Leading with Conviction and Purpose 

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Once defined as the study of the well-examined life, philosophy has something unique to teach each one of us on how and why we live. Previously, we looked at how Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations encourage Leaders to care for the interests of their Followers.

Our philosopher this week hails from Ancient China. Confucius, or Master Kong, was a Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher. His philosophy, commonly known as Confucianism, emphasizes personal and political morality, correctness of relationships, justice, and sincerity, and in his widely-read Analects, he touches on the composition of a great Leader.

Confucius believed that proper thinking paired with decisive action led to the best results.

“Chi Wan thought three times before taking action. When the Master was informed of it, he said, ‘Twice will do.’”

What does this mean? Think hard before doing something, and then act decisively. All too often, we act without thinking, and then come to regret it.

Or, perhaps the opposite — you may think so much, you never get to the “Act” phase and seem to never make those harder decisions!

Whether you are on the “acting too quickly side” or the “not acting fast enough side” the thought of thinking about a large decision 2 or 3 times before acting on it may serve us well.

So, what could this process look like?

Say you’ve got a strategic decision to make for your team. You know you are going to need to bring on at least two team members to be able to support the work that is coming your way in the next few months. You’ve got to figure out what those roles will do and who they will report to (do they report to you or do they report to some of your direct reports).

Thinking about it once: 

Use this “pass” as a pie-in-the-sky brainstorming session. What would you love to see happen? What are the possibilities? Break them down (even if they seem to contradict each other).

At the end of this time, walk away with three things:

(1) The list of possibilities

(2) What other information you need to gather to make an informed decision

(3) Schedule your time to come think about it again

Thinking about it twice:

So, you’ve gathered some more information and now is the time to look at defining your solution. Taking into consideration all your options (and the new info you have), map it out and jot down any questions or concerns you’ve got.

At the end of this time walk away with three things:

(1) The commitment to jot down any other thoughts or ideas you have in the next few days on this

(2) Don’t look directly at the plan or intentionally think about it until the next time you sit down

(3) Schedule your last time to think about it!

Thinking about it a third time: 

Pull your plan back out and read it!

What are your initial thoughts or feelings? Feeling pretty good? Or do you have any pending or lingering questions that just aren’t sitting quite right?

Look at those questions or comments you wrote down (if there were any) and think about how do those play in.

This time, determine if you’ll keep going with what you have or if you want to tweak it a bit.

And, from here – schedule time with the next people you’ll need to involve!

As Leaders today, we’re all grappling with many decisions and difficult problems. Confucius helps remind us to, think responsibly and act with conviction.

Business Travel 101: Managing Work

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Your schedule for the day?

6am: Wake up and get it together

9am: Your meetings start

12pm: Grab a quick bite and travel to the next client

1pm: Your next client meetings begin

4pm: “Down time”

6pm: Working dinner

And mixed into that schedule, you’ve still got to prep for your trip next week, keep sight on a couple pressing projects, manage your team, make sure all your emails are tended to, and phone home to let your significant other know you are still alive.

PHEW!

While these tips might not help you today (sorry!), they may make your next trip more do-able!

Tip 1: Plan ahead

As much as you can, get ahead on any deliverables that are due while you are traveling (even if you don’t send them out!).

We’d recommend the week before you travel, block some time on your calendar and look ahead at what is coming up while you are traveling.

Be intentional about working to get ahead, or at least know clearly what is coming. And as best you can, clear your plate a bit.

Tip 2: Communicate

Let your peers, boss, direct reports, and anyone else who you might be working with know that you are going to be traveling and what they can expect from you. This could be anything from email response times being delayed, to reinforcing what deliverables you intend on hitting, or letting people know that you won’t have time to provide feedback while you’re out.

If you are looking at the week and thinking that you might not be able to hit a deliverable, talk to your team or boss now before you miss that deliverable.

Tip 3: Prioritize the Fires

There are always those fires that just seem to creep in while you are traveling. It really is incredible how they only seem to happen while you are strapped for time anyways.

As those items come up, ask yourself:

  1. Is this something that I personally need to deal with? Or is this something where I could risk a little and use it as an opportunity to develop someone on my team?
  2. What am I saying “no” to by dealing with this? And who do I need to communicate with about that?
  3. What can I learn from this fire to prevent similar ones in the future?

You’ve got this … and you’ll find your rhythm in managing it all

‘Tis the Season – Practicing Gratitude

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Happy December!!

It is amazing how easy it is to get caught up in the “moment” of the celebrations and miss the heart or intention behind days off or celebrating!

