A Thought on Empathy

Life is about perspective. It’s how we experience situations and the lens through which we view things…good, bad, or indifferent. Empathy is a powerful attribute for us all. Being able to relate to each other is what makes human beings…human.

I just watched the movie The Forgiven starring Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana. This movie is based on real events that took place in S. Africa. It is incredibly moving and serves as proof that it is possible – even under the worst circumstances – that we can all find common ground, forgive when needed, and find a positive path forward. Rarely have I seen something so powerful in a film.

#Empathy

#Coaching

#Selfimprovement

#SelfAwareness

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12 Things Great Leaders Do Daily

McChrystal

By definition a leader is a person who leads or commands a group – at least that’s what Professor Google says.  My definition is a bit different.  Who wants to be commanded?  Sure there are times, situations, and circumstances when being in command is required.  Directing, ordering, and controlling are verbs that often come to mind when we think of leaders.

Just about anyone can be taught to do these things.  Just about anyone can dish orders, direct others, and attempt to control.  Many “leaders” regardless of training can do this for some period of time before being discovered as ineffective.  Great leaders however, take a different approach.  These leaders must do all the directing, ordering, and controlling as previously mentioned but it’s how they accomplish these things that set them apart.

Great leaders are great because they:

  1. Understand how to empathize
  2. Effectively communicate their vision
  3. Ask great questions, deep questions that provide insight
  4. Act in their own authentic way, not trying to be someone else
  5. Adopt a beginners attitude
  6. Surround themselves with people smarter than they are
  7. Spend time on self-reflection, how they operate and the result produced
  8. Network and connect with others to learn
  9. Ask for, and accept help when needed
  10. Lean on mentor(s) for coaching and perspective
  11. Roll up their sleeves, never asking others to do something they haven’t or wouldn’t do themselves
  12. Inspire others through their words, actions, and behaviors

So start today with some self-reflection.  What are you doing?  What do you spend most of your time on?  How do you interact with those around you?  What’s the reaction of others when you walk in a room, speak during a meeting, engage with others in a break-room?  Consider this list and strive to embrace each one in a genuine way and you’ll find your results improve in a timely manner.

Strive For Mastery, Not Perfection

obi-wan-kenobi

Recently I was having a conversation with a long-time mentor, coach, and friend.  I was sharing my thoughts on a new endeavor and happened to mention that I was “trying to perfect” the thing I was working on, before attempting to market it.  My mentor stopped me in my tracks and said, “Not perfect.  Don’t focus on perfect, you’ll never get there.  Focus on mastery.  You want to be a master.  No one is perfect, nor will anyone ever become perfect.  But you can become a master.”

While certainly a profound statement, it wasn’t the first time I had heard this.  In fact, I recently went back and re-read one of my favorite books by Seth Godin, Linchpin. For Seth fans, you’ll know that he strongly believes in creating remarkable experiences.  In Linchpin he talks about being an artist.  Making your work, art…and art by definition isn’t perfect.  Some of the most valued art in the world is not “perfect”, instead it was created by a master, and even loved for its flaws.

Mastery is an ongoing journey while perfection suggests you’ve arrived, you’ve made it, you’re done.  What lies after perfection?  What’s left to learn?  What’s left to develop? What’s left to explore?  What’s left to invent?  The world is a timeless collection of things and events that simply prove perfection isn’t possible.  Instead, the world is changing, evolving, reinventing every day, minute, and second.

So with that, I will begin reframe my perspective to focus on mastery rather than perfection.  By accepting mastery as my goal versus perfection, it empowers me to accept life’s fact that there’s always something new to learn and invent.  Will you join me on the journey to mastery?

Your Ability To Change Determines Success or Failure

 

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Our ability to change determines our probability to succeed. Of course success has many definitions. Success may look like a college degree, a new car, losing weight, obtaining financial freedom, paying down debt, finding a new job, rescuing an animal, raising money for a nonprofit, starting a business, or growing a business.

No matter what you’re doing in life, your ability to manage change, embrace change, affect change, and ultimately lead change will determine the outcomes you produce. When people fail to change they don’t grow. They don’t expand their knowledge, or insights, or perspectives. They remain static within a dynamic world. When businesses fail to change the results can be stressful and sometimes catastrophic.  Downsizing, layoffs, reorganizations, increased leverage, bankruptcy, and in worst case scenarios complete shut downs happen due to a failure in the ability to change.

How can you prepare for change?

