Category Archives: Leadership

How to Develop Your Leadership Brand

What value do you bring as a leader? What do you stand for? How do others see you?

When you think of branding, you might think of marketing strategies used at big companies like Disney, Apple, or Zappos. But we all have a brand, whether we realize it or not.

Your personal brand is how you appear to the world. It’s how others see you. It’s your reputation. Your strengths, values, behaviors, and habits all form your personal brand.

Your leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. What value to you bring as a leader? What do you stand for? How do others see you?

Most professionals and leaders are not even aware of what their leadership brand is.

Your leadership brand is very important. It’s the basis of many decisions made in the workplace.

When your boss and other leaders are making decisions about promotions or other factors, your leadership brand is impacting these decisions, whether you realize it or not. Your personal strengths and talents plus your behaviors is the value you bring to the people you serve. It’s important to know your strengths and personality and leverage them.

When thinking about your leadership brand, there are two considerations:

  1. How you are seen internally in your organization: your boss, peers, direct reports, board of directors, and others
  1. How you are seen by others outside of your organization: on social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and at events like Industry meetings, networking events, workshops, and trainings.

There is often a gap between how we want to be viewed and how others view us. Perceptions are not always reality, but perceptions are how other people view us through their own filter.

How do you know what your leadership brand is?

Before you determine what you want to be known for and how you want to be seen, it’s important to determine how others view you now. Once you become aware of your leadership brand, you can shift your behaviors or actions to consciously design your leadership brand.

There are many ways to gain feedback on your performance and how others perceive you. First, ask yourself, how do others view me?

How do you show up at work?  Passive, disengaged, mediocre, thrown together, OR engaged, passionate, supportive, positive, professional, and polished? Are you spending time at the coffee station complaining? Or are you seen as a supportive and positive influence?

How do you show up in life? Are you late to meetings, and unprepared? Do you miss deadlines? Can you handle issues yourself, or do you upward delegate to your manager? Do you deliberately coach and develop your employees?

How do you show up outside of work?  Are you approachable and friendly at outside events? Do you keep to yourself, or use networking to your advantage? How do you show up on social media? Does your picture reflect who you want to portray? Is it professional? Are your posts negative or positive? Personally, I avoid talking about politics and other sensitive subjects on social media.

How do you show up at industry events? Passive, unprofessional, insecure, uninterested, OR professional, positive, upbeat, smiling and confident?  You should always be mindful of what others are experiencing about you. People are always forming impressions.

In addition to self-reflection, you can also employ feedback tools such as:

  • 360 degree assessment
  • Asking your manager for feedback
  • Asking colleagues for feedback
  • Conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
  • Using a program like Survey Monkey to survey colleagues about your strengths and development opportunities

 Once you understand how you are currently perceived, you can use that information to deliberately design your leadership brand. Think about how you want to be viewed inside and outside of your credit union. Designing your leadership brand is not about trying to be someone you are not. Rather, it’s understanding who you are and how you want to be perceived by others.

Every interaction you have with someone is an opportunity—an opportunity to make a great impression, an opportunity for a promotion, an opportunity to connect with someone who may be your next boss, or an opportunity to attract new opportunities.

Your leadership brand can take years to build, but can be ruined overnight. Be mindful of how you are perceived, both inside and outside of your organization. You want to carefully manage and protect your brand.

Let’s start today to deliberately shape your leadership brand.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when crafting your leadership brand:

  • What do I want to be known for as  a leader?
  • How might others currently perceive me?
  • What is the gap?
  • What behaviors can I start changing immediately?
  • What actions can I take in the next 7 days?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What is one aspect of your leadership brand you want to leverage? Are there any behaviors you can change to positively impact your brand?

5 Ways to Earn a Promotion or Raise

I was recently facilitating a leadership program and a participant expressed her frustration that she hadn’t been promoted. Lately, her supervisor had assigned her some extra work, and she felt she should be recognized and compensated for the additional effort. She went to her boss to advocate for a promotion, and was surprised when her efforts were unsuccessful and her manager was annoyed by the request.

There may be times when asking for a promotion is necessary. If you have consistently used the strategies I share below and you are viewed as a high performer, then perhaps it’s time to ask for a promotion or seek other opportunities. But a better approach is to strategically position yourself for a promotion or raise.

