Leading Blog



11.17.17

4th and Goal Every Day

4th and Goal

O
VER THE LAST DECADE, University of Alabama’s Nick Saban—one of college football’s winningest coaches— has produced four national championships. What makes them so successful?

The secret is that it is fourth and goal every day.

Phil Savage of the Crimson Tide Sports Network, explains in 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama's Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, “Alabama goes for it. Alabama wins more than anyone else because it is 4th and goal to these people in Crimson every practice, every meeting, every game, every day. Do not underestimate the power of that mindset.”

When they find themselves in a chaotic game situation, Alabama is prepared because, as they say, “We played this game four times already this week.” You play the game the way you practice, says Saban.

Daily urgency is core to the Alabama program. Saban is concerned about the details—the fundamentals. “The fundamentals and practice regimen require players to play to a standard. They do not play to the level of their opponent. They play to a standard set by Nick Saban and established by the team leaders.”

Linebacker Dillon Lee said, “We would go in the game and everyone just feels like we played this game. It’s not going to be more physical than practice, it’s not going to be harder than practice. Everything will be slower, based off how we practiced.”

Phil Savage says these are life lessons being taught on the field. “The Alabama practices reveal the grit in their players, one by one. Players learn determination and how to deal with adversity.” He adds, “What parents want to happen after four years is to see that their son came out the other side of the Process with resolve and a will to succeed in life. The parents covet the diploma, but they covet most the work ethic players are taught in practice, the forty-year bargain with Nick Saban, not the four-year deal.”

How might some of these concepts play out in your leadership and impact your team or organization?

Some more thoughts from Phil Savage and co-author Ray Glier:
The Crimson Tide does not just recruit high school players, it evaluates them psychologically to determine if they can fit into the culture. Alabama is a demanding place to play, and the staff will dig in on a prospect and investigate how he handles criticism or being corrected. Mental makeup is important, critical, in recruiting a player. If you are a high school player with all the measurables and you did not get offered by Alabama, look in the mirror.

You are expected to get used to the sniping at Alabama and come out the other end a better man and a better person. If you don’t join in, it is hard to survive. Your attitude must be to be part of the ride, and the fun, or else. No one is allowed to sulk for long. One reason a player was offered a scholarship at Alabama is that he knows how to bounce back up and take some mental grinding.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:01 PM
| Comments (0) | Teamwork

11.15.17

What Are Good People?

Good people

W
HAT DO WE MEAN when we say someone is good? Good is often confused with competency. But it is really a character issue. You can be good at your job but doing good is a character issue. Doing good is not just no being bad but intentionally creating more good in the workplace and especially in others.

Anthony Tjan, author of Good People says, “Pursuing goodness in yourself while surrounding yourself with good people is the only leadership decision that really, truly, matters.

Tjan begins a discussion by trying to define good and to build a framework and language to talk about what good is. He defines good people as “those committed to continuously cultivating the values that help them and others become the fullest possible versions of who they are.”

He discusses in detail a concept of goodness based on three cornerstone values:

Truth: A mindset of humility that makes you teachable. Self-awareness and integrity between your thoughts and actions based on that self-awareness

Compassion: An open mind that without bias allows you to understand the actions of others. To practice empathy and act on that empathy with a generous spirit that gives people what they need.

Wholeness: Involves gratitude for the people around you that leads to an outgoing concern for others. Caring and nurturing the growth of others. Having the respect to fulfil your obligations to yourself and others and acting with a degree of wisdom. Knowing what is important.

As leaders this is easier said than done. Daily we face tensions that have to managed as we try to implement our ideals real. Tjan lists five core tensions:
  1. Pragmatism versus Idealism
    Our ambitious goals versus reality. Neither one is good or bad. They are a productive tension. “Purpose and vision should be grounded in a set of enduring and relatable values, or immutable truths, that can guide us through dilemmas and difficulties.”
  2. Short-termism versus Long-termism
    We have a great ability to think long term but we are biased to act short term. Character is a long-term investment.
  3. Vulnerability versus Conviction
    “If we are strong enough to take on our vulnerability, it can fuel the conviction of our purpose.”
  4. Idiosyncrasy versus Connectedness
    Just weird enough but still connected.
  5. Grit versus Acceptance
    “Resolving the tension between grit and acceptance requires a strong and clear sense of purpose, and a strategic philosophy that embraces a willing ness to sense and respond to new information.”

What can we do?

Good people do five things:

Good people put people first in their decision making. What does this do to my people?

Good people grow by continually seeking to improve themselves and help others to become fuller versions of themselves.

While good people value competency, they place a premium on character and values. They commit beyond competency to character and values of truth, compassion, and wholeness.

Good people are realists and find the balance between competing priorities and tensions. Learn to balance the tensions that exist in leadership

Good people aren’t situational but seek to do good at all times. Don’t just practice goodness to avoid badness.

These five things are the Good People Mantra. They are five promises. As leaders we need to break from our role as leader to follower and relate to others human to human. Goodness come from building it in yourself and inspiring it in others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.13.17

The Leadership Triangle

Cunningham

A
RE LEADERS BORN or are they made? The underlying assumption here, of course, is that an individual is either a leader or not, whether by genetics or education. Period.

The elite of higher education would have us believe that leadership can be taught, especially if you are one of the privileged attending classes at a top tier university offering courses in leadership. But there are others who believe leaders come out of the womb with a mission to lead. Either way, we assume that leadership is dependent on personality traits and/or skills. That once a leader, always a leader.

But is this the case? Is the population to be divided simply into leaders who always lead and followers who always follow? Leadership is surely more complicated than that. Perhaps the question is not are leaders born or made, but rather, can leadership flourish in anyone when the circumstances for it are right? Does context matter?

We tend to remember leaders who seemingly made the impossible possible, but it was always in a particular context. Leaders like Martin Luther King defined by the civil rights movement, Margaret Thatcher defined by the Cold War, and Bill Gates defined by the burgeoning personal computer industry come to mind. For the most part, history doesn’t record how these leaders dealt with contexts outside their defining accomplishments. We examine their leadership and develop theories about their strategies, their skills, and their personality traits. But to understand a broader view of leadership, we must look beyond these historic figures and observe the anonymous trailblazers in our midst. A different picture of leadership emerges.

