Doug Thorpe is a proven business leader with experience in Fortune 500, non-profit, service sectors, and military. He has a passion to guide new, first time managers; helping them find health, wealth and happiness while they master the demands of learning how to lead others.
One day a fellow was flying in a hot air balloon but realized he was lost. He saw a guy in a field and yelled down “Where am I?”
The man yelled back, “You’re in a hot air balloon, about 30 feet off the ground, flying over a cornfield.”
The guy in the balloon shouts back, “You must be a technology consultant.”
The guy in the field says, “Yes, I am. How did you know?”
The balloon guy says “Because everything you told me is technically correct but of absolutely no value.”
The guy on the ground says, “You must be an executive or a business owner.”
The balloon pilot says “Yes I am, how did you know.”
Consultant says, “You don’t know any more now than you did when you first got here. You are exactly in the same position as when you started. You are lost and don’t know where you are going. Now, after all that, somehow it is my fault.”
Have you ever had this experience before? As a leader, hopefully not. Yet far too often we find ourselves operating in some kind of pocket. We get cozy with what we are doing and become blatantly unable to see beyond our own view.
How can this be avoided?
First, avoid getting filled with your own hot air. Being in a management role has a very dark side. The power that might come from the position can be overused or abused. The depth and breadth of the power given by a position must be managed from within.
I actually choose to leave the power of the position for an absolute last option; one which I prefer never to use. There are too many other more meaningful tools a leader can use to influence those who report to him.
As a young lieutenant in the Army, I experienced the impact that power bestowed by position can bring. Just months after taking my first duty station as the executive officer of a large troop training company (I was #2 in command) the Commander was sent on temporary duty to another base. I was now in charge. Among many things a unit commander must do, administering military justice under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) was one of those duties.
The unit commander has the responsibility as prosecutor, judge, and jury under certain articles of the UCMJ. When a soldier violated some rule or law, they became subject to action under this code.
As fate would have it, I had several instances of the need to hold court for some of my troops. After about 6 cases came before me, I was starting to get intoxicated by the power. I could garnish wages, reduce rank and confine people to quarters. It felt awesome to wield this much power. Granted, I was all of 23 years old, fresh out of officer basic training, but the lure of this power was compelling.
I woke up one morning scared to death. I realized I was slipping off into some abyss of mental temptation, wanting more opportunity to exercise this power. Rather than applying it as intended to maintain order within the company, I was feeling energized by the authority.
Fortunately, my better training kicked in. Even the training I had as a child emerged; the classic right from wrong stuff. I was wrong looking at my responsibility this way. It was clear I needed to put in check the energy I felt about this power.
Listen More Than You Speak
One other vitally important way to avoid becoming the arrogant executive is to listen more to those around you. Become a better listener. Don’t just nod your head when others speak. Actively engage your mind to absorb the message.
Stop thinking about your next words when someone else is speaking. You’ll have time to formulate the right response. Take in the essence of the meaning someone is sharing. Give them feedback. Seek clarity on the topic.
Then and only then should you begin to assert your own ideas.
There’s an interesting truth that might appear. The other person’s idea might be better than yours. If so, acknowledge it. Run with it.
Besides having a good solution to the situation, you build trust and rapport with your team by recognizing their contributions. You totally eliminate that “my way or the highway” reputation.
For the Next Time
The next time you “climb into the balloon” have a better grasp of your flight path. Learn the surroundings before you take off. Be equipped with a map of the area so that if you veer off course you can establish some landmarks to guide back on course.
These are all metaphors for good planning and execution. Never operate on a whim.
Leadership is a life learning proposition. Stay committed to finding ways to strengthen your leadership ability. The last accomplishment is but a stepping stone to something even bigger and better.
What ways have you found to check your attitude about your leadership power? Leave a comment
Clients frequently ask me one big question. It seems to haunt executives at all levels. Business owners and CEOs share a common bond for this one aspect of their ability to lead. Get bumped up one more rung on the ladder of success and you run smack into this question.
