Food For Thought Friday

💡 Our greatest enemy can be our thinking.

💡 You’re only as good as your worse day.

💡 Don’t look for excuses not to be kind.

💡 The busiest people often make the worst decisions.

💡 Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility.

💡 The discipline to listen when you feel like talking is underrated.

💡 Are you investing time with the right people and priorities?

💡 Expertise is not a weapon to wield. It’s a resource to share.

💡 A shift in mentality is a shift in life.

💡 Thinking better requires carving out time to think.

Image: Merrimack Valley Magazine

Accountability

Imagine a world with no accountability.

😱 That’s a pretty scary thought!

In a business environment, how do we create the conditions for holding our team members accountable?

✔ Clear Communication – How many times have we misinterpreted the meaning of what someone said and vice versa? Asking open-ended questions, listening actively, and ensuring agreement on the topic, helps reduce risk and strengthens the relationship with team members.

✔ Consequences – One size does not fit all. Take the time to understand the drivers and motivators of each team member. Establish clear expectations in writing to avoid reactive behavior. E.g., Cut costs by (%) in the marketing department by (date). Identify checkpoints to monitor progress and offer support as needed.

✔ Focus on Facts and Observable Behavior – Providing feedback is an intricate process. E.g., During today’s meeting, I observed in your presentation that your sales calculations were off, and you were unable to answer questions on one of the slides. As a result, we will have to postpone making a final decision until next week. What can you do to ensure we have the correct information?

What are some ways you hold other’s accountable?

Unintended Consequences

As we advance in life, leadership, and innovation, we encounter unintended consequences.

Consider the advent of social media. It enables us to connect with others at rapid speed, market to larger audiences, and stay abreast of users’ activity.

❌ Unintended Consequences: Increase in mental health issues, less meaningful engagement, and the inability to develop deeper connections.

Similarly, digital technology has made information more accessible.

❌ Unintended Consequences: Rampant misinformation, unequal access, limited governance, and increased cyber attacks.

Now, imagine being a new leader in an organization confronted with a global pandemic. Not only is there pressure to perform in the new role, but there is also pressure to respond to the pandemic’s impact.

What happens if the leader makes hasty decisions without listening to the opinions of experts, exercise good critical judgment, and analyze the long-term impact on the organization?

❌ Unintended Consequences: Loss of top performers, lack of structure, low employee morale, and unhappy clients.

When unintended consequences are favorable to the organization, everyone wins. When the consequences are unfavorable, they can have far-reaching ramifications. As leaders, we have to act prudently.

Dreams Unfulfilled

We have all spent time with people who talk about the amazing things they plan to do.

Yet, it never seems to come to fruition.

It is not because their heart isn’t in the right place, or their sole intent is to deceive you.

More often, they are letting themselves down.

Many dreams go unfulfilled because we are waiting for the ideal conditions before taking action.

If we wait until we think we are sure of the outcome, we won’t accomplish much.

Rather than seek to change too much at once, appreciate the mini victories along the way.

Buildings are built brick by brick, books are written word by word, and pennies add up.

Taking action is the most critical step toward success.

Otherwise, it may be another amazing story about the things that never happened.

Negative, Positive, Facts

Many people have a hard time seeing things from another perspective.

It’s also human nature to see the negative before we see the positive.

For those who see the positive first, congratulations!

If only it stopped there.

Most things in life have three sides: An upside (positive side), a downside (negative side), and the facts.

We can correlate this to the phrase “There are three sides to a story.” My side. Your side. The Truth.

Whether you start on the negative side or positive side of the spectrum, it would be wise to use the facts as a go-between.

There are many uncertainties in life. The goal is to accept things as they are at the moment.

Acceptance does not equate to weakness, conformity, or mediocrity. It is an opportunity to exercise critical thinking to identify the three sides of a situation and how to best address it.

We all have a choice of how we respond to events in our lives. For example, if someone pays you a compliment, you can choose whether to be flattered or offended. The individual’s intent introduces the third side of the scenario.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Reputations are fragile. One incident of bad behavior lingers indefinitely.

💡 Chasing after the perfect solution leads to paralysis.

💡 Compliment and complement people more.

💡 Our greatest challenge is the mindset of people.

💡 Discipline is more reliable than motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting.

💡 We’re all biased to our own personal history.

💡 Imagine what would happen if we focused on what we like vs. what we don’t like.

💡 What is the cost of not doing something right?

