Be All You Can Be!

June 29, 2011

Years ago, the Army had a recruiting campaign that used the slogan, “Be All You Can Be!” and I love that phrase! 

Who wants to settle for mediocre or average, or for anything less than what’s possible? That’s just silly! 

And yet, one of the Laws of the Universe is that inertia and comfort and habits and ordinary patterns of life conspire to keep us where we are. Even if we are frustrated at work or wish we had more money, a bigger home or more education, the great tendency is to “settle.” We’re busy people and we run out of time, we run out of energy, and our ambition evaporates. 

That’s normal. And it’s tragic! 

It’s long been known that humans use only a tiny portion of our intelligence. We develop only a tiny fraction of our talent and ability. We work hard, but we don’t generally push ourselves to develop our potential to become something

— and someone — special. 

Inside each of us is a genius eager to break free. Inside every single person is an inventor, an artist, a writer, an engineer or a researcher who could change the world.

Except we’re too busy and we lack faith. 

I love Malcolm Gladwell’s little book, “Outliers: The Story of Success.” He writes that genius actually has very little to do with intelligence. Rather, he shows that what most people call genius is actually the result of unusual dedication and effort. He talks about the mathematicians, musicians, scientists and business leaders who transformed our world not because they were unusual people (they weren’t “born that way”) but because they put dedication and focus into pursuing their passion. 

And that opportunity is available to each of us. While they worked or went to school, or raised a family, these “geniuses” also pursued a dream, and they kept at it “until.” 

I love that Albert Einstein was not particularly brilliant at math! He didn’t do well in school and couldn’t get a teaching position when he graduated. I love that he published his Special Theory of Relativity while working as a clerk in the Post Office! And that throughout his career he depended on talented mathematicians to develop his theories because he always felt his “genius” was in his exquisite imagination, more than his math skill. To me, that’s inspiring! 

We all know of former couch potatoes who go on to run a marathon. We know of people who were bankrupt and later built major fortunes. Or how about those who struggled with drugs or alcohol or some other problem who go on to become extraordinary parents or community leaders? It’s called Personal Development, and it’s available to each of us. 

People have been writing to ask me how to get started. I write back suggesting they “start where you are and do what you love.” 

Would your career be richer if you were slightly better at your job? Would your world expand if you learned a new language, or if you added a new word to your vocabulary each day this summer? Would you feel better if you were healthier, stronger or slimmer? It’s called Personal Development! 

Would your family benefit if you developed your skills as a parent, spouse, lover or partner? Would you enjoy reading a bit more, or listening to audio programs on your daily commute? Would your retirement be a bit richer if you joined an investment club? It’s called Personal Development. 

The temptation is to settle. We are busy, no doubt about that! We have obligations, commitments and responsibilities.

But we also have the ability to grow, to learn, to become more than we are. And, of course, the fact is that we do change over time, whether we guide and direct that change or not. 

One of the greatest secrets of long-term, magnificent success is Personal Development. Over time, day by day and moment by moment, we change and become someone new. The question is whether (or not) we intentionally grow to become the people we want to be. In the moments and hours of your day, take charge of your life! “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”

By Phil Humbert

What is the last thing you did for your Personal Development?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Five Leadership Rules

June 22, 2011

1.  Have confidence in yourself.   Always believe in your abilities to be a great manager and leader.  Tackle all situations and dilemmas that come your way with enthusiasm and gusto.  The fact that you are reading this shows you have the desire and talent that exists within you.  Show you have the confidence and believe in yourself, and others will believe in you as well.  In time you will develop a sort of “instinct” when something needs attention, and a “presence” that people will find ensuring.  You will come across like a leader without even having to say a word.

 2.  Act the way you want others to act, walk the walk you talk, lead  by example, practice what you preach, etc.  These are old clichés but some of the most important tips to build respect within your organization.  If your team sees you working hard, they will work hard.  If they think your slacking, they will start slacking off.  If you tell them what to do, but you do it differently, they will not see you as an honest leader.  If you want an optimistic and positive team, then you need to always be optimistic and positive.  When your employees see that you act in the same manner you expect from them, a true sense of respect will begin to build.  These are just a few of some obvious, but extremely important, leadership skills.

 3.  Honesty and integrity is key.  People do not necessarily expect managers to always have a quick fix to solve the issues, but do expect fundamental leadership principles of honesty and goodness.  In due time you will earn credibility, which is a major leadership trait.  With the high level of integrity they will see in you as a leader, comes the trust that you are not the cause of the issues.  They will automatically know that you, as a manager, will truly do all you can to solve the issues.

4.  Emulate a person who you truly respect as a leader.  There must be someone you know whose leadership skills you thought were admirable.  It could be, or could have been, a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a relative who you admired as a person with respectable leadership characteristics.  Someone who inspired you to want to work hard, to not only try to impress, but to show you cared about the mission at hand.  Study how they made the right and effective decisions using certain facts, opinions, and ideas.  Look for the leadership qualities you would like to incorporate into your leadership style.  By remembering what it was about them that inspired you, you can emulate that style when your leadership skills are called upon.