Advocating for a raise or promotion (even if you deserve it) usually doesn’t work because your manager may feel backed into a corner. She may not feel you are prepared for a new role, and now she needs to communicate that to you. Even if she does feel you deserve a promotion, now she may feel pressured to act on it.  Either way, it puts your manager in a position of having something else on her plate to deal with.

When you ask for a promotion or raise just because you’ve taken on some additional work, it may come across as entitled or self-focused. The perception is that you care more about your own interests than the needs of the company.

The best approach is to take full ownership of your professional development and prove yourself before you get the promotion.

Below are five strategies for earning the promotion or raise you want:

Take 100% responsibility. Many people believe it’s their managers responsibility to develop them for future growth opportunities. While great leaders do invest time in developing their employees, you should take responsibility for your own development. Delegating your development to your manager is an indication that you won’t take full ownership of a new role. Managers are looking for self-starters who are confident and capable of getting results. Now is the time to prove you possess these traits. Are there new skills you need to learn before you take on a new role? Sign up for a course. Do you need to learn more about the financial side of the business to expand your organizational breadth? Ask someone in finance to mentor you. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do. Take ownership of your career.

Share your professional goals. Have you shared your professional goals with your manager? Your boss can’t support you if she doesn’t know what your personal and professional goals are. If you are interested in a leadership role, share that with your manager and ask her what you would need to do to achieve that goal. Your manager is a great resource for communicating specific actions you need to take to position yourself for a new role.

Earlier in my career, I started working for a credit union as the assistant manager of the call center. A year later, I realized I wanted to work in leadership and human resources. I approached the human resources vice president and told her I was interested in moving into her department. Although there weren’t any positions available at the time, six months later when a position did become available, I was chosen over another internal candidate because I had shared my goals with the VP and had enrolled in an HR class on my own time. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you. Ask for what you want.

Go above and beyond. Don’t wait for a promotion to take on extra work. Be of service before you get the promotion. Ask for additional responsibilities and stretch projects that will prepare you for future roles. This illustrates that you are a hard worker who is willing to support your boss and the organization, and that you are an action-oriented, motivated employee who wants to help your boss succeed.

I believe one quality that helped me to earn four promotions in four years, was supporting my boss any way possible. If she talked about a project she wanted to implement or something we needed to get done in the department, I would step in and take care of it. I took things off her plate and followed through. Go the extra mile to help your manager look good. Become an employee who is easy to delegate to and who welcomes new responsibilities.

Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for a promotion is to ask for feedback on your current performance. Don’t wait until your annual evaluation. At least quarterly, ask your manager to rate your performance. A great tool is the feedback scale. Ask your boss:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate my current performance?

If he says a ’10’, ask, “What did I do to get such a high score?” (this gives you feedback on what to continue).

If he rates you lower than a 10, ask, “What would make it a 10?” (this gives you feedback on what to start or stop doing).

Also ask what knowledge, skills, or abilities are important to be successful in the position you aspire to, and ask your manager to rate you on each of those factors. This may initially feel uncomfortable, but the way to get promoted is to get as much information as you can to improve your skills and performance.

Be a solution provider, not a problem finder. Don’t go to your boss and point out the problems in the department or the organization. Take ownership of problems and come to your manager with solutions. Even if you don’t know the answer to a problem, think through how you might approach it before going to your boss. Managers don’t need more on their plate. They are looking for employees who will take ownership of their role and bring solutions instead of problems.

Employees are rarely promoted for meeting expectations in their position. It takes some extra effort to show your dedication to the organization and the value you bring. If you take 100% responsibility for your development, you dramatically increase your chances of getting that raise or promotion you have come to deserve.

Now I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been promoted in your career, what did you do to earn the promotion? What advice do you have for someone who wants to move up in their company?

Share your comments below.

8 Ways to Develop More Discipline

I once heard one of my mentors, Darren Hardy, say that at his core, he is a lazy person. Left to his own devices, he would watch golf and eat ice cream all day. Yet he is one of the most disciplined people on the planet. This guy gets more done in one week than most people do in a year.

Discipline isn’t the absence of temptations. There will always be something more enticing to do than the task at hand. I’d much rather have a leisurely lunch over wine every day than meet a deadline or exercise. Discipline is getting yourself to do something you don’t really feel like doing, so you can get the result you want.

