Parking Lots. They come in all sizes and shapes. You see them everywhere. They serve the same purpose worldwide. And yet they are a source of entertainment for me. Watching people find “their place” in this ecosystem is fascinating. Some prefer the farthest spot or take up multiple spaces to prevent door dings on their vehicle. While others circle to find the closest space even if it means waiting. A friend of mine likes to catch those people that take the handicapped spots without the proper sticker. He usually leaves a funny note on their window reminding them to reconsider their choice next time. My husband is a circler. Over the years, I’ve added commentary to the now infamous “parking lot tours” so no one misses the interesting “views” on the right or left. Can you see my husband’s eye roll or hear the laughter from the back seat? It was the biggest source of entertainment during a recent trip. We stopped at Starbucks located in a local strip mall. Time to stretch our legs and take a break from our long road trip. I must admit it felt good to be in the fresh air and sunshine. But finally, it was time to be on our way. As we closed the doors, the driver asked for directions. “Well first, you must get out of the parking lot,” replied the navigator. It struck our funny bone and the car erupted in laughter. Yes, it was funny and still makes me smile. But isn’t that also the advice we need in life. Sometimes it is easy to get stuck circling around the lot. And the first step is deciding it’s time to leave. Take the first step and get out of the parking lot. Your adventure awaits you. I look forward to hearing that you are on your way.
I could hear the passion and growing disgust in the conversation behind me. It was a long day of travel and I was mildly amused that someone else shared the challenges of the day.
Until, I could see the conversation was going no-where. At least no-where productive. You can call me an optimist but even at the end of a challenging day, I like to celebrate some forward movement, no matter how slight even if it is for someone else.
Unfortunately, as the conversation unfolded, it was clear neither side was listening and the endless flow of adult beverage wasn’t adding new insight into the situation. In fact, it was clear to me that the purpose of their trip was about to be grounded before it even began. And sadly, it was an inside job because the people talking were on the same team.
Wow what a waste of energy, time, talent and resource. Have you ever thought of that?
How often do we embark on a trip, not fully grounded in a broad perspective so we can build a unified front to solve any issue? It is really easy to do in this dynamic fast paced world, isn’t it? We need own the foundational discipline of being grounded on the same facts, the same reality and the same consequences if we wish to work together towards a better future. And learn to embrace the power in different perspectives to truly uncover the best solution. Rarely does anyone hold the key to the perfect answer. The power comes from embracing our differences, uncovering the truth and getting insights for the best future path.
It doesn’t cost anything but our time and undivided attention. And of course the willingness to truly listen, add value and work together towards a common goal. Sounds simple. And it is, but that doesn’t make it easy.
How many times have you jumped to conclusions in the spirit of being efficient only to miss the point? What have you learned about your approach and more importantly how to be more effective next time? Because there will be a next time. And your effort to think about how you would optimize your approach next time will help others see what is possible.
And isn’t that what leadership is all about?
During workshops and talks, I’m often asked what to do when you hire someone who just isn’t measuring up. Sometimes people actually tell me the person they hired is an idiot.
I tell people don’t be so hard on yourself.
And they usually get a bit of a surprised look on their face because, of course, they didn’t intend to be hard on themselves. They intended to point out that, in their wisdom they, apparently for some reason, purposefully hired an idiot.
The first problem of course is thinking that one of your people is an idiot. Once one of your people knows your low opinion of them they are unlikely to exceed your low expectations. Never ask or expect less from your people than you need or want them to deliver.
I believe that leadership comes with certain responsibilities. If you actually have the audacity and courage to accept the mantle of leadership then you must also be willing to accept the wide range of responsibilities that come with it.
The responsibility to put people in their strengths zone is one example. If you’ve hired someone and they are not getting the job done there are only two possibilities.
And by the way – you are not going to like either one.
The first one – is that you simply hired the wrong person. Yes, you simply hired the wrong person. If they truly cannot get the job done, then why did you hire them? If they didn’t have the skills, knowledge, and experience to successfully complete the requirements of their role then why in the world did you hire them? You just hired the wrong person.
The second possibility is that you did hire the right person but you’re not giving them the tools they need to succeed. You, as their leader, may not be teaching them the additional skills required to truly excel.
Either way, if you’ve hired someone who is not succeeding, the issue is yours and not them. And ultimately, it’s your responsibility 100% of the time.
