Father’s Day Lessons in Leadership

With Father’s Day approaching, I’m reminded of my dad’s positive leadership influence on me.

As an electrical engineer he was obsessed with problem solving. Always looking for something to fix or improve.

When I was learning how to drive, he thought it would be helpful for me to know exactly how far to pull the car in the garage so that the garage door could close without smashing the back end of the car. (Not that I was a bad driver.)

He tied a ping pong ball to a long piece of string. Then he mounted it on the ceiling of the garage so the ball dangled in the air in just the right place. When I slowly pulled in the garage and my windshield gently touched the ping pong ball, I could stop the car knowing I was in just the right place. A simple fix.

In my consulting and coaching work with leaders, they’re often overwhelmed.

Some are grappling with guilt about not completing their to-do list because they’ve been distracted by urgent matters. Some aren’t spending enough time with their team because they’ve been on the road so much. Some haven’t focused on their strategic plan because it just requires too much thinking right now.

I see executives over-complicating and over-thinking situations all the time. They let those issues keep them up at night or create knots in their stomachs.

What these leaders are beginning to realize is that one of the best ways to lead is to look for a simple fix.

If you think you’re overwhelmed, you will be. If you look for a simple fix, you’ll find one.

You might have to use a little ingenuity.

Leadership can be challenge. You still have to have a big bold vision, but it’s the little things that will make the greatest impact in your leadership.

It’s about noticing what will help employees do their work more easily–and taking one step at a time to do something about it. Not complicated.

It could be improving a process, or even part of a process, so that work flows more smoothly.

How are you showing up?

Leadership is as much about how you’re being as it is about what you’re doing.

Dad showed up with solid determination and a positive attitude. He cared a lot about people.

Not just an engineer…He was an “encouraganeer.”

Are you greeting people and making eye contact in the morning, even when you feel like retreating to your office? Are you really listening to what they’re saying?  Are you acknowledging something they did well on the job that day?

As a leader, Dad was relentless about making systems, situations and people better. He was committed to helping people learn, grow and develop.

Tough on problem solving. Compassionate with people.

It’s the little things in your leadership that make a big difference.

It’s the simple fixes.

As you look for simple fixes, help others do the same.

When everyone focuses on small improvements, it lifts the whole organization.

And those you lead will feel like they’re in just the right place.

Smart Succession Planning: Getting Ready for Your Next Move

what's nextWhat if you lost one of your key employees unexpectedly? Happens all the time.

“We really need to get better at succession planning.” A common desire expressed by many executives.

But the reality is that it takes time and brainpower. Succession planning often gets put on the backburner.

Sometimes it’s easier to see how far you can run without addressing succession issues. After all, you could strike some sensitivities. What if you position one person for advancement, and not her co-worker? You could upset the applecart. Nothing’s broken.

But if you’re serious about growing your business, it’s probably time to take a strategic look at succession planning.

There’s greater risk if you’re not looking closely at the talent you need to grow and sustain the business.

As you prepare for growth, consider how you’ll grow out of your own role. You’ll need to find new ways to leverage your natural strengths and interests to create the most value for the business.

Succession planning is not just about planning who will take over your role. It’s about anticipating what the role should really look like in your new state of growth.

Instead of simply identifying people to groom, determine what the role really requires first.

Job benchmarking can be a first step. Get clear and agree about the skills, styles and strengths that are most critical for success in the role.

When I work with clients on these issues, they often have difficulty anticipating their needs in the future. They’re just trying to manage day-to-day operations.

Take a first step this week. Visualize how you want to be contributing to the business in the future. What will your business require a year or two from now?

Jot down some notes. As you become more clear about your next move, you’ll grease the wheels on the succession planning process.

You’ll gain faster momentum in your business by moving succession planning up on your priority list.

In a Summer Slump?

Summer is here–a time to relax and recharge. But if you’re like many people, you might be experiencing a “summer slump.” It happens to the best.

slumpedSigns are:

You’re not being as productive as you need to be.

You’re not as energized about your work or the business.

You’re feeling stagnant or lethargic.

You’re procrastinating more than usual.

You’re not clear about next steps.

You’re not focused.

The business seems to have slowed down.

Seems like everyone else is out enjoying the sun and sand, but you’re treading water in place.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you feel a slump coming on:

1. Do less. Summer slump is normal. (Doesn’t that make you feel better already?) It’s easy to feel like you’re out of sync with the rest of the work world. Days are longer, so it’s natural to think that you should be “doing more” to fill the time and get more done.  Be okay with doing less–at least temporarily. Sometimes you can actually accomplish more by doing less. Work smarter. The world will keep spinning.

2. Find a new rhythm. With school out and vacation time scheduled, change how you’ve been working. Unplug if you need to. Decide how you’ll work differently during this season. Expect to be thrown off. Trust that you will adjust accordingly.

3. Think about NOTHING. Give yourself permission to take the pressure off of yourself–even if for a few minutes or hours.  For a change, you don’t need to think about how to be better or more productive, more profitable, more competitive, more strategic, etc.  Some executives confess, “I’m tired of thinking!” It’s okay not to think at times. And it will likely help you think better when you do.

4. Get pumped! This is the best way to beat the slump. Get brutally honest with yourself about what you really want now in your life, work or business. Take some time away, if needed, to reflect on what you really care about. What’s the significant impact you truly want to make, now? What would that look like? Complete this sentence:

I would be most happy, rewarded or fulfilled if ___________________________________.

Be around people who have positive energy and who can play a role in helping you make it happen. (They might be out at the beach.)

A slump is a sign. Acknowledge it.

Keep moving, even if it’s at a slower pace.

