Moving From Overwhelm to Sustainability

•December 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The most important thing you need to know to sustain individual success according to Marcus Buckingham is to filter all possibilities in order to zero in on those that will allow you to be your best. Sustained success is making the greatest possible impact over the longest period of time.

You must cut out of your working life those activities, or people, that pull you off your strengths’ path. Your manager can draft you on to the team and cast you into the right role on the team, however, it will always be your responsibility to make the small but significant course corrections that allow you to sustain your highest and best contributions to this team and to the better future it is charged with creating. If you are a solo-entrepreneur, you have a double job; drafting and course-correcting.

Only 20% of people feel like they are in a role where they get to do what they do best every day; 80% feel their strengths are not being utilized. It may be interesting to know this statistic, but what do we do with it? How does one sustain passion even when life is imperfect?

One of the things Buckingham suggests is that we discover what we don’t like doing and stop doing it. This is something I’ve been ‘preaching’ for years now. Do what you love and what you do best, and hire (beg or delegate) someone to do the rest.

Second, take your natural talent and enthusiasm and target your learning toward those areas where you possess some kind of comparative advantage over somebody else. Then stay good or get better. The more of a commodity you are, the less successful you will be. As Peter Drucker once said, “Something special must leave the room when you leave the room.” Natural talent can be described as those recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied. Talent describes potential, not performance.

No matter what your talent or intelligence, success results only when you employ the right tactics.We talk a lot about balance in life and work, but the real key is to be fully engaged and then know when to disengage. Ideally we want to disengage for a few minutes every 90 minutes or so.There is no way to eliminate stress unless we move to the top of an isolated mountain, and I’ve thought about it. The key is to have a disciplined process of stress and recovery. Stress is not the enemy; uninterrupted stress is the enemy. If we could only treat life as a series of sprints rather than a marathon!

Here are some other tips from Buckingham’s The Only Thing You Need to Know:

  • Proactively manage your boss by providing him with 3 things: loyalty, good advice and a subordinate who will never make herself look good at his expense.
  • Remember: It’s Always Showtime! The little things and interactions you have on a daily basis DO matter.
  • Make your individually the focus (your particular mastery)
  • Fix your flaws. First the ones that stop you from performing and second, the ones that stop you from advancing. This will challenge you and if you focus on your flaws/failures will weaken you. So look at them, take care of them and move on; don’t linger with them…..keep the focus on: Cultivating your strengths!

One good question to ask yourself is what portion of my day is spent working on things I really love? The answer should be 70-95% in order to sustain success. If less than 70%, identify and eradicate the things that are getting in the way. Assess where and how you spend you time, it’s critical to your success.

You’ll need to remember, eradicating your dislikes is not high on anyone’s agenda. Most companies are set up to deliver to the customer. Employee success and fulfillment is important only as it relates to and adds to customer delivery. Even identifying your own dislikes and their causes may not seem a priority and yet the better you do this, the easier they will be to eradicate.. Remember if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.

A dislike is caused most often by one of four distinct emotions:

  1. You’re bored (may be okay with the activities, but not the content)
  2. Unfulfilled (your values are not engaged)
  3. Frustrated (your strengths are not in use)
  4. Drained (do it, delegate it, dump it, take on a partner, disengage)

Bottom line: The longer you put up with aspects of your work you don’t like, the less successful you will be.

Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

•November 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I’m wishing each of you a wonderful day on Thursday filled with love, family, good friends, good smells, yummy food and lots of good conversation.

If you’d like to take the typical dinner conversation away from football and work, below are a few suggestions for topics. Perhaps you would print out and cut the questions apart and place under each plate or fold them, place in a basket, and pass the basket (just like the rolls)!

Whatever you choose, here’s to happy times and good memories!

