Three Impactful Words

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I found this short article in a folder with some other writing samples. I don't remember if I authored this or if I saw it somewhere, though I am usually diligent about citing sources.  It resonated with me, though.  The pandemic has forced the issue for my clients -- and for a lot of companies & organizations -- to improve focus & prioritization, as well as to get clear about what they truly need from leaders at all levels. Three Impactful Words I urge you to ponder these three words and consider how applying them to your self, team and...
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Leadership at a Distance

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The Coronavirus threat has changed things -- and I'm not just talking about the TP shortage at your local big box store. Whether you're still headed to the office each day or you've set up shop at home, leading at a distance -- real or virtual -- takes extra effort. And the general uneasiness from this ever-evolving pandemic adds a whole new dynamic to the role of leader. Here are three strategies for leading effectively during these unusual times. All are practices you may want to continue beyond the life cycle of Covid-19. 1. Use goals to set up new...
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Beware of 'Business as Usual'

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After hours of discussion and planning, you stood with the executive team at the company meeting and announced the strategic plans for the year. There would be big changes, you said, changes that would mean great things for the company -- and more importantly, make things easier for everyone. There will be some extra work up front, to set things in order for the changes, but afterwards it is going to be great. Life will be better. We will all benefit from a more positive, easy-going culture. You promised. That meeting was more than a year ago. Changes were implemented,...
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Ethical Leadership Isn't Dead

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Despite what you may hear on TV or read in the daily news, ethical leadership is not dead. (Not yet, anyway.) You know ethical leadership when you see it, when you feel what it's like to work for someone who takes ethics seriously. Ethics is concerned with a person's values, morals, motives and overall character. Ethical leadership is about what leaders do, as well as who leaders are -- how they think about themselves and the world. In his book, Leadership: Theory & Practice , Peter G Northouse describes five foundational principles of ethical leadership. They are: respect, service, justice,...
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It's About Time.

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"It's already mid-January," she said; "You mean, it's only mid-January," he replied. Two employees of the same company with very different perspectives on the passing of time. For her, days pass quickly & she already feels behind. For him, we've barely started and it's a long year ahead. How do you think about time? If you think of it only as passing minutes or days on a calendar, you are missing out. Time has two dimensions: hours & energy. When we focus on one, we lose sight of the other. Time is the one resource that can never be retrieved;...
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Is That What You Really Meant?

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We've all had times when conversations didn't go as planned. You tried to give feedback, or express a concern, but it came out more like a scolding or shaming. Or you meant to ask a question, but it came across as an assertion that the other person had failed in some way. What could have been a straightforward conversation turned ugly -- and fast. And though you said it wasn't what you meant, the damage was already done. We don't have hours to prepare for every conversation, but taking a minute -- or even a long pause before speaking --...
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A Confident New Year

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Is your self-confidence level ready for the challenges of the New Year? Everyone, on one occasion or another, has suffered from a moment of self-doubt, or a moment when there was uncertainty whether they could handle a new or unfamiliar situation. Conversely, it's likely you have had moments of supreme confidence when you felt you could conquer the world. How can you develop the kind of confidence that will ensure the achievement of your goals and the expected results for the organization? The answer lies within the question itself. People who achieve well-defined goals in business and in life develop...
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Why Do You Lead?

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You don't have to be a leader of others. Whether you became a leader by choice or by chance, you didn't have to go that route. The world is full of highly successful individual contributors. But you opted in to a leadership role. Your role may come with formal authority, or you could be an informal leader, leading primarily from example and influence. Either way, you are a leader in your organization. People look to you for leadership. So why do you lead? Why did you choose leadership as the life for you? Do you know? I remember when I...
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An Open Letter to the 'Tin Man'

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"When a man's an empty kettle he should be on his mettle, and yet I'm torn apart. Just because I'm presumin' that I could be kind-a-human, if I only had a heart. I'd be tender - I'd be gentle and awful sentimental regarding love and art. I'd be friends with the sparrows ... and the boys who shoot the arrows if I only had a heart. Just to register emotion, jealousy, devotion, and really feel the part. I could stay young and chipper and I'd lock it with a zipper, If I only had a heart." - Wizard of Oz...
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Still Procrastinating?

