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.

These Habits Can Help You Squeeze The Most From Your Day

Apr 18
2017

Even the most industrious among us have only 24 hours in each day, and only 10 or so hours available to us to do everything we want to get done. If you’re like most people, you start each day with the best intentions and a long, prioritized list of things that you want to get done. Having a list is a noble and a solid first step, but as with most things in life, it isn’t in the planning stage where things go awry—it’s in the execution.

Life’s distractions can easily derail even the most skilled task achiever and leave them feeling drained, frustrated, and with an even longer list tomorrow. Squeezing the most out of every day doesn’t mean burning the midnight oil or burning the candle at both ends. It means figuring out the habits that work best for you and developing a ritual around it.

Creating habits and rituals is exceptionally powerful because it helps our brains create the neurological cravings that lead us to anticipate a reward for engaging in a certain routine or set of behaviors. The habits and rituals that eventually become the plan to make the most of the time you have each day are based on what you’ve learned that make the most sense and work best for your lifestyle and the reward you give yourself for getting things done. This is critical to your being able to follow through on your plan without fail and deliberately—no matter what comes your way to distract you.

Ritualizing some of the routine things you do each day is what helps your brain to go on autopilot so that things that you do habitually become automatic and don’t require your focus, energy, and advanced decision making skills. Reacting automatically to routine tasks can help you really squeeze the most out of your day.

Here’s an example of a simple habit that you can experiment with and perhaps turn into a ritual that works for you.

Multi-Task In Bursts And Only With Certain Tasks

Choose tasks that can be done with little thought and work well together. For example, perhaps experiment with your morning routine and give something like this a try: while you make coffee and your breakfast, scan your emails and prioritize them, leaving only the most important ones, those requiring immediate action when you sit down at your desk, in the inbox. Move others to folders and delete the junk. While driving to work, listen to a book that you’ve been dying to read or even record key notes for a meeting and play them back so that you’re listening to them while you commute. Don’t forget to reward yourself with something for doing this each and every day: perhaps getting in a quick exercise session before you start work at the office, or spending a few minutes chatting with a friend before starting your day.

The key is to figure out what routines, tasks, and rituals work best for you, and then practice them until they become automatic and you can do them with speed and dexterity. Once you have your routines in place, you’ll also want to keep the following strategies in mind so that when your actively thinking about what comes next, you can continue to make wise decisions:

  • Focus is key: make sure that you keep it throughout the day and have in your bag of tricks some ways that you can bring it back if you lose it.
  • Learn the power of “No” and “I’ll get back to you,” and use them often.
  • Only get involved at the solutions level: don’t waste time focused on rehashing the problem.
  • Spend part of each day pausing and reflecting on what you’ve accomplished so far, and decide what is most significant remaining on the list to do with the time you have. Remember that what is most significant isn’t always the highest priority item in an objective sense – it is the highest priority item given the time you have remaining to accomplish something in your day.
  • Know that nothing that happens is really the end of the world.
  • Make sure that whatever you do is worthwhile and will make a positive difference.

Our habits and rituals guide how we live our lives and shape our priorities. If we create powerful habits that act as the underpinnings for what we set out to do each day, over time they will become the starting point for how we shape our lives. What habits and rituals will you put in place to squeeze the most from your day?

Let me know in the comments field below.

 

Out With The Old And In With The New: Getting Unstuck

Mar 14
2017

You’ve invested a great deal of time and determination in pursuing the plan you, or perhaps someone else, wrote for your life. Though you don’t totally despise what you’ve been doing, you wake up each morning with the nagging feeling that you’re not moving in the right direction either. As the days tick by, the nagging turns to unease, and unease into discontent. The pressure mounts, and you’re unable to find the connection between who you are, what you’re certain of, and what you’re doing with your life. Simply said: you’re stuck.

You probably took a stab at trying to get unstuck by doing what most people in that circumstance do—you decried that you weren’t stuck, and to prove it you began taking action. You set out to either add things to the plan or subtract things from the plan: trying everything and anything to make it work. But the more you focused on making it work, the more the sense of discontent grew. Today turned into tomorrow, and tomorrow into next month, and you still didn’t know what would work and what wouldn’t. You were more disheartened and even more stuck.

