As I sat across the table from a friend, he shared a conversation he just had with the senior leader of his organization.
The conversation was about the business issues facing the organization, the importance of solving some pressing issues and the need to change. He was trying to sort through the leader’s comment…
“Yes, those are big issues and we will need to have answers. But I won’t be here long and it will be some else’s problem to solve.”
Wow. There were really no words to describe the shock. This was the senior most leader of the company. He essentially said that he had given up on the future.
It was clear the leader was missing the primary role of a leader. The prerequisite is to believe in a future, stay grounded in the reality of the business and put a plan in place that drives to the best possible outcomes.
Leadership doesn’t get to decide it’s too hard. You don’t get to say “I don’t have the energy to make it happen” or “I will leave it to someone else to solve.” A leader must create the plan, plant the seeds well BEFORE they are needed so the future can be bright AND ensure the transition to the future and potential new leader is built on a strong base.
It was the third time in my career I experienced a similar conversation and the first time for my friend. In all cases, the organizations lost their traction and were unable to build momentum for a future. They never optimized their futures.
Is it any surprise? Even if you have the best people, organizations cannot overcome the void of leadership. Your only option is to come to terms with the reality, begin your focus on your OWN next chapter.
And as a leader you need to know it’s really hard. Because you can see the potential, can see the waste and the misalignment. And you know that if corrected it could alter the results. But when the senior most leadership doesn’t see it and doesn’t put forth the effort to REALLY understand it, no amount of YOUR commitment to the future of the organization will matter. I know, you will try to convince yourself you can wait it out, you can rally the team or put in some extra effort to make a difference. I did too. The reality is you may slow the trend but it is headed in the wrong direction.
And you can’t fix it…
Leading your life means you must believe in YOUR future. It means you put YOUR PLAN in place to optimize YOU, create an environment that lets you do your BEST work and concentrate your energy where you can have the most IMPACT.
It is up to you and no one else. Committing to lead means you must put yourself in the greatest position to lead others.
Have you seen the same thing? I look forward to hearing your perspective and how you have lead your life during these times.
How do we make our future dreams reality? We need to focus on building knowledge to give us potential and then PRACTICE to build mastery.
I worry that we often miss this point. It isn’t about finding a quick fix (oh those silver bullets), and it definitely isn’t about turning our focus on other people when things don’t work out. All of these are just the diversions that keep us from building the personal skills and mastery required to compete in this new world. What’s needed?
But then practice isn’t very sexy. After all, it is kind of boring, isn’t it? And it is usually uncomfortable because you are learning how something works. And to top it off, there are no gold stars for practice, so why should I do it, right? Isn’t that why we don’t do it? We lose patience to do the not very sexy work to get better because surely, there is a faster, better way. This is just too uncomfortable. So we stop.
And stopping is what derails us.
Our focus needs to move from just discovering “the answer” to learning the process and then being willing to practice. Many of the issues we face today require a collective effort, not just an individual one. This lets us all learn out loud together, recognize forward movement as progress so we can celebrate and then quiet frankly move to the next movable piece. It is thru this mastery that TOGETHER we can create a new reality and optimize our future vision.
But it also requires us to “unlearn” what we have been taught. In school, we valued only the answer (and not necessarily the process). We didn’t get points for good questions along the way nor were we required to report our key learnings. And even though we did work with groups, it was always just about the answer, not the process that got us there.
But in life, the practice is what matters.
I love the quote from the author of Future Shock, Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those that cannot learn and unlearn.” It was written in 1970. I think it frames up one of our core issues today.
The future always arrives faster than we want and usually it is in the wrong order. So we need to be able to adjust and embrace our realities to optimize our lives and the opportunities around us. It will take a focus on our process and practice to build our skills to enable nimbleness and agility.
Memorizing answers for the inevitable tests of life will not give us a passing grade. Practice is what will build our confidence and allow us to figure it out. And test our sense of humor as we laugh at what we tried and celebrate what we figured out. Learning to think about the big things while we are doing the small things will ensure the small things are pointed in the right direction. And it is in this doing that we will be able to build our mastery to tackle the journey ahead.
Are you ready to be disciplined in your practice? It is the only way to achieve your best work as you lead your life. And isn’t that worth the effort? I look forward to hearing you from you.
As I got off the last lift for the day, I felt burn in my thighs. It was an awesome day of skiing, particularly since it was day two. First day was “work out the kinks” and “build back the confidence” day. Today was a new day, and I must admit, much more about the fun.
