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Leading is Hard, Becoming Legendary is Even Harder

Here’s what it takes to exert the level of influence that will give legendary status as a leader

Jan 13
2020

Iron Man Sometimes, an unknown leader comes out of nowhere and captures the world’s interest for a few years, only to disappear and never be heard from again. And then there are leaders who become legends.

“A one-hit wonder is a legend who stopped early,” according to marketing whiz Seth Godin. Legendary leaders are relentless in the pursuit of success, even in their not-so-stellar moments. However, they do much more than that: they redefine the leadership role for themselves.

Here’s what it takes to exert the level of influence that will give legendary status as a leader:

Face Problems Head-On

Legendary leaders strip fear of its power by confronting all problems directly. In the absence of fear, people see roadblocks as opportunities and as challenges to be solved. This leads to collaboration, creativity, thought-provoking work – and, often, accomplishing the inconceivable.

There’s Always a Way Forward

In challenging times, legendary leaders know that there’s always a way forward. Pushing boundaries and untethering themselves from conventional wisdom is what alters their trajectory and creates the next compelling vision that guides them forward.

The Fastest Route Isn’t Best

Opt not to chart every point from start to finish on the roadmap to becoming a legendary leader. A quick arrival can be a short-term boost to your ego and your reputation, but can also rob you of the of the texture, learning, and insights that a less direct route offers. Legends don’t settle for the immediate signs that others would notice as success—like a fancy title and a big office at a prestigious company — but rather opt for experiences that serve them better in the long run.

Exude Optimism

Legends know that when tough situations arise, they’re merely blips on the radar. A hopeful but realistic approach gets them over the momentary setback – they exude optimism. Grounded in the real world, they don’t overlook the cost of failure, nor do they let it become overwhelming. With newfound knowledge, they end every situation on a high note.

A Holiday Wish For You!

Dec 20
2019

Christmas Ornaments Happy Holidays! My wish for every one of you is that the upcoming holidays are filled with joy and fun times with family and friends.

As this year draws to a close I hope all of you, as you take the time to reflect on your journey this year, have as many reasons to be grateful as I do.

I’m grateful that you read my blog and share your insights with me. I’m thankful for all the new people I’ve met this year and the journey we’ve taken together. I’m looking forward to seeing all that you accomplish in 2020!

Wishing you all the best for the upcoming year!

Susan

Achieve More, Think Bigger

How to stay competitive in a dynamic world

Sep 10
2019

Achieve More, Think Bigger “You’ve got to do more to keep us competitive!” It’s frustrating for a leader to hear this feedback, because it so rarely is accompanied by any concrete direction about how to accomplish it.

For many leaders, staying competitive means creating a vision that will withstand the headwinds of a business climate that is fraught with daily disruptions.

The smartest leaders know it isn’t doing more that keeps them competitive– it’s thinking more.

 When you think more you can achieve more, because you can spot the needs of your customers before they’re even aware of those needs themselves.  As the trendsetter you ride the tailwinds, creating and achieving more than you ever imagined possible.

Want to learn how to think bigger and achieve more?  Here’s what you need to know:

Check Your Arrogance at the Door

Don’t allow your expertise to turn into arrogance.  Expertise can blind you to factors that are beyond the scope of your considerable knowledge and experience. To think bigger, translate your expertise across industries and sit in the mindset of your clients.  A discovery mindset lets you perceive the subtle needs of your clients that they don’t yet even know they have.

Embrace the Outrageous

Don’t readily dismiss implausible or outrageous ideas that your team comes up with. Often the most insane ideas hold the most promise for disrupting an industry. Uncovering a need that your customers don’t know they have starts with thinking about what is impossible, and then making it possible.

Everyone Needs to Risk Something

Everyone on the team needs to have something at risk so they are fully invested in the outcome.  Having something to lose changes how you approach and make decisions.  Having skin in the game makes you the architect. You’re not simply executing someone else’s plan – you’re all in.

