Leadership Advance

Leadership Thoughts for Life Long Learners

Archive for the tag “Forward Progress”

You Might Be A Nag If?

We have all been guilty of eavesdropping in on a conversation at a restaurant or a coffee shop.  The other day I was guilty of listening in to a conversation between two individuals.  From all appearances it was a manager or employer with an employee.  The main mode of operation from this individual was to take out a microscope on everything that the employee had done wrong.  Mind you, I believe clear communication is important and there comes a time when you need to sit down and communicate effectively and clearly as to what the expectations are in the relationship.  This conversation did not feel like a clear communication moment from leader to team member, it felt more like the leader was “nagging” about every little thing the team member was doing.

While it may feel like human nature to nag for performance enhancement, it rarely…. if ever actually works.  The moment a leader begins to nag is the moment the leader ceases to lead.  There are many reasons why I believe nagging does not work in leadership, here are just a few:

1.  Nagging focuses on what is going wrong as opposed to what is going right.

2.  Nagging makes the assumption that the team member knows what to do and how to do it.

3.  Nagging takes the approach that the leader does not value the individual over the task.

4.  Nagging is more about lifting the leader’s ego than actually moving the team forward.

So, if nagging doesn’t work, what does?  The best way to change behavior is to focus on inspiring change.  Instead of focusing on what is wrong, focus on what the individual is doing right and then transition to raising the bar where they are falling short.  Inspire your team to BE more so that they can DO more.  Leaders will many times skip the human “being” (inspiration) of people and focus on human “doing” (the task).  For example, it is much easier for me to love when I have been loved, it is much easier for me to forgive when I have been forgiven.   So…… LEADER, how does your team view you?  As an Inspiration or a Nag?  Hopefully this blog INSPIRES you to be the Leader your called to be.

Self Fulfillment vs. Self Development

I was reading John Maxwell book, “15  Invaluable Laws of Growth” and was deeply impacted by what he stated in the Law of Contribution.  Maxwell differentiates the difference in living a life focused on Self Fulfillment vs a life focused on Self Development.

Self Fulfillment – thinks of how something serves me.

Self Development – thinks of how something helps me to serve others.

Self Fulfillment – feeling good is the product.

Self Development- feeling good is the by-product.

I do not know any leader that would not list one of the goals of their lives as desiring a feeling of self fulfillment.  Yet, according to these definitions we realize that living with the focus of self development is a much deeper and generous claim.  I have no doubt fallen into the trap of desiring self fulfillment at different times in my life.  Yet, when self fulfillment becomes the goal it sabotages the culture you work in.  The insinuation is that there is a defining moment when we arrive.  The moment we think we have arrived we begin to lose our grip on the progress we have made.  When self development becomes the aim, we never buy in to the mindset that there is some elusive “arrival” and we focus on consistently getting better as we progress forward.

 

 

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Yesterday I was struck yet again with the fact that many of the best lessons we learn in life come from ordinary things.  I had such an experience yesterday while I was getting a haircut.  As I made my way to the chair the stylist asked a question that causes stress to rise in just about any guys mind, “How do you want your haircut?”  The answer to this question is the same as every other time; I desire my hair just how it is, just shorter.  Then the stylist asked how much hair I wanted her to cut…. a half inch… and inch?  So, in the best way possible I gave her some pointers and she told me she would cut it and then I could take a look at it and let her know what I thought.
When a few moments were completed she turned my chair around for the final REVEAL.  I looked straight into the mirror in front of me and checked out the front of my hair.  After a quick perusal I looked in the mirror as it reflected an image of the back of my head from another mirror.  The stylist then asked me a question that stirred my thoughts, she said, “Is this what you were thinking?”  In that moment the stylist was looking for me to evaluate the work she had done and give her feedback as to whether everything was exactly how I desired it to be before I left.  To be honest, she really didn’t even need to ask me for feedback because if it didn’t look right I would have immediately said something and had her fix it.  I have to live with my haircut- it affects everything about me, so feedback is not just crucial it is necessary.

This leads me to a simple thought, you wouldn’t even think about getting a haircut, or dressing in the morning without taking a glance in the mirror to get some perspective as well as some feedback as to how you look.  Feedback is crucially important to our confidence.  If feedback is that important, why do so many organizations never create a feedback loop into their culture?  Many organizations operate by a leader casting  a vision of some compelling future and then handing the task of creating that future in the hands of everyone else.  The problem with this is that it leads both parties frustrated.  The leader is frustrated because what is created never ends up looking like what they had in mind and the team players are frustrated because they create something based upon their interpretation of what the leader said, not necessarily what the leader visualized.

I am challenged to become better at creating a feedback loop in the culture of the organization I lead.  Providing feedback is not only important to the overall stress level of the organization, but it will also be a game changer to build confidence in the culture moving forward.  As a leader are you providing feedback, or are your expectations of others performance based upon a dream in your head and not an idea which has been properly communicated with sufficient feedback along the way?

4 Steps to Produce More

I desire to produce more!  This statement is one that I hear continually.  The very nature of leadership itself moves you to desire to operate at a higher level; to see more results; to produce at a greater rate.  Several observations must be considered if greater production is what we desire.

First, greater output will require greater input.  You can only give what you have.  While this may seem basic, this very concept is where many leaders hit a ceiling in their effectiveness.  When we desire to produce at a greater level, we must begin by looking at the input of our lives first.  What personal plan do you have in place to increase the level of input you receive?  What blogs/books do you read?  What people do you spend time with?  Whose voice do you listen to the most? When was the last time you intentionally listened to something new? The answer to these questions will help you to determine whether the current level of input is sufficient for the output you desire.

