Category: Success

Five Steps to Take After Vacation

Five Steps to Take After Vacation

It is Tuesday after Labor Day, and millions of workers are returning to work. Emails have piled up. Meetings have been scheduled. Reports need to be finished. 2017 Budgets have to be reviewed and approved.

It is less than thirty days to the fourth quarter and the year’s end.

Stress starts the minute you arrive at work. The vacation glow is gone.

However here are five things you can do to be more productive after a vacation.

  1. Print out and display one or two photographs of you and your loved ones on vacation. The photograph will remind you of what is important in life.
  2. Share your best vacation memory with coworkers. No one wants to view all your vacation photos but sharing a story helps build rapport with the team, especially if it was a positive or funny experience.
  3. Start a new habit. Because you have gotten out of the work routine for a few days, it is a good time to start a new habit. Maybe it is taking a walk on break, or eating lunch with a different coworker every day, or reading leadership articles on a daily basis.
  4. Ask for and listen to the challenges and victories that arose while you were gone. Did one of your direct reports handle a project while you were gone? Did one of your coworkers get budget approval for hiring a new employee? It is a great time to express gratitude to your team.
  5. Focus on your long-term goals. When you return to work after vacation, it is easy to focus on “getting things done,” like deleting emails. It gives you a temporary sense of progress but won’t move you closer to your long-term goals. Take a half hour and review your long terms goals for 2016 and 2017 and make a list of ten accomplishes you will have by the end of the week and then focus on them.
  6. Bonus: Check in with your boss. I am surprised how many people return to their workplace and don’t check in with their manager right away. They can give you an idea what the hot issues are and what to focus your time on.

Take a deep breath – you have this.

Lessons from the Big Swim

Lessons from the Big Swim

The rain fell from the silver-grey sky onto the group of us. Standing on the windswept beach, we listened to the words we did not want to hear. The Big Swim was canceled due to the weather conditions. My brother and forty-five other swimmers had spent the better half of the year training to swim the 17 kilometers (10 miles) across the North Cumberland Strait from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island only to be disappointed.

The lead organizer had talked about the difference between our expectations and reality and defined it as the feeling of disappointment.  On that Sunday Morning, there were many disappointed people on the beach, some cried, some sighed, some bent their head in quiet prayer. A few optimistic souls shouted, “next year,” a rallying cry to know the effort, discipline and sacrifice had meant something.

As a support kayaker and a witness to the hard-work it takes to prepare for such a quest, I too was disappointed, for me, for my brother and for all those you had worked hard to be left standing in the rain on the beach; our goal was just out of reach across 17 kilometers of turmoil and lighting.

On my way home, I could not help but think that there were lessons to be learned from the Big Swim about how to achieve our own dreams. Below are the six lessons I learned and how they can help us achieve our goals faster.

  1. Preparation: The North Cumberland Straight, 17 kilometers wide at its narrowest, is known for its strong tidal currents and roaring winds. It is not a place to take for granted. Preparation is critical to the success of any who plan to swim across it. Training started with rising early every day and swimming. First in the pool, then in a lake, and then in the ocean until the swimmer was physically and mentally prepared to make the attempt.
  2. Support: The bigger your goal, the more support you will need. The support will come in a variety of sizes, from the little to the large. Before the event, my brother’s wife gave him support to train by watching their two young kids every Saturday morning. The organizers provided constant communication to make sure the swimmers had everything they needed to be successful. The day of the event, hundreds of supporters from kayak carriers, check-in volunteers, boat captains, and family members made sure the swimmers had everything they needed to be successful.
  3. Community: Community is essential to success. My brother met and trained with a group of like-minded swimmers from his home town. He learned from their experience; shared his expertise and leaned on them as the training took its toll. In the early Sunday morning dawn, together they lessened the disappointment of not swimming with laughter and hugs, sharing the loss to diminish its impact.
  4. Limitations: We all have limitations. We can choose to let them define us, or we can push against them. In the group of swimmers who were attempting the Big Swim, the ages ranged from 11 to 73 years. None of them let their limitations define them. The eleven-year-old could have let those who said it was too dangerous for her to stop her from doing what she wanted. She did not; she was in wave three – the elite swimmers; ready to go.
  5. Drive: The swimmers who had completed the swim before said that there is a time in the middle of the straight when exhaustion has crept into your muscles, and the sky and ocean have blended into one, you think about quitting but you continue till your feet hit the sand. No matter the goal, we have all reached that place where we want to stop. Those that are successful keep going pushing forward by an inner drive toward their goal.
  6. Celebration: Soon after the announcement of the cancellation of the Big Swim, a quiet applause rose from the crowd on the beach and slowly turned into a standing ovation for the swimmers. The applause was recognizing the effort they had made to reach this point on the beach, the hard-work, the dedication, and scarifies they made. We too need to recognize our progress and celebrate our wins.