Make the Most of Adversity

Adversity is inevitable. Make the most of it when it happens, or deliberately turn a situation on its head when things are going too smoothly. Don’t fear making an unpopular decision or taking a position that goes against everyone else in the room.  Being a consensus builder isn’t a strategy for innovation.  When there is adversity, your ability to deliver a well-thought-out counterargument can spur creativity.

Be Still

When the time is right, clear the decks and your calendar and just spend some time being quiet.  Amid all the noise, data, and discussion it can be hard to hear yourself think. Find a quiet place where you can reflect in silence.  Creating time to think stems the urge to make a snap decision that feeds your need for instant gratification. Being still can be challenging, yet it is essential for developing the clarity that’s necessary to see the next new trend.

When you’re bold enough to think more, you’ll achieve more and be able to weather the storms when they come.  What can you do today to think more?

Getting Lost in Translation

How to get everyone on board with your vision

May 07
2019

Getting Lost in Translation Do you remember playing the game of telephone as a kid? You and your friends whispered a saying one to another, hoping that when it reached the last person it would be the same phrase that was shared by the first kid. But the sentence would always become hopelessly mangled, leaving everyone laughing.

It was hilarious then. Today, it’s sobering to realize how quickly your message as a leader can get lost in translation when it’s shared across your team or through your organization.

Your vision’s meaning can go astray in subtle ways.  Meaning derives from the perceptions of the listener and is therefore subjective.  When each listener shares your message with others, it may become more and more distorted as it gets mixed up with the misunderstandings of each person along the way.

Unlike the kids’ game of telephone, the more your vision gets muddied the graver the consequences for your organization and for you as its leader.

Getting your vision out with clarity is something every leader grapples with.  As you develop a message that all will comprehend, always remember that understanding lies in the ear of the listener.

Add these tools to your skill set to save your vision from getting lost in translation:

Filter It First

Remove all extraneous details from your message.  Remember that what you remove is as important as what remains.  Evaluate and refine what is left so that it is an unambiguous statement of your intended goal, the work needed to get there, and how you’ll track progress and measure success.

Tear Down the Walls

When you want to inspire others, it’s counter-intuitive to think about the misunderstandings that could block you from the goal.  It is hard to admit that success might not be achieved. Yet if you don’t tear down the wall of fear and talk about the challenges and difficult moments ahead, others won’t either. Break the ice to make it easier for everyone to admit when something isn’t working in the future.

Elevate the Intangibles

Focus more on the worthwhile, positive aspects of the process you are about to undertake, rather than on concrete rewards like bonuses or pay. When people have clarity about your expectations and a clear goal like elevating their skills in mind, they are better equipped to be resilient and to keep the essence of your vision as their focus. Persuade them to buy in to the big-picture benefits for the organization, your customers, and society.

Frame It for All

Ultimately, it is your obligation to discover the subjectivity of your audience. Pinpoint everything they need to know about your vision so that they can to act on it.

It isn’t easy to make your vision less subjective. In the end, though, doing so means that those who hear and understand your concept will know when something isn’t aligning with it and will quickly move to fix it.

Why Successful People Love Saying Yes (and You Should Too!)

Jan 21
2019

Why Sucessful People Love Saying Yes You envy how easy it is for a successful colleague to say “No.” It’s never been so simple for you. That’s why you end up wasting countless hours doing things that wreak havoc on your time, your well-being, and your long-term success.

But the problem isn’t that you can’t say “No” – it’s that you say “Yes” too reflexively!

Bemoaning your inability to say “No” traps you in a vicious cycle that makes you feel like a doormat. Learn your non-negotiables, and then set boundaries that create space between what you’re asked to do and what you’re willing to do. That way, you can happily say “Yes” to things that enrich your life.

Past experience can make it easy or difficult to set your own non-negotiable boundaries. Use these guideposts to identify and create the flexible boundaries that will let you say “Yes” to the right things in life.

