Want to make an impact? Shift your focus.

focus to impactThe human eye has an amazing ability to shift its focus from far in the distance to right in front of us in an instant. Touch screens use “Pinch to Zoom” to shift the focus of a picture, document, or webpage in and out using two fingers.

Whether we focus on the eye or touch screens, the ability to shift your focus is paramount to having an impact on anything.

Repeat these three steps continuously to have successful impact:

 

Start with a distant focus

In leadership we often talk about setting a vision. Vision is where you paint the picture of success that allows you to build the plan to achieve it.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”­ – Vincent Van Gogh

Zoom in to a near focus

If you want to impact the world, start with impacting your company. If you want to impact your company, start with impacting your team. If you want to impact your team, start with impacting one individual.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” – Walt Disney

 Expand back to the distant focus

Once we get involved in the day to day plans it’s easy to forget why we are doing what we do. The road to success is often long and winding. Unless you expand your focus once in a while you won’t know if you are still on track.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal.” – Mario Andretti

 

Pause, and let life catch up

einstein_bike pause to think

Are things going the way you want them – your career, your company, your project? Whether they are or not you should take time to pause once in a while.

Are you sure that you are heading in the right direction? Whether you think you are or not, you should pause every so often.

It’s important to take time to pause, and let life catch up.

 

A pause lets you think

When asked about his Special Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein is reported to have quipped, “I thought of it while riding my bicycle.” Talk about a pause that changed the world.

Think what you could do if you paused to think on a regular basis. Ok, so you might not discover how space and time interact like Einstein did, but you could be one step closer to a breakthrough in your field if you would take time to pause and think.

A pause lets you see the whole picture.

In music, the pause is just as important as the notes. The whole piece is made up of many beats where there is no sound as well as beats where there is sound. In comedy, timing is everything. The master of waiting for the right moment was Jack Benny. His advice was, “It’s not so much knowing when to speak, as when to pause.”

If you are always doing something, you can’t see how what you have done is fitting together. Pause and take a step back to see the whole picture so you don’t get too narrowly focused on any one thing.

A pause lets you plan

Once you pause to think and take a look at the big picture, it would be a waste if you didn’t take what you now know and make it part of your future plan. Time management expert Alan Lakein once said that, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

Pause, read the signs, and make sure you are still heading in the right direction.

What to do with an unsolvable problem.

Question MarkToo many times people face problems that they deem unsolvable. They stop trying to solve the problem by saying, “It is what it is.”

But is it?

An unsolvable problem is really just a problem where the solution has not yet been identified.

Why do some people solve enormous problems while others give up? According to Bill Hybels, “Visionary people face the same problems everyone else faces; but rather than get paralyzed by their problems, visionaries immediately commit themselves to finding a solution.”

Here are the steps that will help you solve those unsolvable problems:

Re-Group

Just because you can’t see the answer to a problem doesn’t mean the answer isn’t already there. The odds are that someone, somewhere, has faced the same problem and at least stumbled upon the answer. Trust that you will find it, somewhere else, if you look.

“If you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world, or in the room, you’ve got real problems.” – Jack Welch

Re-Grip

Prepare yourself to hang on long enough to find that solution. Look around you. Where are other successes happening? Who is having those successes? How are they having those successes? Select from the many choices you will find and take hold of what will work for your problem.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”- Albert Einstein

Re-Commit

Now that you have decided to solve the unsolvable problem, and you chose the right solution, commit to give it all you’ve got.

“It’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti

Comparison or Contentment

You can always find someone who is great at any one thing. When we compare our total self to each one great thing and want to be all great things rolled into one we lose the opportunity for contentment. Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Contentment does not mean doing less than you are capable of achieving, it means being content with all you are capable of achieving.

Focus on your strengths, not other people’s strengths. Be your best, not other people’s best. This is the key to your individual success and contentment.

This is where the power of a team comes in handy. A team is made up of many individuals each with unique strengths. If each person on the team is content with doing their best at their position, then you can accomplish great things.

“Try not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine. Softball is amazing that way as a sport. Everyone on the field has a slightly different ability that makes them perfect for their position” – Jennie Finch, Collegiate All-American and Gold Medal Women’s Softball Pitcher.

However, even teams can get caught in the trap of comparison. Just like individuals, you can always find one team who is great at any one thing. Be the team you decide to be using the combined strengths you possess then be the best at it. You can’t be all things to all people.

As comedian Steven Wright joked, “You can’t have everything…where would you put it?”

From Strings To Wings

It seems odd at times, but the ultimate success of being a mentor is when you can cut the strings because you are no longer needed.

Successful mentoring doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an investment of time – yours and the person being mentored. But the return on your investment is worth it.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “If you want a harvest in one year, grow a crop. If you want a harvest in ten years, grow trees. If you want a harvest that lasts a lifetime, grow people.”

Some compare mentoring to a classroom where knowledge is taught. There is definitely a transfer of wisdom, but it isn’t so much taught as it is learned – through experience.

The best mentoring takes place through the process of trying out what is taught. The great scientist, Albert Einstein, had much to teach and was a professor of science at various time in his life. He is quoted as saying, “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

It is important that mentors share what they know, but it is equally important to help people discover what they already know. Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The greatest good you can do for an individual is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to them their own.”

Once people realize all that they can accomplish, then they are ready to fly.

 

 

Lead like an individual contributor

lead like an individual contributorIn a recent Forbes article Jack Zenger said, “Individual contributors are forgotten leaders.”  Can individual contributors really lead? It depends on your definition of leading..

