Leadership

Leadership, Crafting Culture and Management

Breaking Through Your Own Resistance To Accept Help

It doesn’t’ happen often. In fact, I’ve gone on record that in all my years of serving leaders I’ve only encountered one client who was utterly disagreeable to be helped. But that doesn’t mean all of us don’t encounter times – perhaps just moments – where we’re resistant to asking for, or accepting help even though we know we could use it. 

Why? Let me give you the 2 biggest reasons I’ve discovered in helping people.

Pride. Leaders and executives have pride. Not necessarily the harmful kind – arrogance and hubris. Mostly, good leaders have pride in themselves, their accomplishments, and their future prospects. Great leaders have pride in their teams and organizations. 

The downside is that this positive pride can make us resistant to vulnerability. The whole “never let ’em see you sweat” mindset that we so often need works against us in these moments where we could likely experience some significant growth. We’re not accustomed to turning it ON and OFF, so turning our pride down enough to see the safety that can exist with somebody who can help us…it’s difficult. It requires a firm commitment to our own growth and improvement. Only when our growth matters more than our pride will we likely submit ourselves to the vulnerability necessary for the task of personal and professional growth.

Lack of safety. More than any single thing I’ve had clients tell me of all the times they sought or would have accepted help, but the right person never showed up. Those who did show up weren’t safe enough for them to fully open up. Mostly, clients report a boss who attempted to coach them and they simply felt it was a no-win situation for them. I know much is written about how we must coach our employees at work. And I agree. But there is a specific kind of coaching that very few bosses can successfully pull off – the kind that is personal enough to really move the needle. You could survey every client I’ve ever served and I guarantee 100% of them (save one 😉 ) would readily tell you that their biggest breakthroughs happened when they were most vulnerable. Not when they were least vulnerable. But they’d also tell you that they felt completely safe with me. It’s the advantage of professional coaches who have no other dog in the hunt other than helping the client excel. I don’t bring any baggage to the relationship. There’s nothing the client owes me, other than their best effort to their own growth and improvement. And they basically don’t owe me that, but they owe that to themselves! 

So what can we do if we’re determined to grow and improve? 

One, make up your mind.

Your determination to improve is the most important ingredient. Nothing can replace it. Until you fully commit yourself to your own growth and improved success, nothing else matters. Tactics. Strategies. Collaboration. None of it will make any difference until you are fully vested in your future potential being realized. 

Two, jettison excuses. Accept responsibility.

Second, only to the first is this one – to get rid of all the blaming and excuse-making. Included in this is to get rid of living in the past. 

Sometimes we can make up our mind that we’d like to improve, but we’re cursed with some lingering issues of being victims. It’s so easy to do. To relive all the woes of our past and find excuses why we played no part in it. Even easier is to never forget all the injustices or ill-treatment we endured. It helps us explain some of our current challenges. We’re the way we are because back years ago we had to endure certain things. That becomes our excuse for why we’re still engaged in some behaviors that may not be serving us so well. 

My coaching is intently focused on helping clients paint themselves into the corner where all the excuses go away. It’s the only place where any of us can truly achieve growth. I call it a corner because only when our backs are against the wall will we realize there’s only one way to go – forward. And forward only happens when we suck all the oxygen out of the room filled with our excuses. Like fire, our excuses need fuel. As long as give it to them, they thrive and spread. Once we willingly put ourselves in the corner where we can no longer use them, we begin to deprive them of the food they need to survive. In my experience, almost all clients find a pivotal moment – a place they come to – where they resign themselves to “no more excuses.” The quicker we surrender to responsibility and accountability, the quicker our excuses die…the faster our progress!

Are you to blame for everything that has happened to you? No, of course not. We’re all subjected to people and circumstances beyond our control. Even so, we must accept responsibility for our own lives because the alternative is unacceptable for every high achiever – to be a pawn in life, unable to impact anything that happens to us. Far better to look at our life as being in our control to do whatever we can to influence the outcome – what I call, “our ideal outcome.”

Three, figure out your ideal outcome. Pursue it vigorously.

This is among the chief reasons it can be tough to find a safe person. It’s also THE key reason why professional coaching works. 