Unease Signifies a Boundary

You know what your boundaries are. You just ignore the clues. Those tension headaches you always get after a jam-packed day of meetings? You’ve crossed a boundary that relates to taking care of your own well-being. Miss parent-teacher night again because you had one last client email to get out the door? You crossed a boundary by putting work ahead of your kids. Spend the next couple of days noticing when you feel out of sync or uneasy after saying “Yes” to something. It probably means that you’ve crossed a personal boundary. Take note: the unease you feel defines a boundary for you.

Knowing What’s Non-Negotiable

Defining a boundary doesn’t mean you can hold it. It simply sets aside the things in your life that are non-negotiable. That may be time with family or carving out open space in your calendar for brainstorming new ideas. Use your non-negotiables to create the boundary lines that will allow you to thoughtfully consider all requests for your time and attention.

Give Them Voice

Once you’ve defined your non-negotiables, they’ll help you finalize the boundaries that will guide your decision-making going forward. An effective boundary must be clear to all. You’re going to have to voice them and tell others what they are. If people don’t know your boundaries, they cannot possibly respect them. Remember that this is about sharing your boundaries, not discussing or debating them. People who want to do that with you are likely to be opportunists (see bullet 5) who don’t respect anyone’s boundaries.

Stay Out of Your Head and Theirs

Kicking the negative self-talk to the curb is absolutely necessary, so stay of your head — and theirs. It’s the only way to keep yourself from becoming enmeshed in your or another person’s emotional “stuff” and saying “Yes” to please or appease. When you do this, you are more capable of making a distinction between what you want and the other person’s aims.

Steer Clear of Known Opportunists

We all know people who take advantage of everyone they know. Avoidance is the best option here. If that isn’t possible, prepare a few different firm and polite variations on the phrase, “Yes, I wish I could help but I don’t have the time right now.” Hold firm against the pushback that will come – remember that you’re saying “yes” to your priorities and that you have valid reasons for all of them.

Success doesn’t come from saying “No.” It comes from saying “Yes” to all the things that fit within your boundaries so that, when opportunity knocks, you can find the time to answer the door.

Hardwired to Fail

Nov 06
2018

Hardwired to Fail You were supposed to be the new vice president, but a colleague got the promotion instead. Instantly, a wave of doubt and humiliation washed over you. Your first thought was “I’m never going to get promoted here.” Your next thought was “This will thwart my life’s work.” You quit on the spot.

In that one moment, you again got caught up in the pattern of negativity that has derailed you from achieving your goals. You acted rashly—and you don’t get to go back in time to do it over again.

You still cringe when you think of the person you were and the choice you made.  You’re wondering, are you just hardwired to fail?

The answer is YES.

But there’s good news, too.  You get to make a different choice next time. You have the power to step off the treadmill that leads to negative thoughts and emotions and unveil a fresh new mindset that primes you for success.

Next time you feel the pressure to give in to negative emotions, here’s what you can do to change the outcome —in both big and small ways.

Step 1: Jot Down Your Fears

Grab a journal or notebook and write down the negative thoughts and emotions that are playing like a broken record, repeating over and over again, in your head. You have to recognize that you’re stuck before you can begin to break free.

Step 2: Reality-Test It

Ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” Seeing your thoughts and feelings for what they are— just beliefs and emotions that may or may not be true—means that you get to discuss, debate, and decide for yourself if they are truly important.

Step 3: If It’s Not True, Kick It to the Curb

–Negative thoughts and emotions only have as much power as you give them.  When you kick them to the curb and let them go, you find new ways to connect what you think and believe about yourself to the things you’re passionate about.  Be willing to see yourself in new and different ways, and evaluate what resonates with you positively. This primes you to see yourself more realistically.

Step 4: Commit and Act with Clarity

Success isn’t a linear path.  Once you commit to making a different choice, be bold and act with clarity.  Start small and as you build momentum your inner critic will recede. Balance is key: you don’t want to overwhelm yourself and be unable to work through steps 1 through 3.

Your successes will rewire your brain to succeed. Staying there over the long term will mean taking risks and remaining intentional about your choices.

