The Sweet Spot: How to find it for yourself

The Sweet Spot: How to find it for yourself

Touring a garden recently with a master gardener (My Mom) and these words kept coming out of her mouth – they love it here. At the nursery last week, another seasoned gardener talked about healthy places for certain trees. Both of these experts taught me the same lesson, to always look for vibrant signs of health – growth, healthy color, and a full look. Life through the eyes of a gardener gave me a different view of the world around me.

It hit me that same view can be taken with people. That place where we are comfortable, happy, challenged, and energized is a great place to be. What words would you use to describe yourself in that spot?

  • Energized
  • Creative
  • Confident
  • Collaborative
  • Positive

This is our sweet spot. The ultimate trick is not knowing how to find this spot, but how to realize when we get there and how to return to it.

Some leaders can see it, just like the master gardeners can see when a plant is in the optimal spot for growth and performance. Most of us need help from people to tell us where that spot is, and maybe a little more help to stay on track making the moves necessary for all people on our team to be in their sweet spot. Imagine if we could coach our team so each individual knew where that spot was for themselves, and were driven to continually improve and increase their understanding of their own sweet spot?

Maturity is simply the knowledge to know where your spot is, the patience to work toward it, and the ability to make the shifts to perform at a high level even if you are not in the exact sweet spot. Mature does not equal old, it just means wise.

Leaders need to know their own sweet spot and surround themselves with people who can handle the critical work outside of that spot. Great leaders also know how to develop the wisdom in others to replicate that sweet spot for themselves at all levels of the organization. Imagine being surrounded by a dozen people who feel energized, creative, confident, collaborative, and positive? Even an amateur gardener like me could spot that team.

There is nothing better than to watch your kids, your friends, your team, or yourself perform in that sweet spot!

Anybody told you lately, “I can tell that you like it here…”? If not, it is time to get to work finding it.

Three great resources to help your thinking:

Master gardeners don’t just work with plants.

Lead well . . .

Golf, Ego and Leadership: 3 questions to get you out of the trap

Golf, Ego and Leadership: 3 questions to get you out of the trap

In my league this week I shot double my handicap, which in my case is an extra 10 strokes for nine holes. I was playing against a guy named Reese, who happened to shoot under his handicap, which was a 3 already. In real terms, he shot a 37 and I shot a 55. I lost.  More than losing though, is I lost a chance to learn. You see, part of my problem was the long grass that has grown since my last round. When I got in it, I never cleanly hit my ball out, and one time it took me 3 swings to move it 40 feet to regular grass. Reese got into the same grass and knew how to hit the ball cleanly towards the hole, and one shot traveled over 100 yards and landed within 10 feet of the hole.

My loss was not in the score, but in the anger and frustration that just made me swing harder. Ironically it was 12 hours after the round ended that it dawned on me – why didn’t I just ask Reese for some tips on how to hit out of that grass?  He and his father were both great golfers and nice guys, and I am sure he would have given me some pointers because I will be back in that stuff next week, guaranteed. 🙂 My EGO got in the way.

Has your EGO ever put you in a position where you just ‘swing harder’ or maybe just stopped participating?

In my book, People-Centered Performance, I call misaligned ego as the number one threat to people-centered leadership. Ego, by itself, is actually a necessary ingredient for leaders. Merriam-Webster defines ego as “the opinion that you have about yourself.” As a leader, it gives you confidence and helps you recover quickly from mistakes. Here is what I wrote about the conditions that make ego get negative:

Ego is most at risk when we are in the midst of disorienting change. When change is too much, too fast, our self-perception is challenged by the unfamiliar landscape. Anytime our ego is at odds with reality, we are vulnerable.

Back to my golf game, I wrote these words but did not live by them. You see, I am not a great golfer and if I am faced with changing conditions I will shoot a higher score until I figure out how to change how I play. Historically it is the next round. 🙂 My misaligned ego kept me from adjusting. It kept me from asking for help.

Where is your ego misaligned?

  • Is a peer offering input that you are dismissing because you have more experience?
  • Are you managing people that are experts in their work and you spend time getting in the minutia of their work vs aligning their efforts with bigger organizational goals and removing barriers they are encountering?
  • Are you working for someone younger or less experienced than you are and find yourself thinking ‘What an idiot’ or ‘Who are they to tell me what to do?’ everytime they open their mouth in a meeting?

As I look back on my coaching work over the last year I have seen this over and over. It can be an expensive leadership lesson if not corrected quickly – Your best people leave. Your bonus is lower. A promotion goes to someone else. You lose your job.

