Archives for February 2012

The four reasons why people get stuck

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In my most recent Monday Morning Minute, I expressed my deep frustration with having to spend four months replacing the front door of my house. This makes no sense to me since it only took two months to remodel my kitchen!

In addition to hearing horror stories about home improvement projects gone amok, I also heard from readers who asked me to expand on why some leaders, teams and or organizations get and or remain stuck. I’m happy to do so.

There are four primary reasons why people either get or stay stuck – two of them I’m posting today and the remaining two tomorrow.

1. Indifference:
Indifference is best characterized by a lack of caring. People who are indifferent recognize that a project, task or issue needs to be addressed, but don’t see any value or importance in doing so. Indifference can be caused by limited resources and or time, both of which are understandable and can be addressed.

But when indifference creeps into your customer interactions as it has with three out of the five contractors working on my front door, then as Tom Hanks said in Apollo 13, “Mission control, we have a problem.”

Indifference is rooted in prioritization, and prioritization is influenced by what’s important to you. If, as a leader you believe it’s a priority to spend time with employees enabling them to feel engaged and excited about making a difference in their customers life, you will prioritize your time accordingly. If on the other hand that’s not a priority, you devote your time to other areas. In my case, my contractors are indifferent to me because they see our door as a small project and less important than other larger projects. Is this understandable? Yes. Is it building trust, respect and a pipeline of referrals? No.

Spending time with people who are indifferent takes energy, so the best strategy I’ve found for dealing with indifference is benign neglect…simply minimize the amount of time you spend with people who are indifferent. If you don’t their indifference plants mustard seed sized seeds of indifference in your own imagination. Guard against this at all costs.

Aside to reader: This can be the most frustrating of the four reasons why people remain stuck for you to deal with. While you undoubtedly have high hopes and aspirations for your work and personal life, you have to learn to be more discerning about what’s most important to you and the company you choose to keep.

2. Ignorance:
Ignorance is characterized as either not knowing “how” to do something (which can be corrected with education or training) or its cousin, a lack of knowledge regarding the consequences or impact of a decision (which can be corrected with greater awareness). In either case ignorance is not a crime, but it does cause unnecessary frustration and eventually customer dissatisfaction or defection.

We all know or have worked with someone who claims ignorance and uses it as a form of manipulation. We also know or have worked with someone who uses ignorance as a way of avoiding responsibility. In both cases, people who use ignorance as a crutch end up allowing one person to over-function (typically you) and another person to under-fuction (typically them). In the real world this is called dysfunctional.

Let me give the benefit of the doubt to the vast majority of people you and I work with. Most people want to do good work and they want to make a difference. What they also want is to be coached and or mentored and to get better at what they do. For most people they recognize that they have a blind spot and are open to replacing their ignorance with inspired performance.

Aside to reader: While ignorance is not a crime, remaining intellectually complacent is a career limiting move that also is the death knell for all of your important relationships. Remaining vibrant and engaged requires the courageousness to think bigger and the curiosity to question your assumptions.

Here are two questions for you:
1. Which of the above two reasons do you deal with the most?
2. Which of the above two reasons do your direct reports deal with the most?

Monday Morning Minute 02-27-2012

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Monday Morning Minute 02-20-2012

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Today’s Monday Morning Minute is longer than usual…but worth it.

Words to thrive by

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Muhammad Ali once said:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

If you agree with his quote I have two questions for you:

1.  What part of your personal or professional life have you told yourself “that’s impossible?”

2.  What would happen if you turned that area of your life into a dare instead of a declaration?

No matter what your answers are, just remember that impossible is temporary and is nothing!

 

 

 

Ten Attributes of High Performing Leaders

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I was asked yesterday by a CEO client to list what I thought were the essential characteristics of high performing leaders and team members. After giving a disclaimer about high levels of competency and a deep expertise in their respective areas, I provided my top ten list of suggested attributes for leadership and team effectiveness.