  • If you could be present at any event in history, what would it be?
  • Who is your favorite fictional HERO?
  • If you could have one super power, what would it be?
  • If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
  • If you could take a dream vacation (without considering time or money) where would it be?
  • If you were going to be stuck in a TV sitcom for one month, which one would it be?
  • Is there a new family tradition you want to start?
  • When you were a kid, what did you want to be?
  • Do you have a favorite song or kind of music?
  • If you wrote a book, what would you write?
  • When you meet someone new, what do you notice about them?
  • Do you have a favorite song or movie or book or city?
  • Do you have a Hobby?  If time and money didn’t matter, would it be different?
  • If you were sentenced to Death Row, what would your last meal be?
  • What’s the most bazaar thing you’ve ever encountered?
  • What’s the best book you’ve ever read and why?
  • What’s one thing you’ve thought about, but are afraid to try?
  • What is your favorite holiday food?
  • All I want for Christmas is __________________________

Is This Battle Worth Fighting?

•July 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It was Peter Drucker who said, “Our mission in life should be to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart or right we are.”

How often does the temptation to prove you’re right and they’re wrong, or you have power and they have none, win out? How often when we have the opportunity to show our authority or our brainpower do we stop long enough to consider: This might not be the best option if my intention is to have a positive result on those around me. Where is the ‘pause button’ when your buttons get pushed?

In Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, he describes the first principle you’ll want to follow, if you want to have a positive affect in this world. Just as the physician’s first principle is First, Do no harm, and the sailor’s first principle is Know where the wind is coming from. It’s phrased in the form of a question; one you should be asking yourself whenever you must choose to either engage or ‘let it go.”

The short version is AIWATT and stands for:

Am I willing,

at this time,

to make the investment required

to make a positive difference on this topic?

He tells the story of a farmer who is rushing to get his produce to market, traveling down the river in a boat when another boat comes rushing at him. He yells at the other boat, “Change direction! You idiot, you’re going to hit me!” over and over to no avail. Then as he glares at the other boat, he realizes there is no one in it. It has pulled away from its moorings and is floating downstream with the current.

He behaved one way when he thought there was another person at the helm, but now just feels foolish when he realizes it’s just an accident and there is no one to blame. The truth is we behave more calmly with ‘an empty boat’. When there is no scapegoat, we can’t get upset. Like when a car cuts you off in traffic, you take up battle at least internally with the driver of that car. If it were a runaway car, you might be frightened but would you yell at the car?

The moral is there is never anyone in the boat or the car. Your environment is in a constant state of chaos. The empty boat or car is not targeting you, just as the people in your everyday life pushing your buttons are not targeting you. You always have a choice as to whether or not you take it personally. Whether or not your respond in anger, or to show you’re right and try to put others down or in their place. Behavior is a choice, period.

So ask yourself in that ‘moment’ when your button gets triggered: Am I willing at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic? And if the answer is No, then let it go. You are making a positive difference by letting it go. It’s just like closing your office door when you don’t want to be disturbed. You are taking responsibility for setting yourself up for success rather than leaving the door open and then complaining that you can’t get anything done due to interruptions.

Our environment will temp us many times each day to take up battle and engage in pointless skirmishes. You can choose to respond by doing nothing. By controlling your environment, you give yourself a little breathing space to exercise awareness, ask yourself AIWATT, and make the choice to tackle the challenges that really matter in a way that makes a positive difference. This puts you back in the drivers seat.

Promotion to Management: To Do or Not to Do?

•June 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When to promote and who to promote? In my work as a leadership coach, I see people succeeding as individual contributors; their strengths are being used in the best possible way. Then because they are dependable and effective they get promoted to a managing or supervising role and suddenly they are no longer responsible for doing the work, they are in charge of assuring that others do the work.

Many first-time managers are not even aware of this distinction and will continue doing the work and just expect their direct reports (many of whom used to be their peers) to keep doing the work. But who is overseeing the work and what are the new skills that are required in the new role?

People who enjoy being in the technical role (detail, precision, doing what they do best) may not want to be a manager. They may never stop to even ask the question: What will be different in the new role I’m being offered and are those differences something I think I would enjoy? Most people when offered a promotion and a pay raise will jump at the opportunity without asking important questions.

The same applies to the company’s talent management department, are they asking the right questions? Does this person like to work alone or in groups? Does this person have good people skills? Can they influence people in a positive way? Do they have good time-management skills? Can they mentor and teach those below them? Can they discipline if necessary? Can they assure their team delivers on time and within budget? Does this person realize they will be responsible for annual or semi-annual employee evaluations? How well will they handle relationships with those peers that will now become direct reports? What evidence do I have for any of these answers?