 

Goals are just dreams without wings.

 

Even in disappointment, there are lessons to be learned. Thomas Eidson once said, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” No matter what we dream of accomplishing, we can not do it without a lot of hard-work, dedication, and sacrifice. As you plan your next business adventure, think about these six lessons and how you can apply them to achieving your dreams. As a leadership guide, I help people plan their dreams and provide the necessary skills and tools for them to be successful. If you are ready to start your journey, let’s get together and begin the work required for you to reach your dreams.

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

My wife and I have adopted two puppies this year, and as I was researching how to potty train our younger dog, I came across the headline, “The Myth of the Alpha Dog.” The article discussed how our belief that dog packs structures are based on an alpha dog or dominant dog is false. And that dogs have a more cooperative approach to pack structure.

This same myth is pervasive throughout our discussions on leadership. In the west, we have mythologized the single person as the saver of the world. The man on the white horse who comes in to save the day. When we talk about great discoveries, we talk about them as if a single person made the discovery. Admiral Peary had over 50 people with him as he tried to reach the North Pole in 1909 but the names of the other people have all been forgotten. We talk about great inventions; we talk as if a single person invented the light bulb. However, Thomas Edison had a team of “young muckers” working with him at Menlo Park. In the world of leadership, we talk of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, both who are famous for the companies they started. However both had strong partners working with them; Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates had Paul Allen. This isn’t to say that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not brilliant men, it is just to say that rarely do we do anything in isolation.

My research and experience have led me to the conclusion that the leadership team is more important than the single leader of an organization. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the importance of having the right people on the bus. This is even more important the closer you get to the top of any organization.

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

 

Why are leadership teams more valuable than a single leader?

  1. They provide a greater level of experience.
  2. They provide balance against a singular strength or limitation
  3. They offer diversity of thought.
  4. They provide the ability to delegate work
  5. They provide increased touch points to an organization

This does not mean that a leader can abdicate her responsibility for the team. It means that she has more resources to make the best decisions, create the best strategic vision and build the best team.

When I work to improve leadership teams, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Are the right individuals on the leadership team?
  • What behavioral changes will make them a better leadership team?
  • What is their level of motivation to improve the working dynamics?
  • How do they discuss different points of views?
  • Are they focused on the same vision of the organization?

Always start with an assessment of the team’s strengths and limitations. This gives a good understanding of what is working well together and what is not. I usually use an assessment tool, followed up with individual interviews. This provides an excellent groundwork to start working with the team to improve their team dynamic. Working with the leader and the team, we create a path to developing the leadership team dynamic. The goal is to understand the strengths and limitations of each member and that of the team. If you can create positive connections and a desire to move the organization forward, the team dynamic will improve.

The goal here is not to remove the leader or to dismiss the leader. The goal here is to provide a team of individuals working together to assist the leader in their challenges of running a large organization.  To create a cooperative approach to the team structure.

 

Together we are stronger than we are alone.

Walter Payton

 

 

How to Succeed at Almost Anything

How to Succeed at Almost Anything

The last thing most of us are thinking about right now is completing our New Year’s resolutions for 2016. It is the mad holiday rush. Shopping, Gift Wrapping, Holiday Concerts, Travel Plans, and Office Parties. Statistically, only eighteen percent of individuals who set New Year’s resolutions will succeed. This figure has preoccupied me over the last two years as I studied and research what makes leaders successful and what doesn’t.

In November, I was asked to put together a workshop on How to be Successful in Business. As I compiled the information what I came to realize is that the actions that make a business leader successful can make us successful as well. The one characteristic that all successful leaders have in common is a drive to be successful.

If you are willing to work towards your goal, you too can be successful. In this newsletter/blog, I provide four ideas when used in concert can provide you guidance toward your destination. These four ideas are from my leadership research and experience working with clients. Like all researchers, I stand on the shoulders of giants and build on the works of others including Marshall Goldsmith, Teresa Amabile, Seth Godin and numerous others who have provided me insights on my journey to success.

I hope that as you read this newsletter, it will inspire you to start your journey to success.

Dream Big:

 

“If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

William Arthur Ward

 

My life’s work is to be a leadership guide; a person who assist others to be successful organizational leaders. Where I cannot help, is when they cannot envision a better future self. My first interaction with any client is understanding what success feels and looks like to them. Only then can we start working together to develop a strategy to get from point A (present self) to Point B (Future Self).