As I ascended down the hill, I reflected on the day. It was a great trip. We hadn’t lost anyone and we honored the “marker” signal. When we turned direction, someone always stayed back to mark the pivot point. That marker turned out to be critical. It kept everyone aligned and together. It was a difference maker for the trip.
Funny how in life, recognizing the pivot isn’t always obvious. And so we wander, we get misaligned. We lose momentum and our ability to build forward movement as a team because our mission has become unclear. And although there are stories to tell at the end of the day, it doesn’t exude the same kind of joy.
Recognizing the pivot point and standing as the marker is a critical job of leadership. Working to keep your team moving down the mountain is critical to building momentum towards the future goal. After all, life is the ultimate experience model. And it is definitely not a spectator sport. So it requires each pivot be marked.
Too many times, I see leadership wait until the end is clear before the next mile-marker is established. It is a failed effort to not waste time and effort from others.
Go back to my descent down the hill at the end of the day. Many times during the day we lost our way, but never did we lose sight of the fact we needed to not lose anyone on the slope. We stayed to committed to our journey together and our ability to celebrate the journey at the end of the day.
What a great perspective to bring to leadership. What if we made it our daily leadership pledge to experience the journey together as a team by marking the pivot points and then focusing on what is next? What would the stories be at the end of the day? What would we figure out as we celebrated the day and looked ahead? I can’t imagine the joy and power we would unleash as we practiced working together to figure it out, can you?
She’s been on my mind for years. I vowed one day I would find her. I just didn’t know how.
And then it happened. I saw her name. It didn’t seem possible. Could she really be attending the same event? I needed to know and reached out to the table captain. Turned out it was her daughter. But fate clearly intervened and after hearing my story, her daughter reconnected us.
As I drove to the coffee shop, I was excited to see her. It was more than 25 years since we last spoke. And like it was yesterday, I could still hear her lessons play in my head. Except now – I understood her wisdom. And I wondered how to share just how important her perspective had been to my journey
1) You need to learn your boundaries and live them every day. Others will respect what you defend.
2) Work will never tell you to go home, nor will it visit you when you are sick. Take care of what is important and really matters in life. And remember, what matters cannot be bought, it is earned and can only be lost by what you do or don’t do. Leave nothing to chance.
3) Your performance is so far above what others do. Be proud and celebrate what you contribute. However, it is important to understand you will set the standard that others will judge your contribution. And it will create a double standard. One for you and one for others. Learn to calibrate how this is done.
And she warned me of the consequences. It would catch up with me in my forties!!! Is it any surprise that for this 22 year-old, my forties seemed really far off? And of course, I thought things would change in my day. Or NOT!
Her wisdom was timeless.
Her style and sense of being her best was timeless too. It was clear from her first step just as it had been when we first met.
And our time together was magical. We picked up from when we last met and in just an hour, were reconnected. As I revisited the lessons, I could see her listen with a keen focus. It was clear to me, she understood her perspective but had not fully contemplated the impact of her advice on the lives of others.
And isn’t that lesson important for all of us? What is the lesson about how we live our lives that will help others gain a new perspective and ultimately become the difference maker that endures time?
As we approach this holiday season, the push to get our attention to buy things picks up speed. This unrelenting fever always stops me in my tracks. Maybe it is the “volume.” Maybe it is fatigue since some merchants put Christmas stuff out beginning in September, or frankly, maybe it is just because I don’t care.
Yes, I said I don’t care.
This quest for “stuff” doesn’t help me with the wildly important aspirations in my life. Nor does it give me the most valuable currency – our time. And time is the great equalizer. Each day we all get 24 hours to use as we see fit. And we all get the same regardless of our age, our net worth, or our track record of how we used the last 24 hours. Each and every day we get a fresh start. I like that, don’t you?
So here we are on the cusp of the holidays and I think it is important to think about two things…how we allocate our time and how we show up when give it. Both matter.
I would argue that the most important thing is to realize you CAN allocate the time and second, that you need to start with an allocation for you. Yes, I said you. If you are like me, you worry about everyone else’s needs first and then yourself. It takes you off balance and then you lose your effectiveness for you and everyone else. So start with you.
Plan time for you and then be disciplined about it. Whether it is time to reflect on the day, time to stay fit, time to enjoy a good book, time to enjoy your favorite hobby or just time to be alone and hear yourself think. Whatever you need to stay recharged and focused take the time.
However, planning the time is one thing, showing up for it is another. And It took me a while to understand this concept, or maybe I had to learn the hard way. Remind yourself why you are doing it and plan to be present (not in the middle of a crazy time). Let others hold you accountable. Otherwise, you’ll show up, but wish you were somewhere else.
