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?

Knowledge vs. Experience

The internet provides us with vasts amounts of information, but does it help us truly understand? Information overload doesn’t result in more wisdom. If anything, the opposite occurs – information without the proper context and interpretation only muddles our understanding.

There’s a difference between knowledge and experience. Obtaining knowledge requires some sensory input: reading, watching, listening, and touching. In contrast, experience comes with time, exposure, and practice.

For example, we may recognize a written language just by looking at the characters, but we will not understand it unless we take time to study it and put it to use.

We may also know something intellectually, but our intuitive thoughts, feelings, and emotions can cloud our understanding and shortchange our experience.

Chinese philosopher Confucius sums it up well: “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”

Illustration: Hugh MacLeod / Gapingvoid

Personality

Human behavior can prove to be a mystery which is one of many reasons that personality assessments are becoming increasingly commonplace. If you’ve ever taken one, you may have been surprised by some of its findings. While these instruments are helpful, they are not a perfect science.

Issues with personality testing arise when companies use them to

👎 Deny employment.

👎 Deny promotions.

👎 Label others as one thing or another.

👎 Excuse unbecoming behavior.

👎 Measure the skill set of others.

Today’s workforce is experiencing a shift in identities. Not only is it one of the most diverse in our nation’s history, but it is also causing us to rethink the effectiveness of different types of assessments as it relates to unconscious bias, a multi-generational workforce, and new social norms.

The results of an assessment should not overpower proven results, verified references, and years of successful experience. Assessments provide us useful information, not make us bad people. Someone with an outgoing personality doesn’t mean they’re going to be best suited in sales. An introvert may be just as successful because they’re generally more inclined to listen – which is a critical trait in sales.

It’s worth noting that assessments have their place in organizational management. They offer a framework for helping us understand more about others, how we approach certain situations, and our preferred management style.

For example, the DISC model represents:

➩ Dominance (Red) – How you respond to problems and challenges.

➩ Influence (Yellow) – How you influence others to your point of view.

➩ Steadiness (Green) – How you respond to the pace of the environment.

➩ Compliance (Blue) – How you respond to rules and procedures set by others.


How could you benefit from better understanding your behavioral preference and its impact on others?

Ambition

Ambition is a mighty quality that motivates us to reach beyond what is considered possible. Whether we recognize it or not, many people are quietly ambitious. Some have internal ambition where they strive for personal success (e.g., entrepreneurship), and others are externally focused, where they strive for collective success (e.g., organizational growth).

While ambition has its ugly side, it is an essential ingredient for success. To better understand the nature of your desire, ask yourself:

1. Purpose. What is the motivation behind what you desire to achieve? E.g., Money, power, honor, helping others)

2. Vision. What do you aspire to achieve within a reasonable time frame?

3. Metrics. How will you measure how you are progressing towards your vision?

4. Priorities. What actions will you take in pursuit of your vision?

5. Promise. How will you hold yourself accountable?

6. Values. What guiding principles dictate how you accomplish your vision in good times and bad?

7. Behaviors. How will you act day-to-day and in the long-term to implement your vision and live up to your values?

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Where you are today is a direct result of a decision you have or have not made.

💡 Don’t be an “if” thinker. Be a “how” thinker.

💡 Honesty provides others freedom of choice.

💡 Is the source of the problem internal or external?

💡 How you see yourself is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

💡 Naysayers are good at what they do and never cease at their work.

💡 Wanting to make everyone happy is a setup for disappointment.

💡 There is no timeline as to when you should have everything figured out in life.

💡 You don’t need a prestigious title to perform a significant role.

💡 Where there is ignorance, society does not advance.

Gratitude

A few weeks back, I was in line at a fast-food restaurant. When I reached the drive-thru window, the cashier informed me that my order was paid for by the passenger ahead of me. When I looked up to give thanks, the driver had already pulled off.

Small gestures have long-term impacts, and we often take these acts of kindness for granted.

Many of us are familiar with the term pay it forward. So much of life is about giving, receiving, and repaying. It could be something as simple as holding the door open for another. There have been occasions when I have done so, and the individuals failed to visually or verbally acknowledge it. These rare instances don’t deter me from living a life of gratitude. It just reveals that some people are not comfortable with openly expressing it for one reason or another. Paying it forward does not come with conditions.

Just imagine a world without gratitude. There would be no meaningful relationships, medical science, technological advancements, nature’s architecture, or a plethora of other luxuries we experience.

Human happiness is dependent on gratitude. It enables us to receive and motivates us to return the kindness. Challenge yourself to pay it forward and watch how your life unfolds.

Life Lessons Continued

Part 2 of 2: Practical lessons that stand the test of time. What lessons can you add to the list?

16. The more you know, the less you fear.

17. Don’t let weeds grow around your dreams.

18. Think twice before deciding not to charge for your work. People often have less value for something given to them for free.

19. Remember that ignorance is expensive.

20. When declaring your rights, don’t forget your responsibilities.

21. Everyone you meet wears an invisible sign that reads “see me” and “hear me.”

22. Life’s changes rarely give warning.

23. Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what your heart desires.

24. Every age brings new opportunities.

25. Never underestimate the influence of the people you have allowed in your life.

26. Stand out from the crowd.

27. Don’t expect different results from the same behavior.

28. Question your prejudices.

29. See detours as an opportunity to experience new things.

30. Don’t live with the brakes engaged.


Adapted from Life’s Little Instruction Book

Life Lessons

With so many shifts happening throughout the world, there are some things that withstand the test of time: Life’s Lessons. What lessons can you add to the list? Part 1 of 2.

