So much to teach – so few opportunities

smal opportunities to helpWhatever you have accomplished…Whatever you have learned…Whatever you have experienced…adds to who you are. I believe that who we are is meant not just for ourselves, but to teach others.

The only way to pass on all we know is to use every opportunity as a teaching moment. Think of each interaction as a chance to add value to another person. I have found that in doing this I gain more personal and team success in the long run. Brian Tracy points out that, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

When will the opportunities come? There is no time like the present. And if you think you have missed opportunities in the past, then the second best time to look is still right now.

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” – Napoleon Hill

How will I be able to spot the opportunities to teach? Here’s how I began looking for opportunities to teach early my leadership career: Each morning I picked one key item from a book I was reading and looked for a chance to teach someone what I had learned. I didn’t let a day go by without sharing at least once.

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.” – William Arthur Ward

How many opportunities should I expect to get? As many as you can find the time to take advantage of. You’ll be amazed when you start looking how many you will see.

“In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1.440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.” – Les Brown

Understand the real question before you answer.

answering the right questionSuccessful people don’t always have the answer to every question, but they know how to find it. The key to finding the answers is to understand the real question before you answer.

Author, Shannon L. Adler believes that, “Most misunderstandings could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask what else could this mean.” I agree. In this busy world we often want to quickly answer what we think we hear so we can get onto the next question. As the witty Charles Schultz says, “In the book of life’s questions, the answers are not in the back.”

The reality is that we should invest the time needed to get the right answer the first time. Albert Einstein, arguably one of the brightest scientific minds, said, “It’s not that I’m so smart. But I stay with questions much longer.”

If you dig a little deeper you may find that once you discover the real question, the answer is easier than you originally thought. Dr. Seuss wrote many children’s books that were filled with wisdom shared as witty stories. His advice on understanding the real question before you answer is, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

If you want to truly succeed, asking the right questions is the key. As novelist Thomas Berger once said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

How long should you work on culture?

culture pictureYou’re always working on culture, but you have choices to make if you want to ensure your work leads to the right culture for your company.

Culture is what you stand for. Culture is what you want to accomplish. Culture is also how you want to get there. Culture starts at the top but is only successful when it is lived throughout the organization

“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.

How to start your culture – Define it clearly.

Start with the mission – why are you doing what you do, what does your company or team look like with it is working at full success. Use action words in the present tense as if you are doing them already. Southwest Airline’s mission is to, “Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.”

Next comes the outcome of the mission – the vision. For Southwest that is, “To become the World’s Most Loved, Most Flown, and Most Profitable Airline.”

Then is the small number of steps you will consistently execute that will bring the mission and vision – the values. Here are some of Southwest’s values, Work Hard, Follow The Golden Rule, Have FUN, Safety and Reliability.”

“No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch

How to spread it through the organization – Measure it consistently.

Achieving a successful culture is like any other endeavor. What gets measured gets done. Only through regular reminders and follow up will your culture become something that is spread throughout your organization.

“Culture lives on when it’s taught and practiced. Teach your employees your culture and let them share what they’ve learned.” – HerdWisdom.com

How to keep it alive – Reward it frequently.

If you want your team to know that the culture is important, you have to celebrate it when you see it. Be specific in your praise. Not just thank you, but thank you for living our culture by doing a certain act in a certain way.

“When you lavish praise on people, they flourish.” – Richard Branson

How to get aligned

getting alignedYou’re driving your car and you notice the steering wheel is vibrating, you have to hold it off-center to go straight, if you let go the car veers to the right or the left. When you bought the car the wheels were aligned and the car drove straight. Over time, general use, bumps over curbs, and potholes caused the wheels to be misaligned. If you want to have an easier time driving to your destination and save the wear and tear on your tires, you need to get your wheels aligned.

You are leading a project at work and it’s not meeting the deadlines that were set. When you started the project, everyone on the team understood and bought into the vision. Over time, other priorities came into focus, missteps, and mistakes, caused the project activities to be misaligned. If you want to have an easier time reaching the project milestones and save the wear and tear on the team members, you need to get your activities aligned.

How to get aligned. Getting out of alignment with car wheels happens all the time. We expect it, look for it, and deal with it by adjusting the suspension so the wheels sit on the road the correct way and move in the direction that the driver is steering. What about projects? It happens here all the time also. It’s actually just as easy to diagnose, but will take a bit longer to align than when you take your car to the mechanic. Here’s what you should do:

Go back to where you first got aligned – the vision of the end state. The reason that projects get out of alignment is that over time a team of people can forget why they are doing what they are doing. When we forget where we are going, any road seems like the right road.

