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

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

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

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.

Leadership 101

I’ve spent many years in leadership roles and have had the honor of working with other leaders to enhance their effectiveness. Throughout this journey, a common theme has emerged. Leaders still struggle with basic principles.

1. Leadership is about empowering, encouraging, delegating, and accountability. If we do the work ourselves, there’s no need for others.

2. Human capital is our greatest asset. Disengaged employees impact our bottom line and chase our customers away. There are three checkpoints people must have to perform at their best: meaning, willingness, and ability.

3. Praise is often limited or misaligned. Everyone needs to feel valued and appreciated. Giving praise should be immediate, specific, genuine, and ongoing.

4. Budgeting time is a challenging feat. With more people working remotely, productivity management is more important than time management. Identify the behaviors that lead to productivity.

5. Lead by example. How are others referencing and reflecting you? Exemplary leadership is how values are born and behaviors formed.

6. Never take your role for granted. Understand your purpose. Believe in your mission. Become a better leader. Help others reach their full potential.

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

Food For Thought Friday

💡 There is always a backstory. Seek to understand it.

💡 Speaking the truth doesn’t mean saying the worse.

💡 The depth of the problem determines the value of the solution.

💡 Everything you learn will be accepted or dismissed based on your beliefs.

💡 You interpret yourself by your intentions. Others interpret you by your actions.

💡 Listen, and you will know what to ask.

💡 People close to you know you better than you think

💡 Every problem you have had in life involves the same person – you. Start there.

💡 Behind mediocrity is a critical conversation someone didn’t have.

💡 If everything were effortless, you would not learn anything. Celebrate the effort.

Exaggerated Beliefs

Throughout our lives, we are encouraged to love ourselves, to understand our worth, to be more confident, etc. At what point does this turn into overestimating our capabilities in certain areas? 

Many people would describe themselves as above average in intelligence, driving, and a variety of other skills. This level of confidence could be beneficial when we need a boost to get through our day. But, what and who, are we using as our measuring stick to come up with these exaggerated beliefs? It can be challenging judging our competence when there is not a set standard or definition.

Imagine going on a job interview. Most likely, you’re going to say you have what it takes to get the job done. But, are you sure? Your level of performance will eventually be revealed.

Many people often believe that they are better at their jobs than their colleagues. Not only can this be annoying, but it can lead to disastrous results.

The opposite occurs for those with extensive knowledge. They assume that everyone else is knowledgeable too, and tend to underestimate their abilities.

We can compensate our self-perceptions by asking others for advice and constructive feedback, as well as training and educating ourselves in the areas where there are deficiencies.

Effective Feedback

Effective feedback is a powerful tool. Think of the coach that pulls a player to the sidelines to give real-time feedback. The coach’s objective is to improve performance. The same goes for our team. Here are some ways to help your team welcome the feedback.

1. Ask permission. It makes a huge difference. E.g., “Can I share an observation with you?” Also, be mindful of when and where the feedback occurs.

2. Be specific. Use directly observed quotes and behaviors. E.g., “During our team meeting, you singled out Bob for not delivering the project on time. It was clear you were upset by the tone of your voice and body language. I recall you saying we can lose this account because you missed the deadline.”

3. Explain the impact. E.g., “When you get stressed, you show your frustration and talk angrily to the team. It can be demotivating.”

4. Wait and listen. What is the reaction? Be open-minded. There may be more to the story.

5. Suggest an alternative. Share a concrete behavior that could have a better impact. E.g., “Perhaps in this situation, you can take Bob aside and ask what happened, and how you can best support him and the team to prevent this from occurring in the future. We all make mistakes. The goal is to learn and grow from them.”

8 Stages of Change

Change is inevitable. So is the resistance to it. Unless of course, you hit the lottery for millions of dollars – then it is welcomed with outstretched arms, and maybe a “hallelujah” or two. Wouldn’t it be great if employees accepted organizational change as readily? 

To quickly demonstrate change, cross your arms. Now cross your arms again, this time changing your arms in the opposite position. How does it feel? Most likely, uncomfortable. If you trained yourself to cross your arms opposite of what you are accustomed to, you could condition yourself to make a permanent change. Consider what happened when COVID-19 appeared. People and organizations across the globe had to adapt to change quickly.