1.  Passion: Successful leaders and team members have one idea that has grabbed hold of them and won’t let go. They can genuinely, enthusiastically and readily talk about their idea and the linkage to an uplifting and desirable future. They are passionate communicators and use powerful language to infuse hope and optimism in others.

2.  Curiosity: Successful leaders and team members have a deep curiosity about people and what makes them tick. They are continuously looking at and discussing how to build greater effectiveness with and through people as well as technology. They are also curious about their brand and are committed to enhancing it. Their curiosity has them traveling to diverse places, reading broadly and being intellectually engaged both at work and at home.

3.  Courage: Successful leaders and team members have the courage to turn their back on what has made them successful in the past. They still experience fear but see courage as essential for accomplishing something noteworthy. They embrace their fears and move forward confidently knowing they are smart enough to learn and grow from whatever they experience.

4.  Credibility: Successful leaders and team members recognize that being able to make a contribution takes personal influence. They know that people will willingly follow them only if people believe them to be authentic, credible and believable. They agree with the admonition that people only believe the message if they first believe the messenger, and in turn they strive to be exceptional role models.

5.  Urgency: Successful leaders and team members have a healthy dissatisfaction with their current performance. They are continuously thinking bigger about their own personal leadership as well as their role in creating a culture of continuous learning, experimentation and risk taking. They also believe that speed coupled with passionate dedication can achieve something noteworthy.

6.  Ownership: High performing teams have members who take responsibility not only for the performance of the team, but they also take complete responsibility for the quality of their personal and professional lives. Simply put, there are no victims on high performing teams. The prevailing mindset is one of “what can I do to make a difference and if I can’t make a difference then I need to make an exit from the team.”

7.  Tenacity: Successful leaders and teams don’t give up. Once they have a clearly defined desired future (one they are passionate about and have the courage to pursue) they exhibit deep reserves of resolve and determination. They believe in progress not perfection and are tenacious in the face or adversity.

8.  Agility: The world of work demands that leaders and team members be comfortable with ambiguity and that they don’t expect all aspects of their work to be expressed in black and white terms. They have the ability focus intently while remaining open to recalibrating their course of action whenever they learn of a better course of action.

9.  Discernment: The ability to filter large amounts of information and determine the one or two most salient actionable points is essential for leaders and teams. Effective leaders listen to gain information, ask questions to understand diverse points of view, and act confidently even in the face of competing ideas and or demands.

10.  Results Focused: Successful leaders and team members recognize the difference between taking action and getting results. Their focus is on results and use all of the preceding traits and characteristics to drive their team, department or organization forward.

I hacve three questions for you:

1. Which of the ten attributes do you do best?

2. Which one challenges you the most?

3. If you could leverage your greatest strength more while also reducing the effects of the attribute you feel challenges you, what impact would that have on your performance?

 

 

Monday Morning Minute: Discipline

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Monday Morning Minute 2-6-2012

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The American author and sportswriter, Haywood Hale Broun, once said “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” This quote and its sister “Adversity doesn’t build character. It reveals it” are quotes that warrant our attention on this first day of the week.

In almost every endeavor we undertake, we will experience adversity. We will work with people who don’t have the same level of commitment, passion, or possibly even care about our customers or our results. We will be told our resources are being cut, our timeline has been shortened, and that the scope of our work has changed.

In these situations an all important question is – how do you respond as a leader? Do you remain grounded and look at the adversity as a challenge and opportunity? Or, do you lose your footing and get angry that yet again someone has done something they shouldn’t have?

It is in these moments of adversity that our character is on display for all to see. Employees watch us to see how to respond; customers watch to see if we care about them and want to help; and, probably most importantly, we’ll watch ourselves to see if that which we’ve read in our leadership development books and articles has taken root and is showing up in our behavior.

In order for us to grow as leaders and to handle whatever adversity comes our way, we have to learn the following three strategies for handling adversity.

1. Resolve to take meaningful and intentional action to eliminate the challenge and produce a positive outcome
2. Resign yourself to the situation remaining the same – and do so without being a victim
3. Remove yourself from the situation

Which strategy do you use most often? Is there another strategy that might be beneficial?