Adopting This Strategy Can Keep Adversity from Bludgeoning You Again

Feb 27
2018

Adversity Your plan to get what you want falls woefully short of the mark. You endure the defeat with discouragement, as the victim — not the victor – yet again. Why? The answer is simple: you didn’t have a plan to counter the wrecking ball known as adversity.

Adversity is part of life. Things won’t always go our way. Without a plan to knock down the roadblocks, adversity will bludgeon you every time. Do yourself a favor: start to plan for adversity and make room for both successes and failures to exist in your life.
Here’s what you need to do – and not do:

Don’t Be at War with Adversity

Practice acceptance. Don’t pretend that you can ignore an obstruction away. Accept that the best way to knock it down is to not try to control it. And accept responsibility for your choices, past and present. Stop fighting to minimize problems as unexpected, impossible-to-anticipate surprises. Instead, focus your energy on the choices you can make to deal with them.

Don’t Be an Absolutist

Life isn’t lived on the extremes. Get comfortable with the world as a mix of success and adversity. Don’t always expect perfection, or to anticipate disaster.

Don’t Rub Salt in the Wound

When adversity arrives, don’t take a wrecking ball to your life. Silence your inner critic. Look at your strengths, shortcomings, and unknowns from many different angles. Kick to the curb anything that won’t help you move past the obstacle.

Do Get Contradictory

Look for the paradox in the situation, and for the lessons you can take from your experience. Think of a way it may have saved you from an even more catastrophic mistake. This practice eliminates the uncertainty that comes with adversity. Biases are exposed, distance is created, and a new clarity of thought emerges.

Do Let It Go

Success and adversity happen in bursts. Throughout your life you will experience moments of both. Let go of your conscious focus on the setbacks when you deal with them and the successes when you celebrate them. The memories and lessons learned can be recalled when you need them in the future.

Plan for adversity, take the lead, and decide what you want to get in life.

6 Surefire Ways to Survive Crunch Time

Don’t’ Go Down for The Count

Jan 23
2018

Mulligan
You’ve got a few more crunches before you get to 50. That burning feeling on your 47th rep signals the oncoming fatigue of your abdominal muscles. You focus, muster all of your remaining energy, and knock out those last three crunches to meet your goal.
A challenging project, an overbooked calendar, and even the success you’ve always dreamed of can signal that it’s crunch time. But far too often, it hits us harder than we think it will. If we miss the signs, we can fall prey to tension and stress.
When crunch time arrives, here’s how to prevent a flame-out and complete the task at hand.

Resistance Is Futile

Why deplete your energy by lamenting the situation you find yourself in? Resisting where you are is futile and won’t get you where you want to be. Get crystal clear: identify what is most urgent and take decisive action.

Label It

Notice, name, and shed the negative thinking that only exhausts you emotionally and psychically. Labeling emotions impacts how your brain experiences them. It helps you stay calm and allows your rational brain to function, making you more effective.

Renegotiate

When we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves – or when we think others expect a lot from us — we may set unrealistic deadlines, bite off more than we can chew, and over-promise. Set firm boundaries on your time and on your tasks. Renegotiate deadlines if necessary. Where possible, shift work that isn’t in your sweet spot to trusted colleagues.

Make Tough Trade-Offs

Decide early on what you will and won’t focus on in any given time period. Assess your priorities and make the tough decisions about where to spend your capital each day. Ask yourself – what one or two things are critical for me to be successful today? And what two or three things must be set aside today to be successful?

Connect with Others and Yourself

Preserve time each and every day to focus on an activity that recharges you and another action that strengthens your connection to others. It could be as simple as taking time to scan Facebook for updates about friends, then going for a quick walk or workout or reading a book while sipping your favorite beverage.

Practice Self-Forgiveness

Crunch time is no time to beat yourself up. Treat yourself with care, just as you’d treat a friend going through a pressure situation. Let yourself vent, then forgive yourself and give yourself a pep talk to get things moving again.
Next time you find yourself in crunch time at work or in life, survive and thrive by putting these ideas into play. You’ll emerge successful and in better shape than when you started.
48…49…50!