Most people try to unsuccessfully fit important tasks into their already jam-packed day, and then leave the office feeling very little sense of accomplishment. One of the secrets to developing more discipline is to create structures that enable you to be more productive on important areas.

If you want to accomplish your goals and become more successful, here are seven ways to develop more discipline:

  1. Understand your “why”. Whether you have a goal to lose weight, or to finish a project at work, understanding why you want the result will help you muster more energy and enthusiasm when you don’t feel like being disciplined. A few months ago, my husband and I completed a 21-day health detox. Eliminating sweets (my vice) for three weeks felt like torture at first. But I kept reminding myself why I was doing the detox in the first place. I want more energy, I want to fit into my smaller size jeans, and I want to look and feel great. It wasn’t easy, but it got easier as time went on because I was connected to my why.
  1. Plan your day the night before. A little bit of planning can make a huge impact on how your day goes. Have you ever tried to start a diet when you weren’t prepared? If you don’t have the right foods in the house (or the wrong foods out of the house), it makes it much harder to follow through. The same goes for setting up our days. Taking ten minutes each night to plan how you will spend the next day will set up the conditions for getting more done. At the end of each night, I choose my top two important goals for the next day, and schedule focused time for each in my calendar. Not every day is the same, but I use this structure for any time I am not facilitating leadership programs, working with clients, or in meetings.
  1. Schedule focus time. There is one habit I implemented a few years ago that has made a huge impact on my discipline and getting things done: productivity sprints. Productivity sprints are blocks of focused time to work on a project or task. They are a structure of discipline that provides the environment to actually get something done. I am writing this blog during a two hour productivity sprint I scheduled on a Monday morning. I will not take a break, check email, or do anything else until I have completed my two hour productivity sprint. Your productivity sprint can be as little as 15 minutes, but the point is to schedule time without distractions where you can focus and get into the state of flow. And you will feel so accomplished when you complete that important task!
  1. Remove distractions. If you are trying to lose weight, nutritionists recommend removing all junk food from your house so you are not tempted to cheat. Makes sense, right? The same is true for your work environment. You probably struggle with discipline because there are too many distractions begging for your attention like email, your phone, Facebook, or your coworkers. I’m sure on more than one occasion you’ve wasted an hour or more surfing online with no specific intention (I know I have) and then wondered where the day went. Remove all things that tempt you so you can get down to work!
  1. Give yourself constraints. Work tends to fill the time we allot to finish it. If you have a month to finish a report, you probably take a month. if you have a week, you take a week. Deadlines can be a great discipline tool. When I plan my week, I assign deadlines to each of my tasks, even if they don’t involve a deliverable for someone else. For example, I gave myself a deadline of finishing this blog today. It’s not due to anyone but myself, but I create these deadlines to keep myself on track. If I gave myself all week to finish it, I’d probably start it on Friday afternoon. When you have a task or project, assign yourself a specific day that it needs to be completed by that will spur you into action.
  1. Get Started. Most people procrastinate because they don’t “feel” like doing it. Ninety percent of the time, you probably won’t feel like doing what you need to do. People who are more disciplined work through the discomfort even though they would rather be doing something else. And once you get started, most times you will build up some momentum and get on a roll.
  1. Find an accountability partner. Let’s say you have an important project you need to work on but it’s not due for a few weeks. Find someone who can help hold you accountable to getting into action. Set up rewards or punishments that motivate you to get it done. For example, don’t allow yourself to go to lunch with your co-worker unless you finish your report first. Or reward yourself with a half hour break if you complete the project plan you’ve been putting off. I have an accountability partner who I text every morning and night. We each send our top five goals for the day (for me, it’s typically my top two work goals, and then some personal goals like exercising or reading a chapter in a book). At the end of the day, we text each other to report what we have (or have not) done. I often push myself to finish that one last goal because I don’t want my accountability partner to think I’m slacking!
  1. Forgive Yourself. One of the most important things to remember is to forgive yourself for not being perfect. There will be times when you don’t take action like you should, and you need to be able to forgive yourself so you don’t get stuck in negative thinking or beat yourself up. Being human means you will at times fail. Learn from your mistakes and start to notice your own patterns that trip you up so you can get back on track faster.