Bosses who seek to mentor or coach have an ideal outcome associated with your career. They want and need things from you. Nothing wrong about that, it’s just how it is. 

Friends who might be filled with advice have another ideal outcome for you – and for themselves. They want to be your friend and will likely tread carefully to challenge you.

What you most need is compassionate challenges from somebody who has no vested interest in your outcome except you achieving your very best. That’s why safe people are hard to find. People who aren’t beholden to you for anything other than for you to achieve what you most want! 

Clients often find this part of the process more difficult than they first imagined. It’s much easier to enumerate what you don’t want, but to hone in on what you most want – your ideal outcome – can be hard. Especially since many of us haven’t really put in the work to figure that out.

What do you most want to happen? 

What weaknesses do you most want to remedy?

What strengths do you most want to leverage even more?

What outcome – what result – do you most want? Right now?

Having a safe guide to help us figure that out is powerful. Until we know exactly what we’re aiming for, then we can blindly strive for things we may not fully want. 

Leadership: Always Be Straight With People (Part 2) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Podcast Episode 256Have you ever found yourself pursuing something you really didn’t want? Something you felt others may have wanted for you? It’s likely everybody has known that experience. Few things are more disappointing than reaching a destination you never really wanted. It’s the Abilene Paradox. 

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a [50-mile] trip to Abilene for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

Be careful where you go. Make sure it’s where you most want to go. And remember, it’s always wiser to run toward something than away from something. 

Be a leader. Let it begin with leading yourself toward an improved version of yourself.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 30th 2021)

Session 30. We’re completing this short 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. My goal when we began was to provoke thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Mostly, I wanted to help you challenge yourself and your enterprise to higher human performance! My role isn’t to tell you what to do, or how to do it. My role is to help you figure it out. I want to help you see more clearly and take positive actions that will move you forward. Always forward!

So with that, let’s wrap up our 30 days together in this course. No, it’s not the end of this podcast. It’s just the end of this 30-day series. I’ll be taking a break after today so don’t panic if you don’t hear from me for a week or two. That’ll give you an opportunity to catch up and perhaps go back to review episodes of this course that most resonated with you – or the ones that you felt might be most needed. 

Pursuing The Ideal Outcome

This is the objective of all this work. We’ve mostly learned how beneficial it is, to begin with the end in view. Everybody says it and claims to practice it, but in my experience, very few people put in the work to detail it out. When pressed, people find it challenging to articulate or specify in writing their ideal outcome

Put in the work. Sit down and write down your ideal outcome. Your leadership will never exceed your willingness, courage, and dedication to improve.

Be detailed and specific. You’re not etching it in stone. Ideal outcomes are always subject to change because life happens. Our circumstances and situations change. People come and go in our life. Relationships change. Some grow. Others diminish. Many factors impact our ideal outcome so give yourself permission to go with it and change it as needed. This is your life and your career. Take control of it. Remember, you’re writing a hero story, not a victim story. Construct your ideal outcome accordingly. 

It’s The People Who Matter!

Leadership has an obvious point. It’s relationships with people. I’ve been beating the drum of leadership being all about influence and doing for others what they’re unable to do for themselves. The beneficiary of each of these activities is OTHERS. But more precisely, it’s about your ability to relate well to others. 

High-performing enterprises behave differently. They’re willing to do what others aren’t. They behave differently because they think and believe differently. Those thoughts and beliefs drive them to act differently. And it impacts all the relationships. Vendors, suppliers, strategic partners, employees, leaders, management, customers – all these relationships are superior in high-performing organizations. That makes an enormous difference in the outcomes. 

Part of relationship building is mutual benefit. One-sided relationships aren’t tolerated in high-performance cultures. That is, a person unwilling or unable to contribute isn’t tolerated. Suppliers unwilling to meet the expectations aren’t either. Up and down and throughout the operation, relationships must be beneficial, not detrimental. 

There is a relentless pursuit of the ideal outcome coupled with compassion where judgment is focused on the honest pursuit of the ideal outcome. That doesn’t mean everybody is perfect. Mistakes will be made. Errors will happen. But in the context of learning, growing and trying things. Innovation will always be fraught with imperfection as we pursue perfection. The relationships are forged in willingness, intention, and wisdom. Relationships are damaged by unwillingness, selfishness and foolishness. 

