Tag Archives: leadership

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.

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.

4 Strategies for Building Your Leadership Pipeline

Earlier this year, I was working with an executive who had all the characteristics of a great leader; high emotional intelligence, an engaged team, an approachable leadership style, and great results. There was one thing missing: he didn’t have a successor. Although his team members met or exceeded expectations in their current roles, not one of them was prepared to move into a senior leadership role. This was a concern for the organization, as the CEO realized he had several executives nearing retirement, yet didn’t have the talent in the pipeline to fill these high-level leadership roles.

This isn’t uncommon; many leaders focus on personal development and don’t always see the immediate need for developing a successor. Perhaps you’ve been through leadership training, you listen to personal development podcasts and read leadership books; you are self aware and work to develop your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. You are always looking to improve; reading trade magazines, and attending webinars, conferences, and industry events. You may even spend time coaching your employees to perform their best in their current roles.

Personal development and applying what you learn has a significant impact on your success as a leader. Yet many executives and managers are so focused on self-improvement, that they sometimes forget an important piece of successful leadership: developing the bench strength a level below them and preparing mid-managers for executive level roles.

No matter how effective you may be at leading and getting results, you will never be a highly successful leader if you do not have a plan for your succession. Not every employee is capable of moving beyond their current role, but as a leader you have to assess each individual on your current team and create a plan to develop or hire the talent you will need in your pipeline for the future.

Below are four strategies for developing your leadership pipeline:

Assess your bench strength. For each individual on your team, create a simple assessment of how he or she performs in the current role. What are her strengths? Weaknesses? Does she have leadership potential? Has she fully developed the competencies of her current role? Are there any gaps? When you review the competencies of a future management or executive role, how does she measure up? What competencies and skills can you start to develop in her to prepare her for the future role? Assess each of your employees so you can understand their individual strengths and weaknesses, how they are currently performing, and who has demonstrated leadership potential.

Identify high potentials. Once you have completed the individual assessments, identify any high potential employees who stand out. If you left your position today, who might be ready to move into your role? If there is no natural successor, who has the potential to develop into the role over the next three to five years? If no current employees have leadership potential, how will you handle that? For example, if an employee on your team leaves, perhaps you focus on hiring a new employee with executive leadership potential whom you can groom for your role. Create a snapshot of the current performance and potential future performance for each of your employees, and identify potential successors.

Create individual development plans. Once you have identified high-potential employees, create an individual development plan for each one. Ideally you will have several employees who have the potential to succeed your position. But even if you have just one, determine what competencies, skills or knowledge the employee will need to be successful in a leadership role. Then find opportunities that will develop this employee or expose him to the needed skills. This could be education, like conferences and leadership schools, or internal opportunities like managing a high level project. Earlier in my career as a director of human resources, my vice president had me present a strategic initiative to the Board of Directors. Although I was nervous to interact with the Board, my VP explained that getting exposure to the Board at the director level was to prepare me for eventually taking over the vice president role. A year later, when my VP moved out of state, I was promoted to vice president with the support of the Board. Find opportunities that will challenge and prepare your high-potentials for leadership roles.

Involve the employee. When you have identified your high potential employees, share with them that they are considered high-potential. Not only is this a great engagement tool (employees want to be developed and have the opportunity to reach their potential), but it also allows them to be engaged in the process. Involve your employee by asking her questions to facilitate the development: Is she interested in eventually moving into a leadership role? What skills does she feel she needs to develop in? What would her strengths be in that role, and how can she leverage them? What projects or initiatives would she like to lead in the organization to prepare? Development is a two-way street. It takes time and commitment from you to coach and mentor, as well as from your employee to take initiative and ownership of her development.

Even if you plan to stay in your current role indefinitely, exceptional leaders develop and prepare high-potential employees for future leadership roles. When you understand each employee’s professional goals and work to develop them to their potential, you are creating your leadership legacy.

I’d love to hear how you are preparing your high-potentials. What is one thing you are doing to build your leadership pipeline? Share your comments below!