Left to my own devices, I would eat chocolate ice cream and watch When Harry Met Sally every day (I could never see that movie enough).

Discipline is a pursuit. It’s not something you master and forget about, it’s a daily practice  that takes effort. The rewards are the achievement of your important goals that lead you to success.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you create more discipline in your life to reach your goals? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Millennials Are Not The Problem…You Are

I was preparing breakfast for my three kids last weekend, and my three year-old son was whining and crying like someone had stolen his blankie. “What’s wrong, Luca?” I said (sort-of) calmly. “I wanted the blue cup!!” he yelled. I could feel my impatience start to creep in as I poured his milk from the green cup into the blue cup. As I set it down on the table he yelled, “Not there! I want it on the other side of the plate!!” A full-on tantrum ensued.

“This is so irrational!” I said to Luca. “Who cares what color cup it is in. C’mon, Buddy, just eat your breakfast!”

If you’ve ever tried to rationalize with a toddler, you know it’s a lost cause. They aren’t wired to think like an adult, and yet as parents, we often implore our children to react to situations like they have the frame of mind of a 30 year-old. The issue is; they aren’t adults. They don’t think like we do!

So how is this story relevant? We sometimes approach the younger generation of employees the same way. We get frustrated, angry, and impatient as we try to school them in how things really work in the world. We think they are entitled and overconfident, and we want to put them in their place.

Well, Millennials don’t think like we do. And trying to assert our perspective and experience on a generation that has grown up in a different time is like trying to rationalize with a three year-old (and no, I’m not comparing Millenials to children).

This younger generation of workers are emerging into the workforce. By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of employees in our organizations.

Many leaders are feeling challenged as they try to figure out how to effectively manage this younger generation who have been labeled by some as entitled, impatient, and idealistic.

I mean, how dare they come into the workforce and expect meaning and autonomy in their work! Don’t they know they have to pay their dues and work twenty years for a promotion, just like the rest of us did?!

They want consistent feedback? They need to learn how to wait until their annual performance evaluation (that probably won’t be on time) and create an annual development plan with their manager that can be documented appropriately by HR.

They want autonomy and input in their daily work? They need to do what they’re told and get used to being micromanaged by their boss.

They want to feel passion for a bigger cause and engaged at a deeper level? They want to actually enjoy their work? They just need to come to work and do their job and be miserable like the rest of us.

They want us to ‘coach’ them regularly? I don’t have time to sit down and handhold them.

These statements may sound dramatic, but I hear these negative sentiments about Millennials regularly from leaders across all industries.

Let me ask you this: wouldn’t you like a job that is not only meaningful and engaging, but where you can work independently and your ideas and opinions are valued? Wouldn’t you like your manager to sit down with you once in a while and provide you with meaningful feedback to help you get better at what you do? Wouldn’t you like to go to work every day feeling positive about your contribution, and feel appreciated and valued by your organization?

Who wouldn’t want these things?

We need to stop viewing Millennials as aliens and wake up and see the value they bring to the workplace. They are expecting more from their employers and leaders, and that just might be a good thing.

We are approaching the “millennial issue” all wrong. We are focused on how different this generation is from previous generations, and fail to see how much we are really alike. They are really not much different than you and me. Yes, their expectations are high, and that’s probably because they grew up in a global economy where they were exposed to more options and possibilities. As Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, most of us have been conditioned to work hard and appreciate the job we have. Millennials have been conditioned to see the possibilities and go after what they want.

The friction we are witnessing between the generations is really a discomfort leaders are feeling because we are being pressured to change. We can’t lead like we used to. We can’t issue directives and focus just on results and not people. We can’t put coaching and development and engagement on the back burner and be successful. So when this younger generation comes along and bucks the trend, what do we naturally want to do? Blame them.

It’s not Millennials who need to change. It’s us. We need to change. We need to stop blaming and criticizing (which will get us nowhere) and take responsibility for our leadership. We should stop complaining and realize that this generation is prompting us to grow and change; to create exceptional cultures where people love to come to work. And we will all reap the benefits from this shift.

So next time you work with an employee from the Millennial generation, say “thank you”. Thank you for bringing to light what we all really want in our work–meaning, contribution, and the desire to be part of a great organization.

As a parent, I can’t change my son’s reaction to the color cup he gets with breakfast. But I can change my response. Frustration and anger don’t work. Acceptance and kindness do.

