Leadership, Crafting Culture and Management

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 15th 2021)

Here we are at the halfway point in our 30 Day Micro Leadership Course. Day 15, September 15, 2021. 

Writing Your Story

View your life like a book comprised of many chapters. Your name is on the cover. You alone are writing the story. There may be many characters who are part of your story, but they’re not writing it with you. You’re in control of the writing because you alone are taking full responsibility for your life, remember? No more excuses!

Your humanity is going to come through in the book you’re writing. Some chapters of your life aren’t going to be ideal. Bad things are going to happen to you. Sometimes they might even be your own fault. But even if they aren’t, you’re going to own it all. There’s no downside to you when you do. It’s the path forward. 

You can write great chapters to your life. Chapter after chapter. Even when bad things happen, you can still write a great chapter of determination to get through the tough or bad times. Here in a few days, I’ll tell you more about the hero journey – the journey you’re going to write about. That’s in stark contrast to the victim journey many are writing. Maybe you’ve written your story as a victim’s journey in the past, but that was then. This is NOW.

Your story will be congruent with the pursuit of your ideal outcome. That’s why it’s urgent that you get clear on your ideal outcome. Again, don’t worry about it being unchangeable. Just make sure it’s what you most want to happen today! As you continue to write your story you’ll adjust for things that happen. Twists and turns will be a big part of your story. That’s how life goes. Your response to those twists and turns is what will characterize your story. And you’re in charge of those reactions

Based on my work I must insert here that your story is a complete story. It’s not singularly based solely on who you are at work. Are you a wife? A husband? A father? A mother? A son? A daughter? Are you a grandparent? How do you spend your free time? What things do you love? What do you hate? What are you saving your money for? There are a variety of things that determine your context. I’m not saying that your boss or your teammates know all these things…or that they should. I am saying all these things – and more – are part of your story though. 

I’m a husband, father, and grandfather. These are just 3 roles in my story, but they’re very important. And some of the parts of my story are horrible because I’ve suffered some tremendous sorrows. Some far beyond my control, but all of my reactions to them — fully in my control. My suffering is part of my story. Each time I have to carefully write and craft the story of my reaction to the suffering. So must you. 

I want to make sure you really understand the task. This isn’t about some fantasy or work of fiction. It’s you crafting your life – writing your story. Think of it as a completely accurate autobiography. Every detail is chronicled. Nothing is left out. 

Writers pre-think what they’re writing about. You should, too. Don’t just let life happen without thinking about what you most want to happen. And how you most want the story to go. 

Since we’re focused on leadership then we have to focus a bit more on that. Your leadership.

What kind of a leader are you – and how is that going to differ from the leader you most want to become? How can you begin to write a better story, one more congruent with how you’d like to be. Only fools think it can just happen. Heros know they have to make intentional decisions to bring out the best story possible. Act like a hero. 

Begin with your own dissatisfaction. What parts of your story do you acknowledge as true, but you don’t like them? 

It’s the quickest place to begin to write a better story. As you do, keep looking at the mirror to improve your accurate comprehension of who you really are. You can’t ignore reality and think you’ll write a work of fiction that you – and others – will see as true. This isn’t the work of a hypocrite. It’s not a work of fantasy. Or deception. Or self-delusion. It’s 100% true. So make it how you most want it to be because you’ll know if you’re lying. You are the writer and you’re also the first and most important reader of your story. Make yourself proud. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 14th 2021)

Welcome to day 14 of our 30 Day Micro Leadership Course.

We’ve covered an awful lot of ground and I hope you’re finding the course helpful so far. Just remember, there’s a vast difference between knowing and doing. Make sure you put things into practice. We want this information to benefit you in real life. When we get to the end I’m going to ask you to email me how things have helped you. 

Today, I want to introduce you to a concept that is as powerful as anything you can do to improve your life as a leader. Yesterday we introduced the power of the corner, the power of looking into the mirror, and the power of getting out of the corner by moving forward. It’s all part of the process required so we at long last stop making excuses. 