Someone who knows quite a bit about cars, teamwork, and success is Mario Andretti. He is the only person to be named Unites States Driver of the year in three decades, the first driver to win IndyCar races in four decades, and the first to win auto races of any kind in five decades. On the importance of always knowing where you are going he said, “Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal.”

Revalidate that each team member knows how what they do fits into the end state. Day to day activity can become unfulfilling if we don’t understand how what we do makes a difference. Everyone needs to feel connected to something bigger.

Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful NFL coaches and namesake of the Super Bowl trophy said this about teamwork, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Get everyone back on the track to success – delegate with a plan. The project won’t work unless everyone is out working on their individual part. Don’t keep the control too close to home, you can’t keep directing everything.

Eli Broad founded two Fortune 500 companies in different industries (KB Homes and SunAmerica). His view on successful delegation is simple, “The trick to delegating is to make sure your employees share your priorities.”

A second chance.

second chance

Sometimes good people make bad choices, that doesn’t mean their bad, it means their human. A bad choice isn’t the end, but it makes the next choice that much more important. Legendary NBA coach Pat Riley said, “You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.”

“We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.” – Zig Ziglar

Give yourself a second chance. We are often hardest on ourselves when things don’t go as planned. You think you let the team down. As long as you stay focused on your goals, sometimes second chances work out better than the first because you can learn from your mistakes and improve on your success.

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” – Benjamin Franklin

Give others a second chance. Allow other people to try again. Encourage them to get back up and do it again. Tell them what they did well and ensure they understand why the first chance didn’t work and what they are going to do to make the second chance work. Keep your belief that everyone genuinely wants to succeed.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert Kennedy

Make the second chance count. A second chance should bring us closer to succees. Don’t just jump back in and try harder, try smarter. Second chances are not given to make things right, but to prove that we can be better even after we fall.

“If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.”– Claire Cook

Don’t focus on your weakness.

strengths and weaknessNever compare your weakness with someone else’s strength. What may be easy for others can be difficult for you. I am going to let you in on a secret – you have strengths that others call their weakness.

Here are three tips for not focusing on your weakness:

Don’t give up. Don’t say I can’t because, say I can if…You may have tried ten, twenty, or even more times already. But if you didn’t succeed yet, then you just haven’t tried the way that works for you. Think of what you have done that has worked before and try it again. Research what others have done in your situation and adapt it to your strengths.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison

Work together. I recently heard a very successful person say that he could easily count the mistakes that he made on his own, but they are far outweighed by the successes he had while working with others. Don’t just do what you can do alone, partner with people who share your dream and support each other on your journey.

“An arch consists of two weaknesses, which, leaning on each other become a strength.” – Leonardo Di Vinci

Build your strengths. If you want to achieve the best from life, then you have to give your best to life. In whatever you are naturally good at doing, become great. In whatever you like to do, love it.  Be the best you!

“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” – Marilyn vos Savant

 

Lessons on how to lead from being childlike

childlike leadershipWhen we think of what it takes to lead a project, or lead a team, or how about lead a company, what is the first thing that comes mind? I going to guess that we don’t think of being childlike. As we grow into adulthood, being childlike is usually not our goal. The experience and wisdom that is obtained through our lives is important, but there are some lessons on how to lead from being childlike that bear remembering:

Have fun, be excited.  Children have a knack for making everything fun. Leadership can be hard work but it doesn’t have to be boring. Enjoy talking with your team. Celebrate successes. Encourage and empower new ideas.

“You can be childlike without being childish. A child always wants to have fun. Ask yourself, ‘Am I having fun?’” – Christopher Meloni

Be curious, ask why. Children aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know something, and are willing to dig to find out. Leaders don’t and can’t know everything. Learning should be a life-long pursuit for the leader and for the team.

“Don’t pretend to know all the answers – quite the opposite, in fact. Ask loads of questions of everyone.” – Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why

Say wow, be in awe. Children are impressed with things that seem larger than life. Leadership is a big responsibility. Never take it for granted that you can have a huge impact on the people you lead.

“To be more childlike, you don’t have to give up being an adult. The fully integrated person is capable of being both an adult and a child simultaneously….and being full of awe and wonder at this magnificent universe.” – Wayne Dyer

Whose vision are you following anyway?

lead-followYou have a vision for where you are leading your team and your team is following you.