But getting unstuck isn’t about continuing to do what you’ve always done plus or minus a few things. After all, where’s it written that you have to stay on the path you’re currently on? And yes, I know it isn’t easy to think about giving up on a plan that you’ve dedicated years to pursuing—yet you have to accept that being stuck is your first and best signal that you’re ready for an important realignment in your life.

Being stuck is a great puzzle to solve, and it isn’t as difficult as you think once you accept that being stuck can lead to that start of something new. Digging out of the hole starts when stuck becomes the springboard for understanding what might be within your grasp. Knowing what we want starts with knowing what we might want and then figuring out what we what we need to pull it off.

There are many paths to living an incredible life, and many chances in our lifetime to reinvent ourselves—you won’t be stuck for long if you accept where you are, get over being stuck quickly, and start getting about the business of discovering what you might want to do next.

Expanding your possibilities gets simpler when you follow these four steps:

1. Realign Your Compass

Feeling stuck often leaves you questioning everything: your past, your present, and your future. Before you can even begin to find out where you want to go, you have to take a moment and figure out where you are in relation to your true north. Spend the time you need getting back in touch with the things that honor your values, interests, and core beliefs. Take the time to really ask yourself questions that shed light on what you really want to do with the work you do each day, and then ask yourself questions about what you want your life to be about. There are many great tools and exercises to help you do this (shameless plug: many of them you can find posts about on the Leadership Compound blog—check some out and give them a try). Find and ask the questions that most resonate with you, or the tools that work best for you, and if you don’t see any you can create your own. There really are no rules other than to write things down—it really does help you bring them into reality. The key is to begin.

2. You Have To Generate Ideas And Quantity Is King

Once you’ve realigned your compass and know your true north, you can begin to explore new ideas, preferences, and capabilities. In certain things quality does matter more than quantity, except when you’re trying to dig yourself out of the roadblock known as being stuck. Getting on with your life starts when you consciously engage in activities that spike your creativity and idea generation to the levels where ideas, options, and possibilities begin to flow freely and without judgment. The key is to begin free-associating, imagining, and coming up with lots of outrageous, enticing, and electrifying probable and improbable ideas that spark your interest or intrigue you. Zeroing in too quickly and/or attempting to think up a handful of high quality ideas in the early stages of idea formation is totally counterproductive to becoming unstuck. It only serves to intensify the pressure and indecision, stymie your creativity, and block any forward progress. Options—and lots of them—are what eventually lead to better quality ideas. They magnify our thinking, and energize and help us give thought to things we might have previously dismissed as impractical or outlandish. Quantity then leads to more choices, which result in better options and eventually a few quality ideas, which are optimal to implement. Some of my favorite tips for doing this are creating mind maps, journaling, word association, vision boards, and writing ideas on post it notes—find something that is creative and works best for you.

3. Choose What Fits—And First Isn’t Always Best

Despite our best intentions, our biases can often work against our best interests, especially when we lose sight that they exist. Failing to recognize and take into account their impact on our decision-making can prove disastrous. In highly charged emotional situations, like overcoming being stuck, we can sometimes forget that biology outmaneuvers rationality. The high and rush that we get from generating new ideas and seeing possibilities again can cause us to view more favorably our first idea and consider it “the one,” even though we’ve given it little scrutiny. Our desire to do this is more related to the chemical response of the brain’s positive hormones than a rational validation of the solution. Getting moored to a solution just because it seems good enough might right the ship, but it also closes down the exploration of many other really good and often beneficial options. Many times, what we first come up with is the safe or familiar choice. In the long term, choosing what is safe or comfortable could lead to being anchored in another sandbar: stuck again with some familiar issues. Learning how to keep working beyond the first quality idea and coming up with several other options helps us overcome the natural inclination to settle for the first thing we arrive at. Once we’ve uncovered, walked around in, and reviewed in depth several really solid options, we have the information we need to begin to draw the contrasts and weigh the advantages of each choice. The process of learning in depth about several high quality choices by asking questions and getting additional data and facts reduces the fear of uncertainty and increases our clarity about our choice and the outcome.