Your Ideal Outcome Is Your Story

This is about your narrative, your story. Mostly, it’s about you taking full control over the story you’re writing. It’s not about you controlling (because you can’t) the story others write about you. We all have our share of harsh critics, people who enjoy making false assumptions about it based on beliefs they “know” are true. We also have our critics who read the worst chapter of our life and will forever judge us based only on that chapter. Don’t be preoccupied with them. Better yet, don’t even give them the first thought – much less the second one!

Ghostwriters abound. People are willing to craft your story to their liking. You can choose to let them influence your own writing of your life, or you can ignore them and get busy writing the story you want as you pursue your ideal outcome. 

Let’s just concentrate on writing the best story possible. That’s what we learn while we’re in that corner. Let’s not forget it. It’s an important lesson.

We have to keep in mind that sometimes people are listening or reading the story we’re writing and we’re unhappy with it. Now that we’re in the land of NO MORE excuses we’re going to accept responsibility for it. Sometimes people conclude things about us that we resent until we figure out that we’re the ones writing the story they’re reading. 

His boss tells me, “He’s not a very good delegator.” I ask him to explain. He mentions the many times this executive, one of his direct reports, talks about doing things himself. The boss offers me many examples of conversations where this member of his leadership team seems to perform tasks himself. The boss rightly concludes this member of his team likely needs to learn how to delegate. Additionally, the boss believes this executive’s team – of about 4 direct reports – is not being fully developed. He tells me, “There’s no way his team is growing with him taking full ownership of all these things. I need him to develop his bench better and be more strategic.”

Armed with the boss’ perspective, I meet with the executive. About 40 minutes into our conversation he has mentioned a few times the work of his team. I’m getting a very different notion of how he’s interacting with his team. It’s obvious the team members are performing, at least in his mind. I need to find out what’s true and what might be falsely assumed. The stories aren’t congruent. 

“Tell me about how your boss views the work of your team,” I ask. He goes on to tell me how the boss likes members of the leadership team to be in the center of things and be leaders who make a firsthand difference. “Tell me more,” I request. “Well, at every staff meeting it’s petty competitive for all of us to make sure we get credit for what’s happening in our area.”

I listen, making mental notes of just now different these stories are. 

Over the next few weeks, I follow the evidence. I dive into finding out what’s really going on. Conclusion? The employee thinks he’s telling the story his boss wants to hear. Instead, he’s telling the boss a story that doesn’t serve him, his team, or his boss. After visiting with his team it’s clear to me they’re strong, performing at a fairly high level. He is strategic, but he’s telling his boss a story that isn’t accurately portraying the work. So we get busy figuring out how he can not only write a better story, but tell a better story – one more accurate to who he really is and what he and his team are really doing. 

Sometimes we’re writing the story we want, but we’re failing to tell it as well as we could. Both matter. 

Next time we’re going to focus on writing it, then we’ll follow that up with a more focused conversation about how to make sure we’re telling it well. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 13th 2021)

Day 13. September 13, 2021. Welcome back to our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course.

“A change will do you good,” sings Sheryl Crow. She’s right. 

That doesn’t make it popular or easy. Transforming ourselves is arduous work. I suspect many people rather enjoy being stuck because it’s comfortable. “The devil you know” and all that. 

Change involves embracing the unknown, but it also involves the pursuit of the ideal outcome. YOUR ideal outcome. That should excite you. 

We want to get better. We just don’t want to change in order to do it. 😉 It’d be easier if others would change so we didn’t have to.

Here’s my 3-step approach to how we can foster growth and improvement. 

One: The power of the corner

My coaching obligation to every client is to help them paint themselves into the corner where the magic happens. It’s not my job to paint them in a corner – which is a metaphor for eliminating all the excuses. My job is to help them paint themselves into the corner because they’re ready or preparing to get ready to change. They want to grow and improve but may be struggling to figure out how. 

The corner literally puts our back against the wall with nowhere to go except forward. No more backing up. No more wiggling out of it. Time to face the realities of where we are and where we most want to go. 

Until we suck all the oxygen out of the room where our excuses live, they’ll continue to thrive. That’s the power of the corner. We have willingly go there though. It’s unprofitable most of the time when others attempt to paint us in the corner. Self-improvement is how we refer to the work. For good reason. It’s something we must do for ourselves! Sure, others can help us, but helping and telling are different things. 

