As we make decisions how about to commit our time and resources, we often focus on what we have to lose if we say “no” or don’t capitalize on a new opportunity. The more successful we become, the more opportunities we create. And, with those potential new pathways, we can get caught up in a quest for more that surprisingly leads to less. A clear sign that we are trying to do too much is that more ends up feeling like less. Less joy, less satisfaction and less result.
While it can seem counterintuitive, we often have to take a couple of steps back, actually do less, in order to achieve more that matters. Yes, sometimes we need to go slow before we can go faster or be better.
Springtime is the perfect season to slow down a bit. To take advantage of this time, spend a work week calibrating your focus and working to let go, or finish off, old roles, tasks, projects or responsibilities that are preventing you from excelling at what matters most.
Allow these questions to guide your efforts to understand what is the highest, and best, use of your time and talent:
What are the highest priority goals you’d like to accomplish between now and the end of the year?
What do you need to stop doing to have the time and energy to make sure those goals are achieved?
What needs to be started now to ensure progress on unmet goals?
What have you been saying “yes” to lately that sounds good in theory, but in reality is just adding stress and little value?
What do you need to complete well in order to finish the year strong?
Focus is critical. It’s easy to mistake busyness for progress. By understanding the risk of saying “yes” to initiatives that offer some value, we are better positioned to identify and capitalize on the opportunities that will lead to maximum value.
Your team completed a project under budget and ahead of time
Peaks can give you the energy and motivation necessary to strive for even greater achievements. Though, they never seem to last long enough, do they?
What’s more, once you’re on top of a mountain, the only next step is one that goes down. If you take too many steps, you can find yourself in a valley – a lonely, dismal place.
Valleys can be:
Receiving a discouraging performance review
Losing a treasured client
Getting a demotion
This is when it feels like work just isn’t working for you. While in a valley, you’ll consider career changes, experience self-doubt, and question what it is that you’re meant to be doing in the first place.
Sometimes it can be challenging to inspire yourself in these moments, which is when you need to seek out sources that encourage you and help you rediscover that spark within.
If this sounds at all familiar, visit The SPARK Experience and check out our videos, designed to give you the motivation you need to stay inspired. At Lead Star, we’re on your side. Being our best requires effort, and we’re committed to giving the resources you need to be your best.
PS Don’t forget to register for our next FREE Webinar in our series, which focuses on how to deal with stubborn people. You can register here.
Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement.
One fails forward toward success.
– C.S. Lewis
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be accountable to success but how difficult it can be to be accountable to failure? When success happens, it’s rewarding – if not exciting – to see how we contributed to the result! When failure happens, it can be embarrassing to consider our role in it. This is why many are quick to place blame, or deny their role, when mistakes get made. We want to protect ourselves – and our ego – from less than best results.
I had the honor to work with a National Football League team fresh out of grad school. I was in an entry-level role in football operations, which meant that I helped take care of the players and coaches off-field needs so they could concentrate on the on-field stuff. Trust me, being a part of the NFL was a dream come true, but it was not as glamorous as it might sound. I passed out checks, booked flights, gave rides to medical appointments, ordered catered meals, etc. But I loved doing it because I loved the team.
Our team had a pretty good season. So good that we made the playoffs. And boy, was I proud of how I contributed to the team’s success! So was everyone else. From the bus drivers, to our team photographer, to guys in the operations department. During playoff season, we were all raising our hands to say that we had something to do with our team making it this far. We were being accountable to our success.
Well, the first round of the playoffs came and we get our butts kicked. It was ugly. When it happened you certainly did not see me raising my hand trying to take accountability for my role in the loss. Along with other team members, I was thinking “you guys stink’” and “thank goodness I had nothing to do with this.” I believed I had nothing to do with the loss even though I had been quick to claim a piece of the earlier success.
Through time, I’ve learned that when facing defeat or failure, an effective leader must first seek ownership. I may not have been on-field while the team played, but I know there were things off-field that I could have been doing better. If I can be a proud winner, I should also learn to be an accountable loser.
Look to themselves first before pointing the finger at someone else when things go wrong.
Look at failure as a learning opportunity.
Don’t focus on blaming others for shortcomings. Effective leaders provide feedback, only after they have examined their role in the challenge.
Have a bias towards action when there is a problem. Only action – demonstrated in the spirit of accountability – solves problems.
Take ownership and start being part of the solution today!
Master Kevin: Is it okay to break your nose in class?