When you accept 100% responsibility for the success of the people you’ve hired, you’ll no longer be so quick to dismiss them with a “they’re an idiot” flick of your tongue. You will stop “spending time on” and start “investing time with” your people.
Now, let me stop some of you right now. You’re thinking of the “yeah but…” and a million reasons right now why you can’t be held 100% responsible for the success of your people. I’ve heard them all 100’s of times, heck, early on, I’ve used them.
Let me also tell you this: if you allow yourself those excuses, then the chances of one or more of your people failing goes way way up! Don’t tell yourself that you’ll accept 50% of the responsibility but “they” have to give 50% too. I’ll guarantee you that this is not a 50-50 proposition because your people can not and will not succeed without you, their leader, giving a 50% effort in helping them develop and succeed. The fact is, when it’s a 100% proposition, then your people have a great chance at success.
Leadership is a big deal. It’s not just a position, title or concept. It is real, it comes with serious consequential responsibilities. If you can’t handle them, or are unwilling to accept them, then you should reconsider your role as a leader. And by the way, there is no harm in choosing not to lead, leadership is not for everyone. The harm comes from accepting the challenge of leadership without the commitment to accept the responsibility of a leader as well.
Leaders can make excuses or they can make more leaders. They can’t do both. What are you making?
The day finally arrived. Lunch had been on the books for 3 months. I arrived early, as I didn’t want to cut our time together short. It had been too long. And the conversation started just where we left off last time. It’s what I love most about our time together. You can focus on what matters most and walk away with both renewed confidence and a new perspective.
Today was no different.
We were both leading significant strategic change in our organizations. It’s hard work. Learning to meet people where they are is required, but difficult. Especially for the people who find comfort in admiring the problem. And what begins as an effort to understand, causes some to stay at this stage far past its value. It can sometimes attract a crowd who also decides to make it their goal to admire the problem too.
As a leader, it is important to recognize the importance of understanding. But it takes extra care to see why people get stuck. Some people stay stuck out of fear, others because they don’t know how to move forward and yet others who will never leave this stage. Fundamentally, they don’t want change.
The focus of the leader needs to be on the first two groups with the realization there is nothing you can do to help the last group until they decide they want help. And the answer might be never. And that’s OK for them.
It is always a personal choice.
But for you as a leader, your role is to move people forward. Learning to recognize the signs of “admiring the problem” from those who need attention is critical to moving the organization forward.
And it’s important to remember the first two groups might be quiet about their needs because they don’t want to appear inadequate. The group that doesn’t want to move, they will be the loudest. Don’t be fooled and distracted by the intensity of these efforts.
Instead focus where it matters. The momentum of this group will deliver evidence of progress that cannot be ignored, even by those that prefer to admire the problem.
How are you practicing intentional leadership to separate the crowd who are admiring the problem? Your engagement matters!
It was a great welcome home message.
It would have been easy to say no, I was tired and I just wanted to stay home. But I knew this never happens. And I really wanted to catch up. It had been awhile.
Looking for a convenient restaurant, we found a little place — known for their great wine, homemade food and quaint neighborhood feel. Perfect.
We were old friends and as it happens when you haven’t seen someone for a while, our conversation went everywhere all at once. And like the best of friends our conversation picked up where we left off. It was fun to celebrate the moments with each other. And ponder the questions that nagged us. But most of all, it was a great way to recharge your battery.
As we shared our schedules and what was next, she looked at me, shook her head and said, “I don’t know how you do it.”
Last weekend marked the first free weekend for both my husband and I in 4 months. It wasn’t the first time I had received this response. But for me, the answer was easy:
It’s busy, but I know it won’t last forever.
The lives of my family are complex, busy and maybe a bit crazy. But for me, it’s important to figure out how to integrate all life has to offer. I need to be there. That means figuring out how to make the busy lives of my family work together with what matters most.
I’ve always known, the opportunities won’t wait and frankly won’t always fit into a nice neat schedule. If I want to make the most of this life, I had to learn how to be there when things happened. This means accepting sometimes my schedule will be a bit scary. It also means taking advantage of the scheduling opportunities – like dinner with my friend.
Indeed – my life is crazy and full. But I know it won’t last forever. Learning to live in the moment and celebrate what makes this time special, is what’s important. And it’s what makes the journey so much fun, especially knowing you won’t travel this road again exactly the same way.
