Never Settle

RichardBranson

Having a beginners attitude is a difference maker for great leaders.  They approach life with curiosity, questions, intrigue.  They believe anything is possible. They’re not afraid to try new things.  Their interest in learning and exploring is genuine, and it sends a strong signal to others who have a passion for innovation and invention, acting like a magnet.  These are the leaders that attract the best and brightest talent.

Real leaders are always preparing. They are in constant “getting ready” mode. They are always “on their way”, having not yet arrived, and as far as they’re concerned they never will.  In fact they believe if they finally do arrive it’s game over.  They never settle.  They never check the “all done” box. Real leaders are constantly looking for new challenges, new problems to solve, and new roles that push them out of their comfort zone – because that’s where the learning happens.

Nothing worth while in life happens without risk. No home run has ever been hit without taking a swing. The light bulb wouldn’t be here if Edison didn’t take a risk, both financially and scientifically.  Great leaders are comfortable with taking risk.  These risk-takers are not careless.  Far from it.  Rather they are prepared for it.  They believe in themselves, the skills they’ve developed, and their intuition.  They are comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So when someone offers you an opportunity do something different, think about it.  Push yourself to get comfortable outside of your comfort zone. Don’t shy away from a challenge.  It’s far more risky to remain static than it is to change. Don’t settle.  Be curious.

Stop Managing Change, Start Inspiring It

Leadership

Today’s leaders believe they must be skilled at driving change, leading change, and managing change.  It’s their job.  It’s what they are supposed to do.  But is it?

Many leaders wear their “change” credentials like a badge of honor.  They know how to drive change. What they might be saying is that they know how to force change.  Driving, or forcing change may in fact work initially, but if your “followers” aren’t aligned, in sync, or haven’t embraced the change because they can’t quite see or understand it, the change itself won’t last.  When you hear leaders describe their company as “always changing”, beware.  If something has to constantly change it may just mean that it hasn’t yet found its calling – it’s grasping at straws.

Also think about what image “driving” evokes. If you’re driving something that means you’re behind it.  You’re in the back pushing. How can you lead from behind?  Leaders should always be in front. Being in front may be symbolic, it may be ceremonial, but no matter it’s leadership.

If I force a change to take place, it’s likely that I’ll have to force another change shortly.  However, if I inspire change, if I rally those around me, if I can paint a clear picture on what that change will produce or deliver, then I have a much better chance of getting folks to rally not just around me, or the change, but around both.

If you’re a leader in any size organization consider this…

People don’t want to be led. Human beings simply don’t like being told what to do.  No.  Going back to the beginning of time our ancestors learned the importance of working together toward a common goal.  Whether that goal was to produce fire, transportation, or medicine, people need to understand the goal first, and believe that if they achieve that goal they will benefit and prosper.  Imagine if fire produced no heat, and no light.  What would the benefit have been to “invent” fire making?  There has to be a clear goal with benefits, to serve as the first ingredient to an effective change recipe.

It’s your job as the leader to provide this vision.  If you can inspire those around you to see the value in the change you’re suggesting you’re well on your way to building an effective, sustainable, and adaptable workplace.  Your team will trust you when they know why you’re asking them to do certain things and to make certain changes.  This does not mean you need everyone to vote in your favor.  No.  This is not about singing Kumbaya and holding hands.  Inspiring change is about leadership.  It’s about having the courage and conviction in the value of the change you’re asking to be made and those you’re asking to make it with you.

 

 

Be An Inspiration

Inspire

What inspires you?  Perhaps a better question is who inspires you?  Who do you look to for a pick-me-up?  Someone you can always count on for a kind word, a gentle smile, and a reassuring affirmation.  They are the first person you turn to when things go sideways.  So what is it about that person that inspires you?  What traits do they possess and can you yourself be an inspiration to others?

When I think of the people who inspire me, they all possess similar traits.  They are all good listeners, strong observers, and offer great insights.  They’re able to assess a situation without bias and provide a recommendation for how to adjust or modify my thinking in order to accomplish my goals.

Being an inspiration to others requires the ultimate in authenticity.  Have you ever met someone who said they wanted to help you but instead caused your antenna to go up?  Their words seemed empty, their time felt rushed, and most likely they were not very empathetic.  Empathy is a necessary ingredient for inspiration. It’s not about sympathy.  Inspiring others doesn’t mean you allow that person to wallow in their sorrow.  No.  Inspiring others begins with empathy.  Being able to identify with someone’s struggles or challenges allows you to connect with people, build rapport, gain trust, and finally inspire them.