Today, I encourage you to look at the corner not as a place of punishment (like a doghouse) but a place you can finally – at long last – you can move forward. Maybe in an unprecedented fashion.

Two: The power of the mirror

Once we’re in the corner, ready to ditch every excuse it’s time to grab the mirror and stare intently into it. It’s time to come face-to-face with ourselves. To look at our weaknesses, strengths, challenges, and opportunities. Self-examination is required, but there’s much more to it. Accurate self-examination. Merely looking at ourselves isn’t enough. It’s urgent and critical for us to make sure we’re seeing ourselves accurately. Remember my definition of understanding — 

Understanding is accurate comprehension.

Self-examination is worthless unless it’s accurate. 

The mirror also represents our commitment to look squarely at ourselves and avoid blaming others. Or blaming circumstances. We refuse to hold the mirror up to others. It’s for our use only. 

As we stare intently into ourselves we acknowledge whatever we’re thinking, feeling, believing, and doing as our responsibility. It’s not about assigning blame. Blame doesn’t matter. This isn’t a fault-finding exercise. It’s time to let all that go. Forget about it. 

Instead, focus on accepting responsibility for everything. And I do mean everything. 

Why not?

Here’s what happens when you do – you empower yourself. You give yourself permission to control whatever you can. That frees you to change anything having to do with your own choices – which includes quite a lot of your life. More than you may have earlier thought. 

Three: The power of getting out of the corner.

Once we come face-to-face with ourselves and accept responsibility for our ideal outcome – or whatever outcomes have occurred up to this point – now we’re ready to move forward. The power of the corner isn’t found in staying there, but in going there and staying long enough to rid ourselves of making excuses. It takes however long it takes. Spend whatever time in the corner with the mirror until you see things clearly and accurately. And until you willingly say, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!”

Only then you can move forward and escape the corner. 

Everybody needs redemption. Think of your forward progress out of the corner as redemption. It’s your get out of jail card where you can at long last be in more control over your life. 

Now you’re not running from anything. Instead, you’re running toward something – YOUR IDEAL OUTCOME.

It’s not my ideal outcome. It’s not anybody else’s ideal outcome. It belongs to you and you alone must figure out what it’s going to be. And it’s not static. It’s always subject to change because you’re now fully committed to growth, improvement, and transformation into a better version of yourself. That’s not being fickle – that’s adjusting your ambitions to more ideally suit what you most want to happen. And as a result, you adjust your thoughts, beliefs and actions to make it come true. 

No, there are no guarantees. You might achieve your ideal outcome. You might not. And you might change things up realizing what you thought you wanted wasn’t what you wanted after all. You can change your mind. You can change your life. All for the better. It’s your life and you can direct it as you’d like. 

Just remember, you’ve now accepted responsibility for everything. All of it. Failure. Neglect. Achievement. Constraints. Opportunities. You own them all, which means you have a large degree of power over them. 

Can you overcome all of them? Maybe not. But the ones you can’t overcome…they can be endured. 

Influence as much as you can so have the life you want. Hardships will come. And those will be your chief learning opportunities. That’s how it works. Don’t resent having tough times. See them for the chances to grow stronger because that’s what they are. 

So get busy thinking about how quickly you want to get to the corner and rid yourself of all the excuses you’ve been making for why you don’t have the life you want – or why you’re not the person you’d most like to be.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 12th 2021)

Day 12. Sunday, September 12, 2021. Today we’re talking about creating!

Specifically, I’m talking about you creating your own ideas, philosophies, beliefs, and courses of action rather than relying on experts, thought leaders, authors, or even podcasters. 😉 

Research has shown the powerful impact teaching or coaching can have on the person doing the teaching or coaching. We think if we insert our wisdom on a person trying to transform will help, but the opposite is true. Instead, when we ask a person attempting to change to tell us how they’d go about helping somebody trying to make the same one they’re working on…they engage and it can help them more figure out their own path. 

That speaks to the power of creating versus consuming. Creating is more positive action. Consuming tends to be much more passive. That’s why the books, articles, podcasts, videos, seminars, and conferences rarely make much of a difference in helping us improve.