Tip: Spend a week looking for situations or people that trigger you into going into EGO overdrive. If you are not sure ask your spouse or close friend and they will tell you. Next time you find yourself in that situation or with that person, here are three questions to get out of the heather:

  1. What outcome is important here?
  2. Who can help me achieve this?
  3. Am I ready to ask for their help? (then ask)

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

Easy Way, Hard Way

Easy Way, Hard Way

As a young parent, a challenging task was bath time – especially when the kids developed the muscles to effectively jump, squirm, and grab. The toughest part was hair, because the “No more tears” promise on the bottle never seemed to work. When I encountered Avenger-like resistance to washing hair, I developed a standard script with them which sounded like this – and most of the time it was delivered in a calm and even tone of a loving father. Most of the time 🙂 “Aubrey, you have a choice here. Easy way – You hold your breath and close your eyes when I tell you, and I will do everything I can to keep the soap from getting in your eyes and mouth. Hard way – you keep screaming and I will just pour the water.”

Many of you know I wrote a book on parenting, and as I look at the paragraph above I am not sure a chapter like that would ever be written. If it did, it might involve waterproof stickers or $50 Avengers mask that protected ears and eyes. In hindsight, I was trying to teach them a first lesson of choices and teamwork because we face decisions like this daily as teenagers and adults, and the reality is that this flips as adults when the hard way actually becomes the right way.

People-centered leaders focus on the choices their team members have and work hard to coach them through decisions so there is greater ownership. They recognize when people choose the ‘hard way’ in communication by sharing a hard truth that puts their job at risk. Here are some examples:

Situation 1: Your leader is not effective at leading you because they second guess all your decisions, fail to give you the information you need to make the right decision, and have not given you any routine performance feedback in 2+ years.

Easy way: Complain at happy hour about your leader or resign and hope there is an exit interview for you to share your frustrations.

Hard way: Share how the leader is making your job harder at your next one-on-one and ask for help.

Situation 2: The smell of a teammate’s perfume or body odor is making it hard for you to work (allergies, or just a bad smell) to the point you are thinking about working remotely. {Sounds crazy – but ask an HR professional about their story on this and I guarantee they have one.}

Easy way: Buy $100 worth of potpourri for your office.

Hard way: Pull your team member aside and share the impact the odor is having on you (perfume, body odor, shoes being off) and ask if there is a way to address it.

Situation 3: Your project is going badly and you don’t know how to fix it.

Easy way: Do the best you can to fix it, but hide the truth in updates to your leader and team.

Hard way: At the next update or meeting with your leader, tell the truth and ask for help.

Of course, the key ingredient in all of these situations is trust. If it is there, it makes the hard way easier. When a high degree of trust between two people is not present, the easy way becomes the only way.

People-centered leaders recognize when someone has chosen the hard way, and shared something that they did not have to. When that happens, make sure you stop and recognize the choice they made. If you don’t know what to do? Easy way – Pretend you do and make promises you might not be able to keep. Hard way – Tell them this is a new situation for you and ask for 1 hour/1 day/1 week to give it some thought so the next conversation will be a productive one. Commit to helping resolve it, and follow through on your commitment.

What did you do today to build trust with each individual on your team?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Here are two resources for those of you interested in what a conversation around different ‘hard way’ choices might sound like:

Read Crucial Conversations

Podcast and book: Radical Candor

Not enough…money? Time? How to move to enough.

Not enough…money? Time? How to move to enough.

All leaders should be in a peer group. I attended mine this week and an individual who works in wealth management shared some wisdom with us. One of the things he shared stayed with me for the day – and inspired this post.

“In my experience, it never seems to matter how much individuals have, they spend lots of time worrying that they don’t have enough.” He went on to share how their process works best when people are able to articulate their goals and aspirations in life, then the planning part just becomes working toward their goals. Sometimes it takes several years to get people to shift from being centered on ‘not enough’ to ‘goals/aspirations’.

This post is not about money; it is about the loaded words ‘not enough’.

  1. Not enough money
  2. Not enough support
  3. Not enough budget
  4. Not enough respect
  5. Not enough time
  6. Not enough space

Ever heard any of these come from one of your team members? From your teenager? From you?

Let’s talk about #5. This is the one area where everyone from Bill Gates to Scott Patchin to you – we are all equal. I think back to my friend’s questions around money: What are your goals and aspirations? Then maybe: If we were looking at where you spend your time, what does it say about your priorities and longer term goals/aspirations? Do they align? What one thing could you change that would move you toward the state of enough time for the important things in my life?

Watch out for the ‘not enough’ wheel. As a leader, help people step back and think about their priorities, then work through the constraints. Better yet – demonstrate to them what it looks like to live with a clear purpose and alignment around the important things. People-centered leaders don’t walk past the hard conversations.