From employees to customers and every relationship in between, high-performing organizations raise the bar over which everybody must jump. Expectations are highest in excellent organizations. 

The rich get richer because excellent performers attract more excellent performers. They want to be surrounded by and enjoy a relationship with other excellent people. 

College football is underway as I hit the record button today. This weekend there will be lots of games played. Some teams haven’t had a winning culture in a long time, if ever. We look at the colleges that seem to always find their way to the top of the rankings each year and we could think they’re lucky, they’ve got more resources…we might even think they cheat. We can think whatever we want to think. The reality is success breeds success. So the elite college football programs can recruit better players because better players know if they go to those schools they’ll have better players as teammates. They know they won’t have to worry about having to play with somebody who is unwilling or unable to compete at the highest levels. 

What do your people know? 

Do they know there are weak performers whose low performances are tolerated? Do they know that if they work harder and outperform their teammates, nobody will notice or care? What kind of relationships exist internally and externally? 

Look at every relationship carefully. How do leadership and management relate to the people within the enterprise? How do employees relate to management? Is there trust? Is there safety? 

How are vendor and supplier relationships? Describe them. Are they ideal? Are they true partnerships or are they more adversarial? 

How are your relationships with your customers? 

As you survey all the lines that connect us as humans, think carefully about how you might accurately describe these relationships. How congruent are your descriptions with your ideal outcome? How are you closing the gap to make them more as you’d want?

Predictable Results

Every high-performing organization produces predictable results. Their work is as precise as flying an airliner. Or as precise as a fast-food drive-through. They get it right all the time, with few exceptions. And when there are exceptions, they recover well. 

Things that were once difficult are now easy. Nobody even thinks much about it because processes and systems are in place and people are devoted to following them so the same result occurs over and over and over. Every single time. 

With such an environment in place, people can now get busy tweaking and honing things. Making things more perfect. 

There’s something powerful about making a 1% improvement when you’re already performing at a high level. It’s dramatically more impactful than getting a 25% improvement from a poor performance. Excellent organizations are relentless in making things even better…then better yet still. It’s the game everybody wants to play and win.

Success is a habit. So is losing. That’s why leadership is so important. Somebody has to show us the way forward. Especially when we can’t see it for ourselves. 

Last week I heard a college football coach, Sam Pittman of the University of Arkansas (a team that hasn’t enjoyed much success in recent years but got off a 2-0 start this year) say that when he got the job he made sure he and his coaching staff yelled the loudest in practice when players performed well. That’s a leader who understands the power of relationships and achieving predictable results. He insists that praise and celebration for getting it right outshine the loudness against getting it wrong. 

Excellent organizations focus on finding people doing great work and they celebrate it. Poor, even average organizations, are fixated on catching people doing things wrong. That focus and behavior demonstrate the difference in their outcomes. The one focuses on great predictable results. The other concentrates on mistakes, errors, and mishaps. 

Attend any youth sporting event and you’ll hear parents hollering instructions to their kids. If barking out orders worked, then every kid would be a superstar. But most aren’t. Largely because they’re learning and don’t yet know what the parents “think” they know. In too many instances, the kids will lose whatever love they may have for the game because the adults in their life can’t understand one fundamental truth. A truth that is summed up in my all-time favorite quote, a quote I’ve never been able to trace back to its original author…

Everything is hard until it’s easy.

 

All the things we’ve talked about in this series are relatively simple. Nothing is complex or difficult to understand. Some things may be tough for you to believe, but belief is your choice based on the evidence. Ignore it if you’d like. Choose to believe whatever you’d like. I’d encourage you to believe the truth and find a way to understand that you and your career can go much further, faster. It’s up to you. Serve yourself and your organization. 

I’m going to end this series with a common story used in my coaching. A simple story to demonstrate the power we each have to choose what we think and what we believe. 

Here in DFW, we have lots of traffic, the hazards of a city with over 7 million people. Road rage is common in big cities. 