Secondly, greater output will require a greater capacity!  Your ability to increase your learning capacity will determine your ability to be more.  Two vehicles may get the same miles per gallon, but the vehicle with the larger gas tank will go further!  Your capacity is therefore directly linked to your ability.  The good news is that all of us have the ability to expand our capacity as leaders, which leads me to my third point.

Third, expanding our capacity as a leader will require us to grow.  The only way you can expand your capacity is if you are willing to stretch yourself and grow.  Play it safe leaders rarely operate at the capacity they are capable of because they are always concerned about the question, What if?  What if it falls apart?  What if I fail?  What if I don’t like the new reality?  Too many leaders have allowed their growth to be stunted out of the fear of what if?

Last, a new expanded capacity presents a new reality.  The leader that expands his capacity will have to learn to grow into his new reality, thereby producing more.  The longer the leader fails to internalize growth into his DNA after being stretched, the greater the risk the leader will never grow.

 

Progression of Accomplishment

Accomplishment is so tricky because it largely depends on what the definition of accomplishment is.  I think this is one reason why so many times leaders gravitate towards setting goals and sticking to them with- laser like focus.  When we set goals which are very clear there is little question as to whether or not we have actually accomplished what we have set out to do.  The very nature of leadership is one of movement and progress, whether it be personally, organizationally or in most instances all of the above.  While this is not supposed to be an exhaustive list, I wanted to share a few things to consider to aid you in accomplishing whatever it is you set out to do .  The simple words which come to my mind are WHAT, WHY, HOW and WHO.  If the leader can answer these questions they will progress towards their desired accomplishment.

  • What? – If the leader can not identify what needs to be accomplished, it will never happen.  The old saying goes like this, “The most accurate individual in the world is the one that never aims at anything.”  Clearly define what needs to happen either personally or organizationally and articulate it.  The simple act of articulating what needs to happen releases incredible momentum towards accomplishing the task.  If using the analogy of a road trip, asking what is like making the decision of where you would like to go.
  • Why?  When the leader knows what needs to happen, they must then answer the question of why it needs to happen.  Asking why will not only create buy-in towards the needed change, but it will also create urgency for the task.  Why is a question of purpose and purpose brings clarity to you and those you lead.  Clearly communicate the purpose for the task and it will instill motivation towards accomplishing the goal. Going back to the analogy of a road trip, asking why is the equivalent of determining the incredible things about the destination you have chosen to visit which you are not part of your current reality.
  • How? How is a question of strategy.  The leader may know what must be done and even have an incredible urgency surrounding why it must be done as it ties back to purpose yet, if the leader lacks a strategy or plan to achieve the task it will fail. Developing a strategic plan separates the dreamers from the doers.  How forces us to move from theory to implementation.  If what is the destination and why is the reason for the road trip, how is choosing the highway or road that you will take to get where you are going all while keeping your resources in mind.  If you choose the wrong road you could run out of resources before ever getting to your destination.
  • Who?  Who forces us determine what kind of leader we need to be to realize the task before us.  Strategy, Purpose and Goals mean nothing if the leader is not mentally, emotionally and physically equipped for the road ahead.  While many leaders can begin noble causes,  only those who have asked the tough question of who will come out the other side mentally, emotionally and physically intact.  Imagine for a moment that you spent hours determining where you wanted to go and why you wanted to go there.  Then, once you have invested yourself into where and why, you spend valuable time finding out how your going to get there.  It would only make sense that for this type of road trip to be successful would require a captain, or a driver that has experience on long road trips.  Answering the question of who you need to be before you take the trip could save you a lot of pain in the middle of your journey.

As a leader, WHAT needs to happen?  WHY does it need to happen?  HOW is it going to happen? Lastly, WHO do you need to become to see it happen?  Now, go and accomplish it.

 

Backwards Living

Have you ever starting viewing a football game in the third quarter?  While I love watching football, regardless of the quarter, I understand that at the end of the day all that matters is whether the final score shows that your team scored more or fewer points than the other team.  If you pick up a game in the third quarter the first question you ask is, what is the score.  The reason you want to know what the score is in the third quarter is because it gives you a glimpse as to what happened in the first two quarters and helps bring you up to speed on the game.

When a leader considers their life, or the life of their organization, it is critical for them to learn the skill of backwards living.  What I mean by this is simply the results you desire do not automatically transpire, but the results at the end are a culmination of the choices you made and the things you did in the ensuing years prior.  The final score of a football game is not determined in the last minute of the game, but it is a culmination of everything that happened throughout all four quarters. As a leader the trajectory of your life today will determine the destination you arrive at tomorrow.

Stephen Covey made this principle famous in his book entitled, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  The habit Covey identified is called, Beginning With the End in Mind, or as I am calling it, backwards living.  If the leader desires to put this principle into practice they must begin by clearly identifying what they desire the results to be before they ever begin their journey.  When we have knowledge of where we are going, we must then be able to clearly identify our present reality.   Just as a GPS in your car needs an ending point (results) as well as a starting point (reality) to give clear directions, the leader must determine both if they desire to make forward progress.

In my experience, forward progress is stunted when either the present reality or the desired results are not clearly articulated.  It is only when we know who and where we are and who we want to become and where we want to go are clearly defined that we begin to make forward progress.  When we can identify where we need to be, it helps us measure any incremental progress we make towards meeting our goal and it gives us the opportunity to celebrate the progress along the way.

So, where are you?  Or maybe a better question would be, Who are you?  Once you determine this you can begin to ask yourself who you want to become as well as where you want to go?  I am a big proponent of living backwards simply because I have learned that living backwards is proactive, whereas trying to live forward is reactive in nature.  When I live backwards I live with intention, when I live forward I just take what comes to me.

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