Kids in Tae Kwon Do Class: (Silence)
Master Kevin: Yes, it’s okay. The only place where you’re not going to get hurt is on the couch, eating cheese, wearing your footie pajamas and watching cartoons … .
I overheard this lesson at my son’s Tae Kwon Do class. As Master Kevin launched into a discussion about how life is hard, but it’s worth getting off the couch to live, I couldn’t help but smile. It was the exact lesson I wanted my son to hear. And while it’s a lesson I hope he picks up from my example, I’m real – my words and actions sometimes mean less to my son than the same words and actions coming from someone else.
So let’s talk about this life – this real world place where you’re bound to get your nose broken, your dreams crushed, your cage rattled, and you’re almost guaranteed to take a big risk and lose.
We might think: This place is tough. I should play it safe.
But there’s danger in safety, too. Safety means you’re not stretching yourself, pushing your boundaries, and daring into arenas where you can test yourself to see what you’re made of. Safety, too, can sometimes mean we become complacent – that even though we’re given this great gift of life, we squander it be keeping ourselves unchanged, the same.
I believe there’s a space between careless and careful when it comes to risk taking. Careless means we risk something very important to us that we shouldn’t – like gambling with our values. Careful means we hedge during risk taking and never put both feet in.
I like to call that space between careless and careful as “conscious commitment.” Conscious means that we’re eyes wide open when we realize what’s at stake and we’ve squared this risk with our value system so that “we’re good.” Commitment means “all in,” at all costs. There’s no hedging.
I believe there are things that you can consciously commit to if you really think about it. These are often our dormant dreams – you know, those things you think of doing but never really get around to. Revisit your dreams. Do great things. What are you waiting for? Since we can’t time travel, let me recommend that you choose to consciously commit soon … like today or tomorrow.
Best of luck on your adventure! Know that you’ve got a few cheerleaders in your corner.
Imagine you’re on an airplane about to go to sleep and suddenly you’re startled by the piercing scream of not one – but two – kids. And it doesn’t stop. And the flight is supposed to last several hours. And you’re exhausted.
Now, imagine that those screams are coming from your children and there is nothing you can do about it.
Well, that’s exactly what happened to my wife and me as we began our recent family vacation. Once the plane was in the air, our 1 and 3-year-olds had the most massive meltdowns of their life. Now, I’m not talking about whimpering sobs. I’m talking about lying on the floor, kicking and screaming tantrums … at the same time … for 20 minutes straight.
Prior to the flight, my wife and I read all the articles and watched all the YouTube videos on how to keep toddlers calm on airplanes. We didn’t want to be that family. We ordered numerous different activities from Amazon and had 2 iPads on standby as a last resort, along with a stash of snacks. We felt prepared. Until, of course, we realized that there wasn’t a trinket in the world that would calm our kids down. To make matters worse, any help I offered only intensified my daughters’ screams.
As an Army Veteran, I’m used to running toward the burning building to put out the fire. The only thing I could do in this situation was slink back in my seat as I watched my amazing wife from afar attempt to calm and cuddle our girls amidst the glares of annoyed passengers.
The reason I tell you this story is because something awesome and unexpected happened at the end of the flight. One of the flight attendants, Santio, came and gave my wife a bag filled with some goodies and a very sweet handwritten note. And it wasn’t just the bag and the note that lifted my wife’s spirits, but the expression of empathy in his body language as he spoke to her.
This reminds me that the smallest acts of service can have the biggest impacts on others. We all have the ability to impact someone else’s life in a meaningful way today. Here are a couple of ideas that you can do right now:
Pick up the phone and call someone and let them know how much you value them. Whether it is a family member, friend, or coworker, tell them you are calling to let them know how great they are and how much they mean to you.
Write a note. It’s a classic move that does not get old but unfortunately happens less and less. Write a note and put it in the mail. How many people actually receive personal correspondence in these days? Can’t bring yourself to putting pen to paper, send them a text instead.
Give that person a shout out on social media. Let everyone know why they are awesome.
Take them out for coffee and listen. Let the conversation be about them. What have they been up to? What are their goals for the year? What’s their dream vacation?
Isn’t it amazing the impact we can have others? I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
-Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert
I recently joked that on Monday I hate my previous Friday self. What do I mean by this? Like many of you, I’m often tired on Friday. So, my Friday self, excited by the prospect of a week of hard work coming to an end, starts shifting “to-do’s” to Monday. In doing so, I buy into a false narrative that Monday won’t be busy, and that I’ll have much more energy after the weekend to tackle the tasks I’m procrastinating.
