We sometimes think of fairness and equality as the same thing, and even with the best intentions, we will lead ineffectively, if we get the two confused.
Equality is about being the same in quality, status, and value while being fair is your unbiased and impartial approach to people. Everyone deserves to be heard and invested in. In order to be truly fair, how you support and invest in others should be different for each person.
Assess and dial into their individual needs
In order to lead fairly, you’ve got to have a good understanding of your team. You need to know them fairly well on a personal level and have a good grasp of what they excel at and what they need to work on in order to grow in their career. Some companies lean into talent calibrations that access performance and potential in order to highlight a person’s development needs. Great smaller companies often take the same approach but with more of a focus on one-on-ones to determine what the person’s needs are.
Once you determine your people’s needs, you’ll find just how different they are. That’s ok! In order to lead fairly, you’ll need to invest in those needs which means you’ll approach people differently. For your high performer, you’ll likely give them stretch assignments, push their knowledge and expertise, and provide them a chance to grow their influence. For the low performer, it’s about equipping them to get back on track with expectations and standards. You may need to slow down and lead with more empathy here. Perhaps the lower performance has to do with a personal hardship that they are currently going through and need help to work through it.
Don’t forget the top (or the middle) for the bottom
As leaders, we are tasked with fixing problems in order to make our teams successful. It’s on us to see our goals come to life. As part of that charge, we sometimes over-focus on our lowest performers and problem children. What happens here, is that we leave our top performers alone because they are our best and are usually self-directed in their own personal leadership.
Remember to be fair with your time. Your best people still need to see and hear from you. They want to feel valued in what they do and validated in the work outcomes that they produce. Leaving this group to themselves while you focus solely on your bottom people will lead to this group’s dis-engagement and will cause some of your best people to leave.
Rember your middle people as well! This group makes up the backbone of your larger team or organization. We need people in the middle. I call them the engine of the company because we need them to stay around a long time and they produce most of the work needed to hit our goals. Be sure to check in with this group as well and make sure they feel valued and included. Just because they may not want to climb a ladder in additional responsibility, doesn’t mean that they should be neglected.
Make yourself available to all
We know from unconscious bias (EP 284, 285) that we are drawn to people that we have an affinity for both because of shared personal interests and history as well as how they perform on the team. Understand while you may be spending time with everyone on your team, you make not be making yourself available to all of them.
Build trust with everyone, so that they feel comfortable coming to you with a need. Lean into the power of active listening and let go of any preconceived notions that you may have about the person or the reason behind why they are there. Being fair in availability means that you are giving everyone a chance to be listened to. This may mean that you need to be creative in scheduling if don’t normally see a segment of your team or have a standard open block of time for drop-ins and questions.
Fairness does not mean the same. In fact, if you treated everyone the same, it wouldn’t be fair to your team. Pull out and invest in those individual needs, make sure you are investing in all of your people, and that you are available to all of your team to connect and grow together.
The strongest people in life are the ones that are comfortable saying ‘I don’t know. -Patrick Lencioni
As a young boy growing up in the ’80s and ’90s there were plenty of heroes for kids to latch on to and look up to for leadership. While there were great leaders like Princess Leia, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, or even Optimus Prime, there was a lot of strength exhibited, but not too much vulnerability.
Today, employees and customers are demanding transparency from organizations and leaders alike. Portraying an exaggerated level of strength and power will not connect in a lasting way. Leaders and companies can longer hide behind policies and procedures without relational consequences from others.
So how should we leverage vulnerability in a way that feels real and authentic without giving everything away?
What is Vulnerability in leadership?
Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately lay all your transgressions, personal failings, and fears out there for all to see. It does mean that you should let others see those moments when appropriate. It’s letting people you see authentically navigate uncertainty. It’s exposing some emotion to let people see that you are real. It’s installing trust and taking a risk by sharing things about yourself and what you are going through. Vulnerability is about being true to yourself and allowing another person to see into your personal journey.
How vulnerability impacts your life and those around you
Vulnerability is a sought out trait in personal and professional relationships. Here are some ways that it can impact you.