Knowing isn’t doing. 

Knowledge isn’t to be discounted, but doing accelerates knowledge enabling us to better figure things out. Labs all over the world are failing at an incredibly high rate, but that failure is vital in the pursuit to solve whatever problem each lab is tackling. 

Examine what you already know about whatever it is you want to improve. An easy example is weight loss because so many of us can relate to it. Is a lack of knowledge the issue? You’d think so based on the number of books and articles written about it. All of us understand we should eat a more healthy balanced diet with a modest amount of daily caloric intake. And we know we should exercise daily, even if it’s walking for just 30 minutes. The benefits of drinking water are well-established and rather common knowledge. Those last 3 sentences represent knowledge we all have about weight loss. There are thousands of little details – or big ones – that aren’t included in that, but are any of them likely to be the one missing piece of knowledge to spark us to take action? Not likely. 

The real problem isn’t knowing. It’s doing. Specifically, it’s doing what we already know to do. 

Get busy creating. Reduce, if only temporarily, your consumption. Wean yourself from the habit of passively taking in information thinking it’s the path forward. Picture a lab full of scientists who daily pour over white papers from all over the globe. They never test anything. No experiments are crafted and performed. No failures happen. No success either.

Success will not happen as long as we’re neglecting to do what we already know to do. It feels better to learn – conning ourselves that we’re doing something – and avoid risking failure. Not doing something doesn’t feel like failure. We fool ourselves into feeling, “Just not yet.” We’re going to do it, but we’re putting in the time to prepare. After all, preparation is a big part of success, right? We don’t want to go off half-cocked. This is why I said that consumption’s biggest negative is it fuels our procrastination. It keeps us from actually doing something – creating. 

What is your very next step – the action you’ll take? And I don’t mean research, reading, listening, or watching. 

I don’t remember a client ever failing to be able to answer that question. We may not know step 5, but we always know step 1. The very next step is more often than not obvious to us. So the question becomes, why don’t we do what we already know to do? 

Well, it could be lots of different things, but fear is the likely culprit. Oh, I know. You’re not afraid of anything. But you’re deceiving yourself. We’re all afraid of something. Some of us are afraid of lots of things. The two most common ones I’ve found are looking foolish or stupid (insert any fear that has to do with how we appear to others) and failure (“what if it doesn’t work?”).

Would you agree that much of what ails us is our refusal to close that gap between what we already know and what we’re already doing? Stop and think about that in your life. You’re not taking any action with the knowledge you already have. What makes you think adding more knowledge on top of your existing knowledge will change that? Storing up knowledge is useless except in games of trivia. 

Creating is taking the very next step. Do that one thing you already know to do. See how it works out. Adjust. Adapt. Get busy figuring it out. And know that figuring it out isn’t just a cerebral activity. It’s physical, too. Move. Do something. Create. 

When I was young I aspired to be a writer. Not seriously, but it was a dream. I was quickly taught the truth about writing. Writers write. 

Subjects (nouns) have verbs. I rightly concluded that if writers write then singers sing, musicians play, speakers speak, coaches coach, podcasters podcast and on and on. The people who are achieving are doing. They’re not just reading. They’re not just consuming. They’re not just learning. Mostly, they’re doing and in that doing – they’re creators who are making the biggest differences. 

Lastly, when it comes to figuring out who you most want to be, creating is key. You’re writing the story of your own life. Nobody else can write your story. That doesn’t mean they won’t try, but you must wrestle the pen or keyboard from anybody who would dare live your life for you. You have to be responsible. 

Starting tomorrow we’ll peel back how you can at long last get on the path to accepting the challenge to transform your life to what YOU want. Warning: it’s not magical. Or easy. It’s not complex, but it’s difficult. But you can do it. We all can. 

Will YOU? 

Let’s find out.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 11th 2021)

Twenty years ago today. It was a Tuesday morning. We had the NBC Today Show on the TV as we were getting ready. Sometime after 7:30 am Central the news hit. Something horrific was happening in NYC at the World Trade Center towers. It was – and still is – surreal. And the phrase, Nine-Eleven, entered our vocabulary, symbolizing the date, September 11th – the day a series of coordinated attacks happened on American soil by foreign terrorists killing 2,996. 