Let me know how you tackle your crazy life and make it work for you. I don’t want to miss out on what life has to offer, and know you don’t either. Let me hear how you do what you do.
Two words that are similar but vastly different in their impact to driving sustainable change and innovation.
Do you collaborate…look for the best and most diverse team to drive results? Or do you co-operate standing on the sidelines while others drive forward.
This is a critical question and a true indicator of your leadership effectiveness. Do you inspire others to add value, bring their best self, or does your team just follow the directions?
For me, it’s a great indicator of whether people, teams and organizations will engage fully to drive sustainable change or just go thru the motions. In the beginning, following guidelines and best practices are a great starter kit. But you don’t stop there. You will never increase your power to add value and collaboration around the larger issues and drive change until you learn to collaborate.
And unfortunately, cooperation is a façade. It looks like things are moving but in reality, your team is just treading water. And frankly – once the focus shifts, they will stop even that minimum level of activity.
Let’s be frank here, co-operation while not necessarily a bad thing, is usually an indicator of one of three things:
1) the mission isn’t clear so they don’t understand the why and are acting out of fear.
2) they don’t know how to engage so they do as you tell them but nothing more. or
3) they simply don’t want to engage.
In all cases, the accountability is yours because they are doing as they were told. Take time to first be aware of the level of collaboration vs. cooperation. It is a vital first step to drive forward movement. Then engage more fully to understand why “cooperation” and not collaboration is happening. It will allow your leadership to be focused. And finally, focus on meeting people where they are. This is the only way to help build and establish collaboration as the new standard.
In the end, this focus is what drives accountability, accelerates learning and builds sustainable mojo in your organization. And this mojo will build and take you and your leadership to a new level, but only if you engage and move too.
How are you engaging to drive collaboration in your life with your leadership?
Imagine a scene where you are standing on the street corner, and you notice the bus turning the corner doesn’t have a driver. Or another, where you notice that every time you meet someone, they are just along for the ride. Someone else is clearly driving the bus.
Every time someone else is driving your bus, you made a decision not to drive. And that’s ok. There are lots of reasons for it. But what’s amazing to me is how many people actually just give up the driver’s seat.
Sometimes it is because they are too busy, they are confused and just want someone else to figure it out or they just want to give up on life. Whatever the reason, it is a tragedy. They are giving up optimizing their own potential.
Each of us has the opportunity to DECIDE how we want to spend our life. It requires our intention, our focus and hard work. It requires us to stay engaged, to make it happen. To drive.
Leaving the driving to someone else is not a recipe to optimize individual potential but rather a formula to travel thru life without accountability. After all you just tagged along for the ride so the consequences belong not to you but someone else.
It is the most certain way to live the life someone else envisions for you vs. the one you were born to live.
We each get the same 24 hours a day, every day, over the course of our years on earth to optimize our opportunities. Riding a tour bus driven by someone else is not a recipe to maximize your impact on the world. So why then do we let it happen?
We owe it to ourselves to be clear, be intentional and to take the driver’s seat. Have you seen the same thing? I would love to hear who’s driving your bus and why…
In a world that crashes forward at an accelerating pace, what does forward mean?
This is important. We often judge success based on the final or finished outcome. Should that be the only measure of success? Because going forward in the right direction can be critcal to reaching the end goal. It doesn’t require us to have it all figured out, but does require us to be grounded in what matters so we can lead the right direction. And be confident in our ability to figure out helps us build momentum.
The Leadership recipe is 1% vision and 99% alignment. Learning to focus on building your future (and not fighting the past) is critical. But be clear on this…you need to meet people where they are and then move forward together. And you need to celebrate the forward. It’s this understanding (especially of the past) that makes it possible to move. And it’s the only way you will find the right people and lead with intention.
It is this step, most people miss and then wonder why there is no movement towards a compelling vision. Why don’t people get it?
The answer is quite simple, because you don’t get it. Taking time to connect the dots from here to there is essential. This builds the bridge from what was to what is. Then others can take first steps and not freeze in fear. In fact, it is the only thing that will drive real change and overtime builds the muscle in the people and organization.
And before you fill in the gaps with your assumptions, ask. Why complicate life and your leadership? If you have a question, ask in person, like something, state it, want something, ask for it, wanna be understood, explain, want effort, celebrate your forward movement regardless of how small and move. It will allow you to engage others, accelerate your learning and ultimately build momentum towards the vision.
