The One Most Powerful Strategy For Greater Leadership Success and Satisfaction

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I want to share with you the one strategy I’ve found that will help you become more successful and more satisfied. Can you become more successful and more satisfied with just one strategy?

Yes, and here it is: name and claim your expertise. When you name what you’re really, really good at and that compels and excites you, you are going to accelerate toward it’s achievement.

Let me give you an example. I am the expert at converting human potential into accelerated results. I have no misgivings about naming and claiming this and know it isn’t hyperbole. It is also not my ego speaking. It is a recognition that my flourishing business is rooted in my client experiences and that’s what allowed me to name and claim my expert status.

If you and I were having a conversation over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, as the expert in converting human potential into accelerated results I might even say, “I can help you create more dramatic performance improvements, more rapidly and more reliably than you ever imagined possible.” I can say that with utmost confidence and sincerity.

What do you say your expertise is when having a conversation with someone? If I asked you, ‘what are you the expert in,’ how would you answer the question? Don’t hesitate. Tell me what it is that you are the expert at doing.

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you get clear about your expertise, the moment you claim it and name it, you’re going to accelerate towards it. But if you cannot or do not name and claim your expertise you will not accelerate your performance.

This week, the one important question for you to answer is: what am I the expert at doing? Whether in medicine, technology, manufacturing or consulting, what are you the expert at doing? Get clear on that this week and you’ll cut the time it takes for you to achieve success appreciably.

Yours in speed.


Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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The belief that an open door policy is the best policy has expired. And just as with expiration dates on food and medications, the open door policy needs to be discarded before it does more harm than good.

The upside to an open door policy is that by having an open door you communicate to your most important customers, employees and stakeholders that they matter and that you will make time for them.

The downside is that by continually making time for others many leaders don’t take time for themselves, and by extension, don’t have the time required to think critically about their work. They believe that taking time for themselves is selfish and that the person in their doorway takes precedence. If you’re an emergency room physician this is understandable. If you’re a leader responsible for setting the future direction of your team or organization it doesn’t work as well.

Here are my four reasons why an open door policy needs to be reconsidered.

1. It erodes trust and respect. Leaders want their teams to think highly of themselves because employees who have high self respect trust their judgement. They are confident in their ability to develop new insights and make good decisions. When a leader is continually available the exit ramp taken for good decisions frequently is the leaders office. This builds trust in the leaders ability to solve the problem and not in the employees ability to think critically and develop their own solutions.

I covered this in greater detail in my Mastering Your Mindset teleconference. The audio replay is available for download here.
2. It drains the leader. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you need time to refresh and rejuvenate not only physically, but emotionally. To do that you need to turn off your responsibilities for thirty minutes at least once per day in order to be maximally effective. Yes, I said thirty minutes. In this time you can think deeper and more clearly about the past and how it is impacting your present, as well as how the present if left unattended is jeopardized your future by simply repeating the past.

I have clients who are in back to back meetings Monday through Friday. They arrive home conflicted about spending time with their most important relationships. They want to nurture their relationships as well as get the “real work” they were supposed to get done during the day accomplished but couldn’t because they were in meetings. This will drain you of your best thinking if left to continue indefinitely.

3. It sends the wrong message. When a leader keeps their door open the message is that their time is less important than their employees. One of the most respectful things a leader can do is close their door and remove themselves from their day-to-day priorities. It will send the message that in order for each person to maximize their potential there must be time to think, to reflect and to ask important strategic questions.

4. It changes your perspective. What you pay attention to, whether an asset or a liability, a strength versus a weakness, what’s working versus what’s not working…influences your perspective and in turn your behavior. Having time away from your daily priorities allows you to pay attention to what you pay attention to and to shift your perspective in positive ways.

Would you like time to think deeper about your work, your results and your future? If you do, I suggest you close your door.

Hugh’s Wednesday Words of Wisdom

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The Thinker

If you want feedback as to how you’ve performed or handled an issue, only ask for feedback from someone you trust and respect. There are far too many people who are willing to give you feedback; oftentimes unsolicited feedback, that don’t know you, are not an expert in your field or industry and who are more interested in hearing the sound of their own voice than they are of helping you. Feedback from this person should be eschewed at all costs. And with all feedback, if it doesn’t apply, let it fly.

The seven steps of converting fear into courage

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Concept of fearless

By nature I’m not a timid person. As far back as I can remember I was willing to ride my bike faster, jump out of taller trees, and venture beyond what seemed safe and comfortable. That boldness, as my mother called it, was a badge I wore with pride. A pride fostered by a quote from T.S. Elliot who said, “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”. I was nine years old when the risk of going too far found a new limit in me.

At nine years old, during an eight-hour flight from Glasgow, Scotland to St. Catherine’s, Canada, I experienced an unprecedented type of turbulence that resulted in our plane dropping 500 feet in a matter of seconds. This turbulence was so violent that it felt as though my seat had been suspended fifty feet in the air and dropped onto a concrete floor.

As seatbelts weren’t mandatory in 1968, passengers and flight personnel were found with broken bones and facial lacerations. At nine years old and halfway across the Atlantic Ocean I found myself in a makeshift emergency room at 37,000 feet. That was the day I learned to fear flying.

Thirty years later I jettisoned my fear of flying, as it had become a career limiting issue for me. As a consultant committed to helping executives and teams achieve higher levels of performance, I needed to fly to help them.

