The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

We get busy.

The ‘To-Do’ list on Monday often starts with what was left on Friday. Then the messages start coming in from the people that depend on us for things — boss, peers, customers, kids, spouse, aging parents, our team, and friends. Then we respond like we have on every other Monday — we get to work.

If you stood back and considered your day, how confident are you that you are working on the most important stuff? How confident are you that you are successfully balancing the competing priorities in your life?

I was coaching a highly intelligent and capable leader who was struggling with this feedback: “You are not following up with some of your peers on key work, and are getting the reputation of not following through.” Her life was much like what I described in the first paragraph. I simply asked the question, “How do you prioritize your work when the list gets long?” Her response: “The list is always long, so I just get to work.”

The good news — she did not need marriage counseling, a spa weekend, or even a job change. She just needed to practice managing herself.

For this practice, I asked her to set aside an hour a week to step back, reset her priorities, reset herself, and THINK about the work/business that was being entrusted to her. The result? The top 2-3 priorities started getting done every week, her follow-up was more timely with key peers, and she made time for the important things while letting a few other things go. The feedback from her leader three months later supported the impact: “The sales team is feeling more connected to your work and the impact you are having on our business is exactly what I expected when we hired you.” Her feedback was: “I feel like I am having an impact and I worry/think less about work when I am not there.”

This is a practice Stephen Covey called sharpening the saw, and Gino Wickman calls a clarity break™. The people targeted with this solution are leaders who have big goals, many resources to get focused, and a world that wants a great deal from them because of their position, personal capability, personality, and power. The simple solution? Spend an hour or two a week to reset yourself and make sure you are focusing on the things that matter to you, so the barriers that are getting in the way of your own focus and joy get removed. Is your life more like this last sentence or the first paragraph of this post?

In working with and coaching leaders who live that first paragraph every week, and ironically becoming that person, the only habit I have found that allows us to be our best is to stop doing and spend some time thinking. To work ON our life and take a break from being IN our work. Try it — get away from your desk to a quiet place, turn off your phone, and spend time to review your priorities, think about the people that matter, solve a couple of big issues you or your team has placed in your hands, and plan your return to work with new focus.

I am still working on being 100% successful on that one hour a week,  so expect it to be hard.

Here is a short video where I explain the form I have created for myself to use during my TRU time. This is named after my focus of generating TRUst and facing some of my important TRUths that I want to live by.

Our work as leaders starts with us working on our own clarity, confidence and energy/joy for our work. Start making that a priority this week by practicing a clarity break!

Extra resources to learn more:

2 Quotes All Leaders Should Have On Their Desk

2 Quotes All Leaders Should Have On Their Desk

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer

It sings because it has a song.

~Maya Angelou

I can thank the US Postal Service for this quote, because I discovered it on a stamp a few years ago and it has stuck with me. It is a great reminder of the work we all have to do in managing the intent and focus of our work. As a consultant, the trap is to always enter a situation with an answer, and allow people to just pull answers from you versus working together to find and implement a solution that moves us towards a desired future. In my mind, it is the fine line between being a consultant or a partner, and I strive to be the latter.

I first became aware of the approach of assuming all my clients “whole and resourceful” and “possessing the answer to their problem” when I took my coaching training with Doug Silsbee, a master coach. His presence-based approach to coaching and leadership is focused on helping people develop the capacity to be present with all the people and the situations around us, and use that awareness to build relationships and solve problems differently. His The Mindful Coach: Seven Roles for Facilitating Leader Development book is still one of my go to coaching guides. His most recent book, Presence-Based Leadership: Complexity Practices for Clarity, Resilience, and Results That Matter,  has been a fun read for me this summer because it so captures his beliefs, the models he created from his work, and the stories that capture the essence of the impact of his approach. I can still see his subtle motion to remind me to relax my jaw when listening during one of our coaching practices.

Doug passed away on July 30th. This quote is also a celebration of the song he shared with me that has shaped and continues to shape my approach to coaching, consulting, and teaching.

Do you have any quotes on your desk? Words that bring you back to a core belief or encourage you to stay on a challenging journey?

A second powerful quote for me:

People will forget what you said,

People will forget what you did,

But people will never forget how you made them feel.

~ Maya Angelou

Lead well!

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 will people remember about your leadership?

What will people remember about your leadership?

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.

~Maya Angelou

The great thing about aging is all the different situations you have experienced. They are not all positive, but with time they all have the potential to become wisdom, and this quote reminds me of the value of a smile and being present.

I admit that I still get this wrong. Recently I was doing a check-in on day 2 with a client, and two people on the leadership team commented how great the exercise was and how it energized them about the year to come. Energized? My memory was of a low energy, difficult to facilitate time with a group of people that needed to be carried over the finish line. Clearly I was wrong.

I did not create the one-on-one template with this quote in mind, and yet it is designed to help leaders create conditions where feelings flow and people leave feeling supported and listened to. We all need to keep learning this lesson as we lead. I always smile when this reminder happens, and if a client asks I simply say, “You just reminded me of the importance of being in a room together and getting the truth flowing. Even at the end of a long day it is energizing – so let’s do that again today.”

And remember – it can also go the other way. When people feel devalued or fearful, that is what they will remember. The problem is, they will not share that at the morning check-in, which makes your job even harder as a leader.