Asking these questions and having discussion are very necessary steps in the promotion process. Then if it is decided that promotion is the next step please set the new manager for success by getting him/her the support they need: training and coaching!

The Cultivation and Collapse of Trust

•May 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Trust is such a big word. It’s the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, and effective. It’s also the confident expectation of something; our attitude about the future; and it’s a decision-making skill as to what or who you can or cannot put your faith in.

Many of us believe trust has to be built from the inside out; if you can’t trust yourself, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to trust anyone else. Perhaps you’ll spend a few minutes reflecting on the following: Do I trust myself? Can others trust me? What evidence do I have that this is true? What evidence do I have that it’s not?

How does one cultivate trust? Since people will usually not do business with you, if trust is absent; will not want to be your friend, colleague, or team member (if given a choice) and certainly will not commit to a close relationship such as spouse or partner; it seems to me that trust is vitally important to both your success and your happiness.

Let’s first discuss the framework that trust is built upon. I believe it to be these areas:

  • Transparency – your actions match your words. You do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. You don’t have hidden agendas. You don’t say words that will manipulate someone into doing what you want them to do, as opposed to saying what you think. You don’t tell one person one thing and another something else. You have integrity.
  • Competent – you don’t promise to do something without first having the skill to do it or a plan to acquire the skill. You clarify standards, expectations and timelines before wildly promising something just to make someone happy. You ask for support and/or resources to fulfill any promise you do make. You are realistic and honest.
  • Reliable – you are consistent. People know what to expect from you. Your attitude or mood is not like a roller coaster. We all have days better than others but reliability means we don’t hold our colleagues or family members hostage to our moods. It also means we can be counted on to do what we commit to. We take our commitments seriously and hold ourselves accountable to deliver.
  • Humble – show your vulnerability. You know you don’t know it all. You are open to others opinions; you take the time to listen and are open to changing your mind. You don’t hold yourself above others; you show your humanity. You don’t talk about others behind their backs. You admit your failures as soon as you realize the mistake and without pointing fingers.
  • Kind – you are kind. You treat people with respect. This won’t necessarily make you a great leader, but it will create an environment of safety. Only in a safe environment can relationships be built, collaboration occur, teams grow stronger, people be happier and productivity rise.

So what happens when trust is corroded? The collapse of trust has a high cost for both personal relationships and business. Sometimes this corrosion begins with such a small or seemingly insignificant incident. For example, once I showed up at my Naturopath’s office to pick up supplements on a Friday afternoon about 3 pm only to find out they close at noon on Friday. The next month I was careful to stop by before noon on Friday, only to discover they are now closed all day on Friday. Is it so much trouble to post a sign on the door a month in advance indicating a change in office hours or to send a mass email to clients?

A similar thing happened with another vendor; first he moved his office (no problem with that) and he posted office hours as 9-5 Monday through Friday (no problem here either)…the problem begins when I call the office and never get an answer. My call will eventually be returned but I find what they really mean is ‘Open 9-5 by Appointment’, but that is not what is posted on the door, nor what the answering machine says.

My trust begins to erode when I think that these businesses are not acting like businesses. Are they out of integrity? They are not being clear and specific enough about what they are offering me as a customer. Post a sign that says “Next month we will begin closing on Fridays” or “We are open by appointment only, Monday through Friday” – don’t keep your customers guessing or your customers will take their business elsewhere (I did).

I see assumptions and unrealized expectations occurring all the time in my work with corporate America. One department is waiting on a new hire and assumes HR is pursuing this new hire, then later finds out HR is busy hiring for another department. All the while, HR has been waiting for the first department to deliver the job description/requirements for this new hire and the CEO thinks HR has been diligently looking for several new hires and must not be able to find the right fit. The truth: nothing’s happening! This is the way trust erodes between departments and colleagues. People don’t clarify standards, expectations or timelines. People don’t deliver, miscommunication occurs, tempers flare, relationships suffer and productivity goes out the window.

