John Maxwell

Big goals – What do you do first?

Michael Johnson is a retired U.S. track athlete. He is the winner of four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship gold medals in the 200 and 400 Meter races. Johnson had a strategy for running the 400 Meter that he called the 4 P’s. The 4 P’s are Push, Pace, Position, and Pray. With a big goal in mind – win the 400 Meter race – Johnson’s strategy broke the race into four 100 meter races each with its own definition of success, that when achieved brought Johnson one step closer to his goal:

Push – Run the first 100 meters near top speed to set tone for the race.

Pace – Keep a good speed – under your maximum – for the next 100 meters.

Position – Press the next 100 meters so you come around the first at the last turn.

Pray – Give all you’ve got left for the last 100 meters, arms pumping and run strong for the win.

This strategy worked for Michael Johnson in track, and it can work for you in anything you want to accomplish. Here’s how I think about this strategy with the big goals I have for my life:

First, break the big goals down into little goals where success can be measured in the short-term.

Next get going – fast – on the first step and rack up quick wins for motivation.

Then, with success on the first little goal, tackle the next little goal, then the next…in the same fashion until the big goal is achieved.

I know this sounds too simple. But you’d be amazed at how often I see people give up on their big goals because the payoff is just too far away to keep up the motivation.

Here’s a real-life example on how this worked for me:

Several years ago, I had a big goal to publish a book on leadership to guide emerging leaders. Here are the small goals I used to achieve that big goal with my book The Leadership GPS.

  • -Read books on leadership for information and style
  • -Research historical leaders to document repeatable patterns
  • -Attend conferences with selected authors to gain connections
  • -Combine research with chosen book style and write manuscript
  • -Talk with author connections for advice on publishing
  • -Publish The Leadership GPS and see it become an Amazon Best Seller

Before I wrote the manuscript to my book, I talked with John Maxwell and he gave me advice on what to do first if you want to be an author:   The very definition of being an author requires you have written something. Simple, but powerful lesson. If I wanted to publish a book I needed to write a book. And if I wanted to write a book I needed to start with one word on one page and continue from there.

If you want to achieve big goals you have to know what to do first.

 

Why do people follow certain leaders?

Some leaders are more successful than others at attracting people to their team. They seem to have few people leaving, unless they are promoted, and can easily fill any opening they have. What do these leaders do that sets them apart? These great leaders accelerate the dreams of their followers.

Are dreams important? William Shakespeare wrote, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” The dreams we have for our lives are who we are, who we want to be, where we want to go, there our hope for the future.

So yes, people’s dreams are very important to them. And if you want to be a great leader, they should be important to you. Master motivator, Les Brown laid out the plan for success and dreams when he said, “Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.”

Here are the steps to accelerating the dreams of those who you lead:

Know their dreams. Leading people is nothing more than unlocking the full potential of everyone who follows you. If you want the best team, then you need to know their dreams to bring out their passion in life and work.

“The dreams and passions stored within hearts are powerful keys which can unlock a wealth of potential.”– John Maxwell

Connect their dreams with the team. Each person has unique dreams that are theirs alone. There are many rolls on each team, many activities, many projects, much that needs to be done. Once you discover each person’s dreams, you should find a way to incorporate them into the plans of the team to bring the best thinking to everything you do.

“We need men who can dream of things that never were.”– John F. Kennedy

Lead the dream and the team to succeed. Great leaders can, and must, bring success to their team and to the members of their team. One without the other is not sustainable. The best possible work environment is for everyone to live their dreams while accomplishing the work.

“I don’t dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living.”– Steven Spielberg

 

How are you doing? Read the signs.

read the signsDo you have to wait for someone to tell you how you’re doing to know how you are doing? Not if you read the signs along the way.

“Elaine, kudos for a job…done.” Seinfeld television show fans know that this is what the character Elaine heard from her boss when he returned from sabbatical to find his company in disarray after leaving her in charge. He said this right before he demoted her. Should she have seen the signs? Of course, this was a sitcom where the setup to this punchline was obvious – and funny.

Are the signs in real life as obvious as the signs in a sitcom? They are if you know how to read them. Here are three areas where leaders need to be successful and the signs that you should look for along the way.

Is your growth working? The world is constantly changing. Customer needs and methods to deliver these needs evolve at a rapid pace. How can you and your team be part of a changing organization in a changing world if you are not changing with it? If the only activities you participate in are those that you already know how to do well, then you are not growing.

The signs that you should look for to know if your growth is working are 1) The openness to consider new ideas before the final idea is settled on 2) The opportunity to pilot new processes before the final process is put into place and 3) The willingness to claim success when you learn what not to do because you tried something new.