5.  Listen more than talk.  You will earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening, rather than just blowing your own hot air.  Let them share their passion, and when the time is right, you can interject with passion of your own about the subject at hand.

Question:  What is one of your leadership rules?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Who Are Your ‘Eyes On the Ground’?

June 15, 2011

No matter how long we’ve been doing it, many of us who own and ride horses continue to take lessons from time to time.  The major reason is to see what we can’t see.  When you are in the saddle, you can feel your horse, move your horse and communicate with your horse.  And, your horse can feel, move and communicate with you.                           

Taking a lesson gives you ‘eyes on the ground’ . . . someone who can see what you are doing from a different perspective and view.  This person sees your hands, your legs, your posture, your movement, your reactions, your communication.  They also see what your horse is feeling, how he/she is moving and responding, what he/she is ‘saying’.  This different perspective helps you be your best so that your horse can be his/her best!  It increases the rider’s performance and confidence and increases the horse’s performance and satisfaction.  

Just like riders need eyes on the ground to continue to improve and grow, people who manage people can benefit from the same.  How do you know how well you are doing to bring out the best in your people?  How do you know what could be improved to increase your employee’s performance and satisfaction?  

Here are a few ways to gain perspective and to regularly assess and increase your effectiveness. 

  1. Ask your employees how you are doing.  Do they have the information, resources and support they need from you?  Do they understand your expectations and how well they are performing?  Are you available?  Are you communicating clearly?  What else do they need from you to be their best?
  2. Ask your peers.  What’s working, what could be improved?  If they could give you one piece of advice, what would it be? 
  3. Ask your manager.  Are you meeting expectations?  What are your strengths?  What is one thing that you could do better? 
  4. Complete a formal 360 process.  Work with your HR department or a management coach to source and conduct an anonymous feedback process on you where input is provided by your manager, your employees, your peers and you.
  5. Work with a management coach.    A coach can see you and be candid about what they see.  They can be your ‘eyes on the ground’.  During your regular conversations, they see your style, your reactions, your strengths, your confidence and how you manage stress.  They can also collect input from your employees, peers and/or manager, facilitate open dialog with you and others and teach you new skills to be a more effective leader and bring out the best in your people.   

Having ‘eyes on the ground’ will increase your awareness of your strengths and opportunities and increase your employees’ and your own performance and satisfaction.

Question:  How do you regularly assess your performance?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

Are you a Strong Leader?

June 8, 2011

Being known as a strong leader is easy to obtain when you know in your heart you are doing the right thing for the “good of all.”  Here are five key points, which are the pillars to being a successful leader that you should absorb into your consciousness.   

 1.  Develop trust and credibility.  When people trust you, they will be more inclined to follow you.  If they follow you, and you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, you will succeed.  A leader builds trust by considering the “good of all” when making decisions. Leaders do not abuse their power, but build trust by using it properly.  Trust fosters collaboration, which contributes to openly sharing information, which then creates a solid team who supports each other.  Trust is based on the respect and expectations of a leader who cares and acts with compassion in a most positive way.  With trust there is:  

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Good relationships

Incorporating these five traits will help guide you on the right path to strong leadership.

 2.  Share the vision with absolute clarity.  Leaders need to share the vision of what they want their department to achieve.  For example, a leader might share a vision like, “We will be a world class customer service organization that provides the benchmark for customer satisfaction.”  To get others to see and understand your vision, you need to motivate and inspire with the same enthusiasm and positivity you have inside you. 

It is vital, however, that your team understands the vision, and is 100% clear on the objectives.  People with a shared vision are more productive and have a greater sense of achievement. 

You also need to listen to what they are saying.  Doing all the talking does not let them participate in the vision quest with their ideas.   

Tracking and assessing successes, as well as failures, helps put the right goals and processes in place to reach the vision.  If the employees always know where they stand, they will know what part they played in achieving the vision. 

3.  Be there to help them succeed – Coaching, mentoring, communicating, and listening.  Great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader.  You don’t lead by sitting behind your desk.  Be out there and find the strengths and talents of your employees, and place them where they can shine.  They need to know how their strengths serve the objectives.  Show them the respect they deserve and that you have their interests at heart. 

The bottom line is that they need to know that you will be there to help them succeed.  You can do this by:

  • Coaching.  Try and help them improve their skills to do their job better.  Give them feedback on their performance with observations and give good advice.  Use specific statements rather than general comments, whether good or bad.
  • Mentoring.  Help them understand what you are all about, guide them for a better chance of promotion and have them learn about other aspects and functions of the business.
  • Communicating.  Clearly share your vision and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due and take the time for one-on-one meetings. 
  • Listening.  Let them share ideas, concerns and know you are approachable and caring without judgment.    