Change is a constant at every organization. Unfortunately, you rarely hear all employees exclaiming that they’re excited to be a part of it. Now imagine during your monthly meeting, Project Manager Chris, energetically presents a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Chris explains the many benefits of the new system to only encounter apprehension.

  • Why do we need this new software?
  • The current system works just fine.
  • Impossible! Whose idea was this?

The Eight Stages of Change

Many managers can probably relate to this experience. To grasp why people are generally resistant to change, let us look at how it is handled based on its origin.

  •  As initiators of change, we are proactive in introducing change.
  • As discoverers of change, we are reactive to changes presented to us. 

In this scenario, the discoverers are reacting to a change initiated by Chris. As they adapt, they’ll be going through eight different stages of change:

  1. Denial: This cannot be possible.
  2. Anger: This will not work out.
  3. Nostalgia: Everything will be different.
  4. Fear: What will it be like in the future?
  5. Negotiation: What advantages are there? How can we adapt?
  6. Decision: I can live with it.
  7. Readjustment: I would do it this way.
  8. Commitment: It works well. I like it.

Please note that change management is subjective. Not everyone spends an equal amount of time in each stage, nor does it always happen in the same order.

Given that, managers need to understand the different stages of the change curve to help their teams navigate the various stages efficiently.

The Challenges of Managing Change Well

A manager’s success depends on the success of his/her team. Change management should offer benefits for everyone involved as well as the organization as a whole. As a manager, here’s how to lead a team through change.

  • Understand that each stage is part of the natural process of change acceptance and assimilation.
  • Let each team member advance through the different stages at his/her own pace and in his/her way.
  • Personalize your approach and adapt your behavior according to the different stages your team members are experiencing. Do not expect commitment from a team member who is still in the denial stage.
  • Avoid shortcuts. Do not encourage your team members to skip a stage. Someone who’s rushed through stages in the change process may find it more challenging to reach or complete the decision stage, and may ultimately revert a step (or more).

This last point is crucial because people are not always transparent about how they feel. We may assume that someone is in the commitment stage when he/she may still be in the fear or nostalgia stage. What may seem like a shortcut, in the beginning, can be costly in the long run.

Managing Change Well in the Decision Stage

The manager’s behavior during the decision stage is vital to managing change well. The decision stage is where he/she must balance his/her role as a participative manager and an executive manager.

When balancing these management styles, managers should ask themselves:

What risks are there for the team (and the company) if I’m not sufficiently assertive in the decision stage?

  • What stage will my team member revert to if I don’t manage the change process well?
  • What can I request from him/her?
  • Who makes the final decision?
  • What’s causing him/her to stall?

Sometimes the manager is also the discoverer of change and has to balance this situation by creating the right conditions for the team to accept and assimilate change in the best way possible.

Helping team members reach the decision stage and guiding them beyond it isn’t enough. Managers also have to be assertive. Otherwise, you risk team members:

  • Entering an endless loop of bouncing back and forth between stages without arriving at the decision stage. Doing so may be harmful to them and the organization.
  • Understanding that the decision to accept change lies with them. As a manager, you’re responsible for maintaining the balance of management and creating the optimal conditions for this acceptance.
  • Hindering the team’s progress. If a manager allows team members to stall, they will spend months jumping from stage to stage and may even sabotage – albeit unintentionally – the team’s efforts and progress. Watch out for those with a yes, but… attitude and those who fixate on the tiniest of issues. Through a desire to avoid confrontation, unassertive managers may unwittingly make an undesirable, negative impact.
  • Causing conflicts. This endless loop will inevitably lead them to be conflictive – with themselves, with the company, and perhaps even with their families due to a lack of control over the new reality. Their unacceptance will cause them to yearn for the old.

Leading Change from Within as an Exemplary Manager

Here’s another scenario.

Phil is a manager who has to inform his team about the Board’s decision to change the order control system. Here’s how he delivers the news:

The Board has decided to change the order control system. It seems pointless, but I have to implement it, so here we are.

This attitude isn’t uncommon from managers when addressing changes in the company – especially changes that weren’t initiated by them.

Managers are responsible for relaying messages of change. In doing so, not only are they discoverers of change, but they must also establish the right conditions for their teams to accept and digest this change as efficiently as possible.

Phil’s attitude is counter-productive, unmotivating, and not one of an exemplary manager. How can Phil expect his team to accept the change when he has vocalized his reluctance?

Managers are the first to experience the stages of change. As an exemplary manager, you must be comfortable in the commitment stage before informing your team of the change and guiding them through the process.

