us in many ways whether we like it or not.
In addition, much of our focus in this phase of life is about the wage. How much do I get? How far can it go? What are my essential expenses versus things I’d like to have? Choices about money have their own compounding effect. Smart choices make the money work to grow and prosper. It is said, “Don’t work for your money, make your money work for you.” Too few of us make the opportunity to live that kind of life.
After we settle into the Wage portion of life, we begin the next phase. We start writing chapters in our own book of life, turning pages day by day. Relationships, marriage, childbirth (wedded or not), deaths of friends and family, relocation, social affairs, community involvement, and on and on.
Occasionally you’ll hear people talk about defining moments; those events in life that cause a radical change in perspective or circumstance. These too are stories we write.
Each page tells a story about who and what we are becoming. In a perfect world, the story being written follows some grand plan we devised. Sadly, in most cases, even that is not true.
Rather, the collection of pages seems almost by chance; pure opportunity or failure as things come along. The busy-ness of life writes the story rather than us writing it with an intention or specific direction.
Turning the page can be a celebration of a need for new direction. Prior choices may have written chapters you want to walk away from. So turning the page is a new lease on life. Finding a new way. That, of course, is good when it becomes necessary to do so.
Lastly is the Sage phase. Most world cultures have the notion of honoring the elderly. Age brings wisdom, right?
On one hand, it should. Life experiences, like those above, allow the building of a wealth of experience that can be a valuable teaching. Elders who have properly processed all of those life experiences should have good insight to share.
If the knowledge is shared with generosity and grace, then “sage” wisdom is the outcome.
However, far too many old people are just pissed off. Their choices and the pages in their books don’t tell very good stories. At least not the story they wanted to have happened. These folks miss the mark for becoming the sage advisor they could be.
Rather than being sought out, they are avoided. Younger people don’t even want to be subject to the hostility that is present.
The Really Interesting Pivot
If you think about it, you have choices at each of these stages. For your wage, you can choose to go or stay in a situation that is less than fulfilling.
For page, you get to choose how short or long most chapters of life may be. Sure some events may be beyond your control, like the onset of some disease that causes permanent health issues, but for the most part, you decide how long a chapter might be and when you should turn the page.
With becoming sage, again you get to choose. Will you let your life experiences be inspiring messages to the next generation or will you become some difficult personality? You choose.
Ultimately, this journey we call life is a series of choices. Choose wisely, my friend!
Question: Which stage do you see for yourself right now? Leave a comment.
We all suffer the daily grind. Some days are better than others. For anyone in management or leadership, you need to take a pause to make some critical assessments. I like to call it recalibration. This is a key leadership quality. Let’s face it, the demands on your time and your life can get overwhelming. In today’s tumultuous market, we really never know from day to day what next may come.
You may need to ask yourself this big question:
Are you managing your world or is your world managing you?
In my consulting days, I was project manager of a very large engagement with over 400 consultants working for me. It was a coast to coast assignment with teams scattered across 7 job sites. I had nine different work streams running concurrently, with cross-over dependencies between teams.
The hours were long and the travel compounded the pressure. The client was a large national banking institution and the mission was to help the bank respond to a critical regulatory mandate. To say the least, the stakes were great. It could have been easy to get overwhelmed with the scope of the situation. I confess, at times I did feel consumed.
Fortunately, my many years of prior training, both military and civilian, had prepared me for just such a mission. I was a long time practitioner of the principle I am about to share
If you let these pressures mount without routinely asking yourselves some essential questions, you run the risk of spinning off into some other orbit that you never intended.
There is an old story of the frog in the pot. The story says that if you drop a frog in boiling water he immediately jumps out. But if you set him in cool water and slowly add the heat, he’ll boil to death. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be like the frog.
You have to gauge the temperature on a regular basis. Are you getting comfortable with the heat rising?
You have to pay attention to the circumstances around you. There needs to be the routine recalibration of your own role in the middle of the work demands going on around you.
React or Respond?
If a doctor prescribes medication and I have a reaction to it, that is NOT GOOD. Yet if I respond to it, I am going to get healthier.