Hurricane Harvey in Texas demonstrated that “ordinary citizens” can step up to leadership when the situation is ripe for it. CNN captured a video of a local boat owner saying this: “We got eight people that done called for us already. So we’re going to go and get them eight, come on back, and try to save some more.” Crisis leadership in action.

The story of Todd Beamer, a sales rep for Oracle, still produces chills in anyone who hears it. He is the young man who called 911 during the hijacking of United Flight 93 on 9/11 and declared, “Let’s roll” as he and presumably a few others commandeered the airplane to prevent the hijackers from achieving their goal. They were willing to die for it.

Ordinary citizen leadership, however, need not be all about saving lives. Often it is about changing the status quo. Take Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, who took it upon herself to help women attain leadership roles in business, wrote a book about how to do it, Lean In, and started a foundation to promote it, Leanin.org. This was not part of her job.

I’ve had the opportunity in my life to interact and work with some of the most impactful leaders in their fields. Among them are Steve Jobs who returned to the company he co-founded after being ousted in 1985 having learned how to deal with adversity and turned it around with a vengeance. Audrey Rust gathered steam from a passionate group of homeowners in Woodside, California, who wanted to protect the natural beauty in the expanse beyond their backyards and preserved 53,000 acres in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties under her leadership of the Peninsula Open Space Trust. And Walter Isaacson, having established himself as a talented journalist and media professional in the business world, took the reins of the Aspen Institute during a period of severe decline and redefined it as a purveyor of rich and varied content for the intellectually inclined. Certainly all of these people led others to fulfill a very particular mission and in so doing, created something out of nothing, something that made a difference in the world. But their leadership occurred in a particular context where their competence was significant, their confidence secure and their commitment established.

The truth is, leadership is all around us, and it arises within a certain context in which the leader’s ability (competence) aligns with faith of accomplishment (confidence) and forms a mission (commitment). I call this the Leadership Triangle.

So rather than ask if leaders are born or made, perhaps we should change the paradigm of leadership examination. Perhaps we have given short shrift in leadership study to the myriad people who find their competence, confidence, and commitment aligning with a particular context and jump in with both feet because there is simply no other choice but to lead.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Andy Cunningham. Andy is the founder and president of Cunningham Collective, a marketing, brand and communication strategy firm dedicated to bringing innovation to market. She is also the author of Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition, and the host of the popular podcast Marketing Over Ice.

An entrepreneur at the forefront of marketing, branding, positioning and communicating “The Next Big Thing,” Andy has played a key role in the launch of a number of new technology categories and products (including the Apple Macintosh) over the past 35 years. Today she advises startups, serves on several corporate boards, is a Henry Crown Fellow and a trustee at the Aspen Institute. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and lives in Sausalito on an old wooden boat with her husband, Rand Siegfried. For more information, please visit get2aha.com and follow Andy on Twitter

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:34 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership

11.10.17

The Making of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

T
HEODORE ROOSEVELT was not a born leader. He certainly wasn’t destined to lead the charge up San Juan Hill or become the President of the United States. But he became the man that did.

How Roosevelt became the leader we remember is a remarkable story. His journey is skillfully told in Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey. Using many unpublished letters and notes from Roosevelt’s contemporaries, Knokey insightfully chronicles TR’s journey to the White House.

Theodore was born small and frail. He had life-threatening attacks of asthma as a child, and it consumed the family. “Though driven by good intentions, this over-protection could very well have been the root cause of Roosevelt’s overpowering sense of entitlement. The man needed to be at the center of attention for everything he undertook.”

When the Civil War came, Roosevelt’s house was divided too. His father Theodore Sr. was a Lincoln Republican and his mother Mittie, was a Southerner. To keep peace in the family, Theodore Sr. limited himself to noncombatant work with the Union Army while his mother’s relatives fought heroically. Observing his relative’s deeds and his father’s principles and morality, Theodore wrote that, “I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless and who could hold their own in the world, and I had a great desire to be like them.” Knokey notes, “He embraced both contrasts seamlessly, almost naturally. And it was this ability—to embrace contradiction among diverse groups of people—that would become, over time, one of his greatest strengths as a leader.”

When he was about twelve, he decided to beat his affliction though strenuous activity. His father told him, “Theodore, you have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body, the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body.” And he did.

Theodore was a curious man. One classmate said, “Never have I seen or read of a man with such an amazing array of interests.” The stores told here of his days at Harvard are revealing.

After Harvard, Theodore headed for the New York State Assembly and tried to change the world from day one. He learned he could not and some valuable leadership lessons along the way. “Theodore needed to focus on incremental victories; instead he tried to change the entire culture overnight.” He learned, “It cannot be done by charging ahead alone, simply espousing virtues.”

TR North Dakota
After his first wife Alice died, he headed West to the Badlands of North Dakota and took up ranching. “The Theodore Roosevelt in the history books is the man that emerges from the Badlands in 1886.” While there he began to “change from a brutishly driven man, to a driven man who took time to reflect on the tenderness in the world around him. A moan more thoughtful, more pensive, more contemplative. A man who learned how to rule his spirit.” It was the most influential period in his leadership development.

With the coming of the Spanish-American War, Theodore’s lessons begin to serve him well. “Theodore’s greatest leadership feat, and much more impressive than his charge on San Juan Heights, was that he understood where his followers were, and he led them from there.” He earned his leadership with his men by serving them.

On March 4th, 1901 he became President McKinley’s Vice President. Following McKinley's assassination in September, Roosevelt became president and served two terms.

Knokey concludes, Theodore “led by downplaying differences, focusing on inclusiveness—focusing on the greater good for all Americans. This made him genuine to the masses. He would fight for anyone, so long as that person worked hard, did their part, had character.”

Knokey’s telling of Theodore Roosevelt’s leadership journey is an inspiring one. It is well told, and the anecdotes and accounts from TR’s contemporaries add much to the story. By the end of the book, you will feel like you know the man. A friend of TR’s recalled, “He had the virtues we like to call American, and he had the faults. He knew us, and we knew him.”

tr
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Of Related Interest:
  Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech 100th Anniversary

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:29 AM
| Comments (0) | Leaders

11.08.17

Let’s Go Invent Tomorrow

Lets Go Invent Tomorrow

L
ET'S GO INVENT TOMORROW is a collection of 365 quotes on business and life from Richard Branson, Sergey Brin, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Carlos Slim, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Some are inspiring, and most are thought-provoking. You won’t agree with every opinion expressed, but you will gain a wider perspective to enhance your own. These successful business leaders share what worked and what didn’t work and more importantly how they approach their work.