In other words, accept and guide change over yourself before exercising it over others.

Teamwork

Early in my career, I had an opportunity to participate in the Leadership Robins Region program. This 9-month program was designed using the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute curriculum. 

The first session required an overnight stay at Robins Air Force Base in preparation for the group’s leadership orientation and subsequent ROPES activities the following morning. There were 25 people in the group, and I was only familiar with one of them.

The goal of the first session was to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the team, learn how to communicate concisely and listen actively, as well as understand how each team member contributes to accomplishing the team mission.

The pictures reveal the importance of effective communication, the value of teamwork, and developing trust. These are some of the ingredients of exemplary leadership.

Other lessons worth noting:

* You cannot hold someone accountable for something you failed to teach.
* Everyone is both a teacher and a learner.
* Leadership skills can always be improved.

This program provided me the platform to gain critical experiences and broaden my knowledge across various industries – which has been instrumental in my career progression.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Any fool can make something complex. It takes skill to make things simple.

💡 Everyone has power. Many often let it go to waste.

💡 What happens to them if they listen to you?

💡 Getting to the next level may be about subtraction, not addition.

💡 Sometimes, the best advice is advice you don’t think you need.

💡 A person with priorities does what matters. A person without priorities does what is urgent.

💡 Things won’t change until you change.

💡 Want to help yourself? Help others.

💡 Want to make money? Give value.

💡 Want to find an idea? Look for a problem.

Cultural Feedback

Not until I started working for a global company and spending time in other countries did I realize how different me and my colleagues were when giving critical feedback. Communicating with colleagues from 25 countries can range from politically correct to outright shocking. Either way, it is never a dull moment. This article shed’s light on some of the cultural differences when giving feedback.

While my colleagues mean no harm and the intention of their message may be the same, the wrapping of the message changes. And, this wrapping has many different colors and textures. For example, my Dutch and German colleagues are more comfortable shooting straight. Whereas, my Asian colleagues prefer relationship orientated communication that preserves the reputation of their audience, even if that means the message is less clear.

Being an American, we are often stereotyped around the world for our directness. That is quite interesting because when it involves giving feedback, we typically opt for the sandwich approach: start with something positive, followed by the suggested improvement, then close with something else positive to soften the real feedback. If you used this same approach with my Dutch colleagues, they would do away with the carbs and give the meat alone. My Asian colleagues, on the other hand, would choose the vegetarian option.

It is fair to say that most of my European colleagues’ value directness. They view the American way of giving feedback as confusing and sometimes inauthentic and see no point in sugar-coating the conversation.

Based on the following scenario, this is an example of how different cultures would offer feedback: A colleague has asked you to review his/her report and provide your feedback. In your opinion, the management summary is excellent. However, the second chapter containing the analysis lacks structure and body. Keeping in mind that culture is multi-faceted, these examples are generalizations of cultural tendencies and quirks.

  •  A Dutch person will be direct, as honesty and transparency are key. The feedback would sound something like this: The analysis completely lacks structure and body.
  •  A German person will try to make a connection to a body of expertise or knowledge. The feedback would sound something like this: What are your findings from the analysis? Which approach did you use? It does not come across due to a lack of structure.
  •  An English person will wrap the feedback in a jacket of politeness, topped with a collar of indirectness. It would sound something like this: I would consider taking a look at the structure of the analysis. But that is just my opinion.
  •  An American person will focus more on the positive. The real feedback will be more of what is not said. Hence, it would sound something like: You did a particularly great job with the management summary.
  •  A French person tends to look for the rules or the standard the other person has deviated from, instead of addressing the behavior directly. The feedback would sound something like this: According to book X, the structure of analysis should be Y.
  •  An Asian (Chinese) person wants to help the receiver save face and may blur the message or avoid communicating feedback to the person altogether. Instead, they may give it to another colleague who they know will pass it on to the person in question, or they might address the issue of structure to the whole team. The feedback would sound something like this: As a team, we might benefit from learning the best way to structure an analysis report.

In our increasingly global world, most of us will come face-to-face with colleagues of different cultural backgrounds. Providing feedback goes beyond understanding another culture’s language and choice words. It has more to do with how directly the feedback is delivered. Remember, there is an art to giving feedback, which starts with understanding why you are giving it in the first place. Feedback is grounded in helping someone develop and improve, not to place blame.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Your greatest strength is your weakness.

