As some of you know, I recently conducted an experiment on Facebook whereby I asked my community what they felt was a unique ability or “superpower” that I possess.
The idea came about through a book I’m reading this week by Pat Flynn called “Will It Fly.” It’s a business book about validating potential business ideas. This particular exercise so resonated with me, that I knew I would want to incorporate it into my coaching practice. And if I was going to serve it up to others, I needed to eat it first myself. (more…)
Without any words whatsoever he caught my attention.
The emotion-packed pause in his post-match interview said enough to make me look up from my laptop. I had not been watching the tournament. The TV was on merely to catch the news that followed.
But quite unexpectedly I was drawn into the emotion of one man’s moment of victory.
Jim Herman had just won his first PGA Tournament after languishing in complete anonymity over the past sixteen years and 105 tries as a PGA cardholder.
If that is not a cinderella story, it at least qualifies as a glass slipper moment.
The man had shown up for work all those years yet had never taken home more than a paycheck. No celebratory wins. No high dollar sponsorships. No trophies to adorn the mansion.
I love stories like this.
It reminds me that our greatest successes at work come not from the grandiose moments of victory, but through the daily moments of faithfulness. The skillful “drives and putts,” one long hole after another.
Those are the wins that matter. That’s what winning really is. The showing up. Getting things done. Playing steadfastly. Being forever students of our own game and seeking to improve with each project, task and responsibility.
This principle fits for Gofers as well as Golfers. Programmers as well as Pilots. Loan Officers as well as Librarians.
Being faithful, more so than being first, is what produces the wins that matter most.
And so it’s not lost on me that Jim Herman’s victory happened in Humble, TX. It’s a fitting metaphor underscoring the roots of anyones capacity to finish well, whether or not they finish first.
When a glass slipper moment does happen your way, they will inspire others not from a cocky trumpeting of success, but through a simple embrace of the moment.
Regardless of the score at the end of the day.
Monday mornings remind me of an important vocational reality – our very capacity to work is a God-given grace.
Our focus, attention, drive and ambition, the wisdom and skill, motivation and opportunities – all of it coming at his creative, sustaining hand and for His sovereign purposes.
If there was one thing that I see as most beneficial to the start of each day, it’s the ordering of our minds to recognize, embrace, and share this incredible grace.
Whatever we lay our heart, mind and hands to doing is not for our grandeur but for the benefit of others and the redemption of this world.
So the best way to meet the day is to pull up the anchor of your anxieties in order to let the wind of God’s grace carry you through the choppy and wild seas of the office, the factory, the store, the clinic, the classroom, and the fields.
Just in the act of expending your energy and gifts for the benefit of another – be it customer, boss, patient, student, co-worker or stranger – there is value to be offered by you and you alone.
It’s the most immediate way to be missional in our work – simply doing what we do with it being about others, and not about ourselves.
Everyday at work is actually an opportunity to love. Pull up anchor, put up the sails and let Him show you the supply of grace that will be sufficient.
We had traded emails for several months; weeks sometimes passing between each.
The laborious prospecting for clients of my newly established coaching practice had finally yielded a coffee time with a reasonably interested candidate.
Greeting Jim Wakefield and shaking his hand was enough to realize he was no stranger to hard work. His rough calloused hands firmly grasped his new acquaintance with unwavering engagement yet no unnecessary show of strength. His face testified fully to nearly 70 years of life, yet held the handsome features of mindful resolve and sincere regard that never fade.
From the start I sensed this was a man who could be gentle yet firm, intense yet involved. He was direct and to the point. Yet he also let himself be impacted by the words and ideas of others.
That is a very rare combination. Together they meant very little neutral zone for Jim. Everything he did was purposeful. Everything he learned and listened to was meaningful. Else his attentions would be elsewhere.
So on this spring morning in 2014 I sat across a bistro table from Jim at a local Panera as he began to tell me about business and life with sincere reflection and transparency. (more…)
I’ve lost count of the number of fee and free personality, temperament, strength and skill assessments available today. Some are based on well developed behavioral and management science.
Some, I’m convinced, are based upon substance-accompanied late nighters against deadlines to create copy for pop culture magazines. You know, the “why your lover acts like a spoiled tarantula” crowd.
As users become increasingly savvy in the selection and use of assessments, those instruments become important tools for people and teams for a variety of reasons. Not just in making employment decisions, but also in the daily decisions among those employed.
In practice I find they serve all parties best when two things are present: (more…)
In our day’s work journey toward corporate greatness (even if your work is at home) I find one recurring challenge that is the proverbial fly in the ointment.
We the people have to deal with us the humans.