The question? How do I build confidence? In other words, how can I feel more comfortable doing what I need to be doing? Nobody is born with limitless self-confidence. If you ever see someone who is demonstrating a great depth of confidence, it’s because they’ve worked on it.
Self-confidence is like a mental muscle that must be trained and built up over time. Stop working with it and atrophy creeps in. You get weak and uncertain.
First, let me make one big distinction. Healthy self-confidence has nothing to do with arrogance. When talking about leadership, confidence and arrogance are on opposite ends of the spectrum for high-quality leaders.
Self-confidence is a force from within that can inspire those around you. Demonstrating solid, unwavering confidence in the face of some opposition or confusion builds team trust and helps to keep people moving in the right direction.
As soon as the leader starts to show doubt and fear, the whole team loses heart.
Been There Done That?
You likely know exactly what I mean. You face a situation where people are relying on your leadership. Whether you are a first-time leader/manager or a seasoned executive.
Staring a new challenge in the face you can feel uncertain. There are doubts and unknowns which you, yourself can give into. How do you overcome it?
10 Ideas for Building Confidence
1. Visualize your success
Create a positive forward-looking picture in your own minds’ eye about what success looks like’s. Get a clear picture and hang onto it. Low self-confidence is a poor perception of who and what we are.
It is often inaccurate. If you just got promoted, it’s because someone believes in you. Cherish that thought. Make them proud of putting you in the role.
“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill
2. Celebrate your wins
High achieving people seldom choose to celebrate a win. You typically shrug it off saying something like “I should have done that.” NO! Log that win. Give yourself a small party in your heart and mind.
Realize you accomplished something good. Keep a journal of the wins. Review it regularly. Give yourself the chance to recognize the good you are capable of achieving.
3. Avoid limiting thought
Limiting thoughts are about living life with a list of negative ideas implanted by people from long ago can paralyze your confidence. If you revert to limiting thoughts when confronted with a new issue, you’ll never be able to show confidence. Why? The limiting thought undermines your ability to have confidence.
It spawns doubt. “I can’t do that”, or “I’m not smart enough”, or “I don’t deserve this” are all limiting thoughts that haunt so many people. Purge them from your mind.
4. Do something that scares you every day
Build confidence by overcoming a fear or anxiety every day. Face the music and make yourself have a win. (See #2 above). Face the things that create fear and doubt. Get them behind you.
5. Take 100 days of rejection challenge
Jia Jiang has become famous for recording his experience of “busting fear” by purposefully making crazy requests of people in order to be rejected over 100 days. His purpose was to desensitize himself to rejection after he became more upset than he expected over rejection from a potential investor.
Busting fear isn’t easy to do, but if you want to have fun while building up your self-confidence, this is a powerful way to do it.
6. Help someone else
Doing for others is a great way to get out of your own skin and realize the power of helping others. You can forget about the thing that may be holding you back. Even if just for a moment, try being kind to a total stranger at a bus stop or in a store. Stepping out from behind your mask and doing something powerful for someone else builds the self-confidence muscle.
7. Care for yourself
“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” — Parker Palmer
Self-confidence depends on a combination of good physical health, emotional health, and social health. It is hard to feel good about yourself if you hate your physique or constantly have low energy.
Make time to cultivate great exercise, eating and sleep habits. Dress the way you want to feel. You have heard the saying that “clothes make the man.” Build your self-confidence by making the effort to look after your own needs.
8. Be yourself, the other job is taken
Don’t try to operate in someone’s shadow. Work on who you are and what you believe you can deliver. Trying to copy someone else’s personality, look, action or presence is a waste. Yes, you might learn from those you admire, but you can never be them. Why should you even want to? That job is filled. You need to be YOU!
9. Learn from mistakes
“Experience is not the best teacher. Informed learning from experience is.” ~John Maxwell
Study the mistakes you make. You will make some. First, don’t beat yourself up over them. Break it down and explore why it became a mistake. Learn what ways you could have done something differently.
Make a serious mental note of the learning. Vow to not do that again. Most of all, be aware of the learning and chalk it up as another win despite the outward appearance of a loss having happened.