4. Don’t Critique, Sabotage, Or Stifle Your Forward Progress

The more ideas we have, the more choices that are open to us. If we are to imagine things in ways that we haven’t before, and think about things more broadly than ever before, we can’t sabotage ourselves along the way. Our brains are designed to be critical, find problems to solve, and make spur-of-the-moment judgments—nothing could be more detrimental to free-associating for creativity and inside-out thinking. Knowing this is how our minds work is the first step toward quieting the inner voice that, if left unattended, can impede our ability to do the two steps outlined above. You have to be mindful as you embark on this journey. Prepare yourself by first spending some time becoming aware of your own destructive self-talk: the messages you give yourself that say you can’t do something. Keep a journal as you start this process and make note of every time you think, “You can’t do that,” or “This idea is too crazy.” Put a plan in place to stop yourself from making that judgment and reward yourself for banishing the inner voice that says no and choosing to do things differently. Enjoy the benefits and the stress relief from knowing that this isn’t about getting it right the first time—it is about experimenting, learning, and small steps. With practice, you’ll see the fog will lift and you’ll be less stuck and more willing to push the door open to consider what once seemed unimaginable.

If you’re feeling stuck today, I encourage you to embrace it, accept it as the great puzzle it is to solve, and figure out what path will lead you back to your true north. If you’ve solved the puzzle before, I’d love to hear about your journey and what worked best for you.

 

Don’t Settle For Mediocrity, Instead, Stay Hungry

Mar 01
2017

Don’t Settle For Mediocrity Instead Stay HungryThrough an incredible feat of will and an ability to stay hungry, you’ve kept your edge, kept the naysayers at bay, overcome the competition, and attained all you’ve ever imagined possible. You’re now sitting where you always wanted to be: revered and sought after for your knowledge and expertise, getting all you’ve driven yourself so hard for, and sitting atop the pinnacle of your career. Fulfillment is certainly worthy of celebration and reflection, but it can also be a perilous time if you linger too long while riding the wave of success.

Living on your pedigree, reputation, adulation, and preserving the status quo only gets you so far, and it certainly won’t keep you atop the field forever. Riding the wave of your success is a surefire formula for being lulled into a sense of complacency that dulls your edge, makes you risk averse, and means you’re playing a prevent defense strategy. You stop pushing the envelope, fail to shake up the status quo, and won’t risk doing anything that might reflect poorly on your standing, image, or advance in the game if it means you might not triumph.

Preventing your fall from grace isn’t an effective strategy to keep those hungry up-and-comers from nipping at your heels. In fact, it’s just the opposite—it means that you’ve positioned yourself to be quickly overtaken. You have only one choice to keep your edge and stay atop the crowd: don’t settle for mediocrity – you have got to stay hungry!

Reigniting your hunger and staying that way is within your control. All it takes is watching for opportunities to learn more, do more, and step beyond what you know that’s safe and expected. You have to behave as if you have everything to gain and nothing to lose, stay persistent, not slack off, and without a doubt, not settle for the success you’ve already attained.

Here are some surefire ideas to keep you hungry and set yourself apart from your competition.

Embrace Hunger By Always Challenging The Status Quo

Never think or behave as if you have something to lose. You need to embody the idea of going above and beyond no matter how much success you have already realized. Have enough conviction in yourself that you don’t let the fear of losing your status or others silence your inner voice. Have the same willingness that you did before you were successful, revered and sought after to push the boundaries of what was comfortable, ask why with humility, and use your people smarts to uncover previously unaddressed concerns. Embrace the idea of experimenting and learning through unpredictable failures. Seek to learn from those who are nipping at your heels, and challenge yourself to put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable or force you to learn something that you wouldn’t ordinarily have done before. Remember that you’re always a work in progress, and you have to change with the world and those around you.

Find New Ways To Connect What You’re Fanatical About To New Tasks

As you introduce new tasks, technologies, and ideas, you need to find ways to connect them to the things that you’re fanatical about or your motivation for doing what you do. Solicit different perspectives on what you’re doing and what might be outdated. Seek out a mentor who is younger and has a skill set that you don’t have—be open to learning from people who don’t share your frame of reference or experiences. Review the things your passionate about—notice if they still inspire you to go above and beyond to pursue them, and if not, let them go. Try new things and see what resonates with you. Do something that you’ve always aspired to try but were afraid to do or thought others might think wasn’t in line with your character.