  • Read more, and if you’re not reading at all, get started. Create a mix of categories including business, leadership, inspiration, fiction, and history. There is so much to learn from others who have come before us, as those who are currently on their own journey.
  • Conduct a personal self-assessment. What are your strengths? Stop worrying about your weaknesses. Play to your strengths. In baseball, pitchers are known for having a perfect pitch. Could be their fastball, curve, slider, etc. Perfect your strengths so much so that your weaknesses are irrelevant.
  • Find a mentor. Someone who will be brutally honest with you about you. A great mentor will help you become more self-aware. They can identify blind spots. Blind spots may or may not be weaknesses. The key is to understand what they are, where they are, and when they show up. A blind spot may be how your temper flares when things don’t go your way. Once you’ve identified the blind spot you can work on techniques that can help change your behaviors.
  • Accept who you are. Sometimes the changes required to go from Point A to Point B do not align with your “who”. Don’t settle. When you attempt to do things that don’t align with who you are authentically, you will create stress in your life, and in the lives of others. Be happy with who you are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Once you’ve accepted who you are you can chose those situations or activities that excite you from a change perspective. If you love turnarounds but hate mature businesses, don’t force a change to work at a mature business. You love the excitement of turning something around. Chose to do that and whatever changes you’ll face in a turnaround situation you’ll embrace and thrive upon.
  • Reflection time. Build time into each day to reflect. Just 15 minutes each day will help you sort through what happened, how you acted, and the outcomes. More than likely you’ll arrive at the realization that a different action would have created a different reaction. It’s cause and effect. Take the time to think about your day, those you encountered, and what took place.
  • Ask for help. Change is tough. Even if you’re changing an area that excites you, inspires you, and motivates you, chances are it also scares you. Going through change alone is even scarier. Having a strong support network is critical. Family, friends, mentors, leaders and teammates can help you with change. I also personally believe that having a strong spiritual belief and faith provides a sense of calm during the storms of change.

Leader or Executive – Which Are You?

Washington

The dictionary defines an executive as someone who has administrative, or supervisory authority within an organization.  A leader is defined as simply one who leads.

I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have encountered some of the best leaders in the business world. Many of these leaders took a personal interest in me and my development. The coached me. Guided me. Taught me.  They invested in me. These same leaders who I once worked for have become mentors later in my career.  They are the same people I turn to for coaching and advice today who taught me years ago. They stood by my side then and they’re still with me today.

From them I learned the importance of kindness, and the power of paying it forward in the business world. And just how do you pay it forward in the business world?  By leading. Just as I had someone take an interest in developing me, I too have taken people under my wing to teach them.  Leadership is about giving not taking. Taking is easy.  Giving is tough.

Leaders inspire. They provide vision. They create excitement. Leaders instill trust. They stand firm in the face of adversity. They provide strength and confidence. Leaders create an environment where learning takes center stage.  They have a beginners attitude.  I’ve worked for plenty of executives who believe they know everything, yet I’ve never worked for a leader who behaved that way.  Leaders know that to continue leading they must continue to learn. When the learning stops, so does the leading.

The good news is that it’s a choice.  It’s a conscious choice to lead.  It takes time, courage, discipline, a sense of humor, and perhaps most importantly leadership takes commitment.  Commitment to keep learning, to keep teaching, to keep giving.  I’ll take a leader any day of the week over an executive.

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

3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #3 – Tell People

Goals

In my previous two blogs I wrote about the power of visualization, and the importance of writing down your goals with as much detail as possible.  You spent time thinking about your goal, what it looks like and feels like.  You captured those details on paper and keep it somewhere visible where you can see it daily.  Now you’re ready for the third, and perhaps the most difficult hint in helping you reach your goals.  Tell people!

Fear is undoubtedly the biggest driver for why we don’t achieve our goals.  Be it the fear of failure, the fear of getting started and not finishing, the fear of embarrassment, or the fear of having to ask for help, fear is the #1 reason people don’t accomplish their goals.

All of these fears are based upon our desire to fit in, to be accepted, to be normal.  As such we crave average.  Don’t shoot too high but don’t aim too low.  That’s the thinking of average.  Once we declare our goal publicly we’re now on the hook.  We’re staring that fear straight down.  We’re saying to the world “I will do this”, not try, not attempt, not hope to…but will.

Courage is perhaps the single greatest trait of successful people.  The courage to believe so deeply in yourself that even if you fail, you know you’re not a failure.  That same courage allows you to not be afraid to go after your dreams and accomplish your goals.  Courage enables you to tell the world exactly what you’re going to do.  This isn’t easy stuff.  But then again, nothing worth accomplishing is easy.

The fact is that most people are fearful of declaring their goals.  They immediately get bogged down by the “what ifs”.  They haven’t even given themselves a chance to start before they begin to identify all the obstacles and reasons why they’ll never do it, never make it, never get it, never reach it.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial to your success. Your network should be filled with people who encourage you to go for the gold.  No one ever sets out to win bronze.  Tell your friends, your peers, your mentors exactly what your goal is.  Tell them when you’re going to reach it.  Make a declaration.  Write that down too.

Doing these 3 things will help you reach your goals, not just in 2016, but well beyond.