This weekend, as you’ve got a little time, we’d encourage you to sit down and write out 50 things you are thankful or grateful for from this year.

It can be so easy for us to get caught up in the busyness of life, or to get in the mindset of complaining, rather than seeing all the things that we do have.

In thinking about writing 50 things you are thankful or grateful for, it is easy to think … “that’s too many” or “I don’t know what I’d write.” But we’d encourage you to try it.

As we did, we found that after the first 25 or so items, it caused us to think a little more intentionally about the things that we tend to take for granted … like the coffee-maker we use each morning or the abundance of shoes we have in our closet.

So, we’d encourage you to try it and let us know your experience!

Cheers to stepping beyond what is “normal” for us each day!

‘Tis the season for practicing gratitude!

‘Tis the Season – Encouraging Your Team

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WOW – We have made it half way through November!

Where did this year go?

If we had to guess, you may be feeling some of the pressure of the last “to-do’s” before you feel like you totally lose your team’s focus before Thanksgiving – and then in all the busyness of the weeks after!

We’ve found, over and over, that when people feel appreciated, they tend to stay more engaged.

Think about it. When was the last time someone called you out in a meeting, or sent you an email that said … “Thank you for when you did ‘this’. The insight that you brought was just what I needed to hear.”?

As you remember that, you probably felt seen or valued – or more likely, you wanted to bring your “a-game” again!

So, as you are jumping into next week and wanting to keep engagement and morale high, think about each of your team members …

What are a 1 or 2 things that you’ve seen each of them do in the last week that was more than what you were hoping for or expecting?

Write those things down, and we’d encourage you to send them an email (maybe even copying everyone else who was working on that project); or tell them about it in your next one-on-one.

Let us know how it goes!

‘Tis the season to encourage your team!

Refocusing for 2017

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You’ve been going and going, and doing and doing, for about the past month.

Work feels like it has been getting more and more busy – and you could have sworn it would have been slowing down by now!

And… it’s already November (yikes!!).

You know you’ve got some things you’d like to accomplish before the end of the year; and at the same time, it feels like you can barely keep your head above the water!

Before you just “jump” into next week – we’d encourage you to take a step back and take a little “you” time to think and plan!

So, here are some thoughts:

  1. Block your calendar

Look at next week and schedule an hour that you are committed to not scheduling over.

  1. During that time, think about the following questions
  • Where are you now? What is your current situation?
  • Where do you want to go from here? What do you want to accomplish by the end of 2017?
  • How do you get from where you are today to where you want to be come January?
  • Which team member was key in your team’s success this year? What are you going to do about it, and how can you continue to leverage that person’s strengths?
  • What are the known risks or obstacles you will face?
  1. Plan for the next step!

Maybe you need to go to your boss to ask for some additional bandwidth.

Or you need to sit down with a key team member, celebrate their successes, and talk about the next 8 weeks.

Or maybe you need to plan for your “thinking” time each week so that you have the space to accomplish what you need to!

It may be November, but you’ve still got two months to rock out some awesome projects!

You’ve got this!

Take One Small Step

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When it comes to self-care, you often try tackling those insurmountable bad habits you’ve accumulated. Eating healthier, for example, isn’t just simply bringing a salad to work. It’s a whole hullabaloo in meal planning, grocery shopping, produce chopping, finding a little container for your salad dressing, remembering to put it in your work bag…
Why not try taking a small step towards self-care instead? Here are some tried and true, easy life hacks you can do RIGHT NOW.

Give yourself a little “woo hoo!”

Write a note to remind yourself of something good you’ve done. Being a leader is hard. There isn’t enough praise and recognition for the millions of hours you’ve put into your work. So, be your own cheerleader. Extra points if you open your note and reread it when you need that extra ego boost from your number one fan (You!).

Gift your inner child

What was something that soothed you as a kid? Try getting hot chocolate with whipped cream instead of coffee. Stream a playlist from the hit songs you listened to a teen. Switch to the soap you bathed with as a child. Let the warm feelings of childhood wash over you whenever you can.

Go on a low information diet

You don’t need to know every single thing that is going on. For you, that could mean paring down your social media feeds to one or two platforms. Take the plunge and stop push notifications on your phone after 8pm. Unplug completely. Working at optimal levels means having “flow”, and that’s impossible when you do those little quick checks in an effort to quiet distractions.

Call your person

Part of self-care is to surround yourself with good people. Those who will lift you up and consistently bring you joy. At work, that is not always a viable option. Meetings, phone calls, and evaluations are draining. Who is that special person in your life that you never dread catching up with? Even introverts have at least one person in their social circle who recharges their battery. Go ahead and give them a ring.