From Oprah Winfrey’s advice, “The key is not to worry about being successful but to instead work toward being significant—and the success will naturally follow. How can you serve your way to greatness?” to Warren Buffet’s advice on marriage, “Marry the right person. And I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspiration, all kinds of things. It’s enormously important who you marry,” you will find insights to help you build a firmer foundation to grow from.



Gary Saul Morson wrote in The Words of Others: “Anatole France frankly advised, ‘When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it.’ Yes, indeed, but do more. Copy many well-said things. Pierce them together. Assimilate them. Make the process of reading them a way to form the mind and shape the soul. As anthologies can never be complete, we will never exhaust the ways quotations can enrich our lives.”

Let’s Go Invent Tomorrow will help “form the mind and shape the soul.”



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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:04 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

11.06.17

Shake it Off

Shake it Off

I
T'S EASY FOR LITTLE THINGS to hang you up at work. A customer tells you they are unhappy with a job, your boss gives you that dreaded look of displeasure or a coworker mocks your new haircut. Negative memories can linger for a long time.

Well you’re about to get a leadership lesson from a dog. This is not a typo. Dogs are naturals at exhibiting the leadership they need to be leader of the pack. And they are the masters at shaking things off.

Ever watch a dripping wet dog as it gets out of a pool or a lake? Once it’s on dry land it just shakes it off. No towel or hairdryer needed, just a hypnotic back and forth motion that sprays unwanted water in every direction. And when it’s done the dog just moves on as if nothing ever happened.

At work, we need to learn how to do the same. Many of us make mountains out of mole hills. Instead, we need to practice how to shake things off. After all, that little jab about your new mullet hairdo was meant as a good-natured joke. Heck, they’re probably jealous of your smokin’ hot new Billy Ray Cyrus look.

So how do you shake off these little things at work? Pivot from what you don’t want to what you do want.

Trust in others’ positive intentions. It is overwhelmingly more likely that your co-worker is not out to undermine you. So if they jab you for the way you did a project, take it as a learning experience. Pivot to how you can do better the next time.

If you’re on the receiving end of a mean-spirited joke, talk privately with the perpetrator. Pivot to what you want—a good relationship—and let them know how their comments made you feel. Leaders speak truth to power, but in a way that helps everyone come out a winner.

If you’re the leader of a team or office you also need to create an environment where everyone feels happy at work. If you see someone who is not able to shake things off, step in and make things right. Don’t allow the inmates to run the asylum.

Great leaders set the right tone. They show their team how they pivot from the negative—“we lost a good customer”—to the positive—“let’s redouble our efforts to learn from that and win a new customer.” Leaders don’t allow the little things to get under their skin.

There are, of course, some things that we should not shrug off. Constructive criticism, safety concerns and feedback on company policy can be critical to our success within the organization. These big issues are valid and require our buy in.

It’s easy to wallow in misery. If you find the right compatriots you can wail and moan for weeks or years. But it won’t do you any good. Take a leadership lesson from a dog. Pivot from what you don’t want to what you do want. And shake it off.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Krissi Barr, CEO of Barr Corporate Success and co-author of The Fido Factor, a leadership book on the lessons learned from dogs. It isn’t a cute little book about puppies and it won’t teach you how to beg. The Fido Factor is a fresh take on leadership that’s as powerful and practical as it is approachable and relatable. A quick read that’s sprinkled with humor, The Fido Factor is the perfect tool to help you — and your entire team — get a leg up at work.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.03.17

Leadership Forged In Crisis

Forged In Crisis

L
EADERSHIP development is a very personal endeavor. The better you become, the better your leadership becomes.

It is a misconception of leadership that if you engage in the best practices of a great leader, you will become that leader. Applying the idea that if I do this or if I have this quality I will become a great leader like my chosen mentor, can derail your leadership development.

That said, there are principles you can discover that if adhered to will propel you in the right direction. Harvard professor Nancy Koehn illuminates some of these principles for us in Forged in Crisis as seen through the lives of five exemplary leaders: polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, President Abraham Lincoln, legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and environmental crusader Rachel Carson. These principles set the stage for leadership effectiveness, but the decision to step into leadership is yours alone.

Koehn borrows from David Foster Wallace and defines an effective leader as one “who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

Coach Tom Landry said it this way: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Henry Kissinger said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been." It’s intentional influence. But the ability to do that doesn’t come to us naturally. We have to work at it. But that’s good news. We can all get there. Leaders are not born, they are forged.

Each of the leaders Koehn has chosen faced an uncertain outcome in the midst of a crisis. Shackleton was marooned on an Antarctic ice floe trying to bring his men home alive; Lincoln was on the verge of seeing the Union collapse even as he tried to save it; escaped slave Douglass faced possible capture while wanting to free black Americans held in slavery; Bonhoeffer was agonizing over how to counter absolute evil with faith while imprisoned by the Gestapo; Carson raced against the cancer ravaging her to finish her book Silent Spring, in a bid to save the planet.

The crisis that can break one person can give birth to leadership in another. It’s a conscious choice to lead. Koehn brings out key lessons common to these people as they struggled with their thoughts in what were do or die situations. Here are some of the lessons that we should all take to heart:

They Were Made, Not Born

These leaders “were made into effective leaders as they walked their respective paths, tried to understand what was happening around them, and encountered failure and disappointment.”

They Were Ambitious but…

“The drive to make their respective marks was important in shaping them. It took each of them some of the way. But then, interestingly, ambition ceased to motivate and influence them as it once had. As they discovered a larger purpose and embraced it, each found his or her impetus, strength, and validation in the mission itself.” And importantly, Koehn adds, that “their leadership was partly shaped by a willingness to subordinate personal drive in a broader end, one inexorably linked with service to others.”

They Did the Inner Work of Leadership

They all worked on themselves, looking for opportunities to grow. “They did not do this as a single endeavor, but rather as a lifelong project in which they each kept working on themselves, learning specific lessons, developing more resilience, and using these resources to lead more effectively.”

(“Lincoln would have been flummoxed by talk of authentic leadership when he told a few constituents in 1862 that he did not have the luxury of publically expressing his disappointment about Union army defeats.”)