💡 When you show up, bring all of you. Be exceptional.

💡 Happiness is an inside job.

Who’s Watching You?

How does it feel to be observed regularly?

Each swipe of our plastic credit/debit card.

Every request to our voice command speaker.

Our internet/social media behavior.

Cell phone GPS tracking and access to our data.

Home security cameras.

Malicious tracking for the sole purpose of defrauding us.

And the list goes on.

It’s quite interesting that leaders forget that their team members are tracking them too.

They’re tracking whether they live up to the mission, vision, values of the organization.

Whether they exhibit the behaviors they command of the team.

Whether they say what they mean and mean what they say.

And the list goes on.

Studies have shown that people tend to improve their behavior when they know that they are being watched.

Perhaps.

What would you stand for if you knew no one was watching or judging you?

If Only I Had A Clone

Have you ever thought about cloning yourself?

As a business owner or leader within an organization, it’s something to be considered.

Cloning yourself is not suggesting you find a replica of you.

It means developing a pipeline of new leaders with complementary skills.

If something unexpected happened to you, would your operation run efficiently or become chaotic?

Think about it, when a team’s starter player gets hurt, players are groomed to step in at a moment’s notice.

The coach and fans expect a similar level of performance from the player coming off the bench.

All players on the team are scouted, hired, trained, and fully prepared to move into action.

The goal should be the same for leaders. Your talent should be well-equipped to lead in your absence.

If sustainable systems are not in place and talent is not developed, you create a bottleneck.

Bottlenecks hinder growth.

Think long-term.

Just like the coach and its team, leadership bench strength is critical for adapting to challenges and opportunities presented at any given moment.

It All Starts With You

I took this picture approximately eight years ago in Los Angeles, CA.

The caption “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” immediately got my attention.

While this sign is an advertisement for a musical, it is also something we’re all familiar with: Our innate desire to change others.

Since taking this picture, I’ve changed States, mates, and professions.

Along with these changes came lessons learned and opportunities gained.

More importantly, I acknowledge that I am a common denominator.

Maybe we wouldn’t have to work so hard trying to change others if we first change ourselves.

Maybe we should let go of our version of who we think others should be.

Have you ever noticed how people complain about the weather, yet, they have no control over it?

Have you ever witnessed someone having a hard time letting go of the past when there is no way to recover it?

Do you realize that we cannot change the fact that change is inevitable?

Can you meaningfully help others if you can’t help yourself?

Change starts with you.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” ~ Gandhi

Success

One of my favorite quotes is: “All that we are is a result of all that we have thought, the mind is everything, what we think, we become.” ~ Buddha.

Mindsets play a significant role in how we navigate life. While we are encouraged not to compare ourselves to others, there are characteristics that successful people exhibit that can be to our benefit.

Self-Motivation – Successful people are emotionally connected and determined to bring their vision to life. They intuitively adapt to difficult situations and don’t wait around for supervisory instruction. They are excited about their goals and driven to achieve them.

Accountability – Successful people don’t make excuses for bad decisions. They focus less on people’s opinions and more on finding solutions. They respect the truth vs. sugarcoating.

Cognitive Ability – Successful people break problems down to extract the critical components. This enhances their ability for future planning, resource allocation, and problem-solving.

Emotionally Neutral – Successful people remain unaffected by surface-level emotions directed at them. They are not easily derailed by criticism, nor seek validation or affirmation from others.

Self-Belief – Successful people develop skills needed and maintain a mindset that reinforces achievement at every level.

Adapted from: Barrett Riddleberger

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Good listeners ask good questions.

💡 The root of all desire is to be and to belong.

💡 If you’re not seeking approval, they have no power.

💡 The right solution is expensive. The wrong solution costs a fortune.

💡 What you see depends on your perspective.

💡 Grow through what you don’t know and outgrow what no longer fits you.

💡 You don’t need more time, you need more focus.

💡 Most people never feel successful enough.

💡 Cultivate a reputation for being dependable.

💡 Why do you enjoy what you enjoy?

Decisions

Have you ever become exhausted from watching people and listening to their opinions? That’s where critical thinking comes into play. There is a lot to be learned from others. The key differentiator is making informed decisions. We naturally gravitate to the beliefs that are similar to ours. We will even go out of our way to support these beliefs.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. In doing so, there are questions it would be wise to take into consideration.