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My first post of 2019 (A Year From Now You'll Wish You Started Today) outlined 3 steps to a more productive year. Step 1: create a one year vision; Step 2: align your identity with your vision; Step 3: take action in alignment with your new identity and vision. It's October now. And if you are like me, even though you created a vision and have taken action to achieve it, there is at least one part where you just can't seem to get traction. You may have even tried a few times, or started and stopped and started again,...
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Stop Struggling

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Those two words -- stop struggling -- are in the top 10 of all the advice I've received in my lifetime. I was at a leadership retreat in California. Mid-day, day 4, in conversation with Alan, another attendee, I was relating my frustrations with work, relationships, friendships. Everything. I kept saying it, over and over: I'm struggling with this, I'm struggling with that, I'm struggling, I'm struggling. Then Alan gestured in my direction in a way that indicated he had pressed the pause button. I stopped my rant and looked at him intently.  Then he reached out and put his...
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Change Resistance and Relationships

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We have new owners at my gym, as of September 1st. The new owners have two other locations. Those locations naturally have different cultures than ours. I say "naturally" because ours was under different leadership. The past owner started the gym three years ago. She set out to build an environment where we were all in it together -- one that wasn't intimidating, but welcoming; one where you could set self-judgment aside and focus on self-love. She knew everyone in the gym, and she knew their stories. Each person's journey was part of her journey. It's been only 9 days,...
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Embrace the Storm, part 2: Challenge & Change

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Change starts with a challenge -- when someone or something challenges the status quo. The fun really starts when the challenge is accepted. In organizations, the most senior leaders are the ones who first accept the challenge. That decision is communicated to lower-level leaders (both formal and informal leaders) who lead the work at the ground level. In bigger organizations, we "cascade" the messages from leader to leader and group to group, targeting the messages to what we think is most pertinent to each audience. We show them data, explain the rationale, and try to display conviction in the decision....
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Embrace the Storm

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The forming–storming–norming–performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman said these phases are all necessary and inevitable for a team to grow, tackle problems, find solutions and deliver results. Tuckman's ideas apply beyond teams. Individuals going through change, whether they chose change or not, also experience the four stages. We started a new 10-week session at my gym last week, and we have 3-4 new members at the class I attend at 6 am. The first week is all "getting to know you" -- learning the moves, getting into the routine, and dealing with...
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The Generous Leader

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Generous is defined as: (1) liberal in giving: openhanded (2) marked by abundance or ample proportions, or (3) characterized by a noble or kindly spirit: magnanimous. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/generous. Generosity is the quality of being generous. My inner cynic says generosity in business and leadership would be considered waste because it means going beyond what is expected or required -- classified as over-processing. But my heart says different -- that generosity as a leadership quality is a value-add. What does it mean to be a generous leader?   I think it means you kindly give of yourself and your resources without expecting...
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Go Old School: Knock & Talk

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I am old enough to remember a time before we had the convenience of email and text messaging. Rather than attach documents to email, we sent copies of paperwork and formal memos in re-usable envelopes through inter-office mail. If you needed something faster than the interoffice mail system allowed, then you either made a phone call or you got up from your desk and walked over for a face to face conversation. If a matter was urgent, you checked with the area secretary who handled their calendar to see where you could find them. Those days are long gone in...
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What's Your Motivation?

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  "Managers light a fire under people; Leaders light a fire in people." -- Kathy Austin I've been lucky in my career to have had both: a manager that lit a fire under me, and a leader who lit a fire in me. Both had positive impact on my personal motivation. But over the long haul -- beyond our formal work relationship, the leader changed my life . Sounds dramatic when I say it that way. It's true -- though not exact, since no one else can change your life. Change happens from the inside out, and I made the...
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Chasing Failure

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At the gym, our instructors tell us to "chase failure" -- to go beyond fatigued to the point of muscle failure. It makes sense when it comes to working out. But what does "chasing failure" look like in other parts of life? You've heard the Thomas Edison story about the lightbulb -- how every failure led him one step closer to success. And the Wright brothers crashed a lot before they flew. A quick search on YouTube for "epic fail" and you'll find video after video of people crashing, falling and mucking things up. Are they all chasing failure? In...
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Want to improve engagement? Start Small.

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When we talk about improving employee engagement, it sounds BIG and like A LOT of work. It can be hard for leaders to see a clear path between the "engaged culture of the future" as you describe it and the "culture of the present" that they live every day. Engagement is a measure of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization's reputation and interests. So, improving engagement means a change in the relationship between leaders...
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Why Self-Leadership?

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Last week's post, What are Leaders Made Of? , covered four elements that make up an effective leader: self-love, self-image, self-leadership, and formal leadership. Of the three, self-leadership is most over-looked and under-rated.  Self-leadership is the ability to set goals that are aligned with your purpose & vision, and to influence yourself to consistently achieve them. It's likely you already know how to be a leader in your own life. You've heard the words and have seen the tools before. But that doesn't mean you practice self-leadership with any consistency. It isn't hard, but it can feel like a lot...
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