If you are doing this right, you’re leading your team where you are following – your boss’ vision. Everyone in every company is both leading and following someone at different times. Whether you are a one person show, a middle level manager, or the CEO of a large corporation you are ultimately following your boss’ vision.

Walmart founder, Sam Walton, said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And they can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending their money somewhere else.”

It all starts with the customer’s vision of what they want. Then it leads to the head of the company’s vision on how to organize to deliver the customer’s vision. Next it comes to the manager’s vision on how to fulfill the company’s vision. Lastly it is the individual employee’s vision on how to complete the job that provides the output needed for the manager’s vision.

You will be at different places on the chain of leading and following throughout your career. Be involved, give all you can and learn all you can to take with you on your next role.

“Followership, like leadership, is a role and not a destination.” – Michael McKinney

Just because you are following someone’s vision, it doesn’t mean you ignore your knowledge and wisdom. You have something unique to add to every plan and person. Be willing to speak up when needed.

“If I had to reduce the responsibilities of a good follower to a single rule, it would be to speak truth to power.” – Warren Bennis

Your ultimate goal in all situations is to achieve the positive outcomes set out by the vision. You don’t need to be the one given credit for creating the vision, but you do want to be part of that which accomplished the vision.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

 

How can you have confidence it will work?

confidenceConfidence: I may not know how it will get done, but I know I will find a way to get it done.

Richard Bach wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970 and has sold more than 60 million copies. It’s a short story about a seagull who has confidence that he could fly higher and faster than any seagull before. Through diligent experimentation and exhaustive practice, he learns the skills necessary to accomplish what he was confident he could do. The key to Jonathan’s confidence is revealed when an older seagull says, “You have less fear of learning than any gull I’ve seen.”

Here is how you can use the lesson on confidence shared in Jonathan Livingston Seagull in your leadership.

New project. You may have been successful before, but this project is different. The outcome is much more important than anything you have led. Where will your confidence come from? Your confidence comes from your past success not just in winning but in learning what needs to be done to win. Rely on what you already know, and work on where you need to grow.

“Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.” – Jack Nicklaus

New team. The most important aspect of a successful team is trust. Trust comes from the confidence that is built in your teammates’ ability to deliver on their commitments. You were a success in leading your former team and your new team has confidence in your ability as a leader. Begin by ensuring your team learns to trust each other through a series of quick wins before you attempt to lead them on a large scale deliverable.

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” – Lao Tzu

New company. You changed jobs and are working with people you have never worked with before. They may have read about your prior success, but few have worked close enough with you to have confidence in your leadership. The best way to build confidence in a new company is to build personal relationships. Get to know your peers and your direct reports first. Set up time to talk with your employees so they see the real you. People trust people, not just resumes.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Andrew Carnegie

 

Invest your best in the future leaders.

succession planningYou may be the best leader for today, but your company needs the best leaders for tomorrow. What are you doing to ensure your company has the next generation of future leaders ready to lead? As T.D. Jakes says, “Success is not success without a successor.”

According to a PWC CEO study, future leaders need to be adept in the following areas: Agility, Authenticity, and Sustainability

Agility: Anticipate, adapt to, and lead change.

Authenticity: Take a stand on critical issues regardless of what is popular.

Sustainability: Work for bottom-line results while also focusing on the public good.

Here is how you invest your best in developing your future leaders:

Focus on future needs not just past accomplishments. When you select future leaders to develop don’t just look at what has worked in the past. Those you develop must be able to not only survive change, but thrive in change. Look for examples of their ability to do this already, and focus their development on perfecting this skill.

“You’re going to have to have a company that is ready for the next five years where the only constant is rapid change. For that, you need people who can adjust to that change and comprehend the ecosystem” – Ajay Banga, CEO MasterCard, US

Encourage difference of opinions. The ability to drive to a consensus is an important leadership trait. To do that you need to gather the opinions of those involved and work to align them on the vision and plan to accomplish the vision. The very first step in this process is for those involved to have opinions and be willing to support them. A leader should not feel pressure to have every idea, but they do need to formulate their opinion about the end state and be able to develop an opinion after hearing everyone’s ideas. Future leaders should be encouraged to develop and support their own opinions in order to be ready to lead.

“Don’t think about it as when you are ready to leave…think about it as when the next generation is ready to lead.” – John Davis

Provide Exposure.   Learning is not the same as doing, and doing is not the same as living with the results. This is where what you built is measured not just in the short term profits, but the long term impacts both for your company and for others around you. Future leaders need to see this and be seen leading this aspect of their business.

“One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.” – Anne Mulcahy

 

 

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