Which lasting memories are you going to sprinkle around your team today?

Stress – is it bad?

Stress – is it bad?

Last month I shared my 5 favorite leadership TED talks. Today I want to add one:

How to make stress your friend ~ Kelly McGonigal

I work with leaders of growth-minded organizations, and one of the most important questions is, “Do you have time to do the accountabilities of the job/jobs you signed up for?” It is a core part of the EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) process. It is during this conversation where the leaders who feel overwhelmed say it, and it is over the next six months of working together that I can tell how they are handling it. Stressed people can still be happy and productive, and yet some get so buried in it that rocks don’t get done and they start to withdraw from the work of the leadership team. This video puts some perspective on it, and it is really a life or death situation.

My favorite part of the video is the last six minutes, where we see the impact of reaching out to others to help you with stress or reaching out to friends that you know are under stress. One big aha: Caring for others creates resilience.

Stress is not bad in itself. What is harmful is how we process it. When we process it by connecting with others, it actually makes us stronger.

Lead well!

Key Leadership Skill: Sharpening the Saw or Clarity Breaks – 2 Tips to help you get started

Key Leadership Skill: Sharpening the Saw or Clarity Breaks – 2 Tips to help you get started

We are all too busy.

Do you believe that? I see too many leaders struggling with this feeling, and with the health effects that all too often follow this constant state of being.

At this moment, 20+ leaders from my EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) clients are doing a 6-week challenge to develop or reinforce the habit of taking one hour every week to spend time in what Stephen Covey called ‘sharpening the saw’. Gino Wickman calls it a ‘clarity break’™, and like many of the leaders I coach, I have struggled to establish the habit. I believe it is important, and currently I have two straight weeks of clarity breaks going, so here are two tips that have helped me:

  1. I created a template to make it easy to focus on the most important questions I need to answer each week and the work I need to review.
  2. The place is important. I live near Lake Michigan, and have found that a short drive to the water and sitting in my car helps me detach from my work. The picture you see here is the view that I have. My desk and coffee shops did not work for me.

Clarity breaks don’t fix being too busy, but the impact is to help you see your priorities more clearly so that the time you have will be focused on them. (FYI – check out my LinkedIn article about 3 Things Leaders Should Stop Saying in 2018 – “I don’t have enough time” is one.)

I am thinking of doing a broader Clarity Break Challenge in a few months for all of the readers of this blog and I am open to allowing each of you to invite people from your company. If you have interest in learning more, sign up here; if you would like to explore doing a challenge with leaders/individuals within your company indicate that in the note space. I would be glad to explore the possibility of kicking it off with a webinar or lunch and learn to help jumpstart their success.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

My Top 5 Leadership TED Talks

My Top 5 Leadership TED Talks

I was recently speaking with a group and asked if they had seen one of my favorite TED Talks. Over 50% of the group had not.

It hit me that there are thousands of great talks and, as a result, some of the classics I share as part of my journey to help develop people-centered leaders have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Here are my top 5:

  1. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action – One of the most-watched TED Talks ever. The wisdom he shares can be used at many different levels; I have used it in career conversations, strategic planning sessions, and change management training. Watch and share often!
  2. Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe – Is trust and safety important? Aspiring and committed people-centered leaders know the answer is ‘Yes’, and this video will help you explore it and identify some actions you can do tomorrow.
  3. Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? – What is the role of social media in healthy relationships? There is research around this, and Sherry Turkle is an expert.
  4. Susan Cain: The power of introverts – I like this video because it stresses the importance of having introverts on teams, helps understand how common it is to be introverted, and challenges introverts to speak up!
  5. Derek Sivers: How to start a movement (short and funny) – There are not too many funny and short TED Talks. People-centered leaders understand the importance of having people willing to follow them, and this video lays a clear vision for the importance of followers.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

Scott

Leaders – Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

Leaders – Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

A key barrier to being a People-Centered Leader is avoiding the hard stuff.

Recent data from my four-week People-Centered Leadership journey indicates we love to watch YouTube videos and download forms that might help us, but when we are asked to share information about ourselves with a team member using the Team Member Fact Sheet™, we skip that part – 100% of the time.

My intent in offering this People-Centered Leadership journey was to help people practice the habits that are foundational behaviors of People-Centered Leaders. The barriers to those key habits are familiar, and yet I have witnessed leaders that – with a little support – break through the barriers that go up when we interact differently with our people.

Here are a couple of quotes I will remember forever:

  1. “When I started asking them questions about themselves, they asked me – Why are you asking me this? The tone clearly communicated they were skeptical of my motives. I realized that as a leader I never get to know my people, so they are surprised when I show interest. It is going to take me some time to fix it, and I am committed to fixing it.”
  2. “We work right next to each other and have been doing it for five years, and yet some of the most basic information about them I do not know. Once I got past that initial feeling of shame, I was able to start the conversation. It was a great conversation.”

As the year end approaches, it’s a great time to focus on connecting with the people around you.

I think we can have some fun with this, so watch this space for more details about the People-Centered Leadership Challenge. It will be a chance to explore your own strengths, try some time-tested  techniques, and qualify to win some great prizes. More to come. If you want to learn more about People-Centered Leadership, here is an explanation.

People-Centered Leaders: Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!