In a Summer Slump?

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?

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.”

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Share a copy with someone else who may benefit.

What to do when you hit a roadblock

What to do when you hit a roadblock

On the path to improvement, there’s one thing for certain–you’re going to hit a roadblock.

It’s inevitable. Could be a number of reasons:

  • Perhaps you fall back into patterns that give you problems in the first place. Human beings are creatures of habit. (“I’m doing what I know how to do on autopilot.”)
  • Maybe you have a negative attitude to begin with that makes you skeptical about your chances of making the improvement in the first place. (“I knew it would never work.”)
  • Or maybe something surprising or unforeseen happens that throws a wrench in your plans. You weren’t prepared for it. (“Well, I never expected that to happen!”)

Depending on the situation, you might feel like a failure, want to give up, or blame the problem on someone else.

Much like a person who says, “I want to lose weight.” He makes the commitment to stop eating unhealthy foods, yet a few days later, he can’t resist the donuts during a coffee break. He gives up trying to diet or rationalizes the situation to discount his commitment. Or he blames the person who brought the donuts.

The same principle applies to teams. In my recent work with a number of teams in different organizations, it’s clear that they want to improve performance.

Some teams are working on how they communicate. They want to strengthen interpersonal relations and understand each other better to function at their best. Other teams are working on their productivity. They get along well, but they want to get better results.

As they explore new best practices and commit to taking action, they’re fired up. They start on a new path that looks promising. They’ve talked through many issues and everyone seems to be on the same page.

But there’s often a missing piece of the process that goes unnoticed. They forget to develop a “correction mechanism.”

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more success you want, the more failure you should expect. Failure is not the opposite of success. It’s a part of the success process.

So what’s your correction mechanism?

How will you know what to look for to know when you need to make a turn, try a different approach or abandon a specific project?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something like a GPS that recalibrates directions for you when you’re off path in your work?

Although each team is different, I see them hitting some common roadblocks like:

  • Returning to a group of silos when they committed to working as a greater whole.
  • Blaming the team leader for the problems instead of assuming greater accountability themselves.
  • Allowing personality clashes to escalate so they impede productivity.

Whatever your team’s situation, I encourage you to identify how you will handle roadblocks in advance.

Know that challenges, frustrations, losses, etc. are a normal part of the process. Determine what the expected response will be. Don’t let it throw you off course.

To help you move forward more easily, here are a couple of suggestions:

First, know when you’ve hit a roadblock. Some people don’t even acknowledge them. They’ll worker harder and faster wondering why they’re not making progress.

It’s like hitting a nail as you’re driving down the road. Your tire is deflating, but you’re speeding up to try to get to your destination.

Secondly, act quickly. Address the issue as soon as possible. Don’t let it linger.

Talk to the team member where there may be a conflict. Put an issue on the table that needs to be discussed as a team. These kinds of actions could be part of your accepted “auto correction” process.

What tools or sources for correction will work best for you?

What’s your process to get you back on the right path?

Only you can determine your correction mechanism in a given situation.

Here are a couple of possibilities to consider:

  • Revisit team or company vision/strategy. That way, you’ll align or realign what you’re doing so it makes sense in the bigger context. Determine if your actions are really leading you to the right destination.
  • Talk to someone you trust. It could be your boss, partner or team member. You might not be able to see the view you need on your own. You’ll get better perspective as you determine next steps.

On a personal level, when you’re thrown off course, your best correction mechanism may be a family member or close friend.  For the most difficult challenges or roadblocks, your correction mechanism may be your faith or values.

In business and life, it’s not always about accomplishment, but about alignment–aligning yourself with what really matters to you.

By doing so, you’ll be guided as opposed to pushing so hard.

You’ll navigate the roadblocks more easily and enjoy the journey a lot more.

PS – Sometimes you hit roadblocks because of leadership blind spots. That’s the topic of my latest print newsletter about how to overcome leadership blind spots.

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 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.

The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

It’s there. Sometimes sitting quietly while you maneuver around it in conversation. You’re hoping it might just go away.

elephantOther times, it’s so big and blatant that it becomes your sole focus.

It’s the elephant in the room, of course. And it’s one of the greatest threats to your business.

In my consulting work over the years, I have realized that one of the greatest challenges facing executives is how to deal with the elephant in the room.

You may have missed that lesson in school. Unfortunately, many executives struggle in this area. Consider it an undervalued “leadership skill.”

The elephant comes disguised in different ways:

  • The disconnect between employees and management
  • The manipulation of numbers or processes
  • The tension between partners
  • The disagreement about strategy
  • The clash of different personalities
  • The hidden agenda
  • The wrong job fit

You know what it is for you.

The question is what to do about it.

Almost always, the key lies in communication.

Part of your responsibility as a leader is to create a safe and trusting environment in which people can communicate openly about what’s on their minds.

Here are some factors to weigh as you consider how to address the elephant in the room.