It can help lower turnover at work: People desire purpose and connectivity in the work that they do. (PTB 312: 4 ways to find purpose in work) The stronger the emotional tie that the employee has with their work, the less likely it is that they are going to go somewhere else. Leaning into your vulnerability furthers your connection with other employees in a meaningful way. Vulnerability makes it less about you and more about others, giving them a chance to shine and be recognized for their hard work.
It paves the way for authentic relationships: Think about the relationships that you have that are deeper than a “How are you?” Most likely they are meaningful to you because they feel real. They are authentic. Vulnerability paves the way for those long-lasting authentic relationships. It’s really difficult for relationships to care deep meaning if there isn’t some layer of vulnerability being shown from both parties.
It fast-tracks trust: Lots of companies exist with the sole purpose of providing teams and companies bonding experiences to build trust. A healthy level of vulnerability can fast-track trust just as quickly as a high ropes course or trust fall exercise. Being vulnerable with others shows them that there is a safe place to store their trust in you.
It breaks down barriers to innovation and creativity: Both innovation and creativity can be a fickle and challenging thing to manifest in a team environment. You can make distractions and barriers smaller by being vulnerable and authentic with others. When you admit your mistakes and acknowledge that you don’t hold all the answers, it allows others to step in a new and exciting way. Leveraging vulnerability as a strength also helps you acknowledge others’ achievements and take your ego out of the equation. This of course only helps fuel more creativity.
Tips to be more vulnerable with others
Being vulnerable to others can be difficult. Putting up a proverbial shield around yourself can make you feel protected. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. You may be unknowingly singling yourself out in a bad way from your peers and from the team that you serve. As competition heats up in business and in keeping great talent, it’s important to take small steps in order to be more vulnerable to others.
Don’t take yourself too seriously: Whether you are stepping into a new role, or a new company it can be tempting to try to impress everyone. Drop the veil of perfection and let your guard down a little bit with others. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. Have a great time while celebrating with others.
Share your personal journey with others: Hopefully, you have a good sense of the personal areas that you need to work on to grow as a person and leader. If you don’t, ask your team, they certainly know what those areas are! Even though they know your growth areas, it’s important for you to share those with others and tell them about your path to growth. It show’s your awareness of the topic and your willingness to discuss those with others will create a stronger personal bond.
Admit your mistakes and check the ego: Easy to say and often harder to do, admitting to your mistakes with others is an important part of being vulnerable. It also helps keep your ego in check as well. If you struggle here, start small and keep yourself accountable as you grow to own up to larger mistakes.
Continue to self-educate: A phrase my team uses often is “self-educate” This typically happens when one of us admits that we don’t know the answer yet to a challenge, but we commit to learning more and landing a positive outcome. I use this phrase just as much as everyone else! Acknowledge your knowledge limits and then be proactive in growing and learning. Something new and positive has always come out of the other end of one of these statements for us.
Great leaders understand the power of vulnerability. That leverage that power, without manipulating it, to grow personal relationships, builds trust and long-term buy-in from their team, and helps themselves stand out from the competition. Be a servant leader that is vulnerable in your daily walk in order to lift others up.
Thank you so much for listening to the show, whether today’s your first show or you have been with us from the beginning. Today, Zack, Neha, and Mike get together and discuss the past year, share some stories, preview some things coming in year 8 and answer listener questions from our mailbox!
Leadership is not some mythical art that you are either born with or not. There is no born leader. All great leaders are created through their willingness to continue learning, their behavior towards others, and their ability to think strategically to get the job done.
Here are some common other leadership myths that you may have heard about or even experienced in your own leadership walk.
The Position Myth
“I’m only the leader when I have the title.”
The Position Myth is one that new employees can find themselves falling into, but it also applies to people that are settled and content right where they are.
“I’m not a ‘leader’ so this doesn’t apply to me,” or “Nobody listens to me because I’m not the leader.” One of the common themes throughout our years at Passing the Baton is that you are a leader no matter your title or position.
You’ll always have at least one person in your life depending on your leadership…… look in the mirror, it’s you! It’s highly like that you have others as well that look towards your leadership and don’t care about your title. Think of peers, family members, friends, and even your boss and their boss. They may lean on your leadership in different ways, but they are all counting on you.
Those that fail to understand that leadership is about influence and not a position, typically don’t fare well with a formal leadership role.