10. Get advice from trusted sources
Have people in your corner who can exhort you, encourage you. Build confidence by having honest, reliable feedback from people you trust. Be sure you have people who know you and are looking out for your best interest.
More frequently today busy owners, entrepreneurs, and executives are hiring coaches to help them work through all of these ideas. As with any endeavor where you are building strength, endurance or agility, having a coach in your corner can help.
You can read books or watch a video, but only a coach can watch you doing what you do and point out the ever-so-slight adjustments you need to make to perfect your skill.
What are the ways you use to build self-confidence?
Business leaders know the challenge it can be to lead change. When there is a new announcement about something changing, you can often hear the groans that arise.
Work teams of all kinds resist change. Understanding ways to overcome the resistance can be a leader’ s best answer in times of change.
As I’ve mentioned before, managing change can be very darn difficult. Within the body of change management that is so readily available, much has been written about overcoming resistance to change. I have found one particular explanation for ways to overcome the resistance, that makes things crystal clear.
In the 1960’s David Gleicher put forth a comprehensive explanation of the theory of change. Others after him altered his work slightly but gave credit to him as the creator of this view. Here’s what Gleicher said.
Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. A formula for overcoming resistance to change looks like this:
D x V x F > R
These factors are:
D= Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
V= Vision of what is possible
F= The First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;
By multiplying these three factors. if the product is greater than Resistance, then change is possible.
Because D, V, and F are multiplied, if any one of the factors is absent (zero) or low, then the product will be zero or low and therefore not capable of overcoming the resistance.
To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create a vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.
Let’s Unpack the Factors
Dissatisfaction – When dissatisfaction with the current state is present, change can be easier. We deal with these kinds of change every day. If the temperature is too cold, we turn on the heat. If it’s too hot, we turn on a fan or an air conditioner to cool us. In these simple examples, resistance to change is practically zero because the dissatisfaction is so high.
In a job setting the dissatisfaction is harder to identify and measure. If your team’s computers are getting old and outdated, they perform poorly. Sometimes they freeze. The need for change can be obvious. So you offer a chance to upgrade technology. Resistance might be low.
However, when you change a computer system seeking some other goal, the work team may resist that change. When the perception is things are working well, a change can see a greater resistance because dissatisfaction is low.
Vision – The leader’s ability to paint the best vision picture can be one of the greatest strengths. People can and do rally around a good vision for the future; a look at what could be. You can be operating with very little dissatisfaction, but have a vision for something greater and still overcome resistance to the change.
Mergers and reorganizations come to mind. The leadership sees an opportunity for something much greater so an announcement is made about reorganizing or merging entities. The natural response from the staff is resistance. Yet when the vision is presented well, with great conviction and quantifiable gains for everyone, the resistance can be overcome.
Forgetting to add the proper vision when driving change can create the zero value in this DVF>R equation, thus making resistance too great to overcome.
First Steps – Being able to reduce resistance can actually be easier than we think. Taking solid, specific first steps toward the change can create the momentum you need to break through the resistance and effect change.
The first steps are often forgotten as critical to successful change. The big transformation project gets mapped out, but the first steps are merely buried in the details with little if any focus and intention.
Successfully managing change requires focused effort to get the first steps right. Again, having zero impact with first steps could negate the whole equation, keeping resistance high, keeping change from happening.
When you are faced with a leadership challenge for change, think about this simple formula. Review the three elements present in your own situation. Do what you can to enhance and control the factors so that your ability to eliminate resistance is effective.
Once the resistance goes way or at least gets minimized, you have a much greater chance of making change happen.
Think about your own experience managing change. Test this theory and review where the gaps occurred. I think you will find the model holds true. Focus on the three components described here and you will greatly increase your own effectiveness leading change.
What do you do to overcome any resistance to change? Share, leave a comment.
It just seems we can never get away from change. It’s an ever-present topic that leaders and business owners struggle to manage and survive. What is so darn hard about managing change?