The most important aspect here is that you are always looking at ways to help develop your employees’ unique skills, both individually and as a group, for a better future including possible growth in the company.  This is a win for the company as well.  The company will gain more productive employees who are ready to take on new challenges and roles as they become available.  

4.  Make the decisions and be held accountable.  Make the right decisions and guide your department into the right direction. 

Clearly define the issue you are solving

  • Sift the data for facts and relevance. 
  • Look closely at the issue at hand while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • Talk to and involve subject experts if needed. 
  • Don’t make a decision too quickly unless necessary. 
  • Think about the cost-benefit for both short-term and long-term. 
  • Once a decision is made, do not be wishy-washy or unsure about yourself.  You will be seen as a person who can be easily persuaded with little confidence. 

You as a leader are expected to take some chances and you might make some risky decisions.  In saying that, as people expect to be held accountable in their job performance, they also expect you to be held accountable as their leader.  If you fail or deny any wrong doing on your part, or place blame on someone else, you will lose credibility and not be seen as an effective leader. 

You also need to know when it is better to follow, rather than lead, by trusting your employees’ suggestions.  Leaders realize they can’t know all the answers, and earn respect when they seek advice of others when needed.    

Being held accountable is a positive thing, as you want to be known for the good things that you do.  The same goes for your employees as it makes them feel important and appreciated.  You do, however, need to allow people to sometimes fail or make mistakes during the process of achieving difficult goals.  You also need to confront them.  By using your management and leadership skills, people will admit their mistakes and accept accountability.  Your skills as leader will also help and coach them to improve.  

Make sure your decisions are always ethically sound.  Do not ask or expect your team to get the results unethically or use a “no matter what it takes” approach.

5.   Keep it all under control and headed in the right direction.  The objective of every leader should come with the mindset of striving for “mission accomplished.”  You, as leader and manager, need to focus on what’s most important related to the vision and goals of the organization.  You need to eliminate chaos and be known as a person with authority who can make the right decisions.  You might have 5 projects going on at once, but focusing more on the least important when the most important is in need of help will destroy your vision and miss your goals.  Make sure you get your team to focus on the most important and critical tasks to achieve the goals.  By delegating tasks to the right people, fulfillment of the vision will become more likely.

  Everyone needs to have the same focus and direction you have.  A sense of community within the team, with a common goal, is key.  If you waver and change your mind and direction continually, you will lose trust.  Consistency is key to maintaining control and keep things going in the right direction. 

 These “five key points” are the core competencies to strong leadership.  Which of these competencies are your strengths and what could you be doing better?

Question:  What do you think your employees would rate you on each of these competencies?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Teamwork.

Another Lesson from the Horses

June 1, 2011

It was a gorgeous, warm day with LOTS of wind.  So I decided to work the horses in the round pen rather than go for a ride.  It also gave me an opportunity to work with both horses, rather than only take one out that day.  

The primary purpose of using the round pen is to teach your horse to listen and respect you.  You do this by talking to the horse in his language – body language – not by talking out loud.  Do you remember the cartoon Charlie Brown?  When the adults talked, all the kids heard was ‘blah blah blah . . . “  I think it’s the same with horses.  We want to believe that they understand ‘our’ language, and in some cases they do.  But if we really want our horses to listen and do what we want them to do, we need to speak their language.  

So, there we were in the round pen.  And, I was speaking their language and they were listening!  I worked with Buddy first and he was an angel.  I would point him in the direction I wanted him to go and he did exactly what I wanted.  I gave him the cue to trot and he did.  I cued him to canter and he did.  He was perfect.  When I stepped back and stopped moving, he turned towards me and stopped – perfect!  I would point him in the opposite direction and he did what I asked.  After a while, he started to get bored with the circling and I began to get frustrated that he was no longer being perfect.  My frustration led me to be inconsistent with my language with Buddy which led Buddy to get confused and frustrated with me.  We weren’t communicating and as hard as Buddy was trying to do what I was asking, he couldn’t perform.  I finally began to listen to Buddy, figured out what he needed to meet the expectations and we ended on a good note.  

Then it was Blue’s turn.  Lucky for Blue, I was a quick learner.  Buddy had taught me that I needed to listen and communicate consistently with him.  Because of that, Blue performed well, neither of us got frustrated or confused and we met the expectations for the day.   

Moral of this story

  1. Consistent communication – Communicate the expectations in a way that your employee can understand.  Speak their language, not yours, and make sure you are consistent in the way you communicate and reinforce the performance with rewards and consequences. 
  2. Listen – Check in with your employees on a regular basis to assess progress and offer support.  Listen to what’s working and where they may need some support. 
  3. Keep it under control – Manage your emotions – if things aren’t going well, point the finger towards yourself first.  Assess whether you have communicated the expectations clearly and if you have provided the necessary training and resources for your employee to be successful. 

Question:   How do you manage your emotions when expectations are not met?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development, Teamwork.

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