Set Straightforward Expectations

Commit to taking a balanced approach to looking around corners and pushing forward to achieve what you want by balancing doing a job well with not plowing over others to accomplish something. Make sure your goals are straightforward and clearly articulated. Make them easy to measure with points along the way that you can measure, while noting your progress. Hold yourself accountable and ask others to do that as well by sharing your objectives. Reward yourself for your diligence, keeping focus on what is just around the corner, and keeping your eye on the future. Act with clarity when choosing where to focus your attention, whether it is on near-term or longer-term goals.

Our past success doesn’t entitle nor guarantee future success. We advance based on what we do moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity, and based on how we deliver and how hungry we stay. The key to separating ourselves from the crowd over the long term and keeping our edge means being intentional about taking risks, being bold, and staying hungry.

Are you willing to stay hungry? If so, let me know what you do to keep yourself striving for the things that give you the edge.

 

Is “Why?” Really Just A Crooked Letter?

Feb 14
2017

It was a chilly fall day and a familiar scene was playing at the town soccer fields. A dad and his young son were walking back to the car after the match. The son was peppering his dad with question after question. Every well-crafted answer the dad gave was met with a single question: Why? At one point it was clear that the dad reached the limit of his patience, and in one last attempt to end the series of why questions he said, “Because ‘Y’ is a crooked letter.”

With a puzzled look on his face, his son smiled and replied: “Why?”

The point in sharing this story is to emphasize that as adults we’ve become so jaded, self-focused, and frustrated with those who ask us “Why?”— even when it comes from our children.

When did inquisitiveness, curiosity, and asking Why become defiance, or a challenge to our thinking, ideas, and who we are?

Is it that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Why as extraneous — a waste of time when just doing seems more imperative and expedient? Is it that as adults we don’t believe that why leads to something better and only serves to drag us down a rabbit hole of excuses?

I don’t think our world is not a better place because we don’t ask “Why?”. A life without knowing why keeps us focused in the moment and doing things by rote. It disconnects us from our own sense of purpose and that of those around us. Without knowing why, we fail to see context, solve problems, and fall prey to our natural biases and assumptions. As each day passes, we lose the capacity to dream, to sway others to act without bias and to ask, “Why not?”.

But it isn’t too late for us all to reconnect to our personal Why? — that wonder and curiosity that leads us to better understand the context of the world around us, the potential of what could be and why we are an integral part of all of it. Embodying curiosity in action generates the energy, enthusiasm, and connection to our internal guidance systems that infuses our passion with a purpose, spurs novel thinking, disruption of what is, and sends us in new directions. Isn’t it time to start bringing asking “Why?” back into favor?

Here’s what you need to know to discover your Why and start asking others about theirs:

Embrace A New Paradigm: Knowing Your Why Is A Requisite

We all have a personal brand—that spider’s web of beliefs, principles, values, and knowledge that is the glue that makes us uniquely us. Knowing your Why starts with focusing on a few key things:

Writing A Statement Of Your Why – A phrase that captures the crux of the commitment, principles, values, and set of beliefs that lead you to do what you do.

  • Start by writing the story of how you arrived where you are and how you plan to get where you’re going.
  • Look for the common values, themes, and strengths in the story of your life: why you were empowered to take action, why they influenced your thoughts and behaviors, which experiences did you impact and which experiences impacted you, and how are you different and unique? What created your map of the world? How did your beliefs translate into the action that came to be the way of your life? Ask yourself “Why?” if you didn’t do something you know wanted to.
  • Identify the core values that you want others to connect with you, and write a personal credo that expresses that in a clear and concise way.
  • Be inquisitive and reach out to key stakeholders—those who know you best and are impacted by your actions. Ask them to define what they think your Why is? This is a good check to see if you need to do more alignment.

Focus On Living Your Why – Let your Why infuse everything you do. It should become the source of your purpose and passion—after all, it is the authentic you. Rely on it as a powerbase to spur thinking, cut through extraneous details, and rouse you to action. The Why of your life forms the internal guidance system that supports your decision-making and goal attainment.