Success does not have to be “Big Change the World Dreams.” Success can be “change your world dreams.” It might be as simple as losing ten pounds, saving for a new car, getting a new job, taking a family trip, better communications with your significant other, or start a business. For my business clients, it usually centers around having a greater impact on the business.

The first step is to put your dream into writing and to follow the rules of SMART Goals by making it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you do this, you have started on your journey to being a success. For some, this is a difficult task because although they can envision it in their mind, translating it to paper so others can understand it. For these individuals, I suggest doing self-brainstorming where you are capturing pieces of your dream and pulling them together in a single place. This process will help you visual what success looks like for you and help you better explain it to others. This process is not a quick process and will take time for you to develop a clear understanding of your definition of success.

Focus:

 

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Maya Angelou

 

 

When working with my clients, the next step to being successful is understanding what actions or behaviors they need to focus on to be successful. For this, I use a tool called the change triangle which was introduced to me by an executive Vice President I worked with. It is a simple but powerful tool that helps us understand what we need to do to be successful by asking ourselves three questions.

  1. What behaviors or actions do I need to continue to be successful at my goal? This question allows us to keep certain behaviors to be successful. It grounds us in our present day self, reminding us that we do not have to discard who we are to be successful. For example, if it is your goal to lose ten pounds before the next college reunion (Note the SMART goal elements in this goal), there are probably certain behaviors you are presently doing that are helping with that goal. For my wife and I we like to walk our dogs, this is an activity we should continue to help us in our goal of losing weight.
  2. What behaviors or actions do I need to stop doing to be successful at my goal? For most of my clients and participants in my workshops, this question defies logic. For most of our lives, we are told to grab the gold, reach for your dreams, or become all you can be. All forward driven phrases. Except if we do not stop doing certain behaviors our chances of being successful diminish. When I was a teenager, my father would take my siblings and me hiking. One of the things, he always reminded us, was to make sure we kept our pack as light as possible, especially when we were climbing some of the higher mountains. This wisdom is good for our goals as well. What are those behaviors that hold us back, create extra weight on our journey to success? For me when it comes to losing weight, I know that I need to stop sitting on the couch at night. Not only am I not getting any exercise; it tends to be the place I eat subconsciously.
  3. What behaviors or actions do I need to start doing to be successful at my goal? For most people this is straight forward; they understand the activities they will help them be successful in their pursuit of their goals. If not, they can hire life or business coaches like me to help them develop an awareness of what behaviors will make them successful at their goal. As you develop behaviors, it is important that you define them regarding SMART behaviors. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, for losing weight, you might write your response as, “I will do cardio exercise for forty-five minutes three days a week.” This action helps you measure the progress you are making toward success.

Measure Progress:

The next step toward success is measuring our progress so we can see how far we have come. With holiday travels starting soon, I am reminded of those road trips with my family where one road looked like the other, and I could never figure how far we had progressed toward my grandparent’s house, hence the question from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?”

In their book, Progress Principle, Teresa Amiable, and Steven Kramer note the importance of creating small wins to keep moving toward our goals. The challenge for most of us is how we track our progress to make sure we are heading in the right direction. I have two basic methods which I have used with my clients.

The first was introduced to me my Marshall Goldsmith, Executive Coach, and New York Times Best Selling author. He calls it the Daily Questions and wrote about it in his book “Triggers.” In its basic form, it is a spreadsheet with the list of the behaviors/activities we want to focus on in one column and the days a week in the row above.

Each day rate yourself against the behaviors by asking the question “Did I do my best to …” and then the behavior. If you do this for two weeks, a month. You will start seeing trends; those behaviors you are putting effort towards and those you are not. At this point, you have a choice to either work on those behaviors so you can be successful or admit that you are not willing to change certain behaviors. Moreover, if the latter is the case, you have an additional choice to decide whether the goal you are working towards is important to you and if you can succeed in that goal without changing that particular behavior. For instance, if I am trying to lose weight and have chosen not eating potato chips as a behavior but realize that after a month, I have not been as successful as I like at stopping eating potato chips. I know have a choice. Do I allow myself to eat potato chips or do I refocus my energy on not eating potato chips or do I stop trying to lose weight? Hard choice for sure. However, changing our behavior is not easy.

The second way to measure our progress is to use technology. There are numerous coaching apps on our smart phones that we can purchase to help us. And if you have the resources and are going to make a concentrated effort, go for it.

However, I have found an easier way to use technology to help us. All of our smart phones come with a reminder app which we can use to our benefit. Right now open your reminder app and write this question down.

 

“I have I done my best to change my behavior so that I can reach my goal of. . .”