Not all change is bad. So let’s step into true leadership and see this generation as an opportunity to grow our leadership skills and create exceptional cultures and organizations.

4 Signs You Should Not Be a Leader

When I was first promoted to a leadership role, I had no idea what was in store for me. I thought my job was to give instructions and answer questions. Little did I know that there was a lot more required to be a successful leader. It took some time for me to understand what skills were important to be an exceptional leader. I believe many people have this experience; they are promoted to a leadership role without fully understanding the expectations of what it takes to be successful. Can you relate?

Whether you are currently in a leadership role, or you aspire to a leadership position one day, here are four signs that you should not be a leader:

  • You prefer to work alone. The very essence of leadership is about inspiring others to bring out their best and achieve goals. This requires consistent coaching, supporting, and recognizing employees. Exceptional leaders don’t see these as duties they somehow have to fit in. They see them as a responsibility to foster the potential in each employee and the team. They realize that spending time with their people is a great investment toward mutual success. It’s okay to prefer to work alone, but that probably means you shouldn’t be a leader. Cultivating relationships is the foundation of inspiring people to make their best contribution.
  • You avoid confrontation. Most people don’t like confrontation, but leaders need to be willing to put those feelings aside and have the necessary difficult conversations. There is a universal truth in leadership: people will not always meet expectations and things will not always go as planned. As a leader, you will often need to approach uncomfortable situations with your employees, your peers, and even your boss. Exceptional leaders don’t avoid these conversations, they see them as a necessary responsibility for working through issues and moving things forward.
  • You prefer doing technical work. One of the biggest challenges that holds leaders back from being successful is the inability to delegate. Many leaders who were once superstars in a sole contributor role have a hard time not putting their technical expertise to use every day. Yet this can be precisely the reason a leader is not successful. The competencies for a leadership role are very different from a technical role. Leadership is about getting results through people, not by yourself. So if you prefer doing technical work, that’s a good sign that you should remain in a technical role where you can shine.
  • You think the people side of the business is “too soft”. Two important elements of successful leadership are getting results and fostering positivity. You cannot have a successful team if you don’t have both of these elements. If you think employee engagement is something that is not worth your time and effort, you should not be a leader. Engagement leads to higher productivity, which leads to results. Exceptional leaders spend most of their time coaching, appreciating, supporting and developing their employees. If this “softer” side of the business is not appealing to you, you should not be a leader.

Leadership is not the best career path for everyone. In our organizations, we need to make it okay for people to opt out of being a leader. We shouldn’t just want anyone in leadership. We need people in leadership roles who are willing and capable of serving others and focusing a lot of time and effort on the development of their people. We need people in leadership roles who understand the importance of delegation, coaching, and recognizing employees. And we need to stop promoting the superstars to leadership roles because we think it’s the next natural step. It’s not the best next step for everyone.

It’s okay if you want to spend most of your time working alone and focusing on your technical expertise. And it’s a good sign you should not be a leader.

What do you think? Should being promoted to a leader be the next step for an employee who performs exceptionally in a technical role? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Top 5 Reasons Employees Leave

In 1998, I moved from my native New York to Washington, DC searching for a fresh start. I needed to get away after some of the toughest months of my life: my parents were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, I had just broken up with my boyfriend, and my grandfather had just died of Alzheimer’s disease. I figured things could only get better. My best friend from college lived in DC, so I quit my job, loaded my Saturn SL with all my belongings, and moved 300 miles away to a new city with no job.

I was pretty new in the corporate world, so I was willing to start near the bottom and work my way up. I took a job at a small technology firm as an office manager. On my first day, the HR director told me they were going to sit me at the front desk temporarily until they hired a receptionist. She also told me that the CEO didn’t like the title “office manager,” so they would be changing my title to “administrative assistant.” Needless to say, the three months I spent with the company were not my happiest. I was disengaged, didn’t trust management, and didn’t feel appreciated.

Have you ever had an experience working in a job you didn’t love? It’s tough to stay engaged if you work for a micromanaging boss, if the work environment is stifling, or there’s no sense of appreciation from management.

Unfortunately, my experience of feeling disengaged on the job is more the norm than the exception for many people.