It’s like a friend sometimes joked – “this job would be fun if it weren’t for the people.” He was a minister.
Everyone wears a mask of some kind…or hides behind an imagined version of themselves to some degree. It might be one of dominating power or of sullen defeat. It might even change from day to day based on how it’s going.
But we usually project onto the world a version of ourselves that is fabricated and measured. To the extent we do so, we forget an important thing. (more…)
As the sun rises on your first workday of 2016 the hope and promise of a new year is staring us right in the face. Many of us are coming off an extended holiday with much in the way of food, fun, family and various work-avoidant activities.
Re-entry can be tough. Especially after an extended break.
Just how tough can be found in a common question we ask ourselves in secret that first morning back. It is the one question that stands between where we are at this moment and our future glory in this new year. That question – whether verbalized or not – is almost always there in the back of our minds during that first day back. (more…)
I love weekends in the fall.
Aside from colorful foliage here in East Tennessee, fall weekends give us football!
I actively follow two college teams and two NFL teams.
This past weekend one of my college teams won. And one lost. One of my NFL teams won. And one lost.
According to those outcomes, it was a 2-2 weekend for my teams. If I were keeping tabs of only how many net wins I booked, you could say it was a zero weekend.
But that would be far from telling the whole story of this football weekend. (more…)
My buddy sat across the table from me listening patiently, his head cocked to one side while making a few scribbles on his yellow pad as I talked.
A project I was working on had stalled, and I was in no small state of consternation about why it refused to find it’s higher gear.
Our coffee time was nearing its end and so at a lull in my droning, he asked a simple question.
“Do you think you might be making things too complicated?”
Nailed. Again. It was a question that I had heard before.
Those closest to me know its roots and its tenacious presence in my life and work.
We spent just a few minutes processing the what’s, how’s and why’s of this recurring gremlin in my leadership style. It was enough to put fresh wind in my sails that a) it was not a fatal flaw though be it an recurring impediment, and b) I could once again, for the 685th time in my life, resume being intentional about keeping it’s salty habits away from my work.
Sometimes just verbalizing these things empowers you to once again take thoughtful authority over them in your life. As they say – the truth can set you free.
But all too many times we don’t communicate the truth to the person needing it the most.
Some truths we have difficulty hearing if they come from within our own minds. We either minimize their nagging reminders, or we over-exaggerate their ominous threats.
And so in one way or another we ignore them – tuning them out of our days mental labors.
But that same truth from the mouth of someone who cares about you as a person, who can hold your story without judgement, and has demonstrated a sustained presence in your life – begins to have credibility.
Because it’s piercing edges have been lubricated by the oil of steadfast friendship.
Every business leader needs a few people with whom they can talk about business, life and their personal business life. Afterall, personal challenges as well as business challenges do quite often show up together in the same places at the same times.
These conversations must go beyond the personas, beyond the masks, and beyond the self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing superficialities of our business veneers.
It’s these kinds of conversations that speak objectivity, wisdom and encouragement into our lives through questions, observations, and feedback. They are particularly useful to those personal realities with which we struggle.
Because it’s those areas – where we are unsighted, ungifted or just plain stuck – that we need others even if it’s only to provide an encouraging presence amidst the process of wrestling free from their achievement-draining holds.
Many things in business and life don’t change easily. Some things in our lives may never change. But most things in our lives can be managed if not transformed. There can be major and minor steps forward through interventions and remedies that come from training, coaching, collaboration, practice, study or whatever.
But one thing is for sure. Those areas are rarely remedied by our silent consternation in hunkered-down isolation.
We need community.
And within community we need a few people with whom we can unmask our business personas and delve into the true substance of our fears, uncertainties and doubts.
Because it’s in that small abundance of counsel, among people loyal to your existence, that we find the wisdom and courage to move ahead to live well, lead well, and do good work.
And that, my friends, is very much worth a cup of coffee.
This Monday morning you’ll have an opportunity to make an important decision regarding how you will spend your time and attention this week.
The outcome of that decision could be the greatest single influence on your overall productivity, satisfaction and results when the week draws to a close roughly 100 hours from now. (more…)
For close to 30 years I’ve had an early morning routine of reading, journaling, prayer and contemplation. It is my go-to disposition, my place of mindful and spiritual repose.
The Christian bible has been the centerpiece of that morning feast most of that time. One would think by now I would have a certain level of mastery of these glorious words.
But quite the opposite I many days feel a sense of wonder and illumination on matters that I’ve studied many times before – sometimes like I’m reading them for the first time. Sometimes that is as exciting as a young couple discovering their new love. But many times also it is as frustrating as a prospector late to the creek.