The Contentment Myth
“When I land at my aspirational role, I’ll be happy.”
The Contentment Myth is the horizon that “A” type leaders are always chasing. The idea is that you’ll slow down, and enjoy life once you realize a major career milestone.
I got caught up in this myth during my own leadership walk. I had a level of leadership that I really wanted to reach with a singular focus. My family moved around quite a bit in the journey to reach that goal. Through hard work and the support of my teams and peers, I made it and became the 2nd youngest person ever to reach that role in a 100-year-old company. I was finally content in my career.
Not long after someone asked me what was I going to do next, and my answer of contentment was not good enough for them.
“You move around every 2-3 years. Wait until you hit that mark, and we’ll see.”
At 3 years, I was no longer content. I broke the trap of the myth once I fully turned my contentment toward seeing others become successful in their own career aspirations.
Slow down and enjoy the journey that you are currently on and let the destination comes when and if it does. You won’t miss special moments that are currently happening in your life, you will grow a larger appreciation for others, and you gain a higher level of satisfaction in your daily life in the process.
The Freedom Myth
“Once I make it as a leader, I’ll be free to do what I want.”
It’s easy to look up at the proverbial leadership ladder and think, “Why in the world are we doing this?” and “If I ever, land that job, I’ll finally be free of all this bureaucracy and will be free to make decisions to change this place.”
While it is quite possible to effect change as you step into a new role, you’ll probably lose more freedom than you get; or at a minimum trade-off levels of freedom in different areas of work and life.
In the reverse pyramid style of servant leadership, the higher you go, to more people that you serve. That means you trade off more personal and professional freedom in order to meet the needs of others.
Another way we sometimes can fall into the Freedom Myth is because as much as we may think we know about those above us, you never truly know the level of co-dependency, competing priorities, and responsibilities until you step into the role and live it out yourself.
Often times the grass is not greener on the other side; it’s just a different type of grass.
The All-or-Nothing Myth
“Why try if I can’t be the top person?”
If you can’t win then what’s the point of playing the game? Leadership is not an all-in or all-out philosophy. The “top” leader shouldn’t be any more important than a leader at any other level.
Kindred at Home is the largest in-home and hospice care company in the U.S. and they know where their most valuable leaders are; the ones that lead the teams in the field that take direct care of their patients. Ask any executive and they will all say that the branch director is more important than them. Even though the branch director may not be the top leader in the organization, they have a profound impact on the level of care for their patients at the local level.
You don’t need to be at the top to make a difference. In keeping with the Kindred at Home example, I’ve seen numerous stories of people having a literally life-changing impact on others without carrying a formal leadership title.
Make the most out of your influence right where you are.
Leadership is a choice that you make. No titles, letters after your name or position, will ensure that people will follow you. Make the choice to lead yourself, your family, and your team well no matter your life or career stage.
Burnout can have a profound impact on your personal and professional life. When I begin to feel burnout, it shows in the things I love most. Projects and passions take a lot more effort and I find myself spinning my wheels instead of using my time to be fully effective. Burnout can happen to everyone, no matter your job, industry, age, or lifestyle.
Last week we talked about the signs of burnout. Now that we know the indicators and causes of burnout, we’ll look at ways to combat it and begin the journey to recovery.
It’s said that the first step in overcoming a problem, is first to admit that you have a problem. That is certainly the case in burnout. If you try to tough it out and lie to yourself that “everything is fine,” you’ll never be able to move to a healthier step.
Acknowledging that you are facing burnout doesn’t make you a bad leader, an insufficient parent, or a poor student. It says you are human…. just like the rest of us. As a leader, it’s also important to step up and share this vulnerability with others on your team. It will help them support you, models healthy behavior, and is a good indicator for others to check their own level of burnout as well.
Share that vulnerability with yourself and with others so that you can begin the recovery process.
Make it a priority
After the acknowledgment, the next step is putting action behind your discovery.
Look at your schedule and prioritize your time based on your recovery goal. What’s currently taking up space that is feeding your burnout? Take it in small steps instead of fully blowing up your week. Find small segments of time so you can invest in yourself, decompress and do something relaxing.