Lately, I have been surrounded by various types of change. It seems every one of my clients, my volunteer efforts, and even portions of my personal life are facing major change events. Situations range from major organizational change being implemented by a Fortune 100 company to executive moves/retirement, staff shakeup at a nonprofit, and the upcoming birthday of a five-year-old grandson. Change is everywhere.
It’s not a surprise that I carefully observe each of these situations with guarded optimism coupled with caution and anticipation. Why? Because I’ve been around the block enough times to see people’s reactions coming a mile away, yet it cannot be stopped.
We face change at work, at home, and in the community around us. Couples watching kids grow and leave the nest face daily change moments. That sweet cuddly toddler becomes a terrible two or thirteen. Then it’s off to college or work. Relationships get tested, sometimes broken.
As we begin to think about finding our special someone we face changes in meeting new people and trying to establish the right relationship. Too often people ignore big red flags in choosing their relationships. Why? Because change is too painful after a certain amount of time is invested. I love that thought. Invested in a bad relationship. Really? I digress.
Why don’t people handle change very well? It’s an age-old problem that scholars and technicians have tried to solve. I’ve read articles from brain surgeons who have theories about synapse firing in the brain and chemical changes brought on by change (fight or flight syndrome anyone?).
More important to me is the key question: what should a leader do in the winds of change?
The Job Description
Leaders by definition execute on things. That’s why we’re called executives. The CEO is the chief executive officer; the head guy for making change happen. Our role and job description churns change. Yet we have to be sensitive to the impact of change. There is a clear and present problem with effectuating change while controlling the chaos that ensues.
The dynamic doesn’t change. Regardless of how big the organization or the charter it may be formed under, the people on the team either thrive or dive with change. Leaders can and should make the difference.
Far too often I see the chief executive or at least the senior officer get sucked into the energy being spun up by the pushback from the team. Either they overreact or they become paralyzed. I’ve seen both of these scenarios in the situations I mentioned above.
It’s All About the Fear
From my experience, the biggest noise in the face of change is all about fear. Most people fear the unknown. The new guy or the new structure or the new policy or the new program sets fear in high gear. Very few of us get excited about change.
Moving away from the known to the unknown is the biggest problem I see.
For the new manager who is thrust into a role where change has been ordained from above, as in the case of corporate reorganization, people don’t blame the corporation, they blame the boss.
In mergers, the “winning” side usually takes the lead in making things settle in, but that comes at the angst of those who came over from the “acquired” firm. Yes sometimes the buyer is sensitive to these aspects and places leaders from the opposite side into key roles, but the shakeup is just that, a shakeup. Trust is crumbled and must be rebuilt.
Every person who takes on a new role faces the same thing. The team wants to know who you are, what you think, and how you operate. If the predecessor was highly regarded by the staff, the new guys get points off just for not being the old guy. The trust has to be rebuilt.
Better is Not Always Better
I’ve seen situations where an outgoing person gets replaced by someone who is supposed to upgrade the role. Those changes impact the way things were. Even when the former person was considered a marginal performer in a role, the new guy has to overcome an unfair bias. It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted the new person may be, the crew expects nothing to change.
If things do start to change, feelings get hurt. It’s that fear thing again.
When your status quo is not quo anymore (bad grammar, but solid thought), you start to imagine things that may never become problems. Change causes that kind of irrational logic.
What’s a Leader to Do?
There are several key things I recommend. I think they speak for themselves.
Face the music. Realize change does cause unrest. Deal with it.
Don’t give in, but let the people have their voice. Talk through the concerns.
Work hard on building trust. Lead don’t push.
Avoid taking sides early. Be objective. Get both sides of the story before making any declaration.
Manage up when you have to. The executive who mandated the change might not realize what they have launched.
Keep communication lines open. Demand free flow of discussion about the changes. Don’t let opinions fester and brew.
Shine the brightest light you can on what surfaces as the biggest problem.