𝟏. What am I supporting today, to build a better tomorrow?
𝟐. Am I doing what’s right in the grander scheme of things?
𝟑. In what ways does this information create value?
𝟒. Is this helping me make a difference? And, for whom does this make a difference?
𝟓. How does this inspire others to do more?
𝟔. Do I care? In what way?
𝟕. What would the world look like if there were identical representations of me?
𝟖. How would I feel on the receiving end?
𝟗. Am I holding myself up to the same standards that I hold others accountable?
𝟏𝟎. Do I show empathy and compassion for others that are not like me?

When all else fails, ask yourself:

🌟 What skeletons do I have in my closet that would contradict all that I advocate for and preach?

Blind Spots

What do blind spots cost you?

From a driving perspective, it can cost you an accident and higher insurance rates.

From a leadership perspective, it can cost you a career and put your organization at risk.

Everyone has blind spots, no matter how self-aware we think we are. Think about it. When we ask others to describe us, it tends to lean more towards the positive (e.g., empathetic, resourceful, adaptable, etc.).

What do we often do with the unsolicited negative descriptions of us (e.g., arrogant, selfish, bossy, etc.)? We chalk it up to the messenger being out of their mind.

If different individuals use the same unfavorable words to describe you, there’s a high probability it is a blind spot.

We often view ourselves differently than others. Imagine my surprise after completing a 360 Assessment. Areas I wished to improve were ranked as strengths by others. Whereas, areas I felt more comfortable with revealed that some tweaking could be to my benefit.

Some leaders take for granted that being in business for a significant period, means they are doing everything right. When in reality, they are often one disruption away from closing their doors.

Blind spot leadership ultimately costs team performance, customers, and future growth.

Graph: Tech in Common

Mindset

Imagine riding down the highway knowingly exceeding the speed limit, and out of nowhere, a cop signals you to pull over. Do you immediately get upset? Do you offer up an excuse? Or, do you accept full responsibility for the speeding ticket the cop later hands you?

Now, let’s say the reason you were putting the pedal to the metal is that you were rushing to be on time for a meeting. You arrive at the meeting late, and human nature wants to provide a reason why. Depending on the audience, you may blame it on getting a ticket en route, or if you choose not to divulge your business, you may blame it on the traffic. Either way, the blame continues.

Blaming people or circumstances is easy. Taking responsibility, not so much. There is a saying that when you point the finger at others, three fingers point back at you.

When unfortunate events happen to you, how do you react? How does your mindset play into it?

A passive mindset is an assumption that life happens to you, and you’re not responsible.

An active mindset means you take ownership and are responsible for the things you control.

Adapted from FS (Farnam Street)

Out On A Limb

One of my Facebook connections posted a photo of Alex Honnold standing on the ‘Thank God Ledge’ in Yosemite National Park. It reminded me of when I belly-crawled my way through a section of the Sedona Mountains, knowing that one false move wouldn’t end well for anyone. As I inched my way forward, I silently prayed that everyone in my group stayed in sync and, I refused to look down.

Going out on a limb for someone or something can be a terrifying feat. And as leaders, we are tasked with taking our team, the organization, and ourselves to new heights. Rarely, do our team want to leave the comforts of what they’ve come to know, to venture into uncertain territory that is risky or scary.

It takes courage to go out on a limb and can be paralyzing to even the best leaders. Moreover, as a leader, we often have to go first. But what is the risk if we don’t? If we don’t grow or transform our business, we fail. This pandemic has proven that.

A motivating factor in the workplace is a sense of accomplishment. And that’s what I felt once I made it to the top of the mountain. Taking a chance on something new can lead to great rewards. Calculated risks often overshadow the uneasiness we may feel on the road to meaningful change.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 What size is your leadership (S, M, L, XL, or One Size Fits All)?

💡 Think critically about what you see, hear, and witness.

💡 Who and what do you gravitate to? Why?

💡 Character is revealed when pressure is applied.

💡 Many imagine. Few execute.

💡 What you “don’t want” and “don’t like” is not a meaningful contribution.

💡 Gratitude is an attitude and a powerful influence over behavior.

💡 Who can tell your story better than you?

💡 Your response defines who you really are in other people’s eyes.

💡 Consistency beats intensity.

My Mission Is…

Throughout my career, I have helped many entrepreneurs fine-tune their business plans. I am also in the process of developing my own. As we all know, it is common practice for organizations to develop mission statements to provide employees a clear purpose.