Just like with the medicine, being reactive to the things in our world really will not help the situation. Of course, there are things that may happen that are totally unexpected. We have to deal with that.
At the core of this idea is the difference between being proactive or reactive. We should not let everything that happens become a topic of reaction. As a leader, you must be able to do some things to be proactive with what may come. Proactive people are better positioned to respond to the situation and manage their world. However, being reactive allows the events of the day to manage YOU.
So where do you stand? Are you more inclined to be in control of the things happening around you or have you started just reacting?
People Can Mess Things Up
You may think you have developed the best plan in the world to attack the next chapter of your life (ok, maybe just the next few hours). Then, what do you know? The very first person who walks into the office seems to blow the whole plan out of the water. What do you do?
Don’t react! Force yourself to pause and process the matter according to your plan. This is how you manage things rather than let things manage you.
Is it easy? Of course not! That’s why we so often feel overwhelmed at the end of the day.
Even if you are successful at maintaining the focus on your plan, it likely will take lots of energy and effort. But people who have been able to adopt a discipline for doing this find it becomes easier to do. If your outward aura is true to this inner control, the people around you will start to get the picture. Their demands will become less intrusive, plus they will learn they cannot get “the reaction” out you they used to be able to do.
LIFE IS A SELF-HELP JOURNEY
Maybe the self-help books are not as popular as they once were. The truth is, this journey we call life is full of self-help moments. Rather than waiting on others to pitch in or hoping that circumstances may change, you need to take control of your own destiny.
[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Personal and professional growth only happens when you choose to make it happen.[/shareable]
At each and every step of the way, keep asking yourself if you are managing your world or does your world manage you? Take the time to recalibrate. Get back on plan.
[reminder]When was the last time you were able to stand back and realize your world was managing you? How did you regain control?[/reminder]
Facing life each day, we all make this mistake. We spend time on the wrong stuff. Priorities get mixed up. Big things get forgotten or set aside while little things get all our attention; both emotional and physical. We major on the minors and minor on the majors.
Why do we do this? Mainly because the little things seem easier to knock out. We fool ourselves into thinking “I’ll spend a minute finishing this or that, then I’ll get to the big thing.” Pretty soon the day is gone and none of the big stuff gets accomplished.
So we push it off for tomorrow. We wake up and do it all over again. The next thing we know, a major deadline has gotten missed.
How to fix it
I’m reminded by Chuck Swindoll, longtime spiritual guide and virtual mentor of mine, there are three ways to avoid majoring on the minors. We have to review, reject, and renew. Let’s unpack the meaning.
We must be able to review what we are choosing to do. A review has to happen frequently. As you set priorities, the only way to keep them in sight is to review where you are.
Our brains have an amazing capacity to do this in our subconsciousness. Have you ever been driving and suddenly realized you’ve spent the last 10 minutes and have no sense of driving at all? Why? Because we set our minds on a destination with a proven way to get there. Our brains take over and help us maneuver the vehicle without thinking about it.
While I don’t recommend driving this way routinely, you can apply the same truth to achieving goals. If you set your mind to them daily, your brain will tune in to a frequency that gets you there.
I am a big fan of the decision box made famous by Dwight Eisenhower (see below). It has four quarters with a scale for urgent versus important. Put your to-do items into one of the quadrants. Then you’ll get a better picture of what you need to be doing.
Reject the clutter. Keep your head clear of unnecessary noise and distraction. Reject the temptations to do the piddly little things before more meaningful goals have been accomplished.
I love the day timer apps and books that allow you to set the right goals as priorities, then help you keep them in proper focus.
Further, if you have to, unplug for brief periods throughout the day. Turn off email, Facebook, and other electronics that have a temptation to draw you in. Intentionally set up some productivity windows for full focus on the big rocks.
Keep your mind fresh. Take breaks. Get up and walk around to clear your head and give you the power to reconnect.
Watch out though for finding something else to do. Avoid the urge to multi-task.
Find new and inspiring articles, books, and other content to consume rather than junk mail. Keep yourself stocked with fresh ideas and new ways to look at things.
Using these three key ways to set your sights on the right priorities will help you major on the majors. Cheers to better productivity!
[reminder]What are you doing to become more productive?[/reminder]