Invest in a high-quality brandy for after work (OK I’m getting silly now, you get the picture)
Change is GOING TO HAPPEN
No one lives in a vacuum. There will be change. Leaders must do more to embrace the recognition of this absolutely guaranteed aspect of moving a business, a relationship, or a team forward. The way we deal with change becomes a big yardstick for how effective we might be as leaders.
PS – I’ve got more thoughts about living through change coming later this week. Stay around.
Question: What are some of the ways you manage change where you are? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Finding your own sense of work-life balance can be a daunting task. Depending on your current circumstance, the ability to find a real balance can be hard.
Is work-life balance a destination or a decision?
Much has been written about this elusive notion of real balance between your job and your personal life. How does family tie to work? And vice versa. Do you find yourself living a dual personality; one at work, the other at home?
Pressures of a fast-paced work world can certainly impact your ability to find this delicate balance. The problem I see is that too many of us think about work-life balance as something to achieve. Like a destination. “I’m going to get there” I hear people say.
True balance in your life is more about choices and decisions rather than final destinations. If you could “arrive” at a perfect balance, how long would it last? What other factors might tip the balance once you achieve it?
No, work-life balance is a continuing sense of equilibrium you can experience by making better, more consistent choices in what you do.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual. These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Technology makes workers accessible around the clock. Fears of job loss make us work longer hours.
In fact, a whopping 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week in a Harvard Business School survey. Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health, and overall happiness.
Here are some quick tips to help ease the bad choices you might be making.
Let go of Perfectionism
A lot of overachievers develop perfectionist tendencies at a young age when demands on their time are limited to school, hobbies and maybe an after-school job. It’s easier to maintain that perfectionist habit as a kid, but as you grow up, life gets more complicated.
As you climb the ladder at work and as your family grows, your responsibilities mushroom. Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive, says executive coach Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, who wrote The Office Survival Guide.
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The workday never seems to end. “There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence and Personal Strength in Your Life.
Brooks says that phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So don’t text at your kid’s soccer game and don’t send work emails while you’re hanging out with family, Brooks advises. Make quality time true quality time.
Exercise and Meditate
Even when we’re busy, we make time for the crucial things in life. We eat. We go to the bathroom. We sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs – exercise – is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up.
Exercise is an effective stress reducer. It pumps feel-good endorphins through your body. It helps lift your mood and can even serve a one-two punch by also putting you in a meditative state, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Limit those Time-Wasting Activities
First, identify what’s most important in your life. This list will differ for everyone, so make sure it truly reflects your priorities, not someone else’s. Next, draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to these high-priority people and activities.
From there, it will be easier to determine what needs to be trimmed from the schedule. If email or internet surfing sends you into a time-wasting spiral, establish rules to keep you on task. That may mean turning off email notifications and replying in batches during limited times each day. If you’re mindlessly surfing Facebook or cat blogs when you should be getting work done, try using productivity software like Freedom, LeechBlock or RescueTime.
And if you find your time being gobbled up by less constructive people, find ways to diplomatically limit these interactions. Cornered every morning by the office chatterbox? Politely excuse yourself. Drinks with the work gang the night before a busy, important day? Bow out and get a good night sleep. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most.
Change the Structure of Your Life
Sometimes we fall into a rut and assume our habits are set in stone. Take a birds-eye view of your life and ask yourself: What changes could make life easier?
Instead of trying to do it all, focus on activities you specialize in and value most. Delegate or outsource everything else. Delegating can be a win-win situation, says Stewart Freidman, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and author of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. Freidman recommends talking to the “key stakeholders” in different areas of your life, which could include employees or colleagues at work, a spouse or a partner in a community project.
These ideas may seem too large to tackle all at once. Start small. Make simple changes toward better choices.
Record your “wins”! I see too many high achievers who never celebrate a win. Our sense of knowing we’re winning helps build momentum in this life. Get it going in the right direction by recognizing the small wins in your day. Keep a journal if you need to. Write nothing but the wins you experience in a day. Enjoy the journey!
Make a difference for yourself. You can start today.