When Monday comes, I then have to face what I originally had planned for the day AND the Friday work. The energy reserve I built up over the weekend quickly gets spent on accelerating from time off to full throttle engagement.
If you can relate to this experience, here are three practices that help Monday feel more like the peace of a Friday afternoon.
1. Plan “white space” into your Monday calendar. White space is time you schedule just like any other meeting or commitment except that it involves no one else and no specific task or project. Like the margin on the side of a notebook page, white space gives you time to handle those deliverables that might not be urgent, but are important. Plus, by planning white space on your schedule, you’ll have a cushion of time when the inevitable Monday morning emergency happens.
2. Resist the urge to over commit and under deliver. Procrastination is often a symptom of making too many commitments. If you are exhausted every Friday, chances are you are doing too much. Be realistic with your schedule and commitments. And, when you do take on new tasks or projects, be sure to assign deadlines for completion that make sense in the context of your existing commitments.
3. Set clear goals for your Friday self. Each Monday, look ahead to the week with an eye for clarifying what truly “done” on Friday will look like. When you have a clear sense of what you must do by Friday, you’ll be more aware of your finish line for the week. And, more inspired to have a power Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to get there!
As you incorporate these three best practices into your work routine, your Monday will become more peaceful and productive. And, you’ll begin to respect your Friday self once again.
To persevere, I think, is important for everybody. Don’t give up, don’t give in. There’s always an answer to everything. – Louis Zamperini
It’s that time of year … track. Now, you might not be as obsessed about this sport as I am, but maybe you’ll appreciate it more when I relate it to talent.
So, backstory: for the past three years, the coaches of my son’s track team have allowed me to run with the distance runners in a pseudo coaching capacity. (Pseudo because my travel schedule doesn’t afford me the opportunity to train with them everyday.) For the past three years, I’ve been able to observe this group’s talent, hard work, and grit.
Here’s what this experience has reinforced:
Champions are made in the off season. If you want to be excellent during racing season, you have to be excellent when there’s no competition. You must have the discipline to train with a greater goal in mind.
Hard work beats talent every single time. Sure, there are the rare occasions when there’s talent so extraordinary that it doesn’t have to work too hard, but I’ve seen kids overcome tremendous talent gaps by their sheer effort.
Everyone’s got a game face. Seriously. Everyone. But not everyone brings their game face to their race. A game face symbolizes that you’re going to leave it all out on the track. Some people choose not to, even though they’re capable.
Your mind will quit before your body will. It’s always interesting, especially in distance runs, to watch when people quit. Not physically, but mentally. Some people even quit before the starting gun goes off. As humans, we’re capable of amazing feats – our minds have to be the driving force, though.
The only way to stay on top is to respect the competition. I kicked off training last week reminding the fastest male and female runners that they need to look around … everyone else is trying to beat them. And then I told everyone else, look at these two – try to beat them. I reinforced that if we all push each other, each day we get better and, because we’re a team, if a teammate beats us, the only thing we can do is high five them and say, “great race” because they earned it.
So, to all the track fans, sports fans, and workers out there – have a great spring season! And if you’ve got any great sport anecdotes or metaphors that you believe relate well to life, I’d love to hear them – email me at email@example.com.
“Angie, you’re spending too much time hoping. Hope is in the future. You need to live in the present. In the present, address what you’re afraid of. Focus on confronting your fears today and you will shape your tomorrow.”
A wise mentor and confidant delivered this message to me recently. His well-timed, well-articulated advice challenged my way of thinking.
Basically, I’m a hope junky. I love working today for what I hope will be for my tomorrow. So as I wrap my head around how hoping might not be in my best interest, I’m trying to be open-minded to a new life rubric.
My friend is right about one thing: I spend a lot of energy vision casting and imaging what I’d like to be, what I’d like to do, and what I’d like to experience. My mind is in my future a lot, which allows me to bypass my fears in the present.
If you were to ask me, “What are you afraid of?” my instinct might be to tell you nothing. But if I were to sit still with myself and dig in, I’m sure I’d reacquaint myself with my insecurities, inadequacies, and – in generals – several self-made barriers and beliefs that have kept my ego safe, but have put some limits on me that I’m probably not even aware of.
This is deep stuff … I know. But to grow as leaders, we can’t wade in the shallow waters.