Eat, Sleep and Be Mindful: How are you eating? When I start feeling burnout coming on, I notice that I start eating like garbage; snacking, and grazing all the time. Set a notification on your phone or other reminders to wrap your evening up earlier to get better rest. Finally, use mindfulness apps, websites, or activities that help you focus on breathing and lowering stress.
Step away from the tech: It’s easy to get entangled in our personal technology, especially if you work from home, do hybrid work, or are currently in school. Step away for tech-free breaks throughout the day or take a tech vacation, either partially by stepping away from some social media apps, games, etc or take a full-on tech vacation where you truly unplug and do something for yourself instead.
Include others to help with recovery
While over time, you can recover from burnout alone, you can move through the phase much more quickly by including others in your journey and by clearing the way for others to have a clear path to get back on track as well.
Empower and equip others to have hybrid work arrangements. Lean into flexible work and time off. Accommodate fully in and fully-remote workers if possible.
Beef up (and take advantage of) programs and offerings that encourage people to get out and do something different. Look for volunteering opportunities or other team well-being programs.
Spend more time together that doesn’t have an agenda. Online meetings are very transactional in nature and people need social connections.
Poll the team to discover ideas to refine good work-life rhythm.
Reconnect with close friends and family members that you may have not seen in a while. Do something experiential together.
Prioritize health and happiness for yourself and others that you lead. Doing so will lead to continued joy in their workplace, empowerment to do great things, and a strong sense of purpose.
Burnout is real and can get the best of all of us. No leader is immune to burnout in either the professional or personal life. Years of collectively battling a pandemic have only made this important issue more prevalent and harder to combat. We’ve all spent a lot of time trying to navigate a new reality while trying to do the best at our jobs, and for our families and loved ones.
Before we jump into action to combat burnout, we’ll first need to get a good understanding our ourselves, the signs of burnout, and where it can come from.
Are you lying to yourself?
You may think that you don’t have a problem, but burnout isn’t a short-game issue. It creeps its way into your whole life and by the time you do identify it, it’s already manifested itself in you. It’s not too late, but there is more work to do to get back to a healthy balance in life.
Leaders can lie to themselves about their ability to set boundaries in order to manage stress, workload, and self-care. The multi-year pandemic only increased this by causing a false sense of urgency in many leaders’ workstreams. They felt like they had more to prove in a new remote work environment that they found themselves in and there was no longer a physical barrier between their work and home life. While some of those responses are natural for the increased stress levels that the pandemic created, they can’t be sustained in a healthy way.
I’ve helped leaders that lied to themselves in order to “push through” burnout. They would coach their team on the importance of work-life balance and boundaries but then they would often be found working late into the night and on weekends as well.
Honestly check yourself on your boundaries. Throw “normal” out of the window for this classification; there is no normal these days. Instead, look at “healthy or not” to your workload. I know a lot of leaders that going at 80% is other people 100%. Pull back in small increments and see what difference it makes in your personal and professional life. It’s highly likely that your work won’t be impacted too much negatively, but your personal-care time will see a big improvement.
The signs of burnout
These signs are not all-encompassing. Some people experience one or two as they approach burnout, while others experience all of them. The important thing is to know yourself and your body well and to tune into changes that have and continue to occur.
You lack the energy that you used to have – Early on you may feel more tired than normal and in later stages, you are outright physically, mentally, and/or emotionally exhausted.
You start having physical complications – headaches, stomach issues, etc – Maybe it starts itself out as something small like an eye twitch but can increase to heart palpitations, severe pain, and chest pain. Seek your doctor’s help if you feel yourself experiencing any major physical changes.
Your eating habits have changed – You may begin to stop eating as much or you take it the other way and begin to find yourself snacking more than normal. You may lose your appetite altogether and start dropping weight in later stages or you begin to put on weight as you eat to cope.
Your sleep habits have changed – You find yourself moving to either extreme, perhaps you are getting a lot less sleep or you struggle to get out of bed.
You no longer feel satisfaction in your personal and professional victories – This one can start out small. Maybe you aren’t excited to jump into work or you are ready to leave as soon as possible. From there, you may start avoiding additional work of taking on new projects. This can also extend into your personal life when you lose the drive and excitement that you had before.