Question: In what ways do you find better work-life balance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
We all suffer the daily grind. Some days are better than others. For anyone in management or leadership, you need to take a pause to make some critical assessments. I like to call it recalibration. This is a key leadership quality. Let’s face it, the demands on your time and your life can get overwhelming. In today’s tumultuous market, we really never know from day to day what next may come.
You may need to ask yourself this big question:
Are you managing your world or is your world managing you?
In my consulting days, I was project manager of a very large engagement with over 400 consultants working for me. It was a coast to coast assignment with teams scattered across 7 job sites. I had nine different work streams running concurrently, with cross-over dependencies between teams.
The hours were long and the travel compounded the pressure. The client was a large national banking institution and the mission was to help the bank respond to a critical regulatory mandate. To say the least, the stakes were great. It could have been easy to get overwhelmed with the scope of the situation. I confess, at times I did feel consumed.
Fortunately, my many years of prior training, both military and civilian, had prepared me for just such a mission. I was a long time practitioner of the principle I am about to share
If you let these pressures mount without routinely asking yourselves some essential questions, you run the risk of spinning off into some other orbit that you never intended.
There is an old story of the frog in the pot. The story says that if you drop a frog in boiling water he immediately jumps out. But if you set him in cool water and slowly add the heat, he’ll boil to death. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be like the frog.
You have to gauge the temperature on a regular basis. Are you getting comfortable with the heat rising?
You have to pay attention to the circumstances around you. There needs to be the routine recalibration of your own role in the middle of the work demands going on around you.
React or Respond?
If a doctor prescribes medication and I have a reaction to it, that is NOT GOOD. Yet if I respond to it, I am going to get healthier.
Just like with the medicine, being reactive to the things in our world really will not help the situation. Of course, there are things that may happen that are totally unexpected. We have to deal with that.
At the core of this idea is the difference between being proactive or reactive. We should not let everything that happens become a topic of reaction. As a leader, you must be able to do some things to be proactive with what may come. Proactive people are better positioned to respond to the situation and manage their world. However, being reactive allows the events of the day to manage YOU.
So where do you stand? Are you more inclined to be in control of the things happening around you or have you started just reacting?
People Can Mess Things Up
You may think you have developed the best plan in the world to attack the next chapter of your life (ok, maybe just the next few hours). Then, what do you know? The very first person who walks into the office seems to blow the whole plan out of the water. What do you do?
Don’t react! Force yourself to pause and process the matter according to your plan. This is how you manage things rather than let things manage you.
Is it easy? Of course not! That’s why we so often feel overwhelmed at the end of the day.
Even if you are successful at maintaining the focus on your plan, it likely will take lots of energy and effort. But people who have been able to adopt a discipline for doing this find it becomes easier to do. If your outward aura is true to this inner control, the people around you will start to get the picture. Their demands will become less intrusive, plus they will learn they cannot get “the reaction” out you they used to be able to do.
LIFE IS A SELF-HELP JOURNEY
Managers getting it right
Maybe the self-help books are not as popular as they once were. The truth is, this journey we call life is full of self-help moments. Rather than waiting on others to pitch in or hoping that circumstances may change, you need to take control of your own destiny.
Personal and professional growth only happens when you choose to make it happen.
At each and every step of the way, keep asking yourself if you are managing your world or does your world manage you? Take the time to recalibrate. Get back on plan.
Question: When was the last time you were able to stand back and realize your world was managing you? How did you regain control? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
We all like Plan “B” options that afford us escape when things don’t work out. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. How’s that for bold leadership? As a leader, you must decide when and how to burn your own ships.
What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. A retreat was not an option. To truly achieve the level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the boats.”
The obvious question becomes “what are my ships”? For starters, your ship may be anything that you are afraid to let go of.
My three-year-old grandson has his favorite blanket he drags everywhere. It is his actual security blanket. We hope he abandons it by the time he’s ready for high school graduation, but maybe he won’t. I’m kidding of course, but how silly would that look? A handsome 18 year old walking the stage at graduation with this tattered, filthy, and well-worn blanket tucked under his arm.
What are they?