  • What’s the upside of addressing the issue? The truth is there is usually more reason to address the issue than not. You’ll get to the heart of matters that are keeping you stuck or hurting performance. Many executives report that they actually feel better after airing issues constructively. Be optimistic.
  • What’s the downside or risk of addressing the issue? Some people may be sensitive. Feelings may be hurt. Determine what’s really at stake – the business, your reputation, relationships. What’s the worst that could happen? Be realistic.
  • What’s the risk of not addressing the issue at all? In many cases, the risk of not doing anything is the greatest risk. You might be losing potential opportunities or focusing on areas that are not growing the business. Constantly sweeping issues under the rug makes you trip when you walk on it. Be brave.
  • Who needs to be involved? Can you address the issue privately with another person in the business? Perhaps you need to talk in a small group. You might benefit by including an outside resource or neutral party. In some cases, you may hold an open meeting with your team.
  • What is the best timing? The best time is when you’re least likely to be emotional, when you’re thinking clearly, when you’re least stressed. Understand what timing works best for others involved. If people are working on deadlines, wait. Schedule time to meet on the calendar. That shows the issue is a priority.
  • What is the outcome you’re looking for? When addressing any potentially sensitive situation, it’s a good idea to stay focused on the ultimate outcome that you’d like to achieve. State your intent up front. Listen a lot.

It’s natural to dread a sensitive conversation. Instead, believe you will handle the conversation in the best way.

If the elephant remains in the room too long, it’s probably taking up space in your head as well. Ruminating about a problem is not solving it. Take the action you need to take to resolve the issue.

The sooner you address the issue, the sooner you can focus on priorities that are most relevant to your business — and minimize disruption.

Don’t let the elephant turn your business into a circus.

Would you like a copy of my free Special Report on generational differences at work?

Would you like a copy of my free Special Report on generational differences at work?

workmatters-special report2.indd Many companies experience challenges when trying to understand generational differences in the workplace.

I work with many “baby boomer” executives who are curious about how to leverage the talent of Millennials and younger generations, so I put together a Special Report called “When Generations Collide” to help leaders gain better insight on the topic. It’s getting great reviews.

If you’re on my mailing list, you may have already received a copy.

If not, just let me know and we’ll send one to you right away.

Simply contact us or call 205-879-8494.

 

Ditch desperation in your business

Ditch desperation in your business

I was driving home in my neighborhood the other day when three little girls ran out in front of my car. They appeared to be in distress and motioned for me to stop the car.

90I stopped and rolled down my window to ask what was wrong. One of the girls said, “Please, ma’am, we’re desperate!” I asked, “Desperate about what?”

They pointed to the lemonade stand on the corner that I hadn’t even noticed. “We haven’t been able to sell ANY lemonade. Don’t you want a cup? PLEASE buy some from us.”

I was relieved that the problem wasn’t more serious. I said, “Girls! This is no way to sell. You are NOT desperate. Why don’t you talk about how good your lemonade is…how it’s just what you need to cool down on a warm day?”

Thought they might need a little business coaching. 🙂

I noticed that one of the girls had a bunch of colorful rubber band bracelets on her arm. Clearly homemade. The bracelets covered her arm from wrist to elbow.

I asked her about the bracelets. She said, “Oh yeah…We sell those too,” as an afterthought.

I ended up buying a really cool glow-in-the-dark rubber band bracelet for only 50 cents extra. The girls were thrilled.

This experience illustrates some of the same problems that real businesses have:

  • Some businesses get to a point where they project a sense of desperation instead of service. Be careful. Your market senses that. Stay focused on what your products or services do for your clients/customers — the benefits they receive. Anticipate your clients’ greatest needs and challenges. How can you better position the value of what you deliver?
  • Your market may not know the full array of services you offer. I’ve experienced that in my own business. For example, some executive coaching clients are not aware that I do keynote speaking. When speaking to groups, people in the audience may not realize I offer consulting and coaching services. I’m constantly trying to improve how I communicate what I do as my services evolve. What can you do to help your market see the full value you can provide?
  • Do you feel like you have to “chase business?” If so, work on ways to attract your best market. It’s less exhausting. Develop strategies that bring your market to you. Examples include: writing articles, blogging, speaking to groups, partnering with other people or businesses that serve the same market. What can you do to attract the market you really want?
  • Some businesses are hidden. I didn’t even see the little lemonade stand on the corner. They might need a bigger sign. You don’t need a bigger sign, but you probably need to become more visible. Where are you showing up? What are you doing to stay top of mind?

Answer just a few of those questions. Apply the lessons and you’ll see a big difference in your business.

Even if your business is thriving, it’s a good exercise to contemplate ways to deliver even more value.

When times are tough, focus more seriously on these issues to help you position or reposition the value you bring. Your market is waiting.

Squeeze desperation out of your mindset.

You’ll turn lemons into lemonade — of course!

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Now or Later with Red MarkerTime for a personal STRATEGY SESSION? 

Feeling scattered or overwhelmed as you head into the holiday season?

What do you really want to accomplish in your leadership, work or business, now?

I’d love to help you determine what you can do–or do differently–to make it happen.

If you’d like to schedule a private one-on-one “strategy session” (in person, by phone or skype) before the end of the year to help you get clear and focused on your business and/or personal growth, let me know by end of this month.

Simply contact me or call 205-879-8494.

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