Three Tips for Becoming a Master Delegator

I worked for a credit union years ago, and when I was first promoted to HR director, I remember my boss telling me that my promotion came with a lot of changes. I would no longer be assessed just on my technical expertise. My success would be evaluated on my leadership abilities and how my team performed. This was a challenge for me, as I enjoyed being a problem solver and technical expert. When an employee had a benefit question, I could answer it off the top of my head. When there was a payroll issue, I felt accomplished when I could figure out the discrepancy. Yet this all changed when I was promoted. I was now expected to coach and train my staff to take care of these issues while I focused on more strategic, long-term projects.

Many leaders struggle to make the leap from manager to leader because they fail to realize that the value they bring to the organization changes when they are promoted. When most managers are promoted, they continue the activities they did in their previous role and take on some additional duties like performance evaluations and answering staff questions. But to be a successful leader, a big shift has to occur. You need to make sure you are not confusing your expertise with your value. As an HR generalist, the value I brought to the credit union was my human resources expertise. But as an HR director, my expertise was less important. Different competencies like influencing, coaching and delegating were required to be successful. This was a big mental shift for me, and one that didn’t happen easily.

One of the first things I needed to do was to identify the key result areas for my new role, and delegate the activities that were not in my key result areas. This exercise helped me to focus on the areas that were most important to be successful as a leader.

Defining key result areas is one of the first exercises I have participants in my leadership programs complete so they can be absolutely clear about where they need to focus their energy and time. For a copy of the exercise I use in my leadership program, click here: Key Result Areas Exercise

Once you have identified your key result areas, the next step is to determine what to delegate. This sounds easy, but in practice it can be quite challenging. The truth is, most leaders have not mastered delegation. Most of us struggle to let go of things we know we can do well in order to free up our time to focus on areas that will deliver more value. Additionally, many leaders get addicted to the feeling of checking things off their list. I am a master at list making, and checking things off gives me a rush of accomplishment. But sometimes they are small wins and not the things I should be working on. I keep myself in check by identifying my top two priorities for the day and completing those before I move on to smaller tasks.

If you ever struggle with letting things go, here are three tips to become a master delegator:

1.  Track your activities. For two weeks, make a list of every activity or task you come across that can be done by someone else. As a business owner, I used to struggle (and sometimes still do) with handing things off to my assistant. I would convince myself that this task was something only I could do. But when I had more work than time, I had to make a change. I created a list of things my assistant could do and started delegating tasks each time we met. Some activities were easy to delegate (create tabs for leadership binders) and some were more complex (manage my website). I didn’t delegate everything at once, but creating a list helped us to work toward unloading more things off my plate. Another strategy is to think about how much you make an hour, and determine if a task or activity is worth paying your hourly rate, or the rate of one of your employees. Delegate tasks that can be done by someone else effectively, but cheaper.

2. Take time to coach and delegate effectively. There is a difference between dumping and delegating. Dumping is assigning a task to someone with no guidance or direction. Delegating (particularly for more complex tasks) takes time and patience. Most people avoid delegating because they know it will take more time up front to show someone else than to complete the task themselves. But that investment of time will reap rewards down the road. The proper way to delegate is to explain the result you need, share information or expertise you have, and then provide support as your employee completes the task herself. Give the employee the authority to carry the task to completion, and don’t micromanage the process. Let your employee know you are available if he has questions.

3. Create a follow-up system. Depending on the task, you may need to create a method of follow-up with your employee. Does he need to send you a report each month? By what date? Does he need to let you know when he’s completed the task? Be clear when you are delegating about deadlines and the follow-up method. I once delegated an important task to my assistant and didn’t give her a deadline. I assumed she knew it was a priority. I assumed wrong and it was my own fault. As a leader, it is your responsibility to be clear about your expectations. Use the Why-What-When method. Why you need it, What you need, and by When.

Do you ever struggle with delegation? What are your tips for letting go of tasks that aren’t a good use of your time?

How I overcome self-criticism

I found myself getting anxious a couple of weeks ago as I realized that the end of the year is approaching. Before the start of each year, I set goals for my personal and professional life. The anxiety began to build as I realized there were a few goals I haven’t made any progress toward. For example, one of my business goals this year was to start a video blog. I started to feel bad about my lack of following through on this project that I deemed so important in the beginning of the year. If I weren’t expecting a baby in five weeks, I may have been able to launch this project by the end of the year. However, I am forgiving myself for not accomplishing it and moving the goal to next year.

