Coaching Session 17

life's road signsWe’re about 90 days or so into the process. So far, I’ve purposefully done some scatter-shooting (throwing out a few hot topics to provoke your thought). It’s been designed to make you think. Mainly, to make you consider some alternatives to how you’ve always done things and how you’ve always looked at things.

Today, it’s a completely selfish session. No, not about me. It’s all about YOU.

Of course, you have been the focal point of every session all along. It’s always about you because you’re a leader. Leaders influence others. Even when we’ve talked about your interaction with others, it’s been about you – and how you can improve to become a more effective executive.

If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

You’ve likely heard that phrase for as long as you can remember. If not, I’m betting you’ll never forget it now you’ve read it. It’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? And you can relate to it, too!

In that very simple sentence is a wealth of wisdom. And truth.

It’s about your responsibility to make it happen (whatever “it” may be). It’s about individual accountability. It’s about your refusal to be a victim.

The self-help field, or what is now affectionately known as “personal development,” is about $100 BILLION market in the United States alone. Of course, about $60 of that is in the weight loss sector. The industry revenues dropped during the last financial crunch. I’m fairly confident it’ll rebound though…because we’re all interested in our favorite topic, ME.

Well, I’m interested in YOU, too. Yes, it’s my occupation to be interested in you, but I’m just like you. I’ve got a choice in what I want to do. You’re not the only one getting something from all this. I get something, too. And it’s not just a paycheck. There’s some other high value pay off’s for me. Satisfaction. Sense of accomplishment. Knowing I’m making an impact. See the light bulb illuminate when clients gain some new insight. There are tons of benefits for me.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about YOU.

All across the Internet we hear some key words and phrases.

  • Be transparent.
  • Be authentic.
  • Follow your passion.

To some, it all sounds terribly selfish. To others, it sounds too idealistic. I’m going to likely surprise you – it’s all valid. Okay, that last one – “follow your passion” – sometimes drives me crazy, but I’ll explain why I think it’s even valid.

Be Transparent.

The web advice is for us to be transparent in front of others. That’s up to you. I’m urging you to be transparent with yourself. Easier said than done for most people.

We both know you’re somebody at work and often times you’re somebody very different when you’re away from work. It doesn’t mean you’re schizophrenic. It just means you have these masks you wear. You decide which mask is right for each occasion. It’s the acting we all do. It’s a necessary component for success.

Unfortunately, we can get lost in the process and forget who we are.

Be Authentic.

Authenticity is different. It’s being true to yourself. When we’re acting, maybe we’re being true to ourself and who we really are in once instance, but not in another.

This is closely tied to transparency in that it gets to the heart of who we really are. It’s facing the realities of our personality, our work ethic, our beliefs, our communication style, our convictions, our loves and our hates. It’s the core of who we really are.

Follow Your Passion.

I could hop up into the pulpit and wax on for a long time about why I so hate this advice, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll sum it up by telling you why I think it’s valid advice. You will suffer defeat. Failure will frequent your life. It likely already has. When you’re down and out, you’re going to lean on how interested you are to push through. Pardon a personal illustration…one of my lifelong failures.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to learn to play the guitar. I’ve even owned guitars for over 40 years. Nice guitars. There’s one sitting in a hard shell case inside my closet right now. I just think they’re cool and awesome. I’ve even read books on guitars. I know model number and other weird stuff about guitars. Stuff non-guitarist have no business knowing.

But I’ve never learned to play.

I obviously don’t have a passion for it because learning the guitar is hard. It hurts your fingers. You’ve got to stick with it for a few months as you develop calluses that make it easier to fret (push the strings down). I’ve never developed calluses. I just always gave up before I ever got there.

The best guitar players were relentless in learning the instrument. They didn’t quit because they had a passion I clearly lack. That’s the value of passion. It’ll drive you to push through the adversity so you’ll stick with it.

Your Inner Voice. Your Intuition. Your Connectivity To Yourself.

They all refer to the same thing. It’s how you feel about yourself. It’s who you are, and why you are the way you are.

As an executive it’s easy for us to think we are what we do.

Insert your title right here: ________________________ (say it to yourself)

I’m betting you think that’s who you are.

You’re wrong. That’s what you do, but it’s not who are you. If that’s who you are, then what about the guy who had that title before you? What about the person who may have it after you? Can all 3 of you define who you are?

And what of all the other people who have that title, or one similar. I don’t care if the title is Chairman or CEO, there are other people who also have that title. Very different people, too. Men. Women. Black. White. Skinny. Fat. Bald. Not bald. Introverted. Extroverted. Same title, very different people.

So, it’s not a title.

What is it?

I’m not going to wax philosophical on you. And I don’t have the time or inclination (much less the skill), to dive into all the nuances of the answer. So let me focus on just a few key things, again to provoke more thought.

It’s about a larger vision. It’s about your life’s work. It’s about how you define yourself. Better yet, it’s about how you want to define yourself.

YOU: A Business Model

This is heart stuff. That means it’s head stuff because I’m not talking about that organ in your chest that pumps blood. I’m talking about that organ in your head that determines what you love, what you hate and what you think.

The self-improvement industry primarily focuses on one thing: INSPIRATION. Inspiration isn’t the same thing as motivation. We still call them “motivational speakers” but that’s not really what they are. Motivation is the energy you bring with you to do the work. You either have that or you don’t. It comes from inside you. I can’t do anything about that. However, I can inspire you because inspiration is an excitement or passion about something. I can elevate that in you, either momentarily or hopefully, in ways that linger.