Picture yourself on the highway headed to the office. Suddenly, in your rearview mirrors, you see a pickup racing up behind you. The driver whips his truck around you and jumps in front of you irritating you. He races on down the road leaving you alone in your car to fume about his behavior. “What a jerk,” you say out loud (or something much more profane and foul). 😉 

“Who does he think he is.” All kinds of negative emotions sweep over you. If he came close to hitting you, you’re really steamed. 

By the time you arrive at your office, your blood pressure is elevated. Your emotions are high. It was half an hour ago when the pickup cut in front of you and you’re not over it yet. This will linger for as long as you’re willing to give it oxygen. All because it’s up to you. This is your choice. You’re thinking whatever you’re thinking because you choose to think these things. 

Meanwhile, the driver of the pickup has no idea who you are, or how you’re feeling. Your feelings are having no impact on him. You’re only hurting yourself. 

What if you were to think better of that driver? 

“Why would I?” you might say.

Because it’s better for you. Because it serves you more. 

What if that driver were en route to a family emergency? “He wasn’t,” is how most folks reply. “But what if he was. What if you chose to believe that he was?” I’ll say. How are you helped by extending grace to the driver of the pickup? You’re helped in every way. 

I know it’s hard, but it’s helpful. I know it’s not complicated, but it’s not easy to do. 

“How do I do that?” is a pretty common question I field. 

“You decide,” I say. “Just make up your mind that you’re going to choose to think the best because you have no evidence to support how you’re feeling – and even if you do have evidence to think ill of that driver, it won’t do YOU any good.” 

It’s been said that everything is hard. Good things. Bad things. Beautiful things. Ugly things. Things that build up. Things that tear down. Choose your hard. 

That’s right because that’s profitable. It helps us. It influences us and does for us what we otherwise might not be able to do for ourselves. It’s a life of leadership as we work to control our own destiny and write our hero story.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 29th 2021)

Session 29 in our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. Let’s keep the ideas flowing about being excellent – not just in our leadership but for our team, group, or organization. Let’s talk about it context of connection, collaboration, and communication. These three C’s are crucial for high-performance and your leadership. 

By now you’ve figured out how to improve the psychological safety in your organization. Without it, there’ll be no good connection. And collaboration and communication will both suffer. These are important factors in measuring performance and whether or not people see it as a “gotcha” tactic versus a scorecard where success can be celebrated. 

Connect with your people individually if possible (as I said in an earlier session, think about your direct reports and expand it out beyond that if you can). Sit down and learn about their career goals, their life goals, and what they most want. Find points of congruency between the organization’s needs and their goals. Help them reach their goals and lead them (influence them and do for them what they can’t do for themselves). This is a perfect opportunity to collaborate with them on how they can better know if they’re on track toward what they most want to achieve. Communicate what you’re going to help them do to better measure their own success, so like me at the gym – they’ll know if they’re getting stronger. 

Connect with your people collectively for the same purpose. Ask them for their input. Challenge them to come up with measurements that will help each group, or team and the whole organization know the progress you’re all making together. Make it exciting, fun and challenging. 

We’re living in a society full of gamification. High-performing cultures gamify the quantifiable measurements to drive the competitive urges we all have to achieve more. My son has three kids ages 10, 8, and 6. When they were younger getting them to eat better was a challenge. Like most siblings, they were competitive with each other. So he made it a nightly contest with the winner getting some prize. The winner would be all smiles. The losers were in tears knowing they’d have to wait until tomorrow night for redemption from their losing performance. 😉 It works. 

Ideally, you want people involved in the measuring. Now some data will be easily captured by whatever computer systems are in place. Other measurements might require a more manual process. It’s important that people see the true value of the measurements to help them achieve more – and to have more fun (be more engaged in the outcomes). Remember, everybody in your organization wants to know where and how they fit in the world at work…and how they make a difference. This is how they’ll know!

One easy suggestion is to start with the speedbumps and roadblocks they encounter every day (or at least every week). A great point of connection and collaboration is to communicate your commitment to help them remedy these frustrations. Work together to measure the negative impact of these constraints. How much time is lost? What’s the financial cost? Figure out whatever you can quantify that will help determine the true impact of the impediment so you can then figure out what needs to be done to reduce or eliminate those measurements. Then keep measuring as you implement the changes!