Share Your Why, Ask Others Why, Answer Why Questions At Every Opening

Make it your unwritten rule to share your Why, ask others theirs, and ask and answer Why questions at every opening. Here’s how this fosters the transparency that others need to have so they can know you on an authentic level:

Sharing Your Why – Gives others the information that they need to understand and gives witness to your consistent adherence to your core values and principles. This dovetails with their ability to trust and find you to be authentic. Sharing your Why at every opening is at the heart of the loyalty people bestow on you. It is through that loyalty and trust that you can influence, lead, and align varied Whys to impact the larger world.

Ask Others Why – Asking someone else their Why is the first step in knowing the crux of what lies at the heart of their personal brand. Understanding the purpose, principles, values, and set of beliefs that lead them to do what they do helps you tap into what stirs their passions, rouses them to act, and helps you sway them to act with you. Asking someone about their why supports you as you test what you believe about them to be true, discard assumptions, take the emotional temperature of the other person, and build genuine rapport and trust.

Answer Why Questions – A willingness to answer why questions shows your innate sense of curiosity, that you embrace listening, that you don’t respond reflexively, that there is no judgment, and you’re open to testing your thoughts and assumptions. Being open to explaining why means that you are willing to share the Why you believe the way you do, and encourages others to do likewise. Why in action spurs the creative thinking that leads to novel ideas, new directions, and keeps things rooted and connected to more than just what serves the immediate need.

Why is the crux of what guides our lives, and it delineates who we are from each other. It shapes the clarity of our mindset and is the powerbase from which we build the impact and inspiration needed to call others to action and live to the utmost of their potential. Why may just be three letters, but its power to unite people on a common journey or to do the unimaginable for the mutual benefit of all is not to be underestimated.

My Why is to help others (including myself) make a difference, no matter how minor it might seem, and to fill their heart and mind with a sense of gratitude and their life with an enduring purpose.

I’d love to know your Why. Please share it with me in the comments below.

 

It’s Time To Move Forward: Are You Prepared For 2017?

Jan 04
2017

The new year has barely begun, and the future-focused leaders I coach have been scouting their competition, analyzing the trends, and understanding what unique opportunities the data offers for their own improvement. This process didn’t just start for them as the calendar turned to January 1st—for most of them it began in 2016. Getting a handle on the pace at which the fabric of the business world will continue to evolve in 2017 was critical to how they finished 2016—strong leaders prepared to hit the ground running. Understanding upcoming growth opportunities and trends gave them a distinct advantage as they fine-tuned the strategic plans that they’ll now use to guide them as they hope to navigate 2017 successfully.

The mainstay of the business world continues to be the disruption of the status quo, and the pace will only accelerate in the upcoming year.

In 2017, we’ll see more Millennials stepping into leadership roles, it will be the first full year that Generation Z has been in the workplace, and technology will make how we work vastly different, changing how we communicate, relate, and work with each other. The challenge for those in leadership roles at every level is how to inspire, energize, and enthuse those on your team to be the best people, citizens, and employees while still driving results that keep your organization innovative and profitable.

Here are some of the trends you might want to implement in 2017 that will enable you to do just that:

Create An Employee Experience Mindset And Culture

This is a disruptive and different approach to inspiring loyalty and providing good job opportunities for highly accomplished candidates and employees. Inspiring loyalty and providing good jobs that engage, enthuse, and inspire the most accomplished employees and candidates starts when you create employee experiences that emphasize purpose over paycheck and development over perks as part of your organization and team culture. This type of employee experience mindset and culture gives the people who work for you the opportunity to be emotionally and developmentally connected to the work they are doing. Everyone wants to do something in life that fulfills a larger purpose, and for the new generation their job isn’t just a job—it’s about their purpose and their why.

It’s All About Coaching And Development In Real Time

The people who work for you aren’t asking for fancy offices, free food, huge bonuses, or unlimited lattes. Nor do they want the old style command-and-control leaders of the past or feedback on an annual review. They’re looking for leaders who value them for what they contribute, expect them to perform, and will reward performance over tenure. They also expect their leaders to be coaches and to communicate with them on a constant and frequent basis about how best to develop their strengths and guide them toward a plan for achieving their goals.

Waiting for an annual review to share what you’re thinking and to offer guidance isn’t going to cut it. Not coaching them and sharing feedback both about their strengths and constructive actionable criticism can lead to indifference, which results in their disengagement from their jobs and a lack of respect for you as their leader.