“If you aren’t making any mistakes, it’s a sure sign you are playing it too safe.” – John Maxwell

Is your leadership working? We know that leaders deliver results through the people they lead. The success of the team depends on the success of everyone you lead. Personal and business success are both important and must be achieved together.

The signs that you should look for to know if your leadership is working are 1) The results that your team delivers on a consistent basis 2) The ability of each member of your team to do their best and 3) The desire for people to want to be on your team.

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily even if you had no title or position.” – Brian Tracy

Is your teaching working? The best leaders have teams that can execute on the vision without anyone telling them how to do it. The most important measure of success of leadership is the success of your team when you are not involved.

The signs that you should look for to know if your teaching is working are 1) The plans that are designed that are not just a repeat of your ideas 2) How often you are genuinely impressed by the ability of your team to accomplish things you couldn’t do 3) The pride you feel when your team goes further than you have

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist.” – Maria Montessori

 

 

Growth: be who we’ve become.

growth - goldfishIt’s said that a goldfish will only grow to the size of the tank it is in. It would actually be more accurate to say that the environment that exist inside of a small tank can limit the growth of a goldfish. A high concentration of naturally occurring items such as nitrates in water and certain pheromones in the fish itself are what can limit growth. Moving to a larger tank where these items are diluted removes their negative effects and allows the fish to grow to its full potential.

Growth in individuals and companies is the same. We will not grow to our full potential if our environment is growth inhibiting. Do we have challenging goals that stretch our abilities? Are we surrounded by others who encourage our growth? If we are, then we are on our way to being all we can become. If we are not, maybe it is time to change the environment or change to a different environment.

 “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not.  When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.” – John Maxwell

 Growth is not a destination; it is a direction. Growth is moving forward not backward. Growth is meant to be continuous.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have not meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

In fact, according to Henry Ford, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

When we grow we are like the fish who no longer fits into the small tank – we leave behind what we were so we can be who we’ve become.

Get on with your new job

new jobWhen you transition to a new job you have to leave the old job behind.

This doesn’t only mean if you move to a new company, this is for where you are now. It’s probably easy to think of leaving your old job behind if you change companies, but this is also for those who are promoted, transferred, or take on more responsibility within the same company. You have to leave the old job behind to succeed at the new job.

“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.” – Albert Einstein

The key to success in this is not to just think of this when you accept a new job, it’s too late then. Plan for it to happen and it will. Your new job will need your undivided attention. There is work to do now. You have to leave your old responsibilities ready to run without you.

If you want that promotion, transfer, or more responsibility, start taking action right now in the areas of Education, Delegation, and Succession.

Education

Provide the opportunities for your team to learn and apply what they are learning. Encourage them to take classes, and attend seminars. These are important activities for them to know what you know, and more.

There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” While you will not be able to spend your days teaching your team personally, since you have your own job to do, you can invest your time sharing your knowledge and wisdom as you lead. Recognize that your team is watching what you do and listening to what you say and be purposeful in your actions and words so that they learn from you as well.

Delegation

When a manager delegates, employees learn how to make appropriate decisions within their level of authority. John Maxwell says, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

This is an example of what Stephen Covey said about the importance of delegation, Organizations don’t grow much without delegation…because they are confined to the capacities of the boss.” Leaders have to delegate if they want their team to be able to do what they do so they can move on to their new job.

Succession

Succession planning is of equal importance to setting the vision and strategy for the company or team. I fact everything that leaders do should be about succession planning, including setting the vision and strategy. Leaders should use every opportunity to teach and grow leaders in the organization to be able to take on their job.

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

If you aren’t teaching someone else how you do what you do, you are letting opportunity pass you by. Your main role as the leader is to prepare a successor while you lead the team. It shouldn’t be something that is part of your long term plan to get to when you are near the end of your season – that’s too late.

The Delegator

Team with his leaderMalcolm Forbes, the former publisher of Forbes magazine, had a saying that might sound like he was joking, but there was much truth in it, “When in doubt, route.” Here is how he described what he meant, “If you don’t know what to do with many of the papers piled on your desk, stick a dozen colleagues’ names on them and pass them along.”

This is a real life example of what Stephen Covey said about the importance of delegation, Organizations don’t grow much without delegation…because they are confined to the capacities of the boss.” You see, successful leaders have to be Delegators – you don’t know how to do everything, and even if you did you don’t have the time.

But, there is a misperception of how successful delegation works. Some people think that if you are a delegator you are giving away the responsibility to achieve success. This is not the way it works. A Delegator does not give away and go away, they are here to stay, but in a different way. Here are the three steps of a Delegator.

The three steps of a Delegator:

Establish the vision

Even though you are delegating much of what you do, one thing that you can’t delegate is establishing the vision for the team – this one is 100 percent yours. You decide and describe where the team is going and what success looks like.