Ironically, plenty of people hang on to some form of security blanket or ‘ship’. Here are the big ones:
Your current job – Yes, you may be hanging on to that lousy job because you need the security of it; the actual financial security. While those reasons may be logical and practical, are they holding you back from achieving something even greater?
Your field of employment – Does a career change make more sense? Are you drained by the thought of challenges in any other position within your industry?
Your comfort zone – This is a big one. What would it look like to have to step outside of your comfort zone every day? Falling back into that zone is just like the ship you should probably burn.
Wrong relationships – It’s sadly funny how many folks stay in bad relationships, business or otherwise. There’s a thought that you have time or money invested, so you hate to walk away, even though all indications are negative.
Are you willing to burn a ship? That means eliminating the escape hatch, safety valve, or parachute. As comforting as having such an escape may be, there are times when you have to get rid of the escape mechanism so that you proceed without fear, doubt, or skepticism.
Having the escape plan gives you the chance to make a half-hearted attempt to succeed, knowing all the while that at the first sign of trouble you can pull the ripcord and make the escape.
The Easy Way Out
Sadly, I’ve known too many couples who enter into marriage with a stated position that “if it doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce”. While I am not a legalist on the topic of divorce, I do believe that making that option too easy is a sure fire way to make it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So back to Captain Cortés and your work team. If you are the leader of your team, what ships have been docked nearby that will allow your whole team to escape if things start going wrong? Have you, as their leader found ways to make it clear that the ships have been burned?
Being the leader and giving the command to burn the ships may be the toughest command you give. I’m guessing Cortés slept with one eye open for quite some time after he first gave the order and watched the ships go up in flames. You too may suffer from the fear of the team’s reaction to the command, but it may be the best thing you could ever do for them.
Question: Share some ways you have eliminated the escape hatches where you work. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Managers face a constant struggle to improve communication within their work teams. Besides being able to accurately articulate any technical aspects about the work (every industry has its key phrases, terms, and buzz words), business leaders have to be ever-mindful of some very basic principles of effective communication.
We usually think about communication as a two part/two person transaction. You speak, I speak, we hear and we act. This is the way most adults perceive the process of communication. When we need to talk to our teams, we usually just think about crafting a message as though it is being addressed to one person.
I submit to you that there are really four stages of communication. Being an effective communicator requires a laser focus to insure the parts are working to their maximum potential.
The four stages are:
1. What You Mean to Say – Your communication as a manager must first be grounded in the thoughts you develop as facts and circumstances come together. When you process all of the information at hand, SOME kind of thought process should lead you to a decision. A message to the team begins with the thoughts that you will have. Sometimes the thoughts are significant and profound. At other times they are pretty simple. Your thoughts become the root of your message.
Be sure your mental checklist is functioning clearly before you start talking to the team. Be clear about what you mean to say.
2. What You Actually Say – You have your thought, but then words must be applied to express that thought. Numbers 1 and 2 here are very closely tied together but are just different enough to cause a potential problem.
Let’s face it, most of us have had a moment where an idea pops into our head, but we cannot find the perfect words to explain the essence of that idea. Our words fail us. This phase is especially troublesome when you have to communicate ‘on the fly’, meaning impromptu communication.
When you have a chance to write a speech, you get more time to process your thoughts and formulate the words. Great speechwriters make careers doing this for politicians and celebrities. However, managers on the front line seldom have that luxury. As events unfold at work, you are required to respond quickly. Your words can easily become muddled.
If words fail you, it is possible you will be sending a message that is different from your original intent. Also, words that have double meanings can confuse the message. Tone and positioning of words can impact the meaning. There are numerous ways that the words you DO choose to express may send a message different from what you intend.
3. What the Listener Hears – When we think of translating a message from one language to another, we often hear about ‘something getting lost in translation’. Unfortunately, that can happen with communication within the same language. You can take a perfectly structured thought (Item #1) that is represented well by the words you choose (Item #2) but still have trouble getting your message across.