They Understood the Importance of Solitude

These leaders learned to detach themselves from the situation in order to see things from different perspectives. They “learned how to step back from a specific instant, assess the larger landscape, take the measure of their own emotions, and only then make a decision about what, if anything, they wanted to do.” Reflection and solitude helped them stay focused on the big picture.

They Learned to Manage Their Emotions

In dark moments, what Bonhoeffer called a “boundary situation,” they determined to manage their emotions. It was not willful blindness or forced optimism. They knew what they were up against. “Because they did, they used their emotional awareness and discipline to concentrate directly, almost exclusively, on how to move forward, how to take the next step, however small.” These people realized that “the emotional penetrability they experienced and that caused them so much suffering was also a door into new insights about themselves and new ways of being in the world.”

They Learned to Respond Rather Than to React

“At times, doing nothing at all was the best action each of these leaders could take. Time and time again as president, [Lincoln] refused to be goaded by the force of his own emotions or of those around him into taking precipitate action that might compromise his larger mission. Even when he was at his most frustrated, he managed somehow to acknowledge his feelings without acting on them in a way that was destructive to larger matters.”

They Were Resilient

Though these leaders didn’t always see a way through in the heat of the moment, “they vowed to find a way through the obstacles they confronted. They came out the other side of calamity without falling through the floorboards of doubt, without giving up on their mission and themselves.”

All five leaders were well chosen because of their humanity. They were not born leaders. They became leaders through successes, but mostly through failures and mistakes. Leaders can come from anywhere. As we look around the world today, if we are looking for larger-than-life heroes, we misunderstand what leadership is.

Although these leaders appear to be larger than life to us now, as you read their stories you see that they are you and me. They are ordinary people in turbulent and trying circumstances. They were often overwhelmed and depressed, but they kept moving on. What distinguishes these people from many of the leaders we see today is their approach to the experiences of their lives. Throughout their lives, they purposefully extracted the lessons they needed to grow. It was thoughtful and intentional. If you go through life any other way, you are just collecting experiences to no end. Experiences alone ensure nothing. We must reflect on them to gain insights and learn from them.

All of the lessons these leaders learned are relevant to any leader in any situation. There are no hacks to effective leadership, and you won’t find them here. You will find well-told accounts of these leader’s lives that will inspire and inform your own leadership.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:06 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development

11.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for November 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in November.

  Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World by Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel
  Blueprint to Business: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Taking Action, Committing to the Grind, And Doing the Things That Most People Won't by Michael Alden
  Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul by Shawn Askinosie with Lawren Askinosie
  Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business by Freek Vermeulen
  Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss

Shift Ahead Blueprint to Business Meaningful Work Breaking Bad Habits Tribe of Mentors

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."
— Charles William Eliot


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:37 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

10.31.17

LeadershipNow 140: October 2017 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from October 2017 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:27 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

10.18.17

Challenges for Founder Leaders and How to Make Things Easier

Maxine Harris

F
OUNDERS of organizations, whether non-profit or for-profit start-ups, often feel that they occupy a very lonely space. Every decision, every responsibility seems to weigh heavily on their shoulders. But it doesn’t need to be that way!

Here are 4 tips for leading a founder run-organization more effectively and more efficiently while getting better results in the process.
  1. Build a team: The word “team” can cast fear in the heart of a founder. Does this mean that I need to surrender “my baby” to someone else? Of course not, but even the best CEO can’t do everything alone.

    Think of a team as a group of trusted advisors, not as a group of potential rivals. First, a healthy team should consist of anywhere between two and three members, growing to six and eight members over time. Members should be selected because they bring a range of skills to the table. Sometimes, founders think that a team should consist of 20-30 people, a number that seems overwhelming. And team members should share a level of trust with one another and with the CEO.

    Teams can serve a variety of functions. Some teams are purely informational. They bring information back to the CEO, either in the form of an update on current projects or in response to a specific question or assignment. In this way, not only does the CEO keep up to date, but other members of the team have a broad sense of what is going on in the organization. Organizations flounder when key members feel they are being kept in the dark about important aspects of the organization.

    Teams can also be places where discussions take place, and remember a discussion is different from a decision. Every new direction or new business opportunity presents a variety of options. Which choice is best? What are the barriers to success? What are the potential consequences? No founder leader can answer these questions alone. A healthy discussion can make it easier for the leader to make a decision.

    And finally, some teams are actually decision-making bodies. After discussion, debate and thinking through the options, the team reaches consensus about the best course of action to take, or how best to solve a problem. Leaders should always remember, however, that how they want to use a team is up to them. Just let team members know what the ground rules are. As in “today’s meeting is just for sharing information.”

  2. Delegate authority: As an organization grows, leaders need to get comfortable with delegating authority. Sometimes, it is as simple as putting someone in charge when you are away from the office for several days, at a conference, on vacation, or out with a family or personal emergency. While the leader is gone, a trusted advisor, usually a member of the senior team is empowered to make final decisions.

    Delegated authority can also be used in a more limited way. In this case, a manager or program director is given the authority to make decisions within a particular department. Those decisions can be for the purpose of hiring new employees, or making programmatic changes or spending money within a certain range. When these decisions are made, they should be respected by the leader. Everyone needs to know that when authority has been delegated, it does not get taken away on a whim.

    And finally, authority can be granted for the purpose of dealing with organizations or stakeholders outside of the business. There are times when a senior team member is given the authority to speak for the organization when interacting with the environment outside the agency.

  3. Make use of networks: Much has been written about the value of networking, but many people don’t know exactly what that means. At its most basic, people say they are networking when they have lunch with a colleague and discuss how the business is going. And while it might help a leader to feel less alone and more “connected,” it doesn’t necessarily increase their knowledge or their ability to move their business forward.

    Sometimes people think networking is the equivalent of asking someone for something you don’t already have, as in “I need a job, so I’ll go meet someone who might have possible employment.” Networking that is essentially an “ask” does not increase knowledge and perspective and if nothing comes of it, it may end up leaving the parties feeling used or rejected.

    So, what is good networking?