And it’s happened to me. Know this…showing up is not enough. You don’t get credit for the time unless you engage. It takes practice and feels weird as there isn’t a lot to show others. But that isn’t the point. It is for you. And I promise you, that in time, you will learn that you will always leave with a new perspective and a renewed sense of energy for those things that matter. That’s how you know and believe me others can see it too.
So start simple and don’t expect big things. For me, it started by planning a day off work to see or do things that I always said “one day” I would do or taking my birthday off because after all it is our VERY SPECIAL DAY. Both of these I started when I had small children and didn’t want to spend the money for a sitter or take more time away from the family. Then try a long walk, a trip to the spa to get pampered, time to do your favorite things, eventually working towards a weekend retreat. What’s important is you get started… it’s guaranteed to make you better and why wouldn’t you want that?
I look forward to hearing what you do to stay recharged and the effect it has had on the JOY in your life.
Many of you know the journey I’ve been on in the last two years of writing my first book. This path has certainly taken me to some interesting places, introduced me to some wonderful people and opened up conversations and new ideas. And of course, this is just the start. And I know the conversations that led to the book in the first place can now continue with others.
My message is simple: live the life you wish for, both personally and professionally, REGARDLESS of your age.
For me, the conversations about the book have led to some interesting places. From young professionals navigating their lives and careers to seasoned executives considering their next chapter, the concept of being grounded brings new insight.
For C-suite executives focused on talent development and engaging the talent of the millennial generation to entrepreneurial founders worried about how they raise the bar on their organizations and get out of the way without losing control, it has showed a way forward.
For leaders looking to expand their capacity to embrace diversity as a point of difference versus a point of weakness and truly understand the gifts they have to offer to others so they can do the same.
For education leaders worried about re-imagining education of our youth and their approach to building skills for the twenty-first century as well as adults focused on intentional development of their skills to stay relevant.
For leaders facing the dynamic marketplace changes and the need for innovation, the work of understanding yourself has never been more essential. You need to be fully grounded to lead others, or you risk getting in your own way. Being grounded supports innovation and change for you personally and for others in the organizations you serve.
The work in this book enables powerful conversations to address these real-world conundrums in a way that builds agility to meet the future with open arms. Anything is possible if you believe you have to do the work personally first
It’s unlikely that this book will change the world, but I do know that really important change happens one person to another. Each person has the opportunity to take the same facts, create a different experience, and change the outcome on purpose.Your life is too important to leave to chance or worse yet let someone else to decide what matters. Your impact is too important to leave to chance.
I look forward to the journey ahead…#awesomegroundedlife
It started out simply. A way for me to “call out” less than stellar behavior that was counter-productive to change while keeping the focus on the behavior and NOT the people. Guardians of no progress©. You know – those rascals that sit in their offices and think through all the reasons why change will not work.
Whether it’s in my keynote speeches, or my leadership role, “guardians of no progress” resonates with everyone leading change. We all know one. And when I share the term, it is always met with a smile and an almost instant list of names that fit the description.
But the focus on the people isn’t the issue. We need to stop. We need to focus on the behavior. When you take time to separate what the behavior looks like “unattached” to names, it lets others see it for what it is. Quite simply, it removes the emotions associated with the people doing the behavior and allows everyone to focus on understanding the behavior for what it is. Fear. And how as a leader, you can and should avoid the pitfalls.
For many organizations, these team members look the same. Guardians of no progress overtly support the change. It’s their version of camouflage. And then later because they want everyone to be safe. They bring questions, spot issues (and non-issues), identify risks that cause others to alter the course or slow the change.
It can also bring a sense of fun to the conversations around change. Yes, fun…
Use the term when you want to call out behavior without attacking the person. Just try it…it keeps everyone focused on supporting the change vs. being called out as the “guardian of no progress.” No one wants to be that guardian.
By taking the time to describe the behavior as a team, it allows everyone to see the signs and stay committed to their role which is to support the change and ensure a successful transition. In other words, change is going to happen, how do we work together to do it well.
Do you know any guardians of no progress?
What does your list look like?
Is it well understood by your you and your team? I’m excited to hear your thoughts and your ideas for shining the spotlights on this important change obstacle.
It’s a big question triggered by an engaging and fascinating conversation I had recently with a friend I see rarely. How do we engage as leaders to make change. And it’s a challenge for everyone…regardless of your level of responsibility or experience. The ultimate leadership test, measured in our ability to rally a diverse group towards a common goal. It’s you, plus others.