Part of this will involve systems and processes. Simplify, simplify, simplify. 

I arrived as a new leader and quickly found an organization steeped in manual forms. I asked staff to give me a copy of every form being used. Thinking this would be a straightforward task I quickly learned they weren’t quite sure exactly how many forms they were using. Nobody had ever gathered them all together to inventory them. By the time the 27th form – again, these were paper forms filled out with a pen – I cried, “Uncle!” I’d seen enough. No, I didn’t bother calculating the inefficiency. I jumped straight to ditching the forms by distilling the information into just a couple of forms. All the same information. 95% fewer forms. Much less time spent completing them. 

What systems or processes do you rely on that may be broken? Question everything. Why not? Maybe it’s great. Maybe it’s not. Time to find out. 

Again, connection, collaboration, and communication. Work with your team or organization in figuring this out because you need to push problem-solving and decision-making down throughout the organization. The closer to the frontline workers you can drive these, the better. Who better to figure out solutions to the frustrating, nagging speedbumps than the people doing that work every day. They’re the ones encountering the constraints and they’re likely the ones with great suggestions on how to fix it. 

Don’t be afraid of process and system improvement. Remember the high value of humility. Quit caring who gets credit for what. When you grow to the point where you’re less interested in blame and credit, then you can improve your interest (and work) in becoming excellent!

Be brave. Challenge yourself and your team. Find paths forward to higher efficiency, lower cost, higher output, and quantum leaps in performance. I’m a big fan of striving to do something others don’t think is possible. Or things they don’t even consider doing. Why not? Let’s push the limits of what we think is possible. There’s no point in imposing limits just because we think it’ll be hard, maybe impossible. Why not find out?

It’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s how you can elevate your leadership, too.

a) influence
b) do for others what they’re unable to do for themselves

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 28th 2021)

Day 28 of our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. Let’s continue our conversation about keeping score, measurements.

About 15 years ago I decided to get more intentional about my physical health and fitness so I signed up at a gym. From the get-go I went five days a week for about 45 minutes to an hour. At first, I didn’t really track anything. I mostly just wanted to develop the new habit of going regularly and I focused on cardio. I’d see guys hitting the weight machines and free weights, many of them keeping notes. They were writing down how many repetitions and how much weight they did on any given date. I got acquainted with a few of them and would watch them increase the weights. Sometimes they’d increase the weight and the number of repetitions. I started to do the same thing except I’d keep the numbers in my head. Admittedly, I wasn’t using as many machines or as many free weights so tracking my numbers wasn’t a big challenge. But I was well on my well to better understand my strength levels once I began to track the numbers. 

The same thing applies to your enterprise. You can think you’re excellent – as I could have easily thought of myself as being fit and strong – but the numbers don’t lie. And they display our progress or lack of. 

High-performance organizations accurately measure their important numbers. These numbers become the scorecard for everybody in the organization. People enjoy tracking it and grow increasingly competitive to pursue improving the numbers. Nobody sees such tracking as punitive. Instead, it’s rewarding – like seeing the pins you knock down when you’re bowling. In 2012 research published in Personnel Psychology reported that high-performing employees are 400% more productive than the average. Plenty of other research bears out that enterprises who undertake some systematic process of high-performance (think Lean, Six Sigma, or a variety of the many other options) realize an improvement between 25-40%. Merely picking a horse to ride, and committing to it results in significant growth and improvement. 

Far too many organizations approach their daily work in a willy-nilly fashion. Going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other without strategic purpose or intent isn’t the way high-performing enterprises operate. Avoid joining or remaining among the ranks of the average or below-average organizations. It’s time to soar, but first, you must know where you are so you can better determine where you’d like to go. 

When I started 30 minutes on a treadmill at brisk speed (setting the machine on 2.8-3) would wind me. Within a month I was able to increase it to 3.8-4 and maintain that for an hour. I was committed to walking at a fast pace, not running. I was (and still am) too old to develop knee problems resulting from running. By measuring the time and the speed, I was able to set my sites on improving. My goals were constantly moving forward because I wanted evidence that my fitness was improving. I didn’t want to just feel like I was getting better. I wanted to know. For sure.