    Networking is when you connect with someone who can open your eyes to a new way of looking at things. A good networker knows lots of people who operate in fields adjacent to his or her own. When a real estate developer meets an architect who knows a city planner who works with someone from the area neighborhood advisory board an interlocking network of cross connections starts to emerge. You are no longer talking to people who think like and do what you do, but you are meeting and exposing yourself to people whose worlds are different, but intersecting. Networking happens when you meet people at conferences, at business gatherings, by talking to a friend of a friend. And networking often starts with the offer “Oh, you should talk to so-and-so. I think you’ll like what she has to say.”

    And remember, no new contact is too small. You never know where the next new idea may come from. And with the explosion of digital technology, you don’t even need to be in the same city, much less the same room, to start connecting!

  4. Don’t hesitate to use an outside coach: Sometimes leaders who have founded their own organizations are reluctant to ask an outside coach for help. “After all, I started this business, why do I need someone to help me run it?” And that’s where founders make their first mistake. A coach is not an assistant. A coach is not a critic. And a coach is not a counselor. Rather, a coach is someone who can help you take a step back and gain perspective on the overall business. When you operate in the thick of things, it is hard to evaluate how things are going. “What am I doing right?” What am I doing that I could be doing better?”

    A coach functions as a trusted advisor who works for and with the leader to gain perspective on how the organization is functioning and where it should go next. The coach functions as an observer who can help the leader take a gentle look at her or his leadership style and how it enhances or impedes the work of the organization.

    There are always challenges in starting and running a business, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. Look to others who have walked in those same shoes. It might make the journey a lot easier and you might find that you are having more fun at work and are a lot less tired at the end of the day!

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Leading Forum
This post is by Maxine Harris, PhD the co-author of Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders: Tales from a Reluctant CEO, and CEO of Community Connections, a large social service organization in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit Community Connections.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:14 PM
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10.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for October 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in October.

  The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage by Daniel Burrus
  Finding My Virginity by Richard Branson
  The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth by Eric Ries
  Myths of Management: What People Get Wrong About Being the Boss by Stefan Stern and Cary Cooper

Power of Moments Anticipatory Organization Finding My Virginity Startup Way Myths of Management

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade."
— Anthony Trollope


Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:27 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

09.30.17

LeadershipNow 140: September 2017 Compilation

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twitter Here are a selection of tweets from September 2017 that you might have missed:
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:05 AM
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09.22.17

5 Leadership Literacies You Will Need in the Future

Leadership Literacies

F
UTURIST Bob Johansen tells us in The New Leadership Literacies, that over the next ten years the world will become explosively more connected. Anything that can be distributed will. To help prepare leaders for the future, he offers a list of five new leadership literacies. He encourages us to expand on them, to draw our own insights and create actions to improve our leadership in the decade ahead.

Looking Backward from the Future

The present is too noisy to give us much in the way of insight. While most forecasters try to find a trend in the present noise, Johansen says we need to look ten years into the future and then looking backward from the future. “Looking long is using foresight to provoke insight and action.”

Looking back from the future provides more clarity than the other way around. “The best way to lead in a disruptive world is to be very clear where you’re going, tell a great story about it, and then be very flexible about how you bring that future to life.”

Although Johansen claims that anyone can do this, there isn’t much to explain just how that is done. The suggestion is to see through the noise now to a future that others cannot see to get clarity and dilemma flipping which is to turn unsolvable problems into opportunities.

Nevertheless, he does offer some good general advice. The future rewards clarity, but punishes certainty. Having clarity and being certain are two different things. Clarity is simple. Certainty is simplistic. “Clarity is usually expressed in stories, while certainty is usually expressed in rules. Rigid rules can get leaders into a lot of trouble in the VUCA world, while stories encourage people to engage.”

We can get stuck in the present and the issues of the day. “Sometimes, focusing on the future can help people move beyond the polarities of the present.” Looking back from the future gets us out of the present day noise.

Voluntary Fear Engagement

Gaming allows the user to engage in risky or unknown situations in a low-risk, even fun way. A good game has a good story and allows you to be in the story—interact within the story.

The most successful games are multi-player games. Gaming communities learn from each other and together.

Johansen believes that “gaming will become the most powerful learning medium in history.” The military, for example, uses simulations to train soldiers. Business needs to learn how to do the same. “Gaming, simulation, role-playing, improvisational theater, immersive travel, and similar experiences can help leaders create safe zones to practice their own leadership.”

Gaming allows for immersive learning. “The whole point of gameful engagement is to immerse yourself in a realistic but mock fearful environment and learn how to thrive, or at least push through it.” Gaming combined with gaming communities will allow users to learn in low-risk immersive experiences that allow them to prepare and practice.

Shape-Shifting Organizations

Shape-shifting organizations are those that have no center, grow from the edges, cannot be controlled, and where hierarchies come and go. “The best organizations will be characterized by partnerships of mutual benefit.” Not surprisingly, Johansen believes we are moving toward a future of distributed authority. That is to say, leadership is distributed and varied. Hierarchies are formed where they are needed and disbanded when the job is done. “Shape-shifting organizations grow from the edges, and it is at the edges where diversity and innovation thrive.”

Leadership Literacies

Being There Even When You Are Not

In shape-shifting organizations, leaders will need to have their presence felt no matter where they are. They will need to find more and varied points of contact. “Mixed-reality experiences will be able to be shared across distances. The best leaders will have vivid shared work and life experiences with the people they lead.” Additionally, “leaders will have to shift from thinking about physical proximity to attentional proximity.

Johansen believes that “the centerpiece of virtual presence will be vivid audio” over video.

Creating and Sustaining Positive Energy

“If leaders are going to thrive in a future of extreme disruption, they must not only manage their own energy, they must encourage, model, and reward positive energy in others.” Good health and fitness play a big part in that scenario. “Extreme fitness—physical, mental and even spiritual (though not necessarily religious)—will be required for most leadership roles.”

What Leaders Need to Do

Leaders must make a disrupted world more hopeful. Being dealers in hope if key. “Globally, a large number of people will be lacking in hope and unable to achieve a sense of meaning in their lives—and they will be very connected through digital media.” That hole needs to be filled with a positive hope and shared meaning. “A world of continuous disruption will be too much for many people to process—and many people will be susceptible to simplistic and dangerous calls to action.”