FYI – They have studied money and happiness, and the number where having more does NOT make you happier is around $75,000. Here is a link if you want to learn more.

Lead well!

Leadership Wisdom 101: Seeing the bigger picture in leading (Part 1 of 3)

Leadership Wisdom 101: Seeing the bigger picture in leading (Part 1 of 3)

We were meeting to review the launch of EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) with her team, when one comment stuck with me:

Scott, one of the things you did extremely effectively was to bring in analogies around leadership and planning that relate back to being a parent. We are all parents, and that helped us see how our experiences as parents are actually building blocks for us as leaders.

I was glad to hear that, because that is a core message of mine and she listened!

It is also a passion of mine to help people see themselves leading in all aspects of their lives. In my work with hundreds of leaders, too often I see them compartmentalizing their learning to one aspect of their lives, and missing the chance to apply it to all areas of their lives.

Another recent reinforcement of this was during a check-in with a leadership program I lead. When asked to share one way in which they applied a learning since the last time we met, a leader shared – with a significant amount of surprise and some timidness – that “the active listening learning actually helped me at home in some situations I was working through with my teenage daughter.” My response? Grateful! Grateful this person was strong enough to share a non-work and personal experience to remind us all that we lead in all aspects of our lives.

Do you see yourself leading in all aspects of your life? Here are three questions to help you reflect and learn from your own experiences:

  1. In what part of your life are you being most challenged to lead and it is not going well?
  2. In what part of your life is your ‘leading’ going well?
  3. How can you apply what you have learned in #2 to have more success in the area you defined in #1?

I face the same challenge everyday, too. One tool I have used to help me see my ‘whole life’ as my leadership canvas is the Wheel of Life exercise, which is a foundation for coaching. If you want to explore this, download it and follow the directions.

More to come on lessons I have learned in one area of my life and how they apply to leading in others. . .

Lead well!

What is Leadership: 102 Answers – What’s yours?

What is Leadership: 102 Answers – What’s yours?

The first question I ask leaders in every class I teach is, “What is leadership?” We spend an hour defining and sharing answers BEFORE the learning starts, so that all the learning we do together can either reinforce their core belief or refine it. Have you have tried to answer that question?

To help you along, here is a list of 100 definitions published by Lolly Daskal in Inc. magazine.

Let me add two:

Leadership is the ability to create and successfully manage the closing of gaps. ~ Scott Patchin

Leadership is an influence process. It is working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization. ~ Ken Blanchard

What is your definition? Creating it could be one of the most important things you do as a leader, because without it you risk spending a lot of energy trying to live into someone else’s belief. We are rarely successful trying to be someone else.

I invite you to share #103.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

More learning: Take a look at my free ebook, Don’t Avoid Gaps, Lead Through Them

5 Powerful Questions for New Leaders & 1 Habit to Maintain Traction: Guest Post by David C. Baker

5 Powerful Questions for New Leaders & 1 Habit to Maintain Traction: Guest Post by David C. Baker

Today’s guest blogger is David C. Baker. I met David when I first started my business, through a contact from his publisher during the launch of his book, Managing (Right) for the First Time. I was drawn to his book because I believe managing leadership transitions is one of the keys to success. I read his book cover to cover and helped distribute 24 signed copies to many of you. Of all the books I have shared with clients (over 200 to date), David’s is by far the one I get the most comments back from people about being helpful because it is so practical.

The following content is the property of David C. Baker and is shared on this blog with his full approval. Any reproduction or use of this material without his consent is not lawful. If you like it and want to use it somewhere else, just ask him directly using the link at the bottom of the post.

You haven’t noticed yet, but there are several little red light points on your chest. And no, it’s not because the neighbor kid is playing with the slide presentation pointer that fell out of your briefcase last night when you stumbled home, finally, after a hard day at work. It’s more that you’re in the cross hairs of one or more people who are watching very carefully how you react in the next few weeks.

You’ve crossed a threshold, see, by either managing people for the first time, or trying to do it right for the first time. This is your chance. You’ve experienced a seminal event in your life by entering the “management” room that you’ve only heard of in the past. You’ve criticized the people who have occupied this room without ever knowing what it was really like to be in their shoes.

Now you get to find out, and you get to do it better. Are you ready? Have you been paying attention? Do you understand the minuses that will come with the pluses? It’s a wonderful journey, but it’s not without difficulty.

I can’t remember much about the first time I managed people. Maybe for you it was like my experience, a more gradual transition in that I was managing them in reality long before I was managing them officially, and being promoted was more about recognizing what was already taking place. That’s probably the best way for it to happen.