Clearly, the responsibility to correctly hear a message falls on your listener. Any form of translation that changes the message corrupts it. The risk at this stage is that word meanings can vary from person to person. As the manager, if you make a statement “I am concerned about this _______”, some may hear the message as saying “I am mad, but just not telling you”.
4. What the Listener Now Feels – Whether the translation being heard is correct or not, there is still one last hurdle to overcome. How does your message make the listener feel? The content of what you meant versus the listener’s conclusion after processing your words may spawn a surprising reaction.
For some, there are trigger words that spark bad feelings. For others, there are words that inspire and motivate. The listener’s initial feeling about the message will have a direct impact on the success of the communication. If the effort ends poorly, the manager must essentially start over with this entire 4 stage process.
We’ve discussed the four stages of communication. What is a manager to do?
In situations where people have solid, effective relationships, there is a history that can smooth any of the rough edges stemming from a breakdown of any of these four parts. When people have worked together for some time, they can (and should) develop a sense of understanding that helps to bridge the communication gap. Keywords and phrases take on meanings of their own and become the go-to way to express a topic.
Yet, when someone new joins the team, communication bridges are not yet available, so the manager’s message needs to stick to the basics until the history can be accumulated. The latter is also true when new topics are introduced to the team.
As the Manager, it is your responsibility to watch for breaks in all four of these stages. Better communication can be achieved by effectively using all elements. Find ways to let your team know that for their benefit you want to be a good communicator. Let them provide feedback, too. Iron out phrases and words that miss the mark or generate the wrong conclusions.
If you can broaden your view of the communication process, you can become a more effective manager.
Question: In what ways have you experienced communication problems with your work team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Facing life each day, we all make this mistake. We spend time on the wrong stuff. Priorities get mixed up. Big things get forgotten or set aside while little things get all our attention; both emotional and physical. We major on the minors and minor on the majors.
Why do we do this? Mainly because the little things seem easier to knock out. We fool ourselves into thinking “I’ll spend a minute finishing this or that, then I’ll get to the big thing.” Pretty soon the day is gone and none of the big stuff gets accomplished.
So we push it off for tomorrow. We wake up and do it all over again. The next thing we know, a major deadline has gotten missed.
How to fix it
I’m reminded by Chuck Swindoll, longtime spiritual guide and virtual mentor of mine, there are three ways to avoid majoring on the minors. We have to review, reject, and renew. Let’s unpack the meaning.
We must be able to review what we are choosing to do. A review has to happen frequently. As you set priorities, the only way to keep them in sight is to review where you are.
Our brains have an amazing capacity to do this in our subconsciousness. Have you ever been driving and suddenly realized you’ve spent the last 10 minutes and have no sense of driving at all? Why? Because we set our minds on a destination with a proven way to get there. Our brains take over and help us maneuver the vehicle without thinking about it.
While I don’t recommend driving this way routinely, you can apply the same truth to achieving goals. If you set your mind to them daily, your brain will tune in to a frequency that gets you there.
I am a big fan of the decision box made famous by Dwight Eisenhower (see below). It has four quarters with a scale for urgent versus important. Put your to-do items into one of the quadrants. Then you’ll get a better picture of what you need to be doing.
Reject the clutter. Keep your head clear of unnecessary noise and distraction. Reject the temptations to do the piddly little things before more meaningful goals have been accomplished.
I love the day timer apps and books that allow you to set the right goals as priorities, then help you keep them in proper focus.
Further, if you have to, unplug for brief periods throughout the day. Turn off email, Facebook, and other electronics that have a temptation to draw you in. Intentionally set up some productivity windows for full focus on the big rocks.
Keep your mind fresh. Take breaks. Get up and walk around to clear your head and give you the power to reconnect.
Watch out though for finding something else to do. Avoid the urge to multi-task.
Find new and inspiring articles, books, and other content to consume rather than junk mail. Keep yourself stocked with fresh ideas and new ways to look at things.
Ever thought about hiring a coach to help you become a better you?
Using these three key ways to set your sights on the right priorities will help you major on the majors. Cheers to better productivity!
Question: What are you doing to become more productive? You can leave a comment by clicking here.