Loss of trust also means:

  • People no longer feel safe to speak up – innovation & collaboration suffer
  • They are afraid to clarify, therefore you’re unsure as to what to expect
  • They won’t hold each other accountable so productivity declines
  • They work hard, but out of fear and not commitment (culture erodes)
  • Certain individuals may ‘band together’ leading to ineffective teams in which team members may be at cross purposes
  • The attitude about the future is uncertain = disengagement

Trust can be both easily built and easily destroyed. Once destroyed, it’s not as easy to regain. Just like keeping a customer is easier and less expensive than finding a new customer, trust is the same. Showing kindness, being fair, delivering on what you say you will deliver on and when you say you will deliver it, righting your wrongs, not throwing others under the bus, and clarifying vs. assuming will all go a long way in cultivating a culture of trust.

As Patrick Lencioni said in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, trust is the foundation. Make yours a strong one.

Judy Irving, Executive & Leadership Coach – www.movingon.net – judy@movingon.net

The Two Sides of Perfectionism

•January 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

As a coach, I used to work with a lot of perfectionists. Not so much anymore. I now realize that when I was a perfectionist, I attracted perfectionists. Now that I give myself ‘a break’, love myself more; accept myself more, I am less concerned with getting it perfect. I’m more concerned with living and loving my life.

 

There are many good things about being a perfectionist: high standards, does the job right, gets the job done on time, responsible, people can count on you, you don’t let things fall through the cracks or drop any balls. All of these are excellent traits and welcomed by most companies and managers. The problem begins when you don’t do these things for the right reasons.

 

So what are the right reasons? To make something better, to appreciate your own finished product or project, a sense of accomplishment, because you truly believe (as my dad used to say), “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” The wrong reasons are when you set yourself up to ‘earn’ your self worth through your work or deeds. When you try to manage or control other people’s perceptions about you by people pleasing, when you over-focus on the details to the point of multi-tasking and stressing yourself needlessly. When you are so focused on the task, you forget the people involved and are not respectful, compassionate and acknowledging of them.

 

Tasks matter yes; but people matter more and that includes you. You know that saying that goes something like: “People will forget what you say and what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel”? Perfectionism can make you feel good if done for the right reasons and leave you feeling empty, struggling and striving if done to control others or gain their approval. It can also leave others feeling the same way if you put your tasks and standards above their humanity.

Your self-esteem is yours (that’s why it’s called ‘self), don’t look to others for it – give it to yourself.

The Next Evolutionary Leap

•March 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A fabulous new book, Super Brain, by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Rudy Tanzi (Genetics and Anti-aging Research at Harvard) is such a great read. It may be a slow read in some places because it touches on areas that make one stop and think. For example, the authors encourage you to be in charge of your brain and not allow the brain to be in charge of you. You control your brain, who then is who is ‘you‘? You is consciousness and that is beyond the brain… I know it’s confusing but nevertheless, you must read the book, this blog post is mainly to share about the intuitive brain.

Of the four areas of the brain, Instinctive, Intellectual, Emotional and Intuitive, I found the Intuitive to be the most interesting and below are some tips on using the intuitive brain to become part of the next evolutionary leap:

  • Don’t promote conflict in any area of your life.
  • Make peace when you can. When you can’t walk away.
  • Value compassion.
  • Choose empathy (incidentally the highest of the emotional intelligence qualities) over blame or derision.
  • Try not to always feel that you are right.
  • Make a friend who is the opposite of you.
  • Be generous of spirit.
  • Wean yourself off materialism in favor of inner fulfillment.
  • Perform at least one act of service every day – there is always something you can give.
  • Show genuine concern when someone else is in trouble.
  • Don’t ignore signs of unhappiness.
  • Oppose us-versus-them thinking.
  • If you are in business, practice capitalism with a conscious, giving ethical concerns as much weight as profits.

These are not just ideals, with everything we do and we say we change the world. There are no idle thoughts, every thought matters. When your own experiences become richer, the universe gets better at serving its purpose which is to foster life and the experiences that life brings. With each thought you change the world.