Your Key to Creating Something New

Your Key to Creating Something New

During a recent trip to Atlanta, I stayed in room #1212 at The Twelve Hotel. That’s a lot of twelves, so I started paying more attention to that number.

Some people believe the number 1212 is a sign indicating the need to step out of your comfort zone or to start something new in your life.

Even the message on the room key holder read: “A New Day to Create!”

We all have the ability to create a new day, but sometimes it seems like the day is creating us.

If you’ve been swept into the current of the day, come up for air. Be more proactive and less reactive.

Use your creative power as a leader and changemaker.

Decide something new you’d like to start in your work, life or business…even if it requires getting out of your comfort zone.

Take your first step.
Get others on board.
Make it happen.
You hold the key.

How to Manage Your Emotions More Easily as a Leader

How to Manage Your Emotions More Easily as a Leader

The other day, I packed up an old suitcase filled with some clothes to donate to a charity.

My dog looked a little sad as she watched me pack the suitcase.

As I walked out the door with the suitcase, she started howling.

She didn’t know I’d be back in an hour. Guess she thought I was going away on another trip.

It’s easy to make assumptions based on behaviors that seem familiar to us–and to jump to conclusions too quickly. Before you know it, you’ve talked yourself into a scenario that’s not really true.

One of the most important things you can do in your leadership role is to test your assumptions. Question your beliefs.

Why do you believe what you do about a situation or a person?
Why do you believe what you do about a problem or an opportunity?

We often “go negative” assuming the worst about a situation.

“I lost the business because I did something wrong.”
“The project failed because the team couldn’t get along.”

If you are someone who internalizes negativity too easily, learn to catch yourself when that happens. For example, you might reframe the statements above to:

“I lost the business because there’s a better piece of business out there to win.”
“The project failed because we have the opportunity to improve our teamwork.”

Learn to take better control of your thoughts. The higher your leadership level, the more important it is to be aware of what you’re thinking.

Belief is like a mental muscle that needs to be exercised. Practice holding the beliefs that serve you well.

Write them down or talk about them to help them stick. Over time, you’ll be able to internalize them.

Note what triggers you so you can manage your emotions more easily. (Any suitcase clearly triggers my dog.)

Some of my clients are triggered by a conversation, an experience or a specific person.

Triggers can be traps, but they are really signals directing us to pay attention to what’s going on inside.

Often things aren’t as bad as they seem. It’s up to you to find the meaning or belief that can help you move forward more easily.

A trigger is a teacher, if you learn from it.

Your Leadership Challenge: This week I challenge you to identify one trigger (person or experience) that affects you negatively.

Determine something specific you’ll do differently when you’re triggered.

Are you ready for a challenge?

Are you ready for a challenge?

I recently listened to an interview with a master violinist who described her unusual practice routine. She often practices playing the violin while lying down.

Naturally, it’s more difficult to do that and not a common practice among most musicians, but it helps her perform better when she’s sitting in her normal position.

The same week, I observed a friend working out wearing a 20-pound vest. He likes making the workout more challenging.

The practice of adding weight isn’t new to athletes, like baseball players who use weighted bats to improve their hitting.

These people share something in common: they deliberately challenge themselves to get better results. They make things more difficult (in some cases much more difficult) on purpose.

In my own work, I like to challenge myself in some ways…pushing myself out of my comfort zone to build strength, confidence and new skills. I know that I will risk looking silly whether I’m learning a new athletic skill, playing a new instrument or giving a new presentation.

I’m out of my comfort zone in many conferences and business networking events I attend. But I show up anyway. It’s like exercising a muscle. A little painful and uncomfortable at first, but gets better over time.

The problem I notice in my consulting work with many executives is that they often make things more difficult for themselves without even realizing it.

They are not doing it on purpose.

Some are doing it by default. They simply haven’t considered new ways of dealing with a problem. Or they buy into the idea that leadership has to be hard. “No pain, no gain.”

The key is to know when and why you’re creating a challenge on purpose and when you need to seek an easier path.

The easier path may not be immediately recognizable to you. Try finding it by stepping out of your routine.

It might involve simplifying a process or conducting fewer meetings. Or it might just be trusting your instincts and making a decision without over analyzing.

The most challenging situations in your life and work create the greatest opportunities for growth. They create teaching moments for sure.

But you can also gain significant momentum by following the easy path. Consider what feels like effortless action to you.

Your Leadership Challenge: This week I challenge you to answer these two important questions:

What is one way in which you need to challenge yourself more to grow?

What is something you could make easier for yourself?

Let me know what you identify.

Communication Breakdown Slowing You Down?

Communication Breakdown Slowing You Down?

Last week I boarded an evening flight to New York. The flight had been slightly delayed.

When I got settled in my seat, I noticed it would not be a full flight. A nice change compared to my usual travel.

Some people were sitting side-by-side cramped together. Some rows of seats were completely open.

So people started rearranging themselves, trying to spread out and find more room.

Flight attendants were walking up and down the aisle. Back and forth, back and forth. Tapping people gently on the shoulder…counting. Felt like a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose,” but there was no goose and nowhere to run on the plane.

Passengers were getting restless since we were being further delayed in Boston.

The problem was an inaccurate headcount. With all the passengers changing seats, it was hard to count moving targets.

And with all the shuffling around, it made the pilot’s job more challenging as well.  He was trying to balance the weight on the plane. One problem creates another.