I heard someone once say, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” This is a mantra I have worked hard at keeping top of mind. It doesn’t mean I don’t set goals or that I don’t stretch and challenge myself. It means that I put in my best effort, and then forgive myself if I sometimes fall short of accomplishing all that I set out to do. We all hit roadblocks or challenges along our path that we have to navigate. Yet life is unfolding exactly how it should. Every person on this planet has experienced setbacks and disappointments. Holding ourselves to a high standard is good, and also accepting that we are human and will sometimes fall short is better than continuing to focus on what we should have or could have done.

Is there something you are beating yourself up for not doing? Perhaps you had a goal of getting into shape, or to manage your time better, or to take a class to further your career. Whatever it is, be okay with where you are. You are exactly where you are meant to be. You can start now.

Here are three ways to motivate yourself to keep going:

Take an inventory of what you have accomplished this year. Focus on what you have done. When I make a list of all the goals I have reached, it makes me realize that I actually accomplished a lot that I should be proud of. Celebrating the successes puts you in a positive mindset to motivate you to move forward.

Forgive yourself for the “failures”. Focusing on what you haven’t done and beating yourself up is wasted energy. You can’t change yesterday or the yesterdays before that. You can only make changes starting right now. Focus on what you can do right now and in the future.

Focus on daily improvement. I have learned over the years of working with people as well as reflecting on my own behavior, that most people achieve more when they focus on improving each day rather than trying to create massive change all at once. Choose one area you would like to improve upon in your life and then choose one habit or action to work on today. These small changes will compound into bigger results over time.

Have you ever struggled with criticizing yourself? I’d love to hear your tips for overcoming self-criticism. Share your tips in the comments section below.

If you would like more inspiration, I recommend reading one of my favorite books, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. This book will motivate and inspire you to achieve beyond what you think is possible.

The Power of Simplicity

I believe many organizations are suffering from self-imposed complexity. I am frequently hearing from leaders that they have too much on their plate, and that the pace and demands in their organizations make it almost impossible to accomplish anything. They’re in meetings all day, they have 25 projects to complete this year, and their employees are overwhelmed and overtaxed.

In the quest to achieve so many goals, many executive teams are overambitious, over-scheduled, and over-committed. They are mired in so many competing demands, that they lack the ability to focus, which holds them back from achieving very much of anything. They may be really busy, but they are not producing much. This complexity trickles down to all levels of the organization and can paralyze a company from getting anything done. This has become such the norm in so many organizations, that some leaders have convinced themselves that there is no other way of operating.

Don’t get me wrong. Things aren’t always easy. New technology needs to be implemented, new employees need to be hired, and new ideas need to be created. I’m not saying leaders don’t need to juggle multiple priorities. But how many is too many? How often do we add a level of complexity by trying to do everything at once? In the quest to make everything a priority, we make nothing a priority. Not a lot gets done.

There is power in simplicity. When a leadership team can make things uncomplicated and clear, that’s where the magic happens. That’s when people at all levels can really focus and make things happen. That’s where you can really create traction and begin to produce awesome results.

Take a look at your organization. Does everyone know what the top three to five priorities are? Can employees at every level tell you what they should be focusing on? And do their answers align with the true priorities? To be able to communicate what your employees should be focused on, you first have to be clear about the top priorities yourself.

 

Leadership Lessons From a 2 Year Old

It was another crazy morning of getting everyone ready and out of the house. We were walking to the car and my two-year-old daughter, Olivia, wanted to stop and smell the flowers (literally) in the front yard. I tried to rush her and managed to get her into her car seat. “My do!” she yelled (this is toddler talk for “I want to do it!”). She wanted to buckle her own car seat. Why did these things always happen on the days I am running late? I knew I wouldn’t win the battle, so I tried to patiently encourage her to quickly buckle the strap because “Mommy has to get to an important client meeting”. Of course she took her time; after all, she was on her timetable, not mine.