Bi-Directional Mentoring Becomes Key For A Widening Generation Gap And Blended Workforce

In 2017, five generations of people will be in the workforce. Generation Z will have finished their first full year working, more Millennials will be moving into leadership roles, and we will continue to see a rise in the number of freelancers working side-by-side with employees. This diversity in the workforce introduces different perspectives on work culture, widens the knowledge gaps, makes the workforce more global, and broadens an ever-increasing gap between older and younger workers. For those in leadership roles, it means laying out a roadmap that encourages esprit de corps and a sense of the collective vision and direction toward a shared set of goals. It means being able to diffuse strong personalities, differing agendas, and bridging generational gaps to bring about understanding so that differences bring about more connected relationships and those they lead grow stronger and more productive. But there’s more to it than just that. Great leaders build and embed within their teams a strong mentoring culture. Bi-directional mentoring means mentoring programs that aren’t based on age, title, specialty, or status, but rather skills and interests that can really help create an environment of cross-generational / functional skills, trust, and learning. By encouraging and making this type of mentoring a priority, you encourage those on your team to inspire, teach, and learn from each other, and understand the value of getting together to achieve something they cannot do alone.

As you begin thinking about how best to begin the new year, go back and look at what made you successful in the first place, and see what you might want to change. If you aren’t doing these things, consider how you could incorporate some of them into what you’re doing, and if you’re doing them see how you can expand and adjust them to make them more robust in the upcoming year. The great leaders I know are always making adjustments on the fly, and they don’t let failure or change derail them—they use it to move forward and fast track their success. It’s time for all of us to move forward.

Let me know what positive trends you see for 2017, and I’ll be happy to share them with everyone.

 

The Year’s End: Life Changing Connection For 2017

Dec 20
2016

The Year's End - New BeginningOver the past few weeks I’ve been trying—without much success, I’ll admit—to come up with a novel way to start my end of year post. After numerous false starts, piles of crumpled sheets of paper filling the wastebasket—yes I still do handwrite my first draft—I decided to take a well-needed break and bolster my spirits by reading through my quote journal. And there to my surprise was the solution to my writer’s block. On one of the well-worn pages I’d written the following quote, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” –Seneca.

As the quote reverberated in my mind, I realized that a shift in my thinking was also taking place. Traditionally, I’d always viewed the end of the year as a concrete ending point and the start of a new year as a beginning. The more I thought about the quote, however, the more I realized that how I saw this was based on how I chose to define and describe it, and by extension I realized that much of the way in which we describe, define, and assign meaning to things in our lives is based solely on our perspective, beliefs about ourselves, and our choices at the time we decide what something means. In essence, the things in our lives only have the meaning and power they do because we impart it to them. It was then that it dawned on me there was a better way for all of us to begin 2017, and it certainly didn’t involve making another set of the same old tired resolutions that we all know will never work.

Every new beginning doesn’t have to start with a complete overhaul of the past—it just has to start with some other beginning’s end. Overcoming the inertia of what has become comfortable for us in 2016, and replacing it with what is less so in 2017, is a great place to start. Knowing where endings have to begin in order for new beginnings to emerge starts when you rethink what you have the capability to do, and contest the habits, rationalizations, and meanings that you’ve assigned to things that are keeping you stuck and not seeing the potential in yourself and in others.

I hope that you’re willing to begin to end something so that you find your new beginning in 2017. The beginning that sees you connect to your passions in new ways, build connections with others more deeply, and accept that all is possible—if you know how to connect what you’re capable of with what you pursue.

With perseverance, intention, and commitment, 2017 will be a great new beginning!

 

The Network Effect

Oct 04
2016

The Network EffectIf you’re like most people, you’ve gotten really adept at figuring out who the poisonous and exhausting people are in your life. And if you’re successful, you’ve become adept at quickly jettisoning them before they wreak the inevitable havoc that always comes. Figuring out whom to jettison is easy—what’s tough is acquiring a keen eye for spotting those people who will unquestionably give you a strategic leg up on the ladder of success. What’s so important about having a keen eye and being able to spot the people who can help you ascend the ladder of success more quickly?

The unvarnished truth is you can’t succeed alone, despite what you read and see about highly accomplished and brilliant people.