Studies show the top reasons employees quit include:

  • Not feeling appreciated
  • No advancement opportunities or development
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of clarity around expectations
  • A bad boss

Most leaders think the reason employees leave is because of money. While being paid fairly is important, for most employees, other factors like a great work environment, a good boss, and work-life balance contribute to better engagement at work.

So, how do you ensure you keep your top employees? Below are three simple tips for increasing engagement on your team.

Upgrade your leadership skills. Being a leader is more challenging today than ever before. Employees have more choices and opportunities. The expectations are higher. Exceptional leaders always look to improve their leadership skills by reading books, listening to leadership podcasts, and attending conferences and training classes to enhance their skills. One of my favorite leadership resources is Success magazine. Each issue is packed with leadership tips and even has a CD with interviews from leadership experts.

Conduct stay interviews. Most organizations conduct exit interviews to gather feedback when employees quit. A stay interview is when you have a conversation before the employee decides to leave. The purpose is to understand what will keep your best employees engaged. If you want to learn how to conduct an effective stay interview, I offer tips in this article: Stay Interviews

Hold regular staff meetings. According to research firm Gallup, employees are three times more likely to be engaged when their manager holds regular staff meetings. Use your staff meetings to set priorities, answer questions, and coach your employees through challenges. Most employees feel they are given little guidance for understanding what is expected of them. Individual coaching sessions and regular staff meetings help to create clarity for your team.

Engagement isn’t just about having happy employees. It’s about having productive employees. And productivity increases your revenues and impacts your bottom line. Productive employees tend to be happier, which decreases your turnover rates. This all adds up to a more profitable business.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. In the comments section below, tell me:

What is one thing you do to keep your employees engaged?

How to Get More of What You Want in Life

I recently had the opportunity to attend a week-long conference with Jack Canfield, the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. The event was focused on helping people break through to higher levels of success.

The first principle of success Jack introduced was “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.” Most of us have been conditioned to blame something or someone outside of ourselves for the parts of our life we don’t like. But the truth is, there is only one person who is responsible for the quality of life you live: you.

When Jack first introduced this success principle, my immediate thought was that I didn’t have room for improvement. I take responsibility for my life. I don’t blame others for my outcomes. But as we got deeper into the topic, I realized there are places where excuses linger and I don’t take full responsibility.

Most of us have people or institutions that we blame for negative circumstances in our life.

Below are some common examples.

We Blame:

Example:

Government

I can’t save more money because I pay so much in taxes

Parents

 

I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, so I didn’t have the opportunities other people had
Boss My boss doesn’t coach or develop me, so I’m stuck in my job
Husband/Wife/Partner My husband doesn’t like healthy food, so I can’t eat healthier
Kids My kids take up so much of my energy, that I don’t have time to see my friends
Weather I couldn’t work out this morning, it was too cold outside
Employees I can’t delegate because my employees can’t handle more work
Lack of time I don’t have time to take a class/travel/call my mother
Lack of money I don’t have enough money to go back to school

 

The problem with blaming is that we give up our power to change our outcomes. We give up our choice. But it’s not the external circumstances that hold us back–it’s our own limited thinking.

Ultimately, the only thing we can control is our response to events. We can’t change the event itself. Psychotherapist Dr. Robert Resnick created a formula to illustrate this:

E +R = O
(Event + Response = Outcome)

Every outcome in life is a result of how you responded to an event. You can’t change the family you grew up in, but you can change your response to the situation and ultimately change your outcome. A past event is in the past–it’s not changeable. We can only impact future outcomes by changing our response to events that show up in our life.

After Jack introduced the typical excuses people make in their lives, I realized that I haven’t always taken 100% responsibility for my life. For example, I was recently complaining to a colleague that as my business grows, there isn’t enough time to focus on marketing my business online and also work with my current clients. I went on to complain that I also don’t love the marketing side of business, but I’m too busy to search for someone who could help me with it. Subconsciously I was making excuses (lack of time to learn how to market online) for not taking charge of the outcome (gaining more visibility online).

Since returning from the workshop, I have decided to take 100% responsibility for this aspect of my business. I am reading a book on effective marketing and watching videos to learn how to implement some strategies. Even though it’s uncomfortable to be stretching myself to learn this aspect of business, I feel empowered that I am taking charge of my results. I’ve decided if it’s really important, I will find the time to do it, and not complain.