There are fears lurking in every leader and it impacts their performance. While their fears are different from mine, the most common fears I’ve found in leaders are:

1. A fear of holding people accountable
2. A fear of making mistakes
3. A fear of leaving a job that sucks the energy out of them the moment they walk in the office
4. A fear of not being seen as smart and successful
5. A fear of upsetting their boss or senior leaders
6. A fear of turning away from current successes in order to have even greater success
7. A fear of investing in themselves
8. A fear of making decisions

Fears like these inhibit us from thinking bigger, creates procrastination and mediocrity. In my consulting work I’ve worked with leaders who prefer sitting on the sidelines with their pristine corporate uniform on rather risking failure. Ultimately, there are long lists of lost opportunities created by a lack of courage, and the downward spiral of poor performance becomes all too real.

If you are a leader who wants to convert fear and trepidation into accelerated performance I developed a seven-step plan to help you do that. The seven steps are:

1. Calculate the costs and benefits:
Converting fear into courage starts with defining the costs associated with a fear and the benefits of removing the fear. The cost for my fear of flying was a $100,000 project in Denver. If I wasn’t willing to fly to Denver I would not be able to fulfill my obligations to my client. In turn, I would lose the project. That was a cost I was unwilling to bear.

The benefits of overcoming my fear were twofold; a significantly reduced anxiety level while flying along with an increased enthusiasm for traveling to cities and countries I wanted to visit. The benefits for me were greater than the costs of remaining fearful. When remaining the same becomes too expensive fear will be left behind.

2. Own the experience:
Having a clear and objective understanding of why you have your fear is essential. In my case I didn’t judge myself; I didn’t think I was weak or spineless. I simply owned the fact that I had an experience thirty years ago that left me fearful. The experience happened and I recognized that I simply needed to move beyond it.

Owning the experience for a CEO client started with her embracing the 100/0 rule. This rule says she is 100% responsible for creating a culture where accelerated performance is embraced and that she’ll offer zero excuses to her board for not doing so. The same holds true with converting fear into courage. Each of us is 100% responsible for owning our current situation and there are zero excuses for not improving it.

3. Be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
We all have a comfort zone, a place where things are known, safe and predictable. Remaining in our comfort zone however does not allow for growth or innovation to take place. If you want to experience something different, more rewarding and enriching, you have to move out of your comfort zone and be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

I recently spoke with a client who said the last three months of our working together were the most uncomfortable three months of his professional life. He said this based on conversations we had about his leadership team. He has come to realize that he has the wrong people in the wrong roles, and in turn, his hopes for higher performance will be stalled if he doesn’t make significant changes; changes that mean asking several employees to leave. This CEO accepts that his dreams of elevated performance are married to his willingness to be uncomfortable when making uncomfortable decisions.

4. Rehearse the outcome you want:
Rehearsing the type of flight I wanted to experience involved visualizing myself feeling comfortable while flying. I envisioned flying from takeoff to landing and saw myself experiencing turbulence and sitting calmly. I mentally rehearsed flights so many times that by the time I arrived at the airport my positive flying experience was not only ingrained in my thinking, it was on automatic pilot.

5. Adjust your attitude:
Attitude is everything when it comes to converting fear into courageousness. Moving from an attitude of flying is a fear-filled treacherous endeavor to a welcome adventure is a natural follow on to rehearsing your outcome. When Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines was told by analysts he was spending too much money on employee benefits, he responded, “sell your stock.” His attitude was not fearful, but courageous because he had an attitude of supreme confidence.

As leaders, instilling in employees a supreme confidence in their abilities is a competitive business advantage. Doing so starts when leaders recognize that an employees fear and uncertainty are normal and that their primary job is to help convert their fears into courageous next steps.

6. Engage an expert:
Converting fear into courageousness is not a solo activity. It’s far from it. Seeking out the expertise and support needed is essential to success. In my situation, I solicited the help of friends and family members and asked them for their support. Equally as important was interviewing a veteran pilot with 7,500 flight hours about turbulence. I used every tool available to me to overcome my fear including the guidance of a counselor who specializes in overcoming phobias.

7. Exert yourself:
It’s easy for me to convince myself that thinking is taking action. It’s not. Intellectualizing and or philosophizing will do little to overcome fear. Putting myself in an airplane seat and practicing everything I learned was what made the difference.

A CFO client is an exemplar of exerting himself. Bill schedules one hour for every call he has with me. When he calls he asks his most pressing question. At the moment he has the answer he needs he will say, “I got it.” With Bill this is usually fifteen to twenty minutes. He then hangs up and takes the remainder of his allotted time to execute what I’ve suggested. Bill believes that it is only by exerting himself beyond what is comfortable that he becomes a more effective leader.

Leaders are by nature not timid people. The simple act of accepting a leadership position communicates that a leader wants to improve their department of organizations performance. And therein lies the rub. Improved performance is a byproduct of changing processes, systems, and in some cases people. And change for many is a fear inducing process.

Leaders who overcome fear create courageous cultures; cultures inhabited by employees who are willing to be uncomfortable sometimes for extended periods of time. These leaders acknowledge that if and when employees become fearful, it is the leader who is required to be an exemplar as to how to navigate change and transformation. To do so they start by asking themselves the following three questions:

1. In what area of my professional life do I feel timid or uncertain?
2. What is my plan for seeing how far I’m capable of going as a leader?
3. Which of the above seven steps would provide me the most benefit if I embraced it now?

One simple way to correct your leadership vision

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One Simple Way To Correct Your Leadership Vision from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Getting Stuck

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MMM 09-09-2013 Getting Stuck from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Monday Morning Minute 06-17-2013

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Monday Morning Minute 06-17-2013 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Monday Morning Minute 06-03-2013

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MMM 06-03-2013 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Monday Morning Minute 04-01-2013

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Monday Morning Minute 11-12-2012

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