1. Choose work that is in harmony with your values.
2. Commit yourself to constant self-improvement.
3. Don’t waste time grieving over past mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
4. Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health, and love.
5. Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation.
6. Seek opportunity, not security. A boat in a harbor is safe, but in time, it’s bottom will rotten out.
7. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
8. Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.
9. Start meetings on time regardless of who’s missing.
10. Improve your performance by improving your attitude.
11. Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.
12. Do not expect others to listen to your advice and ignore your example
13. Do the right thing, regardless of what others think.
14. Give as much attention to what is positive in your life as you do the challenges.
15. Don’t dismiss a good idea simply because you don’t like the source.


Adapted from Life’s Little Instruction Book

Delegation Gone Wrong

There is an assumption that delegating is simply turning something over to someone else and suddenly being free from that responsibility. Delegation is not about dumping tasks on others. There is an art to it. Here are nine delegation mindsets to avoid.

1. Being too possessive.

“This is my baby” “I’m the most qualified person for this task” and “He/She doesn’t take it as seriously as I do.”, are some of the countless arguments for avoiding delegation. For managers, this attitude is especially harmful as they get trapped in their day-to-day business, losing time for strategic thinking or other issues. Transferring relevant tasks saves time and motivates teams to deliver excellent work.

Delegating is sometimes letting go of the idea of perfection. The thought that when you do it yourself, it will be better quality and get delivered faster, does not help your team grow.

2. Overwhelming people.

Take care not to delegate tasks that employees are over- or under-qualified to do. Challenging employees is motivating, but projects that overwhelm them make little sense. On the other hand, it’s okay to assign a task to someone overqualified from time to time. However, if it happens too often, it will be demotivating. Consider delegating to the person who’ll provide the best result or who wants to develop skills for the future. If you’re unsure who best meets these criteria, ask.

Dare to delegate the tasks employee likes to do. The return on learning is more rewarding when employees discover for themselves what they’re good at, instead of you telling them upfront. You might be surprised to uncover some hidden talents in your team.

3. Not officially responsible.

Once you’ve given someone responsibility or authority for a new project, everyone else should be made aware. Only then can employees act with determination. Letting them know they have your support, provides them the confidence to perform the task.

4. Unclear definition of a project.

When employees don’t know the objective or the framework of the assignment, it will be difficult for them to be efficient. Provide as much information as possible and agree on a schedule. Not all employees will tell you when there is a lack of clarity, so it may be helpful to ask what their next steps will be. Never send a task by email, post-it note, etc.

Delegating means setting clear goals and granting a flexible path to achieve those goals.

5. Constant meddling.

It can be challenging relinquishing control of a task. Refrain from micro-managing and expecting the job to be completed in the same manner you would do it. Otherwise, it shows a lack of trust and the ability to achieve good results.

6. Lack of positive control.

Although employees should work autonomously, the final responsibility is yours. Establish milestones for the project to ensure they’re advancing with the assignment and offer help to remove any obstacles.

A positive control is only possible with a clear briefing, set expectations, and SMART goals.

7. Passing on unpleasant activities.

Don’t fall into the trap of only passing on unpleasant tasks. Doing so gives the impression that you want to avoid grunt work. As a result, employees will feel misused because the transfer of small jobs implies that “Your working time is less valuable than mine.”

8. Waiting until the last minute.

The “I can do it myself” attitude can backfire when closing in on a deadline. Now you need help and risk abusing someone else’s time. When we rush through a task, we risk the quality of the finished product. Last-minute delegation creates frustration and is demotivating. Delegating tasks in advance allows employees to prepare.

9. Not giving feedback.

Don’t forget to give honest feedback when the task is complete. Feedback ensures that employees benefit and can develop skills in the future. Saying thank you also shows that you appreciate their commitment and work. These kinds of gestures make it more likely that they will want to work with you in the future.

Attitude

1. Good values attract good people. Who you are is what you attract. If you want to attract better, do better.

2. Don’t lead by fear. It’s better to be respected than feared. Inspire others to become the best version of themselves. Show tough love when needed.

3. Call yourself a teacher. Actions speak louder than words. Invest your time and energy in helping others reach their full potential.

4. Emotion is your enemy. Uncontrollable emotions hold you captive and weaken your effectiveness.

5. It takes ten hands to make a basket. We are not put on this earth to only serve ourselves.

6. Little things make big things happen. Details matter. Have a vision, set a path.

7. Make each day your masterpiece. Be present, and give your best daily.

8. The carrot is mightier than the stick. Incentives and praise are more powerful than fear and punishment.

9. Make greatness attainable by all. Your legacy lives in the success of your followers.

10. Seek significant change. Dream big. Set your goals high. Never settle for the status quo.

11. Don’t look at the scoreboard. Instant gratification leads to short-term results. Keep your eye on the end-game.

12. Adversity is your asset. There are many opportunities in failure. Resist the temptation to blame.

Source: John Wooden

Blaming Others

You cannot run away from yourself, so blaming others is worthless. You are responsible for your thoughts and actions, as well as what unfolds before you. As long as you blame others, you will continue making the same mistakes.

It is not uncommon for us to shift the blame to someone else to avoid feelings of guilt. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the underlying issue. When you encounter trouble, take inventory of your attitude and behavior and see if that could be the source of the problem.

Check Your Attitude

A quick temper spreads fast and can cause you to take unimportant events too seriously.

For example, road rage, someone racing to be first in line, or encountering disgruntled people throughout your day.

Although these types of situations can make your blood pressure rise, you must remember that your inner attitude doesn’t have to reflect your outward circumstance.

We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our attitude towards it.

It’s the attitude you choose that shapes your personality.