A lone person struggling against all odds and surmounting all obstacles to become an overnight success might make a great movie script, yet in the real world it rarely if ever happens that way. The most talented people don’t take anything for granted, or leave anything to chance, when it comes to building the strategic network of connections, advisors, mentors, and influencers who will play an integral role in opening doors and paving the way for them as they ascend the ladder of success. The work of building a highly dedicated and specialized network begins long before the people you want to seek out are chosen and the relationships begin.

Here’s what it takes to become adept a spotting the people who will most assuredly quicken your rise on the ladder of success:

Focus On What You Need, Not What You Have

If you want the most influential advisors, mentors, and people in your corner, you need to focus on what you need, not what you have. This starts when you create your own personal balance sheet. Just like the balance sheet of any company tells the world about the general health of the company, so will your balance sheet reflect your general health and well-being as well as your strengths and gaps. It starts with you being able to objectively assess your assets and liabilities, your emotional intelligence, and your mindset and worldview. Here are a few quick ideas to get you started:

  • Create a personal avatar that includes how you like to learn new things, communicate with others, and overcome challenges. This will shine a spotlight on and enable you to prioritize your assets, identify your liabilities and what you want to accomplish.
  • Trace the milestones and markers: those moments in your life that include your victories, failures, and times where you had to take a step back and start again. When you have the list, ask yourself:* What would I tell myself today about something I should have done but didn’t do? What would I have needed then to be able to do this?* What do I believe about myself? Which of these are true, and which are false? Which might have been true but are no longer true and why?

Getting comfortable with and knowing precisely what you need lays the groundwork for building the rapport and trust that will drive your successful connection with the influencers who can help you succeed.

Get Specific

Now that you’ve spelled out who you are, it’s time to get serious about seeking out that core group of undeniably essential people upon whom you’ll rely as you march toward success. The cadre of resources upon whose counsel and wisdom you rely demands that you connect with others in a strategic and deliberate way. But it isn’t about collecting names and counting numbers. It starts with getting specific about and then reaching out to the people who can fill in your skill gaps, shine the light on your blind spots, and help you use your strengths in ways that you’ve not thought about before. Look for people who will thrust you into your discomfort zone and support you in tackling the things you dream for yourself. Getting specific means thinking about who you’d like to have in your posse. Begin by thinking about the traits, skills, and viewpoints you need to introduce into your life and figure out where those people are. Here are a few archetypes you might want to include in your circle:

  • The Sounding Board – Someone who listens to you and more significantly hears what is being said and what isn’t. Given what they hear, they willingly respond by being of service to you in the way you need their help—even if only to acknowledge what has been shared. These people are among the principal resources in your circle. They share in your biggest fears and grandest dreams. They give you unconditional support and enable you to talk through your biggest fears and move forward.
  • The Questioner – Someone who has a perspective 180 degrees from your own. They are willing to take you to the edge of your comfort zone and probably a good deal beyond it. They challenge your thinking, viewpoints, and entrenched ways of being. They help you explore new viewpoints and break through static thought patterns. It might not always be comfortable to be in their presence, yet they can help you in ways that accelerate your growth like no other person can.
  • The Elder / Mentor – Someone who has been there and done what you are trying to do. Someone who can become a strategic partner and show you all the potholes and short cuts that will help you have a smoother and more successful journey. They also help you connect with others and make introductions that help build your influence and credibility. Their wisdom inspires and ignites your passion and desire to succeed.
  • The Up and Comer – Someone whose star is ascending. They are highly innovative and in touch with where the world is headed. They may be in your industry or perhaps they are not, but they are the trendsetters and the ones at the head of the spear. They can help you with trends, technologies, and ideas that you’re not acquainted with or even at ease with.
  • The Peer – Someone who gets you, where you are right now. They understand what you face because they are right there along side you going through the same things. Together you help each other see the constructive aspects of what you are experiencing. They are trusted confidants and sympathetic friends.

This certainly isn’t a complete list—you don’t need to have all the answers as to who should be on your list at the start. You can learn and add more along the way.