 

Now set this as a daily reminder so that it appears as an appropriate time for you. If you are a morning person, it may be first thing in the morning. If you are an evening person, it may be right after dinner. When it appears, visualize your goal for five minutes and think about your behaviors and if you did your best to succeed. In time, you will be able to create a better focus approach on how you can exceed.

Find your community.

Lastly, find your community or tribe. In his book, Tribe, Seth Godin tells us the importance of having likeminded people in our lives. When you are trying to be successful toward a goal, whether it is losing weight or saving money, running a successful business, it is important to have people who are on the same journey as you.

I always envision the pioneers who crossed our great country in the Conestoga wagons. They were a tribe of like-minded individuals searching for a better life. Together they dealt with all the obstacles and challenges crossing the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountains by sharing information, working together and supporting one another.

Most people will turn to close friends and family to be part of their community, but this is wrong. Although they will be supportive, they are on different journeys and will not be able to understand the challenges and obstacles you face. If you are trying to lose weight, you are not going to look for your community of dieters at your local bar. The best place to look will be in your local gym. So think about who your community is and where you can best find them.

Success:

 

“We often miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Thomas A. Edison

 

 

Opportunity and Success are siblings; one leads to the other. The more success you have, the more opportunities are given to you. Above I have provided four ideas to make you successful in reaching your next goal. These tips will be useful as you begin your journey to success. They will provide you touch points to help you keep moving in the right direction.

Does your team know when it is winning?

Does your team know when it is winning?

It is always satisfying at the end of the game to see my Green Bay Packers with the winning score. Every player knows, no matter how well they did individually, it does not matter unless the game ends in the win column. This same expectation is found in the performing arts as well. When the audience rises in ovation at the end of the show, the cast and crew know they have succeeded in delighting the audience with their work.

In business, the connection is not always clear cut. Sure profits are always good. Increase Sales are also always good. High customer service ratings are also always good. Best Product or Service Best Quality Awards are also always good.

Unlike a single game or performance, work is an ongoing process that never has a satisfactory conclusion. There is always more you can do the next day to change the score. However, like a game, there are times when you are losing (not meeting expectations), or there are times when you are winning (exceeding expectations). Near the end of each financial period, we tally, looking at the data whether we are successful or not. At the year’s end, we look even harder at the numbers squeezing every piece of information to achieve our objectives.

However, these defined objectives are hard to understand because they can seem arbitrary to the people on the front line. For instance, at one large corporation, I worked for our goal was to increase EBITDA by a certain percentage point each year. We use the traditional business formula to make this happen, cutting expenses and increasing sales. When we meet our goals the front office was happy; when we did not achieve our goals, they were unhappy. The staff on the front line felt the difference in numerous ways but had a hard time understanding how their work impacted the outcome.

However, there are successful companies that are transparent on how success is measured. In one company I know, they were bold and proud about what success was. In the manufacturing plant’s main hallway a sign was posted defining success.

We win when:

  1. There are zero safety or security issues or violations.
  2. Our values remain intact
  3. We produce ### of widgets at a rate of 96% Quality Perfection Rate
  4. Keep waste to 1% of the run – the aim is zero. (It is our Planet, after all)
  5. We hug our families today

At the end of each shift, the General Manager would record how well they did on each with the exception of #2. The #2 tally was given to an employee chosen at random who privately handed his score into the General Manager. Because it was more subjective, it was always interesting to see how the score varied day to day. No matter, the general manager always addressed the score and talked to the shifts about it. Good or bad.

The employees at this manufacturing plant knew when they had succeeded; they also knew they would have an avenue to discuss challenges that kept them from being successful at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for most employees. The information necessary for an employee to understand if the team has been successful is too far removed, i.e. the percentage change in EBITDA or too vague, good customer service values, to have any impact. Every manager needs to communicate clearly, consistently and continuously how the individual is successful, how the department is successful, and how the business is successful.

In one case, one of my colleagues had a new role and started working on what success looked and felt like for one of the positions within his team. He did this first my understanding the position through interviewing and shadowing the employees. After a period, he narrowed the definition of what success looked and felt like to his team. He presented this to his team and then listened to their feedback and made adjustments he thought made sense.

He started tracking success for each shift and each employee. The employees knew when there were and when they were not meeting this new definition of success. In time all his employees were exceeding his expectations, so he raised the requirements slightly to challenge the employees. Moreover, again his employees rose to the challenge. Some struggled at first but he paired them with more successful employees, and they too raised to this new level of excellence. However, what he was must proud of was during this whole period, was that his employee engagement scores continued to rise. He contributed this to working with the employees to set the expectations and to the communication of the results on a consistent basis to his team. They knew they were winners.

Does your team know if they are winning?