Fear is created by a lack of exposure. Leaders will need to be exposed to more globally and be willing to learn from a wide variety of sources. Johansen cautions: “It’s one thing to believe you’re right and have clarity about a future direction. It’s quite another to believe everybody else is wrong. Clarity can degrade into certainty.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:51 AM
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09.18.17

How to Bypass Ego-Driven Drama

No Ego

T
HE WORLD IS full of drama. Rather than deal with reality in a constructive way, we engage in drama. It’s easier than working on what we need to deal with. It makes us feel like we are doing something. We like it, and we bring it to work.

Cy Wakeman writes in No Ego, that we spend way too much time in the workplace dealing with drama caused by our egos. Ego driven behaviors include:
  • Dealing with hurt feelings, misinterpretation, or speculation
  • Dealing with employee hearsay or gossip
  • Handling defensiveness and/or resistance to feedback
  • Dealing with employees who vent or complain
  • Addressing employees who tattle on or judge others
  • Addressing employees who compare their situations with others

Venting

When we are frustrated, hurt, or angry, we vent. “Venting is the ego’s way of avoiding self-reflection.” As Wakeman points out, venting doesn't solve anything and only creates more negativity, which as we know, deteriorates our ability to think rationally. “Venting leaves people stuck in ego. It stunts growth and kills accountability.” If we encourage venting, we are preventing people from learning and growing into the person they need to become.

To diffuse venting and bypass the ego, we need to move people into a different frame of mind: self-reflection. Self-reflection allows for accountability. And accountability allows people to amplify their strengths. Better all the way around.

Ego-Bypass Questions

Wakeman suggests bringing people back to reality by asking some ego-bypass questions:

• What do you know for sure?
• What would be most helpful in this situation?
• What could you do next that would add value?
• What could you do right now to help?
• Would you rather be right or happy?
• What is helpful in this situation—your expertise or your opinion?
• How could we make this work?

People who love their drama will not appreciate this approach. “Reality, self-reflection, and accountability make the ego very nervous. It doesn’t want to venture outside its comfort zone, so it will cling to the old and look for every possible way to torpedo change.” Ego resists things like “Mental flexibility, self-reflection, taking full accountability, forgiveness, letting go and moving on.”

Check Your Own Ego

This isn’t tough love, says Wakeman. “Reality is rough. Leadership is love.” If you are going to work to diminish the drama in your workplace, there are a few things Wakeman recommends we keep in mind.

• Be gentle. You want to wake people up, but not by violently shaking them up.
• Work with those willing to make the call.
• Summon up all the compassion you can. We are all human.
• Forgive others early and often.

And most importantly: Check your own ego before you attempt to engage another’s.

Here are some takeaways from No Ego:
  • Professionals give others the benefit of the doubt—they assume noble intent.
  • Your circumstances are not the reason you can’t succeed; they are the reality in which you must succeed.
  • Engagement without accountability creates entitlement.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:40 PM
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09.06.17

The Potential Principle: How Good Could You Be?

Potential Principle

Y
OU KNOW HOW GOOD you are, but do you know how good you could be?

This is a case where it’s easy to think that good is good enough and get comfortable. Most of us live below our potential. As a result, we miss out on opportunities and therefore live below our true potential and hinder our ability to contribute to others.

The Potential Principle by Mark Sanborn is about how we can become better – even better than our best selves. It’s not about perfect. It’s about better.

So you might ask, “Better at what?” Sanborn presents a program to get you on the road to better. First, you need to figure out just what you want to improve.

What Do You Want to Improve?

Your journey toward better can be organized into four areas: Performing, Learning, Reflecting, and Thinking.

Improvement happens by not only things you initiate like interactive, collaborative activities but also by responding to what you hear, observe, learn as represented by the vertical line. Improvement also takes place in both our inner (things going on inside us) and our outer (things going with others) worlds as represented by the horizontal line. It’s about the inner world of being versus the outer world of performing.

Potential Matrix

Performing

The top right quadrant is the most familiar to us. “It’s where most of us consciously spend each day doing things: the observable world of initiating, acting, and producing.” It’s what people expect of us when we show up – results. It takes deliberate practice. Performance improvement is not a straight line. There are plateaus. Also, keep in mind the FIT model: Frequency, Intensity, and Technique. How often you practice, the intensity you bring to it and the techniques you use, make all the difference.

Learning

Learning involves the acquisition of new ideas that we put into practice. If we approach life humbly, we will be enriched by what we do not know. Intentional curiosity keeps us growing. “Develop a learning agenda.” Identify what you must or need to learn and then make the time and find the resources to do it.

Reflecting

Reflecting is the inner world of responding. This is an underappreciated value in our instant, tech driven world. It’s about waiting and listening. “Epiphanies—that is, clarity and deeper understanding about yourself and how to improve your life—happen through introspection.” It’s easy to think that we have no time for this and focus on the outer world of doing, but, says Sanborn, “the inner world informs the outer world, and that for the majority of us, going within to understand motivations, hopes fears, and dreams offers some of the greatest leverage to improving every area of our lives.”

Thinking

Think about thinking. “Thinking is about proactively contemplating the world around you. It’s the source of vision, dreams, plans, and strategies. It uses external input and creates connections and directions.” Make the time to think about what you need to learn and unlearn. Focus your thinking and write it down. “Some of the biggest payoffs from thinking will occur when you review notes of previous thinking sessions and add to or modify what you came up with.

Sanborn explains each of these areas in more detail to help you develop the right mindset. Improvement in these four areas are key to improving consistently.

To be sure, each of us is more comfortable on one or two of these areas. If you are not spending enough time in an area, that will signal an area where you could improve. “Each area complements the others. If you are headed toward better, you’ll want to use each of the four areas identified. Doing so will help you reach your destination sooner and, perhaps more important, enrich the trip.”

Four Tools for Breakthrough Improvement

These four tools will help you “prevent complacency, create improvement, and bust through barriers” on your improvement journey.
  1. Disrupt Yourself (before someone else does)
    “Unwillingness to confront assumptions, challenge your thinking, and try new things is a roadblock to improvement.” It’s proactive rather than reactive. Ask disruptive questions like: “What is the most important lesson I’ve learned this past year? What am I doing out of habit that doesn’t serve me well?
  2. (re)Focus
    “Distraction impedes getting better.”
  3. Engage Others
    “Self-responsibility is the primary step toward a successful life. But engaging others and building mutually beneficial relationships will leverage everything you do.” Solicit advice, ideas, and counsel.
  4. Expand Your Capacity
    There’s room for more. Time x Effort = Capacity. “What one or two skills, if fully developed and consistently deployed, would make the biggest difference in your personal and professional improvement?”