Final Thoughts

Stay vigilant in the realm of self-care. The number one strategy is knowing that you NEED a strategy. Remember that you are your most important investment. Taking care of yourself now will pay dividends later. Try it!

That Moment When You Still Need Productivity to Increase

That Moment When You Still Need Productivity to Increase

Last week we started with some tips on what to do when you really need productivity to increase for you and your team.

Did you have a chance to try out any of the tips?

This week, we’ve got Caroline back with some more suggestions.

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 2.32.57 PMBuild Relationships – As a manager, you are building the bridges with other groups that will enable your directs to get things done.

Building trusted relationships within your group, and outside of your group.

What are some ways to do this?

  • Spend time with your peers
  • Find out what is important to them
  • Build strong relationships so you can reach out via email, text, etc., and gain a quick response

A lot of times, the slow down in productivity is due to a lack of response from another group.

Well, you are all in an environment where you receive a huge number of emails and texts, and are in meetings everyday…so how can your asks stand out? Is it a situation where you need to actually make a call? If you have a trusted relationship built, you will gain a quicker response because you are known and they trust that the request is actually needed and important.

Manage the energy – …yes, you are responsible for keeping up your energy and the energy of your group.

For creating a positive work environment.

When you are working in a really fast paced, intense environment, it’s hard to perform at your maximum and maintain composure when your energy is low. This is really important for managers when you are often moving from one meeting to another.

So I use my calendar. Keep it simple.

Your calendar is not just about scheduling meetings. That’s the least it can do. I usually recommend on a Sunday evening or Monday morning taking a look at your calendar for the week – 10 minutes of calendar planning.

So where are you really tight? Which meetings do you really need to be at your best? Which ones do you need to be in and for how long? How can you insert a short amount of time to regenerate a bit when you are a key player?

  • What can you delegate?
  • What are the top priorities?
  • What do you have to get done that day?

If you are stressed and performing at a lower level, this will make it difficult for your employees to perform well.

If you are introverted, then ensure you have enough quiet time here and there to regroup.

If you are extroverted, roam around – take the long way to the coffee room and interact along the way.

It takes only a few minutes and can make a huge difference if you purposefully build in “energizers” into your work day.

It’s not rocket science. It is less complex than all the technical issues you have solved so far in your career, and it will result in you accomplishing more in less time.

Lastly – Be inclusive.

When you are stuck on a challenge or need to be in too many places at once – involve your team. Discuss openly the challenges and have them get involved.

This will create greater trust, ownership, and buy-in so your team will work together more effectively – AND productivity will be higher with greater ownership and buy in.

A great leader once said to me … “even if you know the answer, ask for input”.

Input is not just for when you don’t know – it is to seek other views, to create involvement, and to create energy around a project.

A golden rule of mine is always err on the side on inclusion, not exclusion.

Interaction, inclusion, discussion…create those in your group.

They invite creativity and raise the energy of the group.”

That Moment When You Really Need Productivity to Increase and It’s Not

That Moment When You Really Need Productivity to Increase and It’s Not

If you are a Manager then you’ve got ‘em … direct reports!

These guys make you, and sometimes it can feel like they break you too. The success of your team lies within you and each of your direct reports.

So, for the next few weeks we will have some more of our expert Coaches here to share with you some of their best tips and tricks when it comes to managing direct reports.

To kick us off this week (and next!), we’ve got Coach Caroline Paoletti sharing some of her best tips on how to motivate your team when you HAVE to increase productivity.

Let’s jump in!

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“My approach as a leader was always to learn and work with each direct report in a way that was meaningful for them. This shows caring, builds trust, and allows you to learn the details of what helps them be their highest performing self. This will automatically create high productivity. So let’s talk about some practical things you can do, starting now!

Step 1: Define the Goal (what the team needs to accomplish).

Now what?

Think about:

  • What can you do to contribute positively to the goal?
  • What do you need to know to enable your employees to perform to their full potential and achieve their goal?
  • Have you clearly articulated what they need to achieve so that they understand?

The answers to these questions will create your roadmap.

Some of the answers may be different for different managers, and different for each of your direct reports.

That’s a good thing.

Step 2: Know what motivates your directs.

My favorite question for this conversation is “What is a great day at work for you?”. It sets you up to get a descriptive answer with tons of information.

As an example, if they say “analyzing reports and finding the common thread”, they are probably introverted, prefer to work quietly, and enjoy finding a complex solution.