Day 11. Let’s talk about your consumption. No, we’re not going to address weight loss or how much you’re drinking. I’m talking about information consumption, but let’s narrow it down a bit.

Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, books, articles, blog posts, podcasts, YouTube…all these places we go where we skim headlines, click a few links, scan a few sentences, devour an entire 700-word Medium post, watch a 56 second TikTok, read a 238-page leadership book…I’m talking about all of this consumption that we think makes us better. Maybe we know it makes us better. I’m not here to debate the woes of social media. Or to push some agenda that we should read more books. 

I love to read. 

I love YouTube.

I’m entertained – sometimes inspired – by Instagram and TikTok.

I’m enlightened – sometimes encouraged – by Linkedin.

So I’m not going to preach against consuming information. After all, if you remember my “progression of leadership,” knowledge is in the middle of it. It’s important that we learn.

Question: Do you understand why you consume so much?

Most of us blindly do it. Others have researched and written how UI (user interface) designers have designed social media to be addictive. Plenty of others have addressed, in a variety of ways, how news is manipulated. And many more than sounded the bell of concern about how our attention span is shrinking. Dramatically. 

I’ll leave that conversation to people more expert in those areas. This is you and me talking and I’m asking you if you understand why you consume what you consume? 

“You are what you eat,” say nutritionists. 

There’s little doubt we are also what we think about and what we think about is heavily influenced by what we watch, read and hear. 

Each of us has biases. All kinds of them. You’ve heard phrases like confirmation bias and cognitive bias. 

Confirmation bias – according to Wikipedia – is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.

Cognitive bias is the subjective reality each of us creates, sometimes to adapt, but sometimes because it’s just how we view the world. 

Humans may be incapable of fully controlling such things, but I wonder if we’re able to better manage what we think, how we feel, and what we believe is true. Ironically, I choose to believe we can better manage these things and that if we do, it can spur us on to higher performance. So let me repeat the questions…

Do you understand why you consume so much?

Do you understand why you consume what you consume?

My experience in serving top-level leaders for the past dozen years has revealed some things – things my own life confirms.

Those of us who love to read, read for enjoyment and enlightenment. Many of us describe ourselves as “lifelong learners.” Others are wannabe lifelong learners. There are fakes and hypocrites in every arena. Some of us disguise our consumption habits by declaring we’re hooked on learning when in reality we’re more hooked on the quest to find the secret we think might be missing. That one thing we’ve yet to learn that might make all the difference. It’s a hard truth people don’t openly admit, especially top-level leaders, but we’re all susceptible to it because high-performing people genuinely are curious and wonder, “What don’t I yet know?” It’s that quest – that curiosity – that compels us to keep on this endless search. I’m not critical of it because I’m right there with you doing the same thing. Much of my thinking has been heavily influenced by reading about people named Drucker, Deming, Geneen, and Welch. 

We are a composite of all the things we’ve learned – and all the information we’ve consumed.

Some of us consume because we want to make sure we’re on top of the information curve. We drop author names with pride, proving our scholarship. It makes us feel like we’re superior. More well-read. More expert. More of a thought leader. The irony is, whose thoughts are being led? Again, it’s fine if that’s what a person chooses to do. I’m only asking us to think about those questions so we better understand the WHY behind our consumption habits. 

I’m not advising you to change anything about your habits. Maybe you’ll want to. Maybe not. 

Let’s just examine it more closely to see what it might teach us about ourselves. It’s really just one aspect of self-examination that can help us move forward – and see things more accurately. That’s the point of it all. For us to see ourselves more accurately so we better understand why we do what we do. Such insights might spark curiosity about how we might adjust things so we can improve our progress. 

Or not. 

Mindfulness. Intention. Purpose. 

Those are the primary issue. 

There’s little doubt that all our lives can be improved by increasing those aspects in our lives. To think about our actions instead of mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other. To act with greater intention and purpose. 

Additionally, I want to challenge you to look for the answers within yourself. To accept responsibility for your own life. To avoid being suckered into acquiescing to the common belief that somebody else may have the answers you most seek. To stop living by the motto, “If only…” 

“If only I know a little bit more.”