Here are some definitions on leading that we can look into as we talk about leading like an individual contributor:

Brian Tracy said, “Leaders think and talk about solutions.”

Colin Powell said, “Leading is solving problems.”

Donald McGannon said, “Leadership is action.”

Steve Jobs said, “Leaders are innovators.”

John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence.”

Here is what the collective definitions says leaders do: Think and talk about solutions, solve problems, take action, innovate, and influence.

There is nothing here that isn’t done by individual contributors every day.

Your position or title is not the ultimate measure of a successful career. It is what you do with your position or title that matters.

The key is to do your best where you are, when you are, with what you are.

 

Successful teams always agree.

conflict resolutionBeing a successful team doesn’t mean you always agree, at first.  It means you develop a method to come to agreement. Here are the five steps you should take to resolve conflict:

Make the first move. Reach out, make a phone call, and schedule the meeting. Get the discussion going. Don’t wait to be invited to the party, host the party.

Reaffirm your dedication to the desired end state. Make sure there is understanding and alignment on the positive outcome that you both desire – we are in this together trying to get to the same place.

Begin with what might be your fault. Ask yourself, then the other party, two important questions to start the discussion on a positive track: What should I have done? What could I do now? You can’t get around the obstacles until you agree on what the obstacles are.

Listen for their perspective. Conflict always involves emotion. The most powerful action in conflict is for people to know they have been heard and understood. Only then is resolution possible.

Agree on the path forward. The goal is not to prove you are right, it is to provide the light…to the right answer. Ask questions about possible options, offer potential solutions, all with a keen focus on the desired end state.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan

The Commitment of Leadership

commitment LombardiLeadership is not for the faint of heart. If you want to succeed, plan on making the commitment to being in it for the long haul. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.”

There is no overnight successes in leadership, but there are steps you can take in the right direction towards success if you are committed to the climb. For every person who climbs the ladder of success, there are a dozen waiting for the elevator.

Now here are the challenges that many face when they look to make the commitment of leadership:

What if I don’t have a complete plan for success? Here is the thing about plans – they always change. If you wait for the perfect plan before you will make the commitment, you will never commit. As long as you have a clear picture of what success looks like when you achieve it, you can start moving in that general direction and modify your plan as you learn more.

“You need to make a commitment, and once you make it, then life will give you some answers.” – Les Brown

What if I don’t have time for a commitment? Here is what I have found in my life. I do lots of things throughout the day, week, month, or year. When I choose to make a commitment to something I free up time to fit it in by not doing other things that don’t lead to success.

“I have the time for anything I am committed to.”

I am not sure I’m up for a long-term commitment. Actually a long-term commitment is nothing more than a set of daily activities that leads to long-term success. Take this one day at a time, one action at a time.

The only way saying ‘ I will’ leads to ‘I did’ is through the daily practice of ‘I do’” – Denis G. McLaughlin

The Leader is…

leaders know the wayTrusting

Leaders don’t earn trust, they prove they are trustworthy. For your team to trust you, they must know you– and if they trust you they will follow you. Does your team know you?

The best way for your team to know you is through communication – you listen to their needs, then you tell them how you will lead them to success. The trust part comes when you actually do lead them to success – small success at first, then bigger and bigger…

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

Can your team trust you?

Teaching

Leaders already know the storms their team will face. You have been there before and survived. What bothers the team doesn’t bother the leader, but the leader is bothered when the team is bothered.

Teaching is not telling people what to think, it is helping them learn how to think. The best leaders help their teams discover the answer for themselves.

“The thing I loved the most about teaching is that you can connect with an individual or a group, and see that individual or groups exceed their limits.” –  Mike Krzyzewski

Can your team learn from you?

Testing

Leaders help their team gain confidence in their ability to succeed on their own. The true measure of success is not in the learning, it is in the doing.

Put your team to the test at the right time in the right environment. Test them enough to prove their strengths and fuel their desire for more growth.

“Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.” – Sugar Ray Leonard

Can your team succeed because of you?

Lead with no distractions

No distractions robin sharmaSuccessful leaders know that their toughest leadership assignment is themselves. They are keenly focused on the needs of their teams, their company, and their customers. What do successful leaders need to focus on to lead themselves?   They need to eliminate distractions – if they want to remain successful.

Distractions that are the most difficult to conquer are subtle and internally driven. Anything that keeps us from focusing on the ultimate goals and the path that leads there is a distraction. Distractions can derail our ability to grow and be the best we can be if we let them.

Robin Sharma said, “We are so deep into daily distractions and ‘being busy’ that we miss out on those moments that – if jumped on – would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow.”

Three internal distractions that leaders need to eliminate take place in their thinking, speaking and doing.

Distractions in thinking, speaking, and doing

Thinking. All leaders have to think; they key is what you think about. The easiest way to be distracted in your thinking is to focus on things other than that which will help you achieve your goals. Don’t think about the great assignments, or titles, or anything else that other people have. You may want to achieve the same stature someday, but you won’t get there by thinking about what they have; you get there by focusing on what you have – your goals.

“If you think the grass is greener on the other side then water your lawn.”- John Maxwell

Speaking. Verbal communication is very important in leadership. Don’t let your conversations become a distraction. Choose your words, think before you speak, and speak succinctly. Don’t over explain or under explain. Don’t over talk or under talk. Look for a balance in your speaking.

“The conversation should be about what you say, not how you say it.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Doing. Make it real, this is where it all comes together. If you lead without distractions you will think about your goals, talk about your goals and execute your goals.

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus

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