💡 Arguing, debating, and pressuring, rarely produces desired outcomes.

💡 Who does what by when = progress.

💡 Being a leader of people requires a mindset shift.

💡 Sometimes dramatic change requires connections with new people.

💡 Every leader does not have a title. Every person with a title is not a leader.

💡 Angry people are transparent people.

💡 Business always throws us curveballs.

💡 Learn when to say no and let go.

💡 Waiting never gets the job done.

Behaviors

Looking over your professional life, whose names come to mind, matching these behaviors? 

1. The bully who believes fear is the best motivator, and seek to intimidate to assert control.

2. The absentee boss who stays holed up in their office, studying reports, and focusing solely on sucking up to their boss – leaving the team leaderless.

3. The divider who shows favoritism and typically doesn’t care who knows it. If a conflict arises, they may try to play one person against another, causing further disruption.

4. The micromanager who is always observing and controlling the work of the team.

5. The arrogant know-it-all who thinks they are the only ones who can handle the demands of the workplace or solve problems.

6. The poor communicator who has an over-reliance on emails or known for emotional outbursts.

7. The indecisive one who is unable or unwilling to decide on critical matters.

8. The disorganized one who tend to forget meetings or frequently show up late.

9. The complacent one who believes no news is good news.

10. The resister who refuses to change.

11. The rule bender who fails to lead by example and exhibits questionable behavior.

12. The poor performer who never recognizes the contributions of others or takes credit for their work.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 If you want to find out what someone thinks, stop telling them what you think first.

💡 Values aren’t negotiable.

💡 Acknowledge good points made by the other side.

💡 Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication.

💡 Tell the truth, tell it yourself, and tell it fast.

💡 Be mindful of your digital footprint.

💡 Owning your mistakes strengthens relationships and builds confidence.

💡 What have you done recently to initiate change?

💡 Bad moods produce self-defeating behaviors.

💡 Know the way, go the way, show the way.

Perspective

I was listening to a podcast by John C. Maxwell where he explained how our perspective of things could change the events of our day. He gave an example of people with road rage. 

If you’ve ever experienced road rage, it is not uncommon to see someone give the middle finger as an expression of their anger. John said he views it as people showing him that they are his number one fan.

We have a choice of how we respond to the events of our day. E.g., I stopped at a grocery store one morning to buy some coffee creamer. The creamer was on a high shelf that I had to tiptoe to reach. When I pulled the creamer off the shelf, white liquid spilled all over my clothes and purse. I guess this was someone’s idea of a practical joke, but there were no TV cameras involved.

At that precise moment, I had to determine if I was going to rant and rave to anyone within earshot, or calmly wipe myself off before alerting a store clerk as to what happened. As challenging as it was, I went with option two because I’ve learned that reacting in anger, only manifests something else to be angry about, which can show up in the form of road rage as I’m leaving the store.

The point of the story is that we can’t control why people do what they do, but we can control our response to it.

Nice Guys Finish Last

There is a saying that nice guys finish last. As it pertains to business, you may picture this individual as someone who is a people pleaser, can be taken advantage of, not aggressive enough, or may never reach significant levels of success. 

While there may be a grain of truth for some, there are lots of ways to be successful in business without being aggressive. Whether we care to admit, we stereotype people to some extent and tend to put people in boxes. Being nice doesn’t mean one cannot say no, be assertive, or make tough decisions. Moreover, not all nice people aspire to climb the corporate ladder.

Let’s be honest, if you had to choose between two individuals with equivalent talent and skills to work with on a project, would you choose the nice guy or the jerk?

In most organizations, success comes down to teamwork. Teamwork requires effective collaboration and cultivating relationships. A jerk’s behavior may work in the short-term, but in the long-term, they end up damaging the team and given enough time, the company.

If someone tells you to have a nice day, does an image of a jerk pop up in your mind? Probably, not. Niceness is a quality that shouldn’t be overlooked or undervalued.

Procrastination

We often hear the phrase work harder, but what’s wrong with working smarter and faster? There’s a perception that the longer something takes to complete, the better it will inherently be. 

Think about the last hour-long meeting you were in that could have taken 30 minutes. Losing 30 minutes of your time with filler conversation didn’t make it better, and you probably didn’t walk away feeling much smarter. Imagine how painstaking an additional 30 minutes is on a virtual call.

Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work expands to fill the time allotted. In other words, the amount of work required increases to the time available for its completion. And, what does that often invite? Procrastination.

Naturally, we don’t want to look like were lazy so, if we have a 2-week project deadline, we may fill that time with other trivial tasks. Even if we didn’t fill the extra time with more work, we could stress over getting it done. Further, beating deadlines isn’t always appreciated.

That’s like the service department telling you it will take 4 hours to repair your car at $150/hr, and the mechanic only takes 2hrs, but want to charge you for 4. The solution is to focus on how much time a task should take rather than how much time is available, without compromising performance.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 The best thinking is not popular thinking.

💡 Ask people what they know about the problem that nobody else knows.

💡 Never stop learning.

💡 If you already know how to reach your goal when you set it, is it stretching you enough?

💡 The higher up you go, the more the little things matter. Analyze the details.

💡 Don’t be afraid to innovate.

💡 Be honest and dependable. Take responsibility.

💡 Are you making the best effort to work well with those you dislike?

💡 What is it like to work for you?

💡 Leadership is an opportunity to serve.

Internal Conflict

Personality-based assessements have given us insights into the unique characteristics of ourselves and our coworkers. When applied, they can help shape organizational cultures that are effective and respectful. Yet, some conflicts seem to be inherent in human interaction. 

The mimetic theory posits that much of human interaction is imitation. In other words, we mimic each other in our desires. Human beings have an innate desire to compete with each other and gain status.

If an entry-level employee imitates the perceived habits, words, and ideas of the company CEO, they won’t run the risk of becoming a mimetic rival because of the distance between the two.

In contrast, a person with a specialized skillset can welcome and enjoy a newly-hired assistant’s imitation of their unique tasks and knowledge, but if the assistant’s duplicate skills start to rival or surpass theirs, friction and toxic work environments can develop.

When we feel like someone is too close to replacing our unique contributions, we may try to prevent them from attaining that power. This often shows up in a lack of teamwork and backstabbing.

Accepting that we are not the equals of people that we see and admire, does not diminish our value.

Source: HR Florida Review

Entrepreneurial Leadership

It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to be viewed as bad managers as they struggle with the transition from doer to leader. 

There are two patterns entrepreneurs fall into during this transition. They either become micromanagers or absent managers. Using the analogy of a server at a restaurant, the micromanager is the server who continually appears in the middle of your dinner conversation, much to your annoyance. The absent manager is the server who leaves you alone for way too long, and you have to search for him/her. Two beliefs contribute to why this happens.

1. I can do it faster/better myself. Since many entrepreneurs have hands-on experience, they can get frustrated at how long it takes new employees to get the job done to their satisfaction. While this behavior may be viable in the short term, the belief that we always know best can lead to micromanaging.

2. Get out of the way and let people do their jobs. Employees left to make decisions without any guidance can get off track, get stuck with unexpected obstacles, and often get out of sync with the rest of the organization.

The key is to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Check-in with and hold direct reports accountable, while giving them enough room to grow and make decisions on their own.

Not every entrepreneur is an effective leader. In this case, it’s important to surround yourself with people who complement you, especially as the business grows.

Multipliers and Diminishers

Talent problems are not solved by swapping in “better” talent at higher salaries. Many top performers are often sitting on a stockpile of ideas, skills, and interests. Part of being a leader is to help people identify and tap into their purpose and value. 

There are two extremes of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers.

Multipliers believe that everyone is brilliant at something. When they step into a room, ideas flow and problems get solved. They also:

  • Create engaged workforces and unleash collective intelligence.
  • Pay little attention to org charts and see themselves as coaches and teachers.
  • Acknowledge people’s “native genius”.
  • Assume that people are smart and will figure it out, given resources and space.

    Diminishers can be tyrants, know-it-alls, or micromanagers. They believe that high levels of brainpower cannot be found everywhere and in everyone. They often:
  • Create cultural and behavioral barriers.
  • Roll out initiatives revolving around what the leader knows rather than what the group might learn.
  • Make decisions alone or with input from a small group of advisers.
  • Need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room.

Adapted: Harvard Business Review | Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People

Law Of Triviality

How can we stop wasting time on unimportant details? To answer this, we have to identify why we get bogged down in the trivial. 

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely correlated to its actual importance in the scheme of things. Major issues get the least discussion while simpler ones get the most.