How about you: Is there an aspect of your life that you need to take more responsibility for?

I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

My Five Favorite Leadership Books

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers” ~Harry Truman

When was the last time you saw a positive and uplifting story on the news or the Internet? Our news media is saturated with negative stories and messages. While it’s good to be informed about current events, as leaders it serves us to feed our minds with positive information and stories so we can inspire and empower our teams.

Not only is reading a way to improve our intelligence, generate ideas, and inspire innovation, it can also reduce stress. One study showed that reading for just six minutes reduced stress by 68% (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html).

Many of the most successful business leaders are readers. Steve Jobs was an avid reader of William Blake, Warren Buffet spends up to 80% of his time reading or thinking, and Elon Musk is reported to have read two books a day as a child.

Bottom line: reading can make you a better leader. Exceptional leaders are always looking to improve their skills and become more effective.

John Coleman, author of the Harvard Business Review article, “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read,” suggests reading material in different genres; not just leadership or business books. He cites that many business professionals claim that reading across fields is good for creativity and innovation. (https://hbr.org/2012/08/for-those-who-want-to-lead-rea/)

I occasionally read historical books by David McCullough and historical fiction. Mostly, I gravitate to leadership and personal development books. If you are looking to add some books to your reading list, here are my five favorite leadership and personal development books:

1) The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni illustrates why organizational health is more important than other variables like strategy, marketing, and finance. An organization that is smart, but not healthy, will not be successful. Lencioni shares four disciplines that must be done all at once and maintained on an ongoing basis to be preserved. The four disciplines are:

1. Build a cohesive leadership team
2. Create clarity
3. Overcommunicate clarity
4. Reinforce clarity

This brilliant book illustrates how these four disciplines overcome organizational issues like dysfunction, politics, and confusion. This book is a must read for leaders; particularly executives.

2) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is a book I recently read, and I couldn’t put it down. Not just because of the author’s compelling stories, but because I was craving more simplicity in my life. McKeown shares a systematic discipline for deciding what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter. This is not a book about time management, it is a book about life management. If you are craving more space, time, and better results in your life, this book will help you get there.

3) The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield isn’t just a book about professional success; it’s a book about life success. Canfield shares 67 principles that will propel you to success. That may seem like a lot of principles, but some of them are so simple, it’s a matter of making a decision and sticking to it. Whether you want to become more clear about your purpose in life, achieve greater levels of success, become a better leader, increase your confidence, or become a better parent, this book will transform your life. I felt so motivated and inspired by this book, that I signed up for Jack’s training on how to teach these principles.

4) Leadership From the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life by Kevin Cashman is my favorite leadership book of all time. If every leader read this book, we would have a world of exceptional leaders! What I like most about this book is that every chapter has exercises and reflections to help put the concepts into practice. This book isn’t about fixing weaknesses or just implementing a few strategies like many other books. Cashman guides the reader through a journey to grow as a whole person in order to grow as a whole leader. His model focuses on mastery in the following areas: personal, purpose, change, interpersonal, being, resilience, and action. It’s refreshing, inspirational and backed by research. If you read one leadership book this year, let this be the one!

5) The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller provides tools for increased productivity, less stress, and better results in less time. Keller shares the lies that mislead and derail us and then provides tools for clearing the clutter and focusing. One of my favorite nuggets from this book is the focusing question which is the simple formula to finding exceptional answers that lead to extraordinary results. The focusing question is: “What’s the one thing I can so such by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” This question can be applied to all areas of your life. This book is another inspiring read on how to cut through all the distractions and lead a high quality life.

What is one of your favorite leadership books? Please share in the comments below!

Characteristics of Influential Leaders

My first job after college was as a help desk service representative in an insurance company. I knew it wasn’t a position I wanted to be in long-term, but it was a way to get my foot in the door. After working in that position for a few months, I realized that I wanted to work towards a leadership role. It seemed so glamorous–having the authority to make decisions, being in charge of a department, and making more money. Setting my sights on leadership seemed like the next best step.

As I moved up the leadership ranks in my career, I realized leadership was very different than my first impression. It wasn’t about prestige, power, money, or authority. It was about service, humility, relationships, and influence. In fact, being a leader wasn’t as exciting and glamorous as I had expected. It came with a lot of responsibility, a lot of headaches, and some choices that weren’t always easy to make. There were many moments of impact and fulfillment, but there were also times of high demands and high stress.