If you take an honest assessment of your mission statement, does it unify, direct, and inspire employees to spend a significant part of their day fighting for your cause? As a leader, do you embody the mission?

Mission statements are more than just a public relations exercise.

Consider this one: “The Company’s primary objective is to maximize long-term stockholder value while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards.”

Shouldn’t all organizations strive for this? Does this mission statement motivate people to get out of their bed, sacrifice wages at times, and help them understand their role in achieving a collective goal?

When the mission, vision, and values of the organization fail to align with an employee’s value system, conflict arises.

While organizations are adapting to the economic challenge of a lifetime, now is the time to reevaluate your mission statements with renewed relevance.

Graphic: Nonprofit Hub

Perception or Reality

When we hear statements like:

“Why is this happening to me?”
“This isn’t fair.”
“This can’t be true.”
“It shouldn’t be this way.”
“Story of my life.”

Someone’s perception or expectation is not meeting reality. What are your options at that moment? As the late Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

We all see reality through a personal lens shaped by our beliefs, culture, religion, experiences, etc. And our perception of reality often dictates our behavior. When we refuse to allow any flexibility in our attitude, we close our minds to possibility and sometimes the truth. Self-defeating statements don’t change the situation. It only makes the experience more painful.

Old Dog, New Tricks

A year ago, I welcomed a four-year-old (32 in human years) untrained Yorkshire Terrier into our family. It has not been the smoothest transition, but we have made great strides. There is an adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that doesn’t hold up well if the old dog wants to learn.

Growth is possible for everyone, no matter their age. We cannot define people by their past, and their history is not always a predictor of their future. We must let go of unrealistic expectations, which isn’t easy to do. I have gone from my home smelling like potpourri throughout, to the smell of dog urine in unexpected places. Yet, I am appreciative of the continued progress our Yorkie makes with consistent training.

Leadership is about enabling the full potential in others regardless the age or history. In this era of longevity, making assumptions about the learning capabilities of a multi-generational workforce is a mistake. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Be realistic that it may take a little longer than a young dog. But, once that old dog learns, it’s there for the long-term.

Uncertainty

I, like many others, have had to regroup from the changes that 2020 has brought about. Finding ways to balance the unpredictability of my career and the “new normal” called chaos is not for the faint of heart. Despite the challenges, I realize that inaction is a waste of time and will get you nowhere fast.

When we overanalyze and fight for never-changing security, we stop experiencing the full array of choices life has to offer during our journey. Many of us have an obsessive desire to know what is happening now and what tomorrow will bring. Wondering what the future holds is a tough question at any age. Instead of trying to figure it all out, get comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty.

There is an ancient Japanese Philosophy called Wabi-Sabi. It is a mindset that embraces the unpredictability of life, and it teaches us to celebrate the way things are instead of how it should be.

Life is unpredictable. And that’s okay. Embrace it. When nothing is certain, everything is possible! Our plans for tomorrow, next month, or next year may not unfold as we expect. But it is imperative to take action and keep moving forward.

Illustration: The Ready

Food For Thought Friday

💡 The only thing we can count on is what we do today.

💡 If you think there is only one way to do something, you lose.

💡 Your greatest accomplishment may be helping people accomplish great things.

💡 Your greatest failure may be preventing others from achieving greatness.

💡 Your inner attitude does not have to reflect your outward circumstance.

💡 Patience is the hardest when we need it the most.

💡 The most extraordinary experience you will ever have involves you.

💡 Leadership is a way of being, not just something we do.

💡 You cannot learn from a mistake you do not acknowledge making.

💡 What would you do in a world with no constraints?

Leader or Follower

A common misconception is that you are either a leader or a follower. The reality is that we all lead in some way (influence) and we all follow something or someone (religion, etc.).

Operationally, you will always have someone to report to, no matter where you are in the food chain. Corporate culture is pretty straightforward: entry-level employees reports to a supervisor, supervisors reports to a manager, managers reports to an executive, executives reports to a senior executive, and the CEO reports to the board or other key stakeholders.

In our effort to master the skills of leadership, we tend to lose sight that there is more to the leadership equation. For leaders to lead, they need exceptional talent and the ability to attract followers. They also need to master the art of humbly following others.

Being a good follower teaches us how to value the contributions others make, as well as develop our emotional intelligence. It doesn’t matter how many followers we have. We still share the same vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and struggles as other human beings.

Many leaders could accomplish more if they became aware of their need for personal growth and development for themselves and others. “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Aristotle