And so this little gem that I came across just this morning helped me put it all in perspective once again – just as a mentoring word from someone who had sat in my seat before me…and thought it worthy to be shared with you as well.
the Bible is not a lazy man’s book, nor can it be soundly expounded by those who do not devote
the whole of their time, and that for years, to its prayerful study. It is not that God would bewilder
us, but that He would humble us, drive us to our knees, make us dependent upon His Spirit. Not to the
proud — those who are wise in their own esteem — are its heavenly secrets opened.” – AW Pink
One of the many bloggers that I follow is John Jantsch, whose Duct Tape Marketing often provides helpful insights on marketing for the small business community. He holds this spot-on perspective about strategic planning and small business – saying “…small business owners would love to have a three-year and five-year plan, but the reality is we often have a one-week plan and it’s a rough draft.”
And it can be difficult to land on a planning model that recognizes that unwavering reality.
Consequently most of the popular strategic planning models – which have their origins in large corporate environments and business schools – rarely adapt well to the needs of the small and family business community.
All too often those ‘charty’ and ambitious collections of ideas end up spending the year in the Dropbox and not on the streets with the owners and their teams.
The result is not so much a waist of the planning time. (I would argue there is inherent value in the exercise of planning in itself as a learning activity.) But the biggest detractor is the lack of follow-through on what could be the most significant business opportunities of the year.
The following Small Business Strategic Planning Model is one helpful approach to the small business dilemma. It contains seven critical elements in a sequence – offering a step-by-step way to see both the forest and the tree’s. It calls for both a strategy system and an activity system in recognition that a strategic plan alone will not produce results.
Moreover, I have learned that even the best of plans can grow dormant if there is no way to connect the strategic plan with the activity system in trying to develop the business amidst daily demands.
The crucial connector between the two is a region of thought and action that I call the breakthrough zone. I call it that because it is this zone that separates the makers from the breakers. The doers from the mere dreamers. And the achievers from the talkers.
This breakthrough zone breaks down the one year plan into a set of 90 day objectives and two week activity campaigns in service to those objectives.
One of the most critical parts of creating an actionable strategic plan is the set-up and the follow-up. A good way to execute this process is through a deliberate set-up and follow-up schedule that surrounds the actual planning day(s).
By stretching the planning exercise over multiple conversations, you reinforce a learning and validation process across multiple creative periods. This allows for your plan to incubate and cure, making it more pragmatic and powerful as you unpack it for implementation.
|Private Owners Session (1-2 hrs)||4 Weeks Prior to Off-Site|
|SWOT Analysis w/Team (via email/online)||3 Weeks prior to Off-Site|
|Pro-forma (Budget) Review||2 Weeks prior to Off-Site|
|Agenda Review||1 Week prior to Off-Site|
|Planning Session with Team||1 Day or 2 Half-Days Off-Site|
|Post-Session Review of Action/Open Items||1 Week after Off-Site|
|One Month Follow-up with Owners (1-2 hrs)||4 Weeks after Off-Site|
|90 Day Check-In and Follow-up with Team||12 Weeks after Off-Site|
Regardless of the model your business may use, the essential principle here is that just as important as the systems for creating strategic plans, is a system for making them actionable, day in and day out.
If you would like a one page guide to actionable strategic planning, shoot an email to email@example.com.
The meeting was going well until a name was dropped.
The ensuing chuckles and eye rolls suggested some kind of infamy or company lore.
The only comment made was less than flattering. And then the conversation continued as if nothing happened at all.
But in reality something very septic just happened. Something that often goes undetected in organizations that can undermine the formation of a healthy team and building of a vibrant business.
They were talking about a former employee in a negative way. In doing so, they were ingesting a uniquely noxious form of gossip that can make a culture toxic.
It’s understandable that a team with shared experiences will have all kinds of stories of people and situations. However the way in which those stories are retold are rather important. Especially the negative ones.
Here are five ways negative gossip about former employees can derail your team building leadership.
Gossip in most any culture is seen as toxic. To talk negatively about someone outside their presence, especially in a group setting, is a show of disregard and contempt. It is a malevolent form of conversation that never brings good returns to an organization. It is not edifying to those listening to it, because it is sharing something that is not theirs to share. It’s like stealing someone’s dignity and showing the goods off in an alley amongst gang members.
Gossip usually involves exaggeration, misinformation, incomplete perspectives and unproven theories. It creates a vacuum of both trust and relationship. Sometimes it takes pushing back on it when it happens to keep it from becoming normalized in the team culture.