I had the blessing of having a few excellent leaders in my career who modeled great leadership through coaching, developing, and mentoring . I also had several bosses who taught me what not to do. These leaders were focused on themselves; how much power and control they had and how to expand their turf. Although working for the latter wasn’t inspiring or easy, I learned from these experiences. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and having the desire to lead and the skills to lead are two different things. Having the desire to be a leader is important, but desire must be met with modern and influential leadership skills.

Leadership isn’t about working our way up the corporate ladder to one day finally arrive and say, “Wow, I’ve made it.” True leadership is a journey, not a destination. Leadership is a state of being, not a role one fills while at work. The work toward leadership isn’t just important for when we prepare for a leadership role. In fact, once “appointed” a leadership role, the real work has just begun.

We all know people in leadership roles who are not true leaders. Being promoted and granted a title does not make one a leader. Leadership is not an appointment, it’s a process. You become a leader. It’s about being. It’s not just directing a team, signing off on paperwork, delegating responsibility or setting goals. Effective leaders strive for constant improvement to better themselves every day. They strive to impact those around them. They look outside themselves and seek a bigger impact in their organization and perhaps even in the world. Leadership is not just about learning a few new tools or strategies, it’s learning a new way of being.

True leadership is about service; it’s serving your employees by developing them and helping them reach their highest potential and personal goals. It’s serving the organization by contributing your best to achieve the goals. It’s serving the membership by having their best interest in mind and helping them achieve their financial dreams.

I believe we have a leadership crisis in this world. We have many leaders who aspire for the title and for the prestige and power. And some who strive for a leadership role because they see it as the next step in their career. But few people view leadership as an opportunity for impact. Few people have the competencies and skills necessary for influential leadership.

Most people look at what they will gain when they become a leader, yet very few look at what they can give. Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility.

True leadership is much bigger than a fancy office, more money, and the ability to be in charge and call the shots.

How do you know you are on the right path?

In my work with executives and managers, I have found several characteristics that influential leaders possess:

  • A dedication to continuous learning: influential leaders strive to improve every day. They read books, listen to audios, read articles, and seek to gain more information about their industry, as well as how to become a better leader and person. They are very self aware; they understand their strengths and weaknesses, and are not afraid to hire others to fill the gaps. They are always in a state of learning and encourage their employees to grow and develop.
  • A focus on others: influential leaders aren’t in leadership for themselves, they are there to make an impact on others. They provide clarity, direction, appreciation, and support to their employees. They make their employees a priority and invest time and effort into helping each individual reach their peak performance and potential. They are not afraid to provide constructive feedback, for they know it’s about facilitating improvement and is in service to the greater good.
  • Emotional intelligence: influential leaders realize that great leadership isn’t just about driving the agenda and getting results. They understand the importance of people, and they are approachable, compassionate, supportive, and great listeners. They understand that employees are people who have desires, goals and fears.
  • Ability to create a stable environment: even in the midst of organizational change and uncertainty, influential leaders foster an environment of stability. They do this by being dependable, honest, trustworthy and respectful. They follow through on their word and possess a high level of integrity. They don’t have all the answers, and they are not afraid to admit mistakes. They model behaviors that reinforce integrity and trust.

Certainly effective leaders need to possess some talent, confidence, and strategic ability. But what separates the mediocre leaders from the exceptional leaders are the qualities that go beyond technical and strategic mastery. They are skills that cultivate an environment of engagement, trust, loyalty and growth.

The world needs more of these leaders. We need the next generation of leaders to bring change to our organizations and cultivate true and influential leadership.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think we have a leadership crisis in many of our organizations? What characteristics do you think are important to be an influential leader? Share your comments below.

How to Achieve Your Goals Without Massive Effort

We’ve all heard the statistic that only 8% of people achieve their New Year resolutions or goals each year. So how do you ensure you are one of those successful leaders who ends the year accomplished and fulfilled?

In this video, I share the one thing that can help you achieve your goals this year–without massive effort.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch, I’d love to know…

What is one small action you can take repeatedly to move you toward one of your goals this year? Do you have any strategies or practices that help you achieve your goals?

Share your comments below.