So if you want them to be more productive, it’s probably not good to give them 8 hours of presentations, Knowing what motivates them can increase their energy and ability to be really productive.

Giving them assignments contrary to their motivators will zap their energy and lead to a lower level of productivity.

Knowing your directs and how to (and what!) to delegate to each is essential.

Step 3: Find out what is hard for your directs (and work with them to actively develop that area).

Often people procrastinate around tasks that are uncomfortable.

Ask the question, how can you help them come up with a plan that enables them to move forward quickly?

One of your key roles is removing the roadblocks.

Your group is going to handle the 80 or 90% that fits in the routines of the organizations systems. Your job as a manager is in dealing with the other % that does not fit the normal routines of the organization.

Reducing the roadblocks saves your team tons of time and is one of your key contributions to higher productivity.

So, this week try it out: set a clear goal, begin to ask what motivates your team, and learn one that task that is more challenging for them in their current role.

And come back next week to learn a couple more tips from Caroline!

Planning for More Change

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So, how is your planning for change going?

Last week we got a couple of tips from Coach Melissa Creede. This week she is back with some additional things to plan for!

Take it away, Melissa.

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Let’s look again at what Sarah and other could have done differently to ensure a successful change endeavour.

3. Make it tangible and relevant to each person’s reality

Resistance often comes from employees feeling as though a change is being thrust upon them with no clear idea of the purpose of the initiative. They also might feel stress or anxiety around ‘what does it mean for me?’ ‘How will this affect my day-to-day work?’. Sarah is a great visionary, but she doesn’t always stop and think about the impact to the individual employees. Since she had no vested interest in their current reality, she underestimated theirs.

Ideas to try:

  • Talk to your team (both together and individually).
  • Think about those questions they may have of, “What does this mean for me?”
  • Talk through those questions together, and get their buy-in so that they can see how this will benefit them.
  1. Start, iterate, and adjust

Sarah had a bit of a perfectionist streak. She wanted her ideas to be perfectly formed and her plans, documents, and presentations to impress and influence. She would often send things to her colleagues at the last minute because she was busy perfecting them. They felt frustrated because they didn’t have proper time to review or contribute to the documents, and disrespected and dismissed because ideas came so fully formed, and so late in the process, that it seemed as though she didn’t really want to consider their contributions anyway.

Ideas to try:

  • Bring others along with you and be ok with it being messy.
  • Too often, people leading change go off and work hard on coming up with strategic visions, communication plans, and all the other pieces of the puzzle.
    • Ask yourself, who can I include in each part of the plan (the vision, the communication, etc.)?
  1. Stick with it

Sarah was impatient to see the bold changes she envisioned enacted quickly. She was frustrated that things were taking so long. She often tried to ‘speed things up,’ which usually resulted in the initiative screeching to a halt.

Ideas to try:

  • Appreciate that people adapt to and embrace change at different paces.
    • This can be something as small as a new milestone document and as large as company culture change.
  • Allow for the needed time.
    • Sometimes change can happen quickly, and sometimes people need to all get on the same page first.

I’m happy to say that Sarah and the team are back on track, working well together, and getting pretty excited about what’s possible in their future. Are they exactly where Sarah wanted them to be a year ago? No. But they are much, much further ahead than they were 3 months ago. They’re working well together, staying curious, and definitely moving in the right direction together.

Staying Mindful

Staying Mindful

So, did you try some of the mindfulness tips from last week?

Normally, we’ve got a number of paragraphs with thoughts and ideas.

This week, we’re doing something a little different – we’re going more interactive!

First, we’d encourage you to look at the clock and make sure you’ve got about 15 minutes free.

Next, set a timer on your phone for 1 minute.

Close your eyes for a minute and think about your breathing.

           Focus on your breath and clear your mind.

Now, take out a piece of paper and set your timer for 5 minutes.

          Write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t try to think or solve any problems. Just. Write.

How are you feeling? Maybe some of those things that were stressing you out are now on paper and not just being stored in your mind?

Last, think though or write about 1 or all of these questions:

  • What will I do today that will matter 1 year from now?
  • What is 1 thing I want to accomplish today?
  • Is what I am doing the best use of my time?
  • Am I having fun? How come?

We’ve found that staying mindful and present takes a combination of little checks through out your day (breathing when you are frustrated or enjoying your food instead of scarfing down a couple of chips) and taking a couple minutes of intentional time to reground yourself amidst the stress.

Try it out and let us know your thoughts!