I was reflecting on this experience a couple of days later, and realized there was a lot of learning for me in this interaction. I like to do things quickly–check things off my list, make the decision, move forward on a project, achieve a goal. I like it when things are organized and go as planned (when I was expecting Olivia, my husband used to joke that when she was born she would come out with a Franklin Covey planner). Sometimes I just have to laugh when Olivia dumps milk on her school outfit three minutes before leaving, runs in the opposite direction when I tell her to get in the car, or throws herself on the floor in a tantrum when I tell her to put on her shoes. But I digress.

Oftentimes in our leadership, we are so focused on getting things done, that we are not present in our relationships. We put off giving that meaningful feedback to our coworker; we don’t get a chance to tell our employee how much we value her work; or we don’t have enough time in our day to get out and interact with staff members. We rationalize that we have important things to do. Yet slowing down and being a deliberate, purposeful leader is what will make us most effective. We forget that building and maintaining these significant relationships is what leadership is all about. It’s the people side of the business that often gets neglected.

Questions to ponder:

·         Who do I need to recognize?

·         What work (or personal) relationship have I not been giving 100% to?

·         Who on my team have I not thanked lately?

·         Who on my team needs more focused development?

I wish I could say that I will never feel the need to rush my daughter again. I can’t change my busy and productive nature, and patience is not one of my strengths. But I have learned a lesson about being present in each moment. She is stretching me in a new direction, and I realize I can learn a lot from a two year old.

Just last week my husband was taking Olivia to school (he’s much more patient than me) and she was slowly walking down the front path. I waved to her from behind the door, anxiously waiting to get back to my office to prepare for a conference call. She must have recognized I still hadn’t  quite learned the lesson of being present. She turned around, put out her arms, smiled at me and said, “”Hug?” Of course I did what every mother would do. I ran outside, threw my arms around her, and gave her a big kiss and hug. That is a moment I wouldn’t miss for any conference call. And then I cried. See, I do have a softer side.

 

Are You This Type of Leader?

Forty years ago, there was little talk in business about engaging employees, coaching and developing direct reports, or cultivating the company culture.  Many people stayed at the same organization for most of their career. Traditional managers, who were task-oriented and provided a lot of direction but very little inspiration, were tolerated. The command and control style of leadership prevailed.

The landscape of the work environment has changed. Employees have more choices, and will leave an organization where they don’t feel valued or appreciated. Traditional leaders won’t survive in the best organizations; there is only room for modern leaders.

We all have heard horror stories of ineffective, bad bosses. But in my experience, most  traditional leaders are not narcissistic and power-hungry. They are mediocre managers (and executives) who lack the necessary leadership skills to be successful. They aren’t naturally inclusive, approachable, and engaging, and their leadership style reflects that.  To succeed in leadership today, managers need to be modern leaders. A modern leader is approachable, engaging and focused. The modern leader promotes an environment of productivity and positivity.

You may be a traditional leader and not know it. But trust me, your employees do. They are talking about it behind your back, and your high-performing employees are looking for a quick exit (if they are still there). Read below for what distinguishes a traditional leader from a modern leader:

Traditional leader:

• command and control

• doesn’t provide feedback

• focuses on finding mistakes and reprimanding; holds people accountable through fear

• very little engagement with employees

• no coaching or development

• believes the paycheck is the reward for work

• thinks he/she should know all the answers

• more task-oriented and in the weeds

• thinks he/she worked hard to advance and deserves leadership

Modern leader:

• encouraging and inviting

• provides timely, constructive, consistent feedback

• focuses on learning from mistakes; holds people accountable in a positive, principled way

• finds ways to consistently engage with employees

• sees coaching and developing as a top priority

• actively thanks employees and shows appreciation

• solicits ideas and suggestions from employees; encourages employee involvement

• more proactive, strategic, and visionary• sees leadership as a privilege and enjoys serving his/her employees

The first step to transitioning from a traditional leader to a modern leader is awareness. Take time to reflect on your leadership and determine in what areas you need to develop. The best organizations only hire and keep modern leaders.