So it goes at work. Everybody feels like they’re doing pretty well. Some, perhaps most, will claim, “We’re doing our best.” The reality is few have a clear idea of what their best might even be. Watch any video or documentary about military training, like the SEALS, and you’ll quickly realize these candidates mostly didn’t think they could push themselves to the point required to qualify for achieving entry to such a prestigious group. Those who don’t make it likely have the physical skills required, but they lack the mental toughness to go beyond whatever limits exist in their own mind. They quit believing they’ve done their best and it’s just not good enough. 

Can you identify the top key measurements that might be vital in the success of your organization? How many can you list? 

Is there any current documentation of these measurements? If so, how are the numbers shared in your organization and how do people respond to them?

Before we end today’s session let me challenge you to avoid falling into your industry trap of just looking at whatever measurements everybody else in your space looks at. I’m not urging you to not measure those same things, but I would challenge you to consider measuring things others aren’t looking at – things that might have a meaningful impact, but are largely being ignored by others in your space. 

For example, many years ago I began to look at a number that seemed obvious to me, but I didn’t hear anybody in our industry talk that much about it. At the time, I was increasing my fanatism with inventory management. Vendor returns – aka “defectives – were problematic because we’d buy merchandise, pay for it, then be stuck with some portion of our purchases that were unsellable. We’d have to then negotiate with the vendor to have the merchandise returned. More lost time with unsellable and paid-for inventory. I decided to more carefully track this and use it in meetings and negotiations with vendors. I was also able to negotiate better terms and conditions so the vendor would more quickly help us return the defective merchandise (another part of the tracking was how many days it took the vendor to take the merchandise back and issue us credit). Such things had a big impact on my internal vendor scores and I wanted vendors to pursue a higher score by making it easier for us to return defective merchandise AND to get the offsetting credit to our account. 

Do you have anything like that? Something that will make a difference, but you’ve not yet thought to measure it?

Tomorrow we’ll continue down this same path because great leadership is evidence-based. You want to have proof of how well you’re doing. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 27th 2021)

Day 27. Four more sessions including today and then we’re have completed our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course, a series of about 5 hours of real-world leadership coaching. You’re doing the work. I’m only here to help spur you on to do the work by showing you a few things you may not have considered, by sharing some insights that might be helpful, and by giving you some concepts that might help you move forward in your own leadership journey. Thank you for being part of this 30-day journey. 

High-performance leadership focuses on creating a high-performance environment where people can do their best work, where they can grow, where they can be challenged, and where they can see how their contributions make a difference. Your leadership relies on knowing what is real and true. It’s been said that fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. You don’t want to be ruled by fear, but by reality. 

That means you have to have great, accurate information. Data. Intel. Analysis. Measurements. Great leaders embrace knowing the numbers, the facts, and other data that can help make better decisions. After all, the daily work of a leader is communicating and making a series of decisions. Usually, the decisions aren’t “bet the farm” magnitude, but the higher up you go, the more critical the decisions become. The CEO can make a decision that can have an enormous negative or positive impact. The staff supervisor can make a decision that will move the needle, but the repercussions will be much smaller than those made by the CEO. 

I must reiterate the progression of leadership because these ingredients matter. Greatly. Especially that foundational ingredient, humility. It’s not just an honorable character trait. It’s practical. Without it, you’ll be robbed of seeing things more clearly and accurately. 

Business intelligence is steeped in curiosity, seeking answers – and questioning existing answers. Effective leaders want to make sure they’re seeing things accurately. Understanding is an accurate comprehension of something. Delusion isn’t helpful. False assumptions aren’t either. 

Survey organizations and ask them if they’re high-performing. Most, maybe all, will say they are. Probe more deeply and you’ll quickly find they stake their claim on how they feel about themselves. They think they’re high-performing, but they really don’t know. 

Let’s Go Bowling In The Dark. Wanna Go?