But I probably don’t remember that first time simply because our culture doesn’t value management all that highly. You don’t read about great managers like you read about great athletes, and so we aren’t accustomed to thinking of the entry to management as some sort of anniversary.

It is, though, because it changes your life. It may not change your life to the same extent that childbirth, marriage, divorce, or death will change your life, but it certainly sets a course with all sorts of implications for your life.

This is a change, and how you react to it will affect your happiness, relationships, health, and wealth. It will also have a strong impact on the people you manage.

You do realize that, right? Twenty years from now, let me sit down with one of your current clients and ask them about you, your impact, and what they learned. Chances are they won’t even be able to dredge a name out of their murky memories. The same is true of your vendors.

But let me do that with one of your current employees in twenty years and they’ll remember you for sure. Hopefully it’ll be for the right reasons, and that’s the opportunity that is in front of you.

Seeing the opportunity is the first step. The next is step back to think about the situation you are stepping into and setting your sights on the impact you want to have. Here are 5 key questions every new leader should ask:

  1. What were the reasons you were chosen for this role?
  2. What are the expectations for you for the first 6 months?
  3. What does your team believe are your key responsibilities?
  4. In 20 years, what do you want others to be saying about you as a leader?
  5. For each item in #4, write 1 or 2 things you commit to doing that will be your first steps towards your leadership legacy?

Key action to maintain momentum: Over your first 6 months, look back at your answers to the previous five questions weekly and think about your progress. If you are brave, get feedback on #2 and #3 from your leader or team. Then weekly ask yourself the questions:

  1. What do I commit to KEEP doing in the next week?
  2. What do I commit to START or STOP doing to improve my effectiveness as a leader?

Did David’s words and wisdom resonate with your leadership role? Visit David’s website or email David directly at david@recourses.com. Here are some additional links to his books:

The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth

Financial Management of a Marketing Firm

Managing (Right) for the First Time: A Field Guide For Doing It Well

10 Daily Questions to Assess and Reset Your WORK as a Leader

10 Daily Questions to Assess and Reset Your WORK as a Leader

Today’s guest blogger is Paul Doyle. Paul is an accomplished CEO and has a great passion for developing leaders. I asked Paul to contribute to this series because his advice is both practical and powerful. His focus is equipping leaders with skills they can use tomorrow. The ten powerful questions he shares are connected to the LeaderWork 10, and are the foundation of a ten-month leadership program that I collaborate with Paul to deliver. We just celebrated our third cohort graduation, and I have seen firsthand the impact these questions have on leaders that use them. Paul shares the habit that has enabled him to lead large, small, and medium-sized growing businesses and keep his actions and beliefs aligned amidst the chaos so his team could be successful.

The following content is the property of Paul Doyle and Leaderwork LLC and is shared on this blog with his full approval. Any reproduction or use of this material without his consent is not lawful. If you like it and want to use it somewhere else, just ask him directly using the link at the bottom of the post.

I’ve always viewed my responsibility as a leader is to create the environment in which others can achieve. Over the years, I have developed a list of questions that I ask myself at the end of each day (or at least I try to).  In working through the daily set of challenges, changes, and chaos that is the life of every leader, this list has served as a check list to remind me of the work I should be doing as a leader.

Q1:  Does my team know I am here for them? It is my responsibility to serve; know them, listen, support, coach, and help them.

Q2:  Is my team inspired by a vision for their work? A cool and challenging purpose will pull effort from people. Clarity about the finish line will allow them to self-manage to a great extent.

Q3:  Do the team members care about each other’s success?  Do they have a shared fate? Are they working as a true team, not just a group of people reporting to me?

Q4:  Is the work and the methods of working bringing out my team’s best effort?  I can’t motivate anyone, that comes from inside, fear can come from outside, but it doesn’t last. Is every member of the team doing work they know and feel is important and are they clear they have the opportunity and freedom to affect how the work is done?

Q5:  Does every member of the team know, all the time, if they are winning or losing?  A scoreboard is a powerful tool. People want to be successful and when performance data is available most people use it to make things better.

Q6: Is the work organized such that it is easier for the team to succeed than to fail? My team needs the work to be structured and supported in ways that help them be productive. They want good tools, good information, a good plan, and good support.

Q7: Does each member of my team know their priorities?  People prefer to be goal directed not just busy.  People like the comfort from knowing they are working on the right things. It is my responsibility to provide a plan and communicate a set of priorities, so team members can get after it and feel confident that their work matters.