I’ve coached hundreds of people throughout my career, as well as others closer to home.  I enjoy helping people sort through their challenges by listening and providing perspective.  I make sure that when I’m coaching someone they know they are my #1 priority at that moment.  I turn my phone off, close my laptop, and focus on that person entirely.

We live in an age of sound bites.  There is an infinite number of inspirational sayings that are posted to Facebook everyday.  Yet nothing takes the place of speaking to another human being  about your challenges.  That real time interaction with someone who genuinely cares about you and your future is what inspiring others is all about.

There’s no class…no school to attend…no workshops that teach someone how to inspire others.  It takes time. It takes courage. It takes commitment to inspire others. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life is what inspires me to work hard to be an inspiration to others.  What inspires you?

 

Pay Attention. You’re Missing So Much.

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Pay attention.  Did you see that?  Did you notice her roll her eyes?  Did you see how he looked at his watch?  Did you hear the receptionist’s tone when she told you to hold?  Are you watching?  Are you paying attention?

Life’s all about nuances.  The little things that make all the difference.  The quick but genuine smile.  The empathetic reply you receive when you ask if Mr. Smith is in.  The notes your customer takes as you’re talking.  Or even something as simple as your 9 am appointment coming to get you promptly at 9 am.  Not 9:05 am.  Not 9:15 am.  But 9 am sharp.

In some ways we’ve become numb to life’s little nuances.  Maybe it’s our phones, social media, the internet, or maybe its Darwinism as our ability to compete, survive and reproduce evolves.  Regardless, we’re slowly losing our ability to spot things.  To recognize signs.  To pick up on the “subtle clues” a prospect gave, or in some cases the very visible and obvious clues a dissatisfied customer gives.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, department store, car dealership, or just about anyplace where there are things for sale take a moment and observe.  Look around you.  Did anyone acknowledge you?  If they did, what did they say?  Did you feel comfortable?  Did you feel confident they were asking because they had your best interest at heart?  Or did they say hello and roll right into a sales pitch?

Whether you’re a professional sales person or a marketer, your job more than any other in the company is to be in tune with these signs.  Your job is to notice things and to challenge or acknowledge them.  Only through observation can you effectively sell.  Only through observation can you begin to create a compelling story that people find interest in.  Only through observation can you begin to align your business with your customers interests.  Until then you’ll continue to slam the round peg in the square hole not because you want to, but because you don’t know any other way.  You haven’t been watching.  You haven’t been observing.

Pay attention.  Look around you.  Watch… really watch… your customer.  How they react to you and others in the office.  What did they say?  How did they say it?  What was they’re body language?  How are they observing you?

Engagement comes in all shapes and sizes.  But when we’re truly engaged, others know it.  While engagement for me may have a different physical appearance than your engagement, the fact is that true engagement creates a visible and tangible level of energy.  It can be seen and felt.  Pay attention.  Watch for it.  Recognize what it looks like.

“Nothing has the power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under they observation in life” ~ Marcus Aurelius

Leadership Is About Acting Now

  

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.  In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, he says, “late is the first step to not finishing.” Many suffer from analysis paralysis.  Trying hard to solve for perfection.  Trying hard to not make a mistake.  Leaders however think about decision making differently.  They have the  courage to act and the confidence to own their decision no matter the outcome.

I might, turns into I can.  Leaders say I will, instead of I could.  I may, becomes I must.  I should, changes to I am.  Leaders think in the here and now.  They understand the importance of being decisive and accountable.  They look to the future with a clear understanding of their current circumstances.  Leaders are well-rounded.  They are continuous learners, who through learning, are constantly challenging their own perspectives, ideas and opinions.  Leaders are not afraid to change tact given new information.  They are more concerned about getting it right than being right.

In his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner conveys a philosophy of “sooner is better than perfect.”  Doing things sooner often times requires getting comfortable with uncertainty.  The point being, once you have taken action you can always do a course correction.  Leaders are constantly acting.  They are in perpetual motion.  They’re never sedentary or static.  They’re fluid, dynamic, evolving.  

