Losing Patience Reaching Your Goal?

Losing Patience Reaching Your Goal?

Last weekend I was on a morning walk with a friend when we spotted a beautiful heron in the creek. It took us by surprise on such a cold grey morning.

The bird headed toward us walking very slowly and deliberately in the creek. It moved like a robot, one step at a time, almost like it was in a trance. Laser focused. Unfazed. Calm. Patient.

It exuded a quiet strength and confidence as it moved through the water and up the bank.

The heron’s movement was a stark contrast to what we often experience in our work and life. We tend to move like squirrels, darting from one task to another.

Squirrels move erratically. They look like they’re driven by fear… running away from something as opposed to moving purposefully toward something.

What deliberate moves are you making in your business, work or life?

Sometimes those moves require more time than you’d like and a lot of heron-like patience.

In your leadership role, you likely feel pressure to speed up, accelerate progress and achieve results.

Some important reminders for you and your team:

  • Keep stepping. Don’t be overwhelmed by the big goal. Take one step at a time.
  • Slow your pace when you need to. Operating consistently at full speed is a fast way to burnout. At times you might even need to pause or stop to see an opportunity more clearly.
  • Move in the direction that makes sense for you. Let your instincts guide you. If you feel like something is off, be willing to shift direction.

Congrats to Auburn Tigers!

Speaking of pace and patience, it’s been exciting to watch Auburn finally reach the Final Four in the NCAA tournament (as of this post). It’s taken many years for the team to get this far.

My son is an Auburn student. He admits he’s been a little distracted given all the excitement.

Basketball requires quick thinking and speed. It’s thrilling to see a player think on his feet, react quickly in chaos and make the shot.

At the same time, some of the best plays happen when a player slows down, calms down and follows a plan.
He stands out from the pack and makes what seems to be an effortless shot.

Decide what you need to do to improve your game.

Let me know if I can be of help.

PS: If you’d like to learn more about the success we’ve had helping organizations and leaders achieve their goals, please let me know.

If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters services.

How to Address the Real Problem with “Problem Employees”

How to Address the Real Problem with “Problem Employees”

Time seems to speed up this time of year. You’re probably trying to kick things into high gear before the holidays, but you might be kicking yourself for hiring someone who can’t get into gear period.

A number of executives and business owners have been frustrated lately by employees who aren’t “doing their jobs.” These clients are concerned about sales professionals who aren’t making calls, managers who meddle, team members who won’t work together.

We talk about how to change that.

The real problem isn’t that companies have “problem employees,” it’s that executives are not acting quickly enough when they first discover something is off.

The most enlightened leaders look at what they can do differently to help the employee improve performance. Some admit they don’t know how to have the conversation they really need to have. They avoid conflict.

If you think of it as a “difficult conversation,” it will be.

Here are some tips on how to have a helpful coaching conversation with an employee at the first sign of trouble.

  • Test awareness. What is the person’s level of awareness of the problem? Help them see the impact of what is happening first instead of “what they are doing wrong.
  • Think “opportunity.” You have a coaching opportunity to help the person improve. Ask if they are open to suggestions. If they are not coachable, you’ve got a more serious problem.
  • Reset expectations. Clarify expectations, goals or milestones. Talk about consequences of failing to meet expectations. Get agreement.
  • Show appreciation. Keep the conversation light. Appreciate their effort.

Now is the time to do whatever it takes to get your team running on all cylinders. Your 2019 goals and strategies won’t matter if your team isn’t solid.

Better to go through a little short-term uneasiness than deal with an unaddressed long-term problem that takes a toll on you and your business.

PS: As you finalize your business goals for next year, keep WorkMatters in mind as a resource. If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters services. Contact me directly.

Stay tuned for exciting new developments!

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.

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.