Q8: Is my team well informed? Communication, both inside the team and in the company, is critical for people to make a connection. People are more loyal, productive, and creative when they know what is going on.  I need to connect team mates to one another and connect each team member to the company overall.

Q9: Have I challenged each team member to grow and learn more?  People must continue to learn more every day so they can do a better job and most people want to continue to learn so they can get a better job. I am responsible to guide both questions for all team members.

Q10: Does every team member feel the creative tension to do better? Continuous improvement is not an option. Whatever we are doing today will be done better tomorrow by someone.  If it is us – we win. If it is not us, we could be out of work.  My team needs to feel that stretch.

Thinking through the list at the end of each day usually results in me realizing that some individual needs help in an area, and sometimes it reminds me that there is a big omission.  Either way, a daily run through these questions helps me break out of the chaos and stay on top of what is my most significant responsibility – that is the work of leading.

 

Did Paul’s words and the questions he asks himself daily resonate with you? Learn more about the LeaderWork leadership development program by visiting the LeaderWork website or emailing Paul directly at paul.doyle@leader-work.com.

Social Media and Relationships: 3 headlines you will never see (for Leaders AND Parents)

Social Media and Relationships: 3 headlines you will never see (for Leaders AND Parents)

When I begin EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) with a client, we talk about how being an effective leader is like being a good parent. The key is having a few rules, repeating them often, and being consistent (i.e., demonstrating them through your actions). We do this because most leaders are also parents/aunts/uncles/etc., and the powerful correlation helps make it easier to remember this critical message.

Those of you who have spent time with me in keynotes or classes know that I bring in parenting stories often because I believe the skills we use to lead at work are the same ones we use to lead at home.

So here is my story . . .

We have a rule in our house that you don’t get a cell phone until you are going into ninth grade. This summer, our youngest child received her first phone. My wife is very good about starting intentional conversations around important topics for all of us to learn and talk about as a family. She does not dictate the family reading list often, so when the book The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch showed up, our summer conversation was clear. Then, when a printed copy of the The Atlantic’s article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, showed up the conversation went up a notch.

A note to parent leaders: The Atlantic article provides some powerful statistics around children and time with parents, timing of driver’s license, # of hours of sleep, dating activity, sexual activity, and rate of depression/feeling lonely since the introduction of the iPhone. At the very least, go to the article and review the graphs. It is a must-read.

For business leaders: I believe we do not have to wait for a study to come out and tell us the impact of social media on our key relationships as leaders. Do you honestly believe any of the following will ever appear as a headline that is backed by credible research?

  • Facebook Credited With Decreasing Divorce Rate
  • 24/7 Access to Email = Increased Employee Engagement
  • Instagram Rebuilding Families Around The Globe

Don’t wait for the data. Healthy relationships at home mirror healthy relationships at work. Time together talking, listening, laughing, and sometimes crying is how relationships are built. I will not offer web-friendly “5 Habits To  . . . ” or “3 Things To Do . . .” lists. Each of us has to figure that out, and the resources I linked to above are a good place to start.

Remember the mantra about being an effective leader = being an effective parent:

  • Have a few rules
  • Repeat them often
  • Be consistent (Walk the Talk)

Lead well – at home and at work . . .

 

2 Free Resources to Learn and Grow as a leader

2 Free Resources to Learn and Grow as a leader

As many of my US readers head into the Fourth of July weekend, I am hoping there will be time to relax and reflect. I have a goal to increase the learning material available around people-centered leadership, and wanted to let you know of my two whitepapers that are now available as a free download on Amazon/kindle, iBooks, and most other popular formats.  I also made them FREE. Here are the links to the first two volumes of my People-Centered Leadership Series:

Volume 1: Don’t Avoid the Gaps, Lead Through Them: A view on leadership as creating gaps and managing through their closure – Includes a self-assessment at the end to help you assess your habits and your own gaps. Master these three gaps and good things will happen with your team.

Volume 2: Demystifying Strategic Planning: How to create one and effectively lead through the gap – Includes tips, techniques, and resources to help you become an effective strategic leader regardless of where you sit in an organization.

One of my core values is Learning + Doing = Growth. If you have leaders you work with that are looking to develop their own effectiveness as a leader, please forward this on to them and, even better, read one of the whitepapers together and support each other in the action plans that result. Would you also be willing to help others understand the value of the articles by leaving a review? I would appreciate it if you did.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! . . . . and for those of you in the northern hemisphere – enjoy the summer!

EXTRAS:

If you are looking for a good read this summer, here are past lists that include some of my favorites:

fyi – If you are part of the Kindleunlimited program my book, People-Centered Performance: Bringing Out Our Best Through Honest Conversation is free.