Who wants to go bowling when you can’t see the pins? You have no idea how many pins you knocked down. You hear the ball rolling down the lane. You hear pins fall. But you can’t see anything. No way to properly measure your success or failure. Nobody would sign up for such a game. The fun of bowling isn’t merely the act of tossing the ball down the lane. It’s in the work of trying to knock down as many pins in a single throw as possible. 

Why then do you think your team or organization should perform at a high level when nobody can keep score? Lots of people are disengaged because they can’t see how or if they’re making any difference. 

Measurements – keeping score – is important so you can objectively know if you’re making progress. Feeling good about yourself isn’t an accurate measurement. Those annual performance reviews tend to not be performance-based at all, but rather how somebody feels. Those feelings may be based on something, but often the basis isn’t something very quantifiable. 

What is quantifiable in your organization? Likely anything and everything. Does it mean everything is important? Not necessarily. You must be careful to connect the dots. Perhaps you have to be even more careful not to connect other dots that don’t belong together. 

The other day I heard somebody talking about how many Native American tribes were prospering because of casinos. One particular tribe comprised of about 400 members was prospering so much that tribe members were each paid over $80,000 monthly. Unemployment was over 99% because nobody needed to work. The slim percentage of people who did work, I’d assume did so because they wanted to – not because they needed to. Not knowing all the facts, some economist or expert could look at this particular tribe with 99% unemployment and conclude, “We need to help this tribe. Hardly any of them have jobs.” But by knowing and understanding the context, you realize unemployment in this community is not a problem, so far as earning money is concerned. 

Leaders can make erroneous conclusions, too. We can all get it wrong if we lack the humility to see real answers, accurate data, and even more accurate conclusions. 

From the number of incoming phone calls to inventory turnover ratios to customer acquisition costs – we can measure just about anything and everything today, thanks to computing power. Don’t be afraid to measure. People daily ignore going to the doctor even they “know” something isn’t right. Incorrectly thinking “what I don’t know won’t hurt me” can prove fatal if we have something seriously wrong.

Ignorance is not bliss. Know your numbers. 

Great leaders don’t fall into the trap of tracking only the key numbers indicative of their industry. They look to track things few others are willing to track. Seeking the competitive edge others may be unaware of, high-performance leaders push to figure out ways to gain the slightest edge for their organization and the people doing the work. And the workforce responds to the scoreboard. If you don’t think so I urge you to read The Great Game Of Business by Jack Stack of Springfield Remanufacturing. 

Employees can understand business. They can understand the numbers and how they matter. Great leaders show them. Teach them. Inspire them. And help them see how performance can be improved. 

What are you measuring?

What are you failing to measure?

In order to know where you’re going and how to get there, you must first know where you are. That’s why the measurements matter. They’re the starting point of your GPS, without which you can’t possibly compute a route to the future.

Share that information with the organization. Information isn’t to be hoarded. Don’t ask your employees to bowl in the dark. “And enjoy it.” 

Help the organization know the score, then you can get busy helping the organization learn how to improve the score. It’s a major path forward toward that coveted prize of “highly engaged employees.”

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 26th 2021)

Session 26. These are the last five sessions. But don’t zone out because these are going to be important lessons for your leadership journey.

Back on day 15, we talked about writing your story. Let’s circle back around to that today with a context you may not have considered. 

To keep things simple, let’s consider ourselves as the main character in our story. After all, this is our life. There’s nothing necessarily selfish about it. We’re looking through our eyes, seeing things the way we see them, and experiencing what we’re experiencing. Perfectly natural. 

And we’ve got two primary options in living the life of this main character that is OUR life. We’re busy writing a hero story or a victim story. 

Think of yourself in those terms. Hero or victim. Examine your life and you’re writing one story or the other. But your story is comprised of many smaller stories. There’s your overall story and then there are the specific chapters of your story. All those little stories that sum up your main story. 

From King Arthur to Sherlock Holmes to Superman – heroes are always heroes. Sometimes they suffer defeat. Sometimes they make foolish decisions. Even superheroes aren’t perfect. You aren’t either. And that’s okay. 

But their overall story – the way everybody would characterize their lives – is the life of a hero. 