The ideas you will find in The Potential Principle are not all new, but they are organized in such a way as to make them actionable. Sanborn has done a great job of laying the foundation and providing a blueprint for continuous improvement. All you need to do now is to put it into practice.

Quote 
It seems like common sense: Become the best, and then hit cruise control. Right? Nope. When you reach the top, it’s time to hit the accelerator because you’re just getting started.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:28 PM
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09.04.17

Jeffrey Immelt's 7 Lessons on How to Lead Through Massive Changes

TITLE

J
EFFREY IMMELT took over General Electric from Jack Welch at a time of increasing instability. He says, "The task of the CEO has never been as difficult as it is today. In that vein, my story is one of progress versus perfection. The outcomes of my decisions will play out over decades, but we never feared taking big steps to create long-term value."

In an article from the September–October 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review, How I Remade GE, Jeffrey Immelt shares seven lessons he learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Be disciplined and focused. "You need a point of view. Your initiatives should be interconnected—and it's the leader's job to connect the dots for everyone in the organization."

A point of view can take you somewhere. It allows for others to get on board and contribute in ways that support that point of view. As leaders, we must communicate how each part contributes to the whole. Change should be holistic. It creates focus and passion.

Lesson 2: Be curious and reflective. "You have to go through a period of rewiring your brain—getting yourself to the point of profoundly believing that the world is changing and that the survival of your company depends on either anticipating the change or being in the vanguard of those reacting to it."

To drive lasting change, you must be firmly anchored in what they believe. With most change, you can expect criticism. Today more than ever, the sources of resistance are more numerous and varied. Knowing your own values and beliefs are the source of courage you will need to weather any pushback. You have to see change as vital—life or death. And you are focused on your core beliefs and values and communicate them clearly, you are less likely to be distorted from the primary objective.

Lesson Three: Get people to see the need for change as existential. "Every time we drove a big change, I treated it as if it were life or death. If you can instill that psychology in your management group, you can get transformation."

Our world is never static. We are often confronted with the need for change or slow death. It's change or die. But it has to be communicated to the point to where what you as the leader have come to understand, is understood by everyone in the organization or to those you wish to see change happen. The goal is to give up control to allow the change to be internalized in them.

Lesson Four: Be all in. "Half measures are death for big companies, because people can smell lack of commitment. When you undertake a transformation, you should be prepared to go all the way to the end. You've got to be all in. You've got to be willing to plop down money and people."

Where you focus your resources communicates a lot about what is important to you.

Lesson Five: Be resilient. "I subscribe to the words of the great philosopher Mike Tyson, who said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.' It is so difficult to predict events. It is difficult to sustain transformation during tough times, but it's the only way to create a better future."

You need flexibility of action and resiliency of character. The kind of change Immelt is talking about here is not incremental change. It's deeper than that and you little control over outcomes. It means facing uncertainty and letting go of control and adapting to guide your organization to the primary objective. You have to take the long-view. Nothing will turn out exactly the way you plan it.

Lesson Six: Listen and act at the same time. "You need to allow new thoughts to constantly come in, and you need to be open to the reality that your organization will have to pivot when it learns something new, while still having the courage to push people forward."

Leaders must listen to those they lead if only because they firmly believe that their welfare is the goal. It's a sign of respect. And respect builds trust. When change is built on the needs of those you lead, it becomes their change too.

Lesson Seven: Embrace new kinds of talent, a new culture, and new ways of doing things.

Leaders must become not merely leaders of followers, but leaders of leaders. Ultimately a leader has to love his or her followers as much as they love the change they want implemented. As leaders we are necessary, but alone, we are insufficient. To create an adaptable culture, you need adaptable leaders.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:13 AM
| Comments (0) | Change

09.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for September 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in September.

  The Potential Principle: A Proven System for Closing the Gap Between How Good You Are and How Good You Could Be by Mark Sanborn
  How to Be Happy at Work: The Power of Purpose, Hope, and Friendship by Annie McKee
  Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking by Jennifer Riel and Roger L. Martin
  Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
  The Four Dilemmas of the CEO: Mastering the make-or-break moments in every executive's career by Tom Biesinger, Ross Wall and Clifford Herbertson

Potential Principle How to Be Happy at Work Creating Great Choices Principles Four Dilemmas of the CEO

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
— Mark Twain


Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:42 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

08.31.17

LeadershipNow 140: August 2017 Compilation

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twitter Here are a selection of tweets from August 2017 that you might have missed:
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:55 AM
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08.28.17

The Mood Elevator

Mood Elevator

W
E ALL have mood swings.

But once we accept the fact that moods aren’t something that happen to us, but are the result of our thinking, we can do something to control them—or at least manage them better.

Senn Delaney, Chairman and founder of Senn Delaney, wrote The Mood Elevator to help us take charge of our emotions and control our rides on the Mood Elevator.

Step one is understanding that the way we respond to outside events depends on what is happening inside our heads. “There may be events that stimulate our thoughts, but it is the thoughts that determine our moods.” Reality is reality; it’s what we make of it that makes a difference in our lives.
You will never let go of your moods completely, but knowing that hour thoughts are the source of those moods can provide a little added distance and help you remain in control. It’s a powerful first step to learning to ride up the Mood Elevator rather than feeling like a helpless victim of emotional forces you can’t control.

Why Does It Matter?

When we are down the Mood Elevator our thinking is closed. When we travel up the Mood Elevator our thinking improves and opens up. We can reconnect with our best self.
We all come into this world with the potential for mental and emotional health. Our natural state is to be loving, creative, trusting, forgiving, curious, happy, and desirous of warm, close relationships with others. Unfortunately, as we grow up most of us develop thought habits or beliefs that can mask or obscure our innate health. At some point we are hurt by someone, and we may become guarded and defensive. We are criticized for a mistake, and we may earn to make excuses and blame others, seeking to become less accountable so we don’t look bad.

Mood ElevatorWhen we are up the Mood Elevator it is easier to maintain our sense of perspective and keep our cool in times of difficulty, stress, or conflict. Traveling up the Mood Elevator we are more ready to access the sources of original ideas.