Courtney and I were talking recently about the pace of life and how hard it is to find these moments of stillness, as well as the pressures we face that take our mind off the moments at hand. I’m sure you know those pressures, too.
Will what I’m doing right now pay off tomorrow?
Am I on the right track?
Are these choices the best ones for me?
We’ve taken it on as a personal challenge to sit still, exist in moments of discomfort, and embrace the here and now. Here are some things we’re trying:
Breathing. Literally. I’ve just started to practice meditating. I hate sitting still, so this is a tough one for me. But I’m growing to realize that the thing I want to do least is probably the thing I should do most.
Staring Down Fears. I’m trying not to walk away from the things I‘m afraid of and, instead, walk towards them. There’s a lot here to explore.
Embracing Hopelessness. It’s not that you can’t have expectations or dreams. Just put energy in the present. Hopes can be mirages. What is real and what you can influence is this present moment. Take care of now.
Challenging our thoughts and shaping our behaviors is what leaders do. Not only does it ensure continuous growth, but it allows us to get to know ourselves better. I’ve long said and believed that the most important relationship a leader has is the one with themself.
I’d love to hear from you – what are you doing right now to be present and in the moment? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll create a list and share your ideas (not names!)
I tend to write a lot about success – secrets to success, how to achieve it, setting goals and accomplishing them. I recently thought about the topic of success and wondered … is success a series of great events, or is it a series of rebounds from failures?
I’ve failed a lot. I’ve failed in relationships. I’ve failed at work. There have been plenty of parenting fails in my life. There have been situations where I didn’t live my values. There have been times I’ve let people down and circumstances where I’ve felt powerless to influence, yet had to suffer through the consequences.
Yet, when I think about all of these events, I’m proud. Odd, right? My pride isn’t derived from my poor choices; my pride comes from recovering from situations where I didn’t act my best, but gave myself a bit of grace, reflected to understand lessons learned, and focused on being better as the result of the experience.
I think failure is one of those things we tend to shield ourselves from. We certainly don’t brag about our fails, or talk about them on social media. But, what if we did?
What if we talked more about our imperfections? What if we were more honest and open about our failures?
Here are a few things that I think would happen:
We’d present an image of realness and authenticity in this “personal brand” era – an image that is refreshing to others and pulls people closer
We’d inspire others to be more honest about their own failures, their own shortcomings, influencing greater sharing and candor
We’d get to the heart of the issues faster and co-imagine solutions that would get us to results quicker
We’d inspire greater trust – it’s paradoxical, but the more we talk about our missteps, the more people trust us with responsibility
So, the next time you have a great success, here’s what to do: revel in it, understand your role in contributing to the outcome. But reflect, too, on all the trials you’ve went through to make this singular success so meaningful.
I have zero doubt that the vast majority of professionals go to work with the intention of adding value to their colleagues, their team, and their organization.
They may put a tremendous amount of effort into owning their job description and being technically proficient in their role. But, I often wonder how much time they invest in these two critical, value-add qualities: being interested and interesting.
Here’s what I mean.
As a leader, you should be interested in:
Your colleagues, their lives outside of work, and learning about what motivates and drives them
Your organization, its industry, and how it makes money and/or achieves its goals
Your craft and the trends that are influencing your role
The other teams and departments in your organization and how you all work together
The opportunities for new approaches and any barriers to success
Being interested in your work, the people you work with, and the process for which the work gets done allows you to anticipate future needs and take initiative where appropriate.
Committing yourself to being interested also allows you to be interesting. When you’re open-minded and curious, you’re exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking. You suddenly have more thoughts to contribute and knowledge to share. You have greater awareness of what questions to ask, insights to offer, and recommendations based upon what you’ve been discovering. This allows your input to be, well, interesting and valuable to the decision-makers in your organization.
If adding this type of value is important to you, you might be wondering where to start. Easy. Start by asking questions with an intention to learn.
Asking questions with an intention to learn is not:
Asking questions to show what you know
Asking questions to impress
Asking questions for the sake of asking questions
It’s just to learn. Simple enough, right?
So go forward into the week being interested … your expressed interest will, in turn, help you be a greater contributor in the weeks ahead.
My best, Angie
PS I’d love to hear from you … when you’re trying to express interest in getting to know someone, what’s a great question to ask? My go-to question is “Are you reading anything good right now?” Post your thoughts on our Facebook wall.