Eli Broad founded two Fortune 500 companies in different industries (KB Homes and SunAmerica). When running KB homes, Broad signed off on every decision about the land they would build homes on, “I made sure always to know where we were buying, what the market was like there, and what the lot would do for us.”

Broad didn’t exert that type of control on everything, “Once you’ve identified your crucial tasks and sorted out your priorities, try to find a way to delegate everything else.” He went on to say, “The trick to delegating is to make sure your employees share your priorities.” This is the key to establishing the vision.

Agree to the strategy

Now you should be ready to share control. This is the big picture of how the vision will be accomplished. Here the delegator works with the team to develop the strategy, ensuring it aligns with the vision. This step is 50/50 between the delegator and the team. Open dialogue, and differing opinions are heard to come to the right answer.

Leaders don’t need to have every answer, but they do need to find every answer. That is the shared part.

John Maxwell is an international bestselling author on Leadership and he also founded and leads several companies (Equip, Maximum Impact, and The John Maxwell Team).

John says that delegating the big picture strategy is important because it allows him to do what is important to him. He recognizes the other end to this delegation, “Assignments are not always done ‘my way’. But I have discovered that most things can be accomplished effectively in many ways.”

Activate the plan

Now you are ready for the strategy to be accomplished using the strengths and talents of each person on the team. These are the short term actions that if successful will lead to accomplishing the vision.

Here is where some Delegators incorrectly give up all control and hope that success will come. The real success comes when you understand that you will accomplish what you inspect, not what you expect. While you should let your team make 100 percent of the day to day decisions, you have to stay connected to see that everything is heading in the right direction.

Wayne Huizenga, the founder of AutoNation, Waste Management, and Blockbuster described his role as a delegator like this, “I give authority, but I stay in touch. Otherwise it doesn’t work.”

What is the measure of a leader?

measure of a leaderThe only true measure of a leader is in the followers.

John Maxwell once asked, “If you’re all alone as a leader, are you really leading?” He went on to say, “If you think you are leading and no one is following, you are only taking a walk.”

With all due respect to social media (I use it myself), but the measure of a leader is not just in the number of followers; it is in the success of followers.

Why do followers follow leaders? In the short run it could just be the latest fad – everyone else is…or it could be that they are looking for something big. In the long run, if you see a leader with committed followers it’s because they are successfully fulfilling these three needs of every follower:

Strategy – Opportunity – Priority

Strategy. Everyone wants to be a success in their life. Each of us wants personal success along with all that we are involved in to be successful. We want the team to win, and we want to be a winning part of that team. The first measure of a leader is their ability to devise a strategy for that to happen for every member of the team.

According to Tom Rath, author of six NYT and WSJ bestsellers on the role of human behavior in business, health, and well-being, “Followers need to see how things will get better and what that future might look like.”

Opportunity. Each person is gifted with abilities unique to them. The key to individual and team success is to use the abilities of each person. The second measure of a leader is how well they connect their followers to opportunities that use their strengths.

Sochiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motors, talked about a Japanese proverb that says, “Raise the sail with your stronger hand,” and explained that it meant, “You must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.”

Priority. There are always more ideas and projects than any team can accomplish in limited time with limited resources – and do them well. Prioritization is a requirement of winning people and teams. The third measure of a leader is do they give their followers permission to not do some things so they can do great things.

Bestselling author and expert on high performance human achievement, Denis Waitley, says this about prioritizing, “Don’t be a time manager, be a priority manager. Cut your major goals into bite-sized pieces. Each small priority or requirement on the way to the ultimate goal becomes a mini goal in itself.”

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.

 

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

What’s Next Leadership

next chapterLeadership is always looking forward. It doesn’t matter if you are just coming off a big success, or you think things couldn’t be worse. Leaders don’t chase what’s now, they create what’s next.

Completed a project – What’s next? You and your team have just completed a big project, it was thoroughly successful. Is it time to kick back, look back and revel in your success? The answer is yes, for about ten minutes, then you turn your focus to what’s next.

Get your team and yourself ready for what’s next. The next project, next goal, next team. Go where the people are that need leadership. Don’t relax, don’t take it easy.

“Leadership isn’t about your comfort, it’s about your commitment.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Made a mistake – What’s next?  You and your team just dropped the ball, made a poor choice, or missed the issue entirely. Is it time to drop your shoulders, look down and remember all that went wrong?   The answer is sure, it’s ok to be frustrated, for a bit, and you should analyze the cause of the situation, but defeat only happens when you stop trying. Take stock in the mistake, learn from it and get onto what’s next.

John Maxwell says there only two positions that leaders are ever in: Up and Getting Up.

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” – Dennis Waitley

Leadership is not about what is…it’s about what’s next. – Denis G. McLaughlin

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