Unfortunately, we can become stuck so long on the lower floors of the Mood Elevator that we can begin to think that it’s normal. Recognize when you are staying on the lower-floor emotions. Although it doesn’t make us happy, we can actually grow comfortable with self-destructive patterns of thought, negative thinking and victimization. So we feed these thinking patterns and reinforce them with stories told to validate our perspective on life. Other people are often motivated by the same things we are. It’s just that their perspective is different than ours. It’s best for us if we let it go.

How to Move Up the Mood Elevator

The dividing line is curiosity because when something happens that threatens to pull you down to the lower floors, you can stop yourself and ask, “I wonder why they did that? It would be interesting to find out.” We tend to rush to the judgmental/blaming floor but with a curious perspective you can begin to move up to the higher floors.

Learn to interrupt your own mood patterns and typical responses. A good night’s sleep, exercise, deep breathing, positive self-talk, and even listen to your favorite music can all help in this regard.

Adapt an attitude of mild preference. Senn explains:
Living in mild preference doesn’t mean adopting a Pollyanna attitude. It does mean looking for positive steps you can take to solve problems when they arise—and refusing to wallow in the emotions of frustration and anger that problems can so easily generate. Living in mild preference does not mean having no standards or principles. It does mean being selective about how and when to apply your standards and principles—choosing your battels carefully, as the saying goes.

Naturally a sense of humor and humility help here. But at the top of the Mood Elevator you will find gratefulness. Senn calls it the overriding emotion. “It’s almost impossible to be grateful and at the same time be angry, depressed, irritated, or self-righteous.” Gratitude is a good way to maintain a healthy perspective on what’s happening in your life. “Focus on activities that will nourish your sense of gratitude and your appreciation for the blessings you’ve already been granted.”.

A few other important thoughts to help us manage our moods:
Recognize and honor separate realties we all live in. Be quick to understand other’s perspectives and slow to blame or criticize.

Remember that your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states, so delay important conversations and decisions; don’t act on your unreliable thinking, and don’t take your lower mood state out on other people.

Have faith when you are down on the Mood Elevator, that this too shall pass.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:30 PM
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08.18.17

4 Things Solitude Will Do for You

Solitude

W
E LIVE in an age of noise. Getting some time for yourself is a challenge. But if we are going to lead effectively, we need white space. We need solitude.

I know none of us have any extra time, but there is overwhelming evidence that taking a time-out to simply think is foundational to your success.

Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin explore some solid reasons why you must make the time to think in Lead Yourself First.

When we say solitude we mean a “subjective state of mind, in which the mind, isolated from input from other minds, works through a problem on its own.” There is no particular structure to it—place, time, or length—but it must focus the mind. It’s scheduled white space—a commitment you make to yourself simply because your leadership begins with who you are—not what you do.

So let’s look at four things solitude will do for you.

Clarity

Clarity is about what is true. What is signal and what is noise? Solitude facilitates that distillation process. It helps you to eliminate or deliberately deemphasize all distractions. That alone will help you to make the time to think. Clarity and focus go hand-in-hand. That kind of focused attention is often best done alone.

Intuition complements analytical thought. When we get stuck, “intuition can provide clarity when analytical thinking cannot.” The challenge is accessing it. Accessing intuition requires “a deeper form of solitude: an absence of inputs not only from other minds, but also from one’s own.”

Clarity is important for decision-making but it is also critical for understanding who you are—strengths and weaknesses. It helps to connect you with your core values and understand your place from that perspective.

Creativity

Solitude opens the path to creativity. Solitude isn’t always the shortest distance to the goal. Joey Reiman, CEO of the consulting firm BrightHouse, credits their success to their “longer, incubation pace.” On one project he says, “If we had moved at a faster, business pace, we never would have excavated that original brand identity and then generalized it into a new ethos.”

Dena Braeger, mother of six in El Paso, offered this insight into information overload:
People make such an effort to copy what other people do, because we have so much access to information. I’m surrounded by people on Pinterest. I’ll be dammed if I make something on Pinterest. You’ll see things like these cupcakes that look amazing. And people copy them. But on the inside their phony, because the person didn’t create it themselves. We’re getting more of everything, but less of what is authentically ourselves. If we spent more time alone, creating something that might not look as amazing but is more authentic, we’d value ourselves more.

Creativity is doing something differently than the norm. Solitude allows us to get away from the inertia of our environment and connect to new possibilities.

Emotional Balance

Emotional balance requires you to respond rather than react. General James Mattis finds a lack of reflection the single biggest problem facing leaders. “The leader who neglects to step out of the sweep of events, to contemplate from whence they come and where they might go. Finds himself merely blown from one thing to another. But the leader who steps outside events is a leader who can change them.”

Solitude allows you to reflect on what is making you emotional and provide clarity on the issue. Often what you are emotional about is more of a distraction than an issue. Again Dena Braeger, the West Point graduate and mother of six in El Paso, said, “When I’m practicing solitude regularly, I self-correct so much better. I’m more focused on what’s important, and I let things go that aren’t important.”

Instead of allowing our emotions to adversely affect our leadership, it is wise to move away and deal with them in private. Our emotions will find an outlet somewhere. And that is best alone than in decisions made through unfiltered emotions that affect those around us.

Moral Courage

We’ve all seen them: leaders who take themselves too seriously—who believe their own press release. And it’s all too easy for any of us to fall prey to self-admiration. “Honest reflation can deflate these pretentions.” Reflection can pave the way to humility.

Solitude allows you to slow down and be clear and firmly convicted of your values and beliefs. “Leaders who are well anchored in what they believe are going to be more effective,” says Doug Conant, the former CEO and president of the Campbell Soup Company. When those criticisms come along that are design to enforce conformity, it is easier to weather the storm when you know that what you are doing is the right thing to do for the right reasons. It is the power to rise above.

Reclaiming Solitude

Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says that “The biggest mistake I’ve made in my career to date is believing that solitude is a luxury. I could chart the ups and downs of my quality of life personally and professionally and the amount of time I spend in solitude.” As important as it is, it is easy to let it slip away without even realizing it. We are continuously bombarded by pressures—both personal and social—not to stop and reflect but if we lose our solitude, we will lose who we are.

You don’t have to go off to a mountaintop or sit at the seashore. It can be a closed room, the library, a park bench, and even a waiting room.

We have a responsibility to seek out periods of solitude. We owe it to ourselves and those we lead.
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Of Related Interest:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:05 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Personal Development






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