There are elementary school lessons being violated – such as “if you can’t say something nice about someone don’t say anything at all”. Leaders who mire in the negative minutiae of personalities end up straying from the principles that keep a team anchored and productive.
If you want to build a sophomoric culture akin to high school, then gossip away! If however you desire to create an environment with emotional maturity and good judgement, then don’t accept the cheap entertainment of former employee gossip. Here is a play on words, but if you frequently belittle someone behind their back, you’ll be little in stature among those whom you are trying to lead. Guaranteed.
Especially if there is a personnel action involved, any discussion of the matter in public is a violation of laws governing employee confidentiality and could be subject to legal action were the matters found out. Which because of the very nature of gossip, is a likely possibility. “Word get’s out” whenever gossip gets in. If you give it, you’ll need to be prepared to take it.
If there is not a protection of confidences in your organization, there can never be a confidence and propriety amongst team members. Which brings us to the next casualty: trust.
It subtly communicates that anyone could be fair game for being ‘talked about.’ That mistakes are memorialized instead of learned from, and ridicule becomes an unspoken method of control. It breeds a type of shame and insecurity that populates your unspoken attitudes with ridicule instead of respect and and actually demeans those present, even though the gossip is about somebody outside the team. There is nothing in negative gossip about former employees that is innocuous. It affects everyone who listens to it and eats away at trust within the community like a driving rain in a gravel pit.
Unless your product is triviality and your business depends upon a high volume of meaningless words, negative gossip about former employees (or any kind) is a waste of time that is bad for business. Not only does it waste time but it can drain emotional vitality from team members making it all the more difficult to be productive.
Instead of indulging the poisonous banter of gossip, here are three ways to redeem the moments when former employees and negative situations enter into a team conversation.
Focus on the lessons learned, systems changed and principles embraced that came from the former employee situation. Maybe it resulted in new hiring guidelines, or a different communication structure. If business leaders will pay attention to the principles instead of the shaking-my-head fondling of a negative employee experience, they will empower themselves to lead beyond it to a better day for everyone.
Have a zero tolerance policy for negativity, bullying, drama, gossip, or toxic energy of any kind. Let encouragement and support be the lead team ethic. If you disagree or have an opposing viewpoint to share, do it with respect, honor and from a place of compassion. Spirited debate about ideas or concepts is awesome, personal attacks are not – especially if you are attacking someone not present nor even a part of the team.
Healthy teams will set the bar for acceptable levels of performance and contribution. If there are issues, those are best handled one-to-one in person. Celebrate positive contributions – of present and former team members. That reinforces what real value looks like. But when it comes to the negatives, by far it’s best to avoid the guile, disdain and dishonor that comes from gossipy banter in a public form. By the way this holds true for email and informal communications alike.
Again, toxic behavior yields toxic culture and toxic culture won’t produce healthy outcomes. Gossiping about former employees in a negative way is a malignant team activity. Avoid it, call it out and redirect it.
Let the negative past be a part of your learning history. Refuse to give it a continued presence in your promising future.
Each time I teach on the subject of conflict I learn something new. Life is full of case studies.
At a recent client session with a management team I began with a “checkered flag/yellow flag” exercise where everyone shares a victory and a caution within their area of the business. To the person, all of the yellow flag issues involved people and some kind of conflict.
Whenever we find ourselves working with others to create something of value, conflict – however large or small – is all but guaranteed.
But so what? That’s just the messy middle – that place in every business, project and team with less-than-ideal mindsets, behaviors and outcomes that makes things just a bit tricky. And messy. We experience that messiness as conflict.
I’ll give you a few examples.
In each of these there is not necessarily a fatal flaw. Yet the situations make things messy.
How we respond to the messy middles depends a great deal on our behavioral temperaments – those nature/nurture formations about our personalities that reflect our mental models about conflict, relationships, etc. For example:
You can’t build anything of value without messiness. Children become adults through failures and correction. Gourmet meals mean dirty dishes. At any construction site you’ll find mud and refuse.
I remember one time in my community a large construction project had just begun. In a letter to the editor of the local newspaper an indignant resident blasted the owner for making such a mess. “Look at what you’ve done to our neighborhood! I hope you are satisfied!” The poor woman could only see the momentary mess, and lost all sight of the fact that the resulting project would actually beautify the neighborhood.
Such shortsightedness can creep into our mindset unless we have developed an understanding of the ‘messy middle’ concept as it relates to anything we do of value in our businesses.
Here are three guiding principles for developing your capacity as a leader for managing your messy middles.
We tend toward a polarized view of people that says they are basically good, or basically bad. That is a great question, but it’s the wrong question. Forget the philosophy and realize that a person or a team can be a genius one moment and an idiot the next.