To illustrate this, imagine a financial committee meeting to discuss 3 proposals.
1. $10M nuclear power plant
2. $350K bike shed
3. $21K annual coffee budget

What happens? The committee runs through the power plant proposal in little time because it’s too advanced for anyone to dig into the details, and most of the members don’t know much about the topic.

Next, the bike shed. The committee members feel more comfortable voicing their opinions. Several members begin an animated debate over what might enable modest savings. They discuss this longer than the power plant.

Finally, the coffee budget. Here, everyone’s an expert. They discuss the coffee budget longer than the power plant and bike shed combined. The committee runs out of time and decides to meet again to complete their analysis. Everyone walks away feeling satisfied, having contributed to the conversation.

Avoid descending into unproductive triviality by having clear goals for your meeting and getting the best people to the table to have a productive, constructive discussion.

Source: FS Blog – The Bikeshed Effect |Photo: Arjun Rajagopalan – Publish

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Lead with conviction. Respect is more important than always being liked.

💡 Getting out of your perspective is the key to seeing things.

💡 Make inspiring confidence in your team a priority.

💡 When you see team members praising each other, you know your team will be successful.

💡 How you think is everything.

💡 Is your will stronger than your skill?

💡 Lack of forgiveness always impacts you more than others.

💡 Forget the excuses and take action.

💡 Appreciate the differences, and your team will be more creative and productive.

💡 Think of happiness as a way to travel, not as a goal to be reached.

Coaching For Performance

Coaching for reliable performance is not a “salt and pepper” practice. You cannot sprinkle on a little explaining here, and appreciation there, and expect reliability. You must perform these habits consistently. 

1. Explain Expectations – Lack of clear expectations is the most common reason for performance problems. There are 4 fundamental questions employees have regarding expectations: Where are we going? What are we doing to get there? How can I contribute? What’s in it for me?

2. Ask Questions – Ask the right questions and be comfortable with silence. Silence creates accountability for a response. If you’re not comfortable with silence, you’ll fill it with another question that leaves your original question unanswered and stifles engagement.

3. Involve Team – Employees will exchange their involvement, for ownership in the outcomes.

4. Measure Results – Measure what matters most. If you rank your team by performance level, your lowest performer will be a public statement of the performance standard you are willing to tolerate.

5. Appreciate People – While we judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions. What is important is not how much you appreciate people, but rather how much you demonstrate that appreciation.

Source: The L Group

Effective Management

Studies show that for every 0.1% improvement in effective management, productivity goes up by 10%. So, how can new managers lead their teams effectively? 

1. People Skills. Emotionally intelligent leaders practice self-awareness and excel at relationship management. This enables them to build a foundation of trust, respect, and positive attitudes among their team.

2. Listen First, Talk Later. On average, it takes new managers 4 to 6 weeks to get acclimated to their new role. Focus outward – paying attention to the team and process before coming up with ideas and changes you’d like implemented.

3. Communicate. Take the lead with introductions during the first few days, speaking to each team member individually and then everyone as a group. Find out what they do, what processes they say work well, and what they’d like to see improved.

4. Delegate. Solve the people, not the problem. Working together to come up with a way forward allows the team to become self-directed and much more engaged in their work.

5. What to Avoid. Being a manager isn’t a popularity contest. New managers tend to lower their standards to make friends with the staff. Manage results and relationships for both short-term and long-term success – keeping respect at the forefront.

Adapted: Kenosha News

Failing Organizational Change

Why Organizational Change Fails – TLNT

Many factors cause organizational change efforts to fail. Here are the top 10 reasons.

1. Asking for Behavior X while rewarding Behavior Y. Align systems and work processes with desired #behaviors.

2. Overplanning. Analysis + paralysis = inaction.

3. Going for the home run. Focus on small, quick wins to build momentum for larger, long-term victories.

4. Uninformed and disengaged team. Early and ongoing communication helps teams make more intelligent decisions and feel more ownership.

5. The devil is in the details. Don’t keep discussions at a conceptual, strategic level. Once you are clear on your plan, execution is about details.

6. Change is good. Be the leader, go first!

7. Sustained #change is driven by people. E.g., Implementing new software is more about the people who will use it, install it, train it, and support it than it is about the system itself.