The consumption habit’s worst impact on us is procrastination. We delay taking action because we fall into the trap of thinking we just need to learn a little bit more. Once we learn a bit more, then we’ll move. But too frequently we find we need to learn just one more thing. Then another. And another. 

And now you know why tomorrow we’re going to focus a creating. It’s time for you to become a creator.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 10th 2021)

Day 10. After today we’re one-third of the way through this micro leadership course. I hope you’ve been ruminating on your leadership and working to figure out how to improve.

Today, let’s talk about decluttering, consuming, and creating. 

Decluttering is ridiculously powerful. Hard, but powerful. No, I’m not talking about going through your office and pitching all those outdated papers and other crap you never use. I’m talking about decluttering your mind and viewpoint. That’s much harder than cleaning your office. But it’s more impactful, too.

Test your assumptions. Prove what you know to be true. 

Spend some time taking a close look at the things you believe to be true. Even things you KNOW are true. Or think you do. 

It’s time to test your thoughts, notions, opinions, beliefs and philosophies to see if they’ll hold up. I’m challenging you to enter this work with a mind made up that you’ll ditch the things that aren’t so and the things that just don’t work. 

How many leadership books have you read?

How many articles, blog posts, and podcasts have you consumed?

What lessons did mentors or others pass on to you?

What positive and negative experiences have you had as a leader?

These and many other factors have helped develop how you view leadership – particularly your own leadership. All the good, bad and ugly have a compounding effect on your life and your leadership making decluttering feel impossible. But it’s not. If you put in the right kind of work. 

You don’t see it…until you do see it

I regularly use this illustration to show clients the power of not being able to see something…but once you do, you’re not able to unsee it. It simply can’t be ignored. That’s how your leadership insights will be if you put in the work. 

There are some things you easily see. Other things you find seemingly impossible to see. Until you do. Then they leap out to you plain as day!

Before moving on to consumption and creation – sessions 11 and 12 – we have to concentrate on decluttering your thinking. This is why I focused earlier on possibility thinking. So many of us are stuck because we just don’t believe. “That’ll never work,” is how some choose to live. Denying that growth, improvement, and higher performance are even possible. Or that it’s just not worth the effort. 

Stuck. It’s the number one culprit of my client work. People are stuck. Most know it. Some don’t. Typically, we see things the way we see them and we’re unable to see them differently. We see the old woman or the young woman, but not the other one. That inability to see differently sticks us. 

In every instance, decluttering ideas, philosophies, and beliefs is required. Some people refer to it as “back to basics.” Whatever you call it, it’s clearing away enough distractions so we can see more clearly. It’s opening ourselves up to the possibilities of what we can do to move ourselves and our team, group or enterprise forward. It’s always about moving forward, growth and improvement.

So how do you do this decluttering? 

  1. Don’t fixate on the problems as problems. This is the hardest thing to do. We can easily focus on our problems and become consumed with what’s wrong. Solutions aren’t born from obsessing about the problem, but from fixating on the solutions. Shift the gears of your mind to think about just one thing, the ideal outcome. Your ideal outcome! What do you want to happen? What can you do to make that happen?
  2. Lower your pride because that is what’s in your way. When we’re stuck we’re tempted to blame others. Don’t. Be humble enough to find your deepest courage. The courage to not care what others think. I mean, you’re stuck, so who cares? Get unstuck, then you figure out what others think — and decide if you care. Jettison that stuff right now because it’s clogging the works to your forward progress. Find a whole new level of humility. Ask for help. Seek help. Accept help. Nothing will propel you forward faster than realizing others can help you. Find people you can trust. And be vulnerable, open, and honest. If you thought step 1 was the hardest, this one is right there with it. But it’s what heroes do!
  3. Be brave enough to consider alternatives to how you’ve been operating. You can make up your own mind, but only if you have an open mind. Be thoughtful and mindful to consider perspectives you may have not known or considered. Ask yourself, “What if I’ve got this wrong?” Give yourself permission to be wrong. That’s how you can become more right.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about your consumption, then on Sunday, we’ll discuss creating. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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