What matters in leadership is how you will respond to either moment in such ways that keep drawing them toward a shared vision and goal. Messiness usually exists not because something is bad wrong, but because someone is abundantly human – with both good and bad potential at work.
Even if you have to replace someone on your team, do so knowing that the next person will also contain their own paradoxical combination of brilliance and baloney.
How we deal with conflict has it roots in our experiences of conflict going way back. Those experiences can create deeply ingrained filters for how we respond to things that don’t go our way.
We often confuse disagreement with conflict and then conflict with offense. The gut reaction then tends to be either combative or to disengage, even if in our minds. Sometimes the hidden mental reactions to conflict can be the most undermining and dangerous.
Think about this, if a part of your workforce is even mentally resistant or disengaged, you really have fewer people showing up for work than the number actually on the payroll. That is bad for business.
Conflicts are opportunities not obstacles. Embrace them in that way and they become business building tools that will improve your value to others.
People can be quirky, moody, inconsistent and stubborn. As leaders we must quite literally learn to deal with it. And not by killing it or ignoring it. Rather the art of leading people calls out of us a need to separate people and emotion from the substance of issues.
It also calls for us to suspend judgements in our conversations so that objective information gets to us without being edited by filters – theirs or ours. Finally it requires of us that we handle conflict – whether big or small – with the mindset that it is normal. Nothing is bad wrong. It’s just human beings working with human doings.
A true mark of leadership is the capacity to encourage human beings through the trials of human doings.
If you want to develop and maintain a leadership effectiveness that is behind successful business building, then check your understanding of people, your paradigm of conflict, and your capacity for handling both.
If you email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) I will send you a resource page that can help in that regard.
One of the things I sometimes see in my coaching practice is a poor grasp of how people are motivated to do what needs to be done in the business. As a result, business leaders can sometimes have a single threaded way of “motivating” their team members that can actually be de-motivating at best, and downright alienating at worst.
If you want to see where your business is headed, take a look into how your people are motivated. That is where your people are taking it whether you realize it or not.
If you want to actually lead and influence where your business is headed, learn how motivate your team based on the already present ways their brains expect to be motivated.
Understanding two particular types of employee motivation will give you as a manager a powerful leadership advantage over the future of your business. (more…)
I’m not an avid cyclist, but I do enjoy an occasional ride.
However I really love tracking the Tour de France.
Just the thought of 2,200 miles over 21 day-long segments is inspiring.
Especially given that less than half of those segments are on flat terrain. The majority are either hilly, mountainous, or high-altitude.
See…I didn’t even know there were classifications of “up hill”. It’s like they have a 32 oz, 64 oz and Big Gulp type of “up hill.”
I prefer just a swig of hill when cycling personally.
But the Tour de France is a great metaphor (and I like me some metaphors) for a different kind of race. (more…)
This summer there have been quite a few shark problems along our coastal waters.
It makes for a captivating news report, until it comes alive in your world. Then it grabs your attention in a whole new way!
That happened to us a few weeks ago while in Seaside, FL. (more…)
Recently my wife had one of those days in her business where the demands of customers, employees, vendors, and daughters reached a crescendo of overwhelm. Like dogs at the kennel, several urgent matters blended into a reverberating chorus of barks.
It was then she did what any normal, healthy entrepreneur might do.
She locked herself in the employee bathroom.
When the SOS text came across my phone my trained responses kicked in. This is twofold. First, refrain from glibly offering brilliant solutions. Second, breath only where necessary. (more…)
If productivity were an olympic sport, some entrepreneurs would be clear medal contenders. They spend their time in targeted, intentional ways with the aim to get things done. Yet their strategies for getting there can vary widely.
A part of Richard Branson’s strategy is to workout, saying physical exercise gives him up to four more hours of productivity in a day. Arianna Huffington takes a very different approach. Sleep. Stating the discipline of stopping work and sleeping is a critical edge for her productivity. Author Steve King has a daily priority of writing ten pages. Everything else must be scheduled in deference to that priority.
Each of these productivity medalists know this about being busy: (more…)
I can see beyond that pleasant smile. I appreciate you putting it on for me as I come into your shop or office. But for the moment, it’s ok to relax and just take a breath. I have something for you.
If you own or operate a local business, or are an entrepreneur building one, you will be able to relate to this post. In fact the main takeaway I have for you is this. You are not alone.
You see, I recently polled a cross-section of my social media network about their greatest challenges as entrepreneurs, local business owners and managers. I do this from time to time so as to understand if the experiences from my private coaching practice extend beyond my clients to a broader population of business leaders.
Hands down they do. (more…)