Leaders know that every journey begins with the first step.  Sometimes the step is in the wrong direction.  That’s okay.  They’re comfortable with change.  They’re confident in the midst of ambiguity.  They thrive on the thrill of what they can learn.  They’re curious.  They’re bold.

Be curious.  If being curious is too bold of a starting point then be cautiously curious.  Strive to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  But act.  Taking action provides  the leader with learnings.  Those learnings add to the leaders inventory of skills, experience and perspectives.  With those ingredients the leader is able to garner the followers they need to successfully execute on their vision.

Keep moving.  Keep making things happen.

Where Wisdom and Experience Intersect

wisdom

Great leaders possess many characteristics.  Courage, foresight, perspective, and vision are just a few thoughts that come to mind when thinking about leaders.  Leaders are not all-knowing, nor do they have to be right all the time.  In fact, knowing everything is impossible, and being right all of the time simply means you haven’t tested the boundaries.  Good leaders fail.  Great leaders fail often.

It’s been said that “wisdom is the result of experience, but experience is often the result of lack of wisdom.”  So where do the two intersect?  People ask you for advice because they admire your wisdom.  Job opportunities because of your wisdom.  Yet if it weren’t for all your failures you’d have nothing to offer, you would lack wisdom.  Great leaders possess this knowledge because they understand the importance of failure. They are able to see failures as deposits into their bank of wisdom, not withdrawals or setbacks.

Wisdom allows us to take chances.  It allows us to predict outcomes.  It enables us to maximize our chance for success but it does not guarantee our success.  Wisdom gives us the courage we need to attempt something that carries the risk of failure but doesn’t prevent us from trying.  Failure must be an option as we try new things and expand our horizons.  Wisdom helps us see that what we gain from these failures often times outweighs succeeding on the first try. 

So when confronted with a choice between a sure thing and one that presents potential failure, look first to your wisdom bank.  Do an honest assessment of what you will gain versus what’s at risk if you chose to take the chance.  Know that if you do take a chance and fail, you now have wisdom to share with others.  It is this wisdom that increases the value of your insight, perspective, and experience.   It is this wisdom that makes you unique.  This is the wisdom that enriches you personally, and the wisdom that develops you as a leader.

A New Game Show: The Blame Game

Look around you. Put your iPhone down, stop your online shopping for just a minute, and stop posting on Facebook. Take a deep breath, look up, look around, watch, and observe. Listen to what you’re hearing…or not hearing for that matter.

A new gameshow is building both momentum and popularity amongst our Country’s leaders. It’s not Family Feud, it’s not Price is Right, nor is it Let’s Make a Deal. This new gameshow is called The Blame Game. The object is to point as many fingers as possible toward other people and escape both responsibility and accountability. The winner is crowned Teflon Don…or Donna. It’s the ultimate game for losers, and one that is gaining popularity because we allow it to. And the worst part is that there’s not just one winner…there’s many, many, many, many….

Our Country has moved toward a shallow ignorance. A state of numbness where we’ve insulated ourselves from the misguided missteps of our leaders. Everyone gets an unlimited number of “free passes” in The Blame Game, because we allow it. We give a free pass to those who inherited a mess, or those who just can’t make the tough – often times unpopular – decisions. We shrug our shoulders and continue on with our lives moving further and further away from our Country’s founding principles which include very specific references to God, power emanating from the people, a Constitution, private property ownership, and a republic rather than a direct democracy. (How many people would you guess don’t know there’s a difference?)

Our leaders of today are often times winners of a popularity contest. Great orators, sharp dressers, charismatic charmers, and savvy politicians capable of weaving in and out of distressed situations so as to not get to entangled in them whereby they must roll up their sleeves, jump in, get involved, and work toward a solution. They are a group of master delegators not for the sake of efficiency but for the sake of creating political insulation for when things go sideways.

While hope is not a strategy, I do hope (and pray) for a true leader to emerge soon. One that our Country can rally around. One who wants to be held accountable. One who makes decisions based upon their beliefs and convictions, not on polling numbers. One who possesses the character and integrity that promotes family values, personal responsibility, and self-improvement. One who other countries respect and in some cases fear…or at least know they mean what they say. Does such a leader exist? Is he or she already on the path to leadership or are they awaiting a nudge from family or friends to “just do it”? While we can wait and hope for things to get better, we should all go back and re-read our Country’s founding principles. Then and only then will we know whether our hope is possible or misplaced.

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