You’ll be out of it before you know it.

Having trouble with time management?

What are your top three specific priorities for the month?

If I asked you that question, would you be able to name them quickly?timemanagement

If not, you’re like many executives I know.

Intuitively you may know what’s most important, but instead you’re reacting to problems or requests as they arise. You may find yourself thinking, “Where did the time go?” or “I don’t have enough time.” or “I have a “time management problem.”

When you think of time as something that needs to be managed, it seems like an external force you must control. So you try to organize it, structure it, manipulate it, etc. It’s a creature you wrestle.

But true time management is not about time, it’s about clarity—clarity about priorities. Think of it as managing your mind. True time management requires more internal work—understanding how you think and why you think what you do.

For example, if you give yourself an hour to work on an important priority but your phone rings, would you answer it?

If you believe that being immediately responsive is important, you’ll probably answer your phone quickly. If you believe that reasonable responsiveness means you’ll call back in an hour, you might let it go.

It’s your belief about responsiveness (or client service or professionalism) that influences you more than the actual commitment on your calendar.

One key to executive effectiveness is being able to discern where you will invest your time.

What activities will produce the highest ROI for you or your business over time?

Make a quick list now. Name just three.

What are some possibilities on your list?

  • Developing strategy?
  • Developing people?
  • Building business partnerships?
  • Profitability? Financial growth?
  • Developing new business? Marketing?
  • Nurturing current clients?
  • Developing yourself?
  • Structuring processes? Improving technology?

Whatever is on your list, be sure those areas fit your strengths–what you do well naturally.

Stop trying to do so much. Instead do less so you can free yourself to focus on work that really matters at your level.

Time management is not about trying to pack in as much as you can in a day.

It’s about deflecting what really does not have to get done—at least not by you.

Time flies. So don’t try to catch it.

With clear beliefs and priorities, you’ll accelerate results instead.

If this message resonates with you, download a free copy of my latest print newsletter on  the topic of time management. You’ll learn what to do if you have a case of “brain clutter.”


Share a copy with someone else who may benefit.

Is your insecurity showing?

“I thought I was ready, but had no idea what I was getting myself into.
What if I’m not really cut out for this?”

CompassNo matter how much experience you’ve had, it’s easy to doubt yourself and wonder if you’re “good enough” to get to the next level.

In working with many leaders over the years, I see their thought process as they contemplate ways to expand their impact and advance their careers.

Some are frustrated. They’re not moving fast enough into roles they think they deserve. Perhaps they have leadership blind spots.

(If you missed my Special Report on Overcoming Leadership Blind Spots, you can download a free copy here or below.)

They view their situation as something beyond their control.

“You have to know people at the top to get anywhere in this company.”
“I’ll just have to wait for my turn. I don’t want to rock the boat.”
“Nobody knows the real work I do.”

The reality is that, in many cases, you can be your own worst enemy. You might be sabotaging yourself with secret thoughts that threaten your confidence.

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

“I don’t have the experience they expect to even be considered for the position.”
“I never finished my degree.”
“I don’t have a mentor or advocate.”

Self-confidence is one of the most important leadership attributes you can have. Without it, you risk jeopardizing your performance, and in some cases, ruining your own career.

Insecurity manifests itself in a variety of ways. Some people show up as fearful or anxious. They work in the shadows and draw little attention to themselves.

maskOther people may appear overly confident or egotistical.

But deep down there are serious insecurities they’re attempting to mask.

Here are four ways to build self-confidence in your leadership role:

1.  Note your strengths and best qualities.

If you need reminding, talk to family members or friends who are closest to you. By focusing on what you have instead of what you (think you) lack, you’ll create an image of yourself that is strong and capable.

Weaknesses or deficiencies will become less important. Bring whatever you have now to the table. Don’t worry about the rest.

2.  Experiment.

If you’ve been afraid to try something new or tackle a difficult project, consider it an “experiment.” You’ll take pressure off yourself to achieve perfection.

Instead view the situation as a learning opportunity. Be prepared to observe what is happening as you go through the experience. Anticipate setbacks.

Be willing to move yourself or your project in a different direction if needed. If it doesn’t work, it’s just an experiment. Keep trying.

3.  Help someone else.

Ultimately leadership is about service. This is a fundamental aspect of leadership that executives often miss. Instead they are overly concerned about how they are perceived. If they care more about their own image, they lose sight of what matters most–other people.

Keep your focus on those you serve–your team, your internal or external customers. Ask:

“What do they need now?”
“How can I be of help?”
“What action can I take today to make a bigger difference–to them?”

Shift the focus from yourself to others.

4.  Face your fear.

If there is one thing that you know is in your way, face it head on!

In my case, the one thing that was holding me back in my career and leadership role was my fear of public speaking. So many years ago I decided to begin working on that skill. I participated in Toastmasters International and other development programs for years to practice and build my confidence. Sometimes it was painful.

Confidence comes through practice and by surrounding yourself with other people who want to see you grow.

Now I speak professionally as part of my work.

Everything flows from your confidence as a leader. We all have insecurities. It’s natural for your confidence to waiver over time, especially as you grow and take on new challenges.

You are stronger and more capable than you realize. Your potential is much greater than you can imagine.

Step boldly into the new iteration of who you are becoming. You’ll be even better as a leader.

It’s good for yourself and those you serve.


In case you missed it…

print newsGet a copy of my latest print newsletter. It’s about how to overcome leadership blind spots.

Download a copy HERE.  

 (Feel free to share it with a friend or colleague who may benefit.)


You’ll gain insights to help you see what you might be missing.



 “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong.

The amount of work is the same.”

~Carlos Castaneda