The principles of what works are simple, it is the doing that is complicated. It is too easy to dismiss the process and get focused on the promise of some “shiny new” way to make it happen. Stay focused on your leadership and engage as a simple process to propel you forward. It will also build the skill in others because your role model will show them what is possible.
How are you celebrating the forward movement in your life and leadership?
Do they really think we read it? And just so you know, if you do read it, the dire consequences of taking “this drug” or using “that item” featured usually includes death. Wow! So the marketers make the case for why you need this and the legal department covers their basis. And they are on the same team. Both wanting you to buy their products (or they don’t have jobs) But have you ever stopped to consider that their efforts potentially work against each other.
This same situation plays out every day in our lives. It just isn’t always this obvious.
When was the last time you read your fine print? You know – you know the rules on how you operate (what to do or not do when working with you, how to take care of you and what the risks are that someone might encounter). Or the important section on what to do if it isn’t working, or something needs attention? Do you have a 1.800 number you can call for assistance or a website to help?
Of course not, because we don’t come with an operating manual like the things we buy. It’s up to us to write it and the people we lead understand it. But first we need to understand our our fine print. Oh and by the way – when you understand it – usually you need to work to refine it. And ultimately you need to live it. Only then is it possible to share it so others know how we work.
How many of us put that work front and center? Not many of course.
And because we don’t do the work, we don’t truly understands our own fine print. Is it any wonder why things don’t work sometimes? We get in our own way. We spin in perpetuity for new inputs (like our tablets and phones and computers). And finally, the others (employees, bosses, family members) find it hard to work with us and optimize.
In today’s dynamic and chaotic world, it is critical to understand our fine print. We cannot possibly lead the change and innovation necessary to grow (business, family other) with out it. Take a look around you. For you to lead innovation you must build momentum. To build the momentum, you need to understand the fine print.
So next time you are sitting in the stillness of the morning, make a list of your fine print. It will likely have the same impact on you that it does on me. In the end, I am committed to become aware, understand, lead with intention and share my fine print with others so together we can do great work.
Are you? It matters to you and the world around you. Let’s commit to do the work so we can lead with intention, grounded in an understanding of ourselves and our fine print.
I recently had an opportunity to participate in the Twin Cities Business Annual Luncheon focused on Women in Corporate Leadership. I was honored to be part of the program. It’s a sold out event every year. And one that I look forward to…
Why? Because it is a place to catch up with old friends, meet new people and a place to engage in a community conversation about the role women are playing on boards and in leadership. The good news – data supports progress. Glacial progress mind you, but progress none the same.
But here’s the conundrum every leader and every organization faces. A more diverse perspective from women and men and ethnic backgrounds is needed to ensure top performance. And yet the urgency to accelerate is not broadly supported. Why?
Because our natural bias is to seek things like us. And like any change, it takes intentional effort to first understand, then to take action to lead differently. Your leadership will need to embrace a position that requires diversity as part of the solution, not as a window dressing exercise but because you truly want world class performance. It won’t happen by itself. So in this instance (diversity) that action means YOU need to be specific about setting expectations.
No one wants to be recruited solely because of the label (a woman, ethnicity, education, millennial,…).
Labels offer only a single dimension. “If” you’ve earned the right to make the candidate list, you want to know that first you are recognized as a “kick ass” executive that happens to be a (fill label blank here). To allow yourself be described any other way diminishes expectations and contribution.
And as a leader, you need to also be intentional about filling that “slate” on your teams with diversity. And reviewing your criteria to ensure it too represents what will find the diversity vs. only finding more of the same. Then it will take your leadership and commitment to ensure the more critical integration of that diversity in the team or risk losing the talent because they didn’t feel like they fit in. It’s not enough to hire the diversity. You need to be intentional about leading in a way that embraces the diversity and builds the collective capability of your team so others can see in your actions how to recalibrate their leadership to embrace the power of a diverse perspective.
And remember, it is a community conversation about how a more diverse perspective in leadership makes the world a better place. If the conversation is confined to an annual event or only in smaller subgroups of women, men, millennials or ethnic groups, it will not move us forward. It will only continue to accomplish progress at a “glacial speed.”
How will you engage with your community to continue the conversation about how to build leadership muscle and organizational competency to embracing the power of diversity? How will your conversations influence the actions that are needed to move us forward?
The world is counting on all of us to lead in a way that ensures a bright future. Are your ready?