How to Take a Mulligan: Your 2018 Resolutions Aren’t Ironclad Promises

Jan 09
2018

Mulligan You got caught up in the excitement of seeing the new year as a way to start over, or change direction, and made a set of audacious resolutions to get you there. But as your exhilaration wanes the resolutions you made are more difficult to keep than you thought. Don’t beat yourself up and let the anxiety you feel diminish your self-worth.

The truth is that you’re not really bad at setting reasonable goals, you’ve just made it ridiculously complicated for yourself by biting off more than you can chew.

Every January, I like to remind everyone that your resolutions aren’t ironclad promises.  The best thing about having free will is that, at any point in time, you can take a mulligan and start over again.

If you’re ready to do that here are my suggestions for creating what you want most in your life in 2018.

I encourage you to give one or all of them a try.

Switch Off the Tech

Noticing and asking questions are essential skills for success in life. It’s time you stop looking down at a screen and challenge yourself to spend more time looking up at the people and the world around you. You never know what you’ll see that will spark your curiosity and help you discover what makes you a better person.

Get Risky

Stop the groupthink that goes on around you by asking the tough questions even if you don’t know the answers. Be the person who steps forward and says, “This is risky but….” Watch the relief on everyone’s faces as the weight lifts from their shoulders and they admit they don’t know and are willing to figure it out too.

Welcome Not Having All the Answers

You don’t have all the answers and it isn’t required. What is? Spending time asking straightforward questions of others – ones that show your commitment to getting to the heart of what truly matters to them. But asking questions isn’t enough – you’ve got to listen intently to the answers and use those answers to inform your judgment and shape your decisions.

Soul-Searching is Required

Asking straightforward questions of others only gets you so far. Ask yourself the same questions you ask others – what is it you need, and what is it that truly matters to you. Then listen as intently to your answers as you do theirs and act upon what you hear.

When you do any of these things regularly and fearlessly you’ll get to the heart of what you will lead and live best with in 2018.

The One Surefire Way to Succeed as A Leader in 2018

Dec 21
2017

There isn’t one. Leadership advice isn’t ironclad. There’s no single trend, quality or rulebook that guarantees your success – it doesn’t exist (and it never did!).

Don’t waste any more time in 2018 trying to fit into some other leader’s mold. Emulating exactly what led to their success won’t work for you. Why? Because you’re not like them.

Instead, turn your focus to what will define success for you, a bespoke model of leadership, one that comes from discovering the one of a kind set of skills, talents and abilities that you lead with.

There is a straightforward way you can discover and embody the values, talents and skills that power your leadership success in 2018 and it starts with:

Listing the Pivot Points

Think back on your career.  You’ve had many moments that caused you to act, make a decision for good or ill.  These are your pivot points. These taught you something about yourself, about how you think and lead. List those that stand out and changed the direction of your life.

Self-Reflection Illuminates the Secrets Within

Take a few minutes and whatever you think of your choices then, acknowledge that they taught you something about yourself.  Write a few lines about why that moment mattered, how it changed your life, your mind or both.

See Things with A Grateful Eye

It isn’t that you can’t learn from other’s advice and perspective. The trick is to see those experiences through the lens of gratitude and then tailor the advice to mirror your own experiences, style and needs. Survey people whose perspective you value. Include people in that group whose perspective on things differs from your own. Hearing divergent perspectives helps highlight opportunities your biases keep you from seeing.

Unpack the Insights

This is where you’ll put it all together.  Reflect on your own observations and the feedback you received from others.  Unpack the insights by creating a list of tweaks and game changers, and plan your next steps for 2018 to become the most successful leader you can be.

There isn’t one right way to do this. And if there isn’t one right way to do this, you might be wondering if you’re on the right track.  You might even be feeling overwhelmed.

If so, I’ve created a FREE resource – a Lead With IT Kit © workbook – that you can download to help walk you through the process.

I hope you give it a try in 2018.  I promise, you will learn what you lead with and it will open doors that you never imagined possible.