Took about twenty minutes to figure it all out.

It raised the important question: Who is accountable?

Shouldn’t the passengers have known not to move around? Maybe they weren’t told.

Should the flight attendants have provided instruction? Maybe one flight attendant assumed another flight attendant had given instructions.

Perhaps an announcement could have been made at the gate. Maybe it was, but some people missed it.

In any event, without leadership or clear communication, passengers were just doing what they wanted to do. The same happens with your team members.

In your leadership role, you are ultimately accountable for results.

It doesn’t serve any purpose to cast blame when there’s a problem. Learn from communication mistakes and improve the next time.

Stay focused on the outcomes you want to achieve. My guess is that the flight crew knew that safety and time schedule were key priorities, but there was a communication breakdown somewhere.

Your Leadership Challenge: This week I challenge you to identify one specific way in which you can improve communication with your team.

If you’re not sure, ask your team members this question:

What is one specific way in which we can improve our communication that will help us get better results?

I’d love to know what specific improvement you identify.

Tips for Leaders who Manage Overthinkers

Tips for Leaders who Manage Overthinkers

“This doesn’t need to be a science project.”
That’s a friendly reminder a manager gives her team when she makes requests.

If you lead engineers, technical professionals or analytical types, you’re more likely to encounter over complication challenges.

No matter what kind of team you lead, there are times when you have lots of moving pieces to manage. Projects stall. You’re stuck in analysis paralysis.

You may have too many people involved in decisions.

You’re inundated daily with massive amounts of information that slow you down.

And then there are the truly complicated challenges–“people issues.”

People issues include personality clashes, performance problems, hurt feelings, conflict, blame, jealousy, turf battles, team tension and communication problems.

How do you know where to put your time and attention? Trying to focus on everything at the same time is exhausting–not to mention unproductive.

Strive for SIMPLICITY.

Note areas of your business that you are over complicating.

Clients frequently report challenges in these areas:

Business strategy: Some companies are over complicating their strategy development process with too much data. They tend to over analyze and have trouble executing. As one CEO said, “We’ve got so many metrics in place, we’re spending too much time trying to track activity without getting real work done.”

Communication: People have different communication styles. Even choice of words can make a positive or negative impact depending on the listener. Emails are misinterpreted. Does everyone really need to be copied on that message?

Meetings: People are involved in meetings unnecessarily…and often in unnecessary meetings. In many cases, meeting time could be cut in half to achieve real results.

Processes: Large companies are especially vulnerable to complicated processes. Many are working to streamline processes in different areas to increase efficiency and reduce cost.

If you’re over complicating, use these tips to help yourself and others think more clearly…and quickly.

1. Stop procrastinating. Creating complication can be an excuse not to take the action you really need to.

“I’ve got so much to do, I don’t know where to start!” You may be complicating things in your own mind.

Change your view. Think, “This doesn’t have to be complicated.”

2. Stop deciding by consensus. Some decisions can be made at the top without everyone’s involvement. Involving too many people in your decision-making naturally complicates the process and slows it down.

Some executives are concerned about leaving some people out. They feel political pressure to include people who really don’t need to be involved. Use your discretion.

3. Stop creating so many choices. Contrary to popular belief, people prefer fewer choices. Limited choice aids decision-making.

Limit the options. Give analyzers enough time to think a bit, but provide a reasonable deadline for decisions to be made.

4. Stop micromanaging. Unfortunately many micromanagers may be unaware of their own behavior. It bogs down projects, creates frustration and muddies the waters.

Let go. Allow employees to do for themselves. You’ll accelerate progress.

5. Stop trying to prove how smart you are. When you know a lot about a specific topic, you don’t have to share everything you know. You might create confusion unintentionally.

Focus only on what’s most relevant.

When you’re frustrated by situations that seem too complicated, ask questions like these to simplify:

  • What’s the shortest route to the outcome we want?
  • What if we can really achieve our goal in half the time?
  • What’s the core message?
  • What are the most relevant ideas to consider?

Simplicity is smart–but it’s not always easy.

Look for ways to create simplicity in your work and business.

Keeping things simple helps your team, your customers and your business.

What’s something specific you can simplify in your work or business?

Don’t overthink it.

Are You Ready for Change?

Are You Ready for Change?

One of my favorite questions to ask clients is, “What’s keeping you from making the change you really want to make?”

I get all kinds of answers:

The timing isn’t right.
I’m too busy.
Company politics.
I’m not sure if it will work.
I don’t have enough support.
Not sure what people will think.

The reasons could go on and on. Almost any time you’re thinking about making a significant change, it stirs up resistance.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to create some kind of change in your organization, your team or yourself. Resistance will appear.

You can override the resistance by acknowledging it and looking for other reasons that are more powerful to help you move forward. Think about what you’ll be gaining and why that is important to you.

Perhaps you’ll gain:

  • Better peace of mind
  • New growth opportunity
  • More reward or satisfaction

Keep your focus there. Build your beliefs about your ability to make change happen.

Strengthening your mindset is more important than trying to force yourself into action.

Strike the best balance between action and reflection. Taking massive action can backfire if you’re not thinking clearly.

Sometimes you’re pushing too hard and you just need to settle down.

It’s like putting your car in neutral to go through the car wash.

It doesn’t work as well to hit the accelerator to speed through it on your own.

All it takes is a gear shift.

Trust that the process is working.