You’re a leader. Your leadership begins with YOU. If you can’t properly lead yourself, then how can you expect to be as effective as possible in leading others? That’s why this is important stuff.

Every leader I know is asking their people to get better, work smarter, work harder, get more done and a litany of other admonitions summed up in a single word, IMPROVE. You want your team to grow and get better. Jack Welch (you already know I’m a fan) would tell employees at General Electric, “Get better or get beaten!” In some fashion, that’s what you’re telling your people.

So let’s pull back and talk about what that voice inside your head – your heart – is telling you! Are you telling yourself to get better?

Are you working hard to get better? Of course you are. I’m here helping you. People disinterested in getting better, or people who don’t think they need any improvement don’t hire people like me! The people who really want to reach new levels of achievement and self-awareness hire people like me to help them. It’s an investment they’re willing (or their company is willing) to make in them.

This is where selfishness pays off. You have to benefit. You have to make your life a priority.

Let’s talk about how to improve YOU.

Warning: This isn’t my work. This is YOUR work. You’re going to have to do this. I can help, but I can’t do it for you.

1. Balance. If your life is totally out of whack, then you’re not being transparent, authentic or passionate.

Your health matters. It’s not just weight, although many leaders are faced with a variety of issues related to it. Last year I read an interesting article about it entitled, “Want To Be CEO? What’s Your BMI?”

This isn’t about whether you’re too fat or not. I live in a glass house so I can’t throw rocks. You’d think as often as I work out, that I’d be much slimmer. You’d be wrong.

It is about how you feel about yourself though. The thing that pops out from the Wall Street Journal article is how leaders are affected by their weight. It impacts our self-esteem, which is just how we see ourselves.

Sleep. Friend. Family. Outside of work interests and activities. These are all important for our well-being. They all speak to who we really are, and how we feel about who we are.

2. Purpose. Your life consists of a larger vision, a larger purpose. Last year I did an interview with a woman entrepreneur who serves mostly other women entrepreneurs who want to work from home. Carrie Wilkerson’s brand is The Barefoot Executive. Her purpose when she started was clearly defined. She had two small children with special needs. Her husband worked in Dallas – about an hour away from where they live (just west of Ft. Worth) – and she was a teacher. Now, she had to stay home and care for these kids, but they needed her income. She had to find a way to earn some money while staying home. Serving these children was her purpose. It’s still a big part of her purpose even though the children aren’t babies anymore. They still have special needs and she’s determined to fill those needs.

Contrast that with the person who can’t find a purpose other than making money. Or so they claim.

Why do you want the money? What will you do with it?

Buying another new car is a poor purpose. Helping aging parents or young adult children is a real purpose. Helping a cause is a purpose. There are as many “real” purposes as there are people committed to them.

Getting real with yourself about your purpose helps you come to grips with who you really are. It also prevents you from becoming a victim. Carrie could have complained about her lot in life, but she didn’t. She and her husband wanted children, but they couldn’t so they adopted. When faced with the prospect of adopting two siblings, both of whom suffered various ailments – they said, “Yes.” She choose these children and all that went along with them. Did it mean she’d have to sacrifice? Of course. BIG sacrifices. Later on, she’d have two children of her own (funny how that works isn’t it?). Serving her family by contributing to their welfare continues to be her overriding purpose.

What is your purpose? Why do you do what you do?

Let me end today’s session with one more discussion point – TIME.

Take the time to get real with yourself. Most leaders are running in high gear professionally all the time. Many are taxed with a workload that simply doesn’t fit with laying back, taking it easy. “Hard charging” is a badge of honor worn by many leaders. The downside is that many leaders have never learned the value of taking time to think. Quiet time.

We live in a noisy world, growing noisier by the day. You must take time for yourself. Time to think and consider. Time to get in touch with who you are, who you want to be and how to get there.

In 2009 Clive Thompson wrote an article in Wired magazine entitled, “Clive Thompson on Why Idling Mind Is Mother of Invention.”

Do you really need any scientific proof? You’ve been in the shower and experienced an epiphany. Or maybe you were on a walk. You’ve stared out the window and had a moment of mental drift. Such times can result in clarity we’d never experience if we didn’t slow down.

There’s value in light activity and quiet time. I’m urging you to do this intentionally. Don’t just wait for it happen. Make it happen. Gift yourself time to invest in YOU.

A Warning

Here’s my disclaimer: I’m not encouraging you to bite the hand that feeds you.

Here’s the truth: Unless you have a guaranteed contract with very gold  handcuffs, then this applies to you.

Your organization won’t take care of you. I could fill a very large conference room with the dozens of people I’ve known through the years who devoted themselves fully to a purpose and vision not their own…only to find that a security guard escort out of the building was their future. Or that a more honorable, albeit similar, fate was had in being asked to resign so another person could fill their spot. Exits vary, but unless there’s a big check that goes along with it, many leaders have confessed to me the pain of feeling betrayed and abandoned. Worse yet, they express regret for neglecting to think about their own lives. They just always assumed that their organization would reciprocate. Don’t count on it. And don’t take it personally. Business is business. But it’s not WHO you are and the organization won’t meet all your needs. It wasn’t designed to do that.

Jay Leno told 60 Minutes the truth of his world – a world with very golden handcuffs.

“I always tell new people in show business. I say, ‘Look, show business pays you a lot of money, because eventually you’re gonna get screwed. And when you get screwed, you will have this pile of money off to the side already.'”

Okay, don’t bank on having a pile of money set aside by your organization. Take care of yourself. Own your life. Be responsible. Be accountable.

Jack Welch said,

Control your own destiny or somebody else will.”  


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