8. Lack of compelling reason to change. The best plan must be accompanied by a great story to support it.

9. Energy and resources spent on the resistors of change. Support your supporters and let the others choose to follow.

10. Changing everything rather than what needs to be changed to meet new business objectives. Identify what you should start, stop, and keep, then plan changes accordingly.

Source: The L Group

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Focus on making it part of the culture.

💡 If you put forth the effort, help always appears.

💡 Is coaching an integral part of your leadership style?

💡 Schedule time on your calendar weekly to understand what’s on your plate and where your focus should be.

💡 What do your actions speak?

💡 Observe the number of “I’s” and “We’s” in team conversations.

💡 Look for people who love what they do.

💡 Think “people” first, always.

💡 Get comfortable making decisions.

💡 Focus the team on the outcome, not just the activities.

Better Message, Bolder Mindset

Getting others to accept our feedback can prove challenging, especially when it’s critical. Managers often worry that their feedback may lead to hurt feelings or diminished productivity, so they resort to face-saving techniques like the “praise sandwich” that end up doing more harm than good. 

This dynamic can change with a better message and a bolder mindset. Feeback should involve asking hero questions, diagnosing challenges, and shaping a path towards commitment. The following are some examples.

Hero Questions:
~ What have you learned about yourself from working on this project?
~ What strengths have you found most useful on this project?
~ Who have you recently helped, and what difference did it make in their work and yours?

Diagnose Challenges:
~ What outcome are you trying to achieve?
~ What is happening? Why do you think it’s happening?
~ What have you tried so far? How have you handled similar challenges in the past?
~ Have you tried to resolve this challenge? What happened as a result?

Shape the Path:
~ How do you think you’ll act on this?
~ What is holding you back from achieving your goals?
~ What would happen if you tried this?
~ How can I help you recreate the conditions of your success?

Adapted: Harvard Business Review

Psychopath’s At Work

When we hear the word psychopath, a serial killer or mob boss may immediately come to mind. However, many psychopaths do not commit heinous crimes or exhibit criminal behavior. Here are 4 indications of a psychopath at work. 

1. They appear to be responsible, charismatic, friendly, and a hard worker. They have an impressive resume and can talk whatever talk is needed to get the job, excel at the job, and get promoted.

2. They appear to work well within a team environment, but often take advantage of their peers. Their work is frequently at the expense of others and not a result of their efforts. Back-stabbing, gossip, and manipulation are common tactics used to undermine authority, gain dominance, and eliminate competition.

3. They want to gain power and control with the least amount of effort. They present their better side to superiors to gain trust and confidence. They have a magnetic personality, and they can quickly transform themselves to fit into any environment.

4. They present a darker side to their peers. They are often caught stealing new ideas, destabilizing the team atmosphere, and refusing to complete assignments. If someone complains, they’ll become defensive and lash out, sometimes causing that person to get fired.

Adapted: Psych Central

Purposeful Leadership

Direction comes from what we do, but motivation comes from why we do it. Here are some ways to lead teams with purpose.

1. Explore to execute. Look inward. What inspires you to do what you do and how can you clearly articulate it?

2. Inspire to empower. Share your purpose with the company. Use it to motivate your team. Nothing drives people like passion.

3. Permeate to persevere. Infuse your purpose into every aspect of the business (internal messaging, policies, and practices), and align your team.

4. Unite to thrive. A team must work well with one another to be successful. If they believe in the same cause, they’ll better serve it.

5. Communicate to motivate. Go beyond describing the tasks you assign to explaining the meaning behind those tasks.

6. Trust to be trusted. Develop mutual respect through common beliefs and lead the company through respect, not fear.

7. Cultivate culture to curate success. Focus on achieving purposeful results, not the minutiae of strict procedures.

8. Reflect to grow. Every leader should continually reevaluate their words and actions to be as productive and purposeful as possible so that their team will follow.

9. Exemplify to enlighten. Lead by example.

Source: Forbes | Graphic: Thoughtful Leader

Manage Time Better

Who can relate to these statements “manage time better,” “be more productive,” and “focus on what matters”? Mastering the art of time management requires saying no to something. If that doesn’t sit well with you emotionally, consider this, every time you say yes to something, you are simultaneously saying no to something else.

Here are some questions to ask yourself based on The Focus Funnel.

Eliminate – Can I live without it?
Automate – Can it be automated?
Delegate – Can it be done by someone else?
Procrastinate – Can it be done later?

Multiply your time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today, that will give you more time tomorrow.

Source: Rory Vaden