On this day, the conversation focused on this very conundrum…the challenge we face of “you + others.” Here’s what I know as a leader. You need to:
Manage EVERY day…Be engaged
- Be accessible.
- Be a student of the business. Don’t assume you have all the answers.
- Create an environment that engages your teams.
- Build Trust with your teams AND the executive team.
- Live up to agreed upon values and hold others to them.
- Business status: Flash Report, Monthly Financial Performance and Strategic Plan/Dept initiatives.
- Solve small issues before they become big…manage conflict productively.
- Insist on alignment with strategic plan and current reality.
- Get commitment within and across departments.
- Service orientation to the field and departments.
Make accountability real…focus on results
- Be clear on roles, goals and deliverables
- Define success and drive work plans to make it happen…finish what we started.
- Thank people for contribution.
- Debrief progress & learn out loud.
And secondly for our teams, can we help them see “The Big Picture”. People will naturally become more passionate about their work when they clearly understand they are part of something bigger than themselves. As a leader, you must be able to answer the five questions team members commonly ask (and they are asking these questions – whether you hear them or not):
- Where are we going? (Strategy)
- How are we going to get there? (Plans)
- How can I contribute? (Roles)
- What is our progress (urgency/accountability)
- What’s in it for me? (Rewards)
Leadership is not for the faint at heart. But the results can be rewarding. As we wrapped up our conversation, it was fun to see the action plan unfold. Can’t wait to hear the update and compare notes. Can you?
My love for photography started years ago with my Aunt Anita.
Each time she visited, we explored another chapter from her travel log. Her images and stories were mesmerizing to me as a child. And much to my family’s chagrin, the cause for her late arrival to family functions. You see, there was always something along the way that caused her to pause. A need to capture the moment.
And photography stuck in my life. Much later, I had the good fortune of working with another photography master. You’ve most likely heard me speak of him before. I was fortunate to both work and travel with him. In fact, our time together always felt like a gift because it led to new discoveries. And those discoveries stirred a curiosity that has shaped my view of the world.
Here’s my fascination with the art of photography. Many photographers capture similar images, but none of them look the same. The images are always shaped by the person behind the lens not the people in in front of it. And critical to defining the view is learning to ask the question, “what do you see?” Let’s be clear here, sometimes this difficult question doesn’t have an obvious answer. It is in knitting together the many viewpoints that provide true texture. This is where the depth of life can be explained. It also requires that we don’t assume others can see what we do.
You see, no one sees it like you do.
Taking time to ask, value and share your perspective is important. Don’t assume what is clear to you is also clear to others. You will miss the value of discovering the view from another vantage point. And it may be just what you need to make the next leg of your journey.
What do you see? I look forward to hearing your perspective?
In this world of “Big Data” our natural curiosity fuels the urge to seek to understand the essence of every detail, because the data is now available.
Knowledge gives us potential but it is through practice we build mastery. So I just want to say something radical here…not all DATA matters.
We have to ask ourselves to identify the value of knowing. It’s the classic, SO WHAT question. The answers will help us decide if it is worth the doing to know. Big data without a business strategy provides interesting but worthless insight unless the data can drive action.
And sometimes, I have to admit – we struggle for strategic clarity. So we look for the data to help us bring clarity.
But here’s the conundrum: data that doesn’t drive action doesn’t matter. It is important to establish the hard trends separate from the soft trends. The hard trends are those things we know are going to happen and everyone can agree: demographics are getting older, government regulations will increase, technology will continue to enable new ways of doing things which means we will forever be in a state of dealing with legacy systems.
And to be clear, I don’t worry about legacy systems, I worry about legacy thinking as we approach our future. Our view of the future effects how we move forward. And that view is effected by our view of the past.
So learning to identify our position and opinions that shape our view, let us be aware and intentional. Then the hard facts enable us to focus on the things we can do something about. This is truly what makes it possible to anticipate what lies ahead. Are you using both the hard – data and the soft? The data empowers us to predict scenarios and prevent certain outcomes. Without this approach we will forever be in a react and respond mode and unable to lead.
And as we work to fill in the blanks, learning to identify the soft trends with a clear identifier of MIGHT will make it clear what we have left to figure out. It will prevent us from beginning to believe in the reality we have envisioned as REAL. It only lives in our scenario planning. This clarity of the hard, soft and our own opinions allows us to separate the noise from what really matters.
And it is in this moment we lead with clarity and can begin to practice the agility of our leadership and build our mastery of leading in this dynamic world.
I look forward to hearing how you challenge yourself to ask the “SO WHAT” question so you can lead with clarity and the intention to do your best work.