When we think of victims we may think of people who were murdered. No matter what kind of person they were we may feel sadness, sympathy, and even sorrow that somebody’s lost their life to such violence. In some cases, people are killed because they’re involved in dangerous things. Or they’re in dangerous situations. Or they’re choosing to be around dangerous people. But sometimes murder is random. Sometimes it’s not through any fault or decision on the part of the victim. 

But there’s a much wider population of victims. In 2019 there were just under 20,000 murder victims in the U.S. That’s entirely too many murders, but a single murder is too many. Sadly, the people who are writing a victim story of their own life number in the millions and millions. People who are choosing to see themselves as pawns of others, or of circumstances beyond their control. 

As a leader, you must write a hero story for yourself and for others you hope to influence. All the people you serve can be influenced by you to write their own hero story. But only if you show them how. 

Heroes Emerge From Burning Buildings, Not Instagram Photos

There’s something we don’t often consider about heroes and that’s, “How are they made?”

Well, they’re not made by living an Instagram life filled with great vacations, exotic cars, and beautiful people. Heroes were made at 911 by greasy, sweaty, exhausted firefighters trying to lead people out of those towers. Heroes were made by a group of randomly thrown together strangers on an airliner when they decided to storm the terrorists and bring a plane destined to kill others. Heroes emerge from disasters, calamities, crises, danger, obstacles, and bad situations. 

Sometimes leaders emerge in such situations. Sometimes leaders find themselves in those circumstances. 

Everybody can be a leader because we all have the capacity to write a story where we’re able to influence others and do for them what they can’t do for themselves. 

Everybody can be a hero because we all have the capacity to write a story where we’re able to rise to the occasion and refuse to be victimized by others or by a situation, no matter who or what caused it. 

Victims fixate on blame. “If only I had gotten the promotion he got, then I’d be successful.” Victims love the phrase, “If only…” This is why I concentrate so much in my work on the power of the corner – the place we all must enter if we’re ever going to rid ourselves of our excuses. People who have never experienced the corner are victims. They refuse or don’t yet know how to accept responsibility for themselves. As they see it, their lives would be much better if only…

Heroes don’t see themselves or the world that way. Wherever the hero finds herself she realizes this is the reality that must be dealt with. Heroes answer the question asked by others, “Now what are we gonna do?” 

The hero may not get it right. Not always. But the hero has a willingness – courage and strength – to face the realities and declare, “We’re going to move forward.” The hero – the leader – gives people hope. Following the leader is always seen as the best option. Otherwise, leaders have no followers. And that’s not leadership. Heroes and leaders have people in their life willing to let them serve. Which is a whole ‘nother truth about leadership – it can’t be imposed or forced. You can foist a boss on people, but people choose whom to follow. 

The hero isn’t out for himself. He’s out to help us, too. So is a leader.

You can view challenges as opportunities to write a hero story — or a victim story. You get to decide which you are, and which one you’ll become. And in either story you choose to write, you’ll take others along with you. You will influence others. 

Heroes work to emerge from the burning building. Hopefully, they emerge, but they don’t always. Live as a hero. Die as a hero. 

Or a victim. 

Victims tend to die as victims unless or until they decide to no longer be a victim. That’s the power of the corner – the place of NO MORE EXCUSES.

Both have a group around them. Both bring out something in others. 

Write the victim story and most people won’t care. They’re too focused on their own problems to care that much about your griping, complaining and finger-pointing. But some people will chime in because they share the same feelings about their own life. Misery does love company. To a degree. You can write such a story. It’s highly popular and there are more victims than heroes because more people make that choice. 

Heroes just make a different – a better – choice! They figure it’s far better to accept responsibility to move forward than to cower in fear. They want to escape the burning building and they really want us to escape, too. They have the courage to step up and step forward. We love them for it and we put our faith in them because we know they’re seeking our best. 

Victims are the most self-centered, arrogant people around. It’s all about them. And their problems. And their lack. They don’t serve us with anything that makes us better. They don’t provide any help to us. Zero. Rather, they’re detrimental to us. They make our lives worse. It’s their story and they want others to join them. Resist.

So what’s your story? How determined are you to write your very best story? If today’s chapter isn’t so good, then look at it as an opportunity – your burning building moment. Be a hero. Be a leader. Make a difference.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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