Don’t Tempt Fate—Give As Much As You Get

Relationships are not one-way streets—they are reciprocal. Don’t tempt fate by being known as someone who only takes from the people around them—giving as much as you get from others is a key way to build your own influence. Find opportunities to reciprocate: join forces on mutually-defined goals and share thoughts and resources freely. This level of engagement builds rapport, solidifies connections, and heightens your presence. What you do communicates volumes to those who observe your deeds and endears you to others. Giving as much as you get creates the influential relationships that will help you catapult your success and leapfrog over your competition.

We know that bona fide success isn’t an overnight proposition, and without a doubt success isn’t achieved in isolation. With a keen eye, persistence, and a bit of flexibility, you’ll be able to form the type of relationships that will amplify your strengths and support you in ways that will drive your success exponentially.

How will you spot the people who can help you ascend the ladder of success more quickly? Please share you ideas with me.

 

I Want My Life To Be About…

Sep 20
2016

What Do You Want Your Life To Be AboutOur plates are overflowing: more demanding schedules, daunting to-do lists, and having to do more with less. We wrestle daily with balancing the ever-increasing load on our plates, and we’ve become accustomed to squeezing every last ounce of productivity out of each hour. Time spirals away, and you feel like a slave to the schedule: overworked, out of touch, and disconnected from what you ultimately want your life to be about. The truth is that you’re probably too busy to be reading this post, and yet that is exactly why you need to.

Why? Because our lives and legacies are not based on the sum total of all the items we check off an overloaded to-do list, or how successful we are at squeezing every last ounce of productivity out of every day. Creating a lasting legacy lies in living your life with passion, and committing your time, energy, and resources to something you believe in that will make a difference in your life and the lives of others. It isn’t easy—doing the right thing rarely is.

If you’re willing to reverse the trend of doing just what has to be done, you can start here and now by answering one question: What is it you, at the end of the day, want your life to be about?

When you can clearly and unequivocally state the approach that drives all your choices, actions, and decisions, you gain a level of clarity and focus that transcends what you want to get done today, this month, or even this year.

Finding the answer to the statement I want my life to be about… starts with:

Exploration Is The Key To Figuring Things Out

You can start by each day, for the next 30 days or so, purposely leaving open spaces in your schedule, or planning a few less tasks each day so that you can commit that time to exploring, developing, and defining well what it is that you will strive to attain—no matter how long it takes, no matter how many obstacles must be overcome, and what ultimately, at the end of the day, your life is about.

At this point your focus isn’t about creating milestones, accomplishing goals, or even the to-dos that you believe will take you there. It is about investing time in yourself, learning what you need to know, connecting with yourself in ways that help you see things through a different lens, being creative, and connecting with who you are at your core. Make sure you balance learning, thinking, and doing, and build connections with others who can help you hone in on what matters most.

Tweaking It Brings It To Reality

Now that you know roughly what your dream is—that thing that you want your life ultimately to be about. You need to begin the process of aligning and bringing together the daily tasks, goals, and milestones that when taken in conjunction with each other keep you on track. When you build your daily to-do list, it needs to be tweaked to make sure that the low level tasks / goals and mid-level tasks / goals that make your list move you closer in some way toward that all-important ideal outcome for your life. Be ruthless, and ask yourself each time you think about adding a task, meeting etc. to your list—Does it distract you, take away time and energy from a goal that matters more? If yes, even if it is only a low-level goal, then it should be avoided and not added to the list.

Visualize Success

There is real power in seeing your future in the present moment. Seek out and save inspirational quotes, photos, images, or anything else that will help you link what you are doing in the present moment to where you ultimately see yourself ending up. These everyday reminders can help you refocus, reset, and stay present when outside forces try to pull you off task and off track.

Appoint A Wing Person

Choose someone with whom you can share and discuss your dreams, plans, and challenges. Make sure you share with them your biggest aspirations and your biggest concerns about getting to where you want to be. This person should be a trusted advisor who is willing to ask you where you are on your plan at various intervals, share with you when they notice you’re off track, and offer you the kind of suggestion that will help you get focused on the future and reset yourself.

Whether you want to be the newest start-up CEO sensation, or help others fulfill their potential clearly and unequivocally knowing the approach that drives all your choices, actions, and decisions is what gives you clarity of purpose. It is this clarity that gives you the energy, passion, and perseverance to live your life in the way that best creates what you want your life to be about. I’d like to hear what you want your lives to be about and how you plan on obtaining it.