You’ve become more cynical and pessimistic – Perhaps you’ve started into more negative self-talk (EP XXX). This one can change your personality altogether. You used to be a joyful and happy person, and now you don’t see yourself or act that way.
You are less productive – Here is one that shows in people you think that they can push through burnout. More time spent on work doesn’t make you more productive, it can, in fact, make you less productive. If you find yourself putting in more hours just to get the same things done that used to take you less time, then you may be experiencing a bit of burnout.
The causes of burnout
Burnout can come from a number of directions and often finds power over you when multiple avenues come together to compound the issue. Here are just a few of the areas to be mindful of for burnout.
Lack of Control
Unclear workplace expectations
Poor leadership from above
Work-life rhythm is off
Lack of support at work
Lack of support at home
The first step in overcoming burnout is to identify and understand that you have a problem. Next, we’ll give you actionable steps that you can take to combat and overcome burnout in yourself and a way to help your team guard themselves against it too.
As an adult, you spend the majority of your productive hours of the week working with and alongside other people. In order for you to be the most productive and carry a good sense of belonging, you need to have great working relationships with those that you interact with.
With personality rubs, competing personal priorities, and an uneven amount of compassion and empathy, talking about the importance of great working relationships is easier said than done. Here are some simple approaches to implement to start building those relationships today.
Communicate & stay in touch
One of my biggest hurdles when wanting to better a working relationship is the communication cadence. The relationship might not be where it needs to be simply because there isn’t a relationship in the first place. It’s hard to build a relationship with someone that you don’t talk to!
Be mindful to reach out regularly. It may feel a bit forced at first, but by approaching it with genuine care and curiosity, you can help smooth over any awkwardness.
Be thoughtful in your communication approach as well. We all have our preferred vehicle for communication and it may not be the same for the person that you are trying to build a relationship with.
Look for opportunities to connect
I like to show up to meetings early because then I have the opportunity to connect with others without an agenda attached to the time. The conversations can range anywhere from work-related to small talk to learning about others.
Before one meeting last week, we talked about Nashville and its wild people gatherings on Broad Street. From there I learned that someone on the team lived there, other people’s musical preferences, and what they have done in the city. All great info to have when building relationships with others. (And none involving work!)
Show to meetings early and/or be the last to leave. Also, consider other opportunities like shared work breaks and lunches together. It shows others that you have a genuine interest in them and it’s a natural way to have more connections with others.
Great working relationships are grounded in trust and a level of mutual respect. You can show respect to others by:
Meeting and exceeding your commitments to them and the team.
Being on time (or early) to meetings and communicating early when a situation prevents you from attending.
Honor people’s time. Don’t keep them too long if they need to be moving on to the next thing.
Listen more than you talk in meetings.
Stay away from office politics and gossip. Even if it’s not involving the other person, they will see that you are participating in the gossip and may wonder what you are saying about them when they are not around.
Be accountable for any missteps that happen as you build the relationship. We all make mistakes. It’s important to own them so the other person sees and understands that you recognize your growth opportunities.
Lean into the positive
There is a time and place for venting and sharing frustration, but the time you are investing in relationship building is not the proper time.
Keep away from complaining about others because it doesn’t help as you try to build trust and respect with others. Look for positive solutions to problems that people take for granted. Keeping a positive focus will naturally draw others to you and accelerate those relationships to want to strengthen.
Stay in touch with the people you are building relationships with and look for natural points to build rapport and add value. Show respect and communicate in a way that meets their personal preference. Stepping out of your comfort zone a little in order to grow relationships will be a valuable step of faith.
If complexity doesn’t beat you, then paradox will. –Tom Robbins.
Paradoxes are “contradictions that persist over time, impose on each other and develop into seemingly irrational or absurd situations.” Maybe those kinds of absurd thoughts or situations pop up in your everyday work. You may not realize it, but you probably deal with paradoxes more than you realize. Being able to identify them and successfully work through those are key to a great career.
Ways to approach paradox
Each paradox that you encounter requires some kind of decision or action by you and the team. When looking at two opposing views, thoughts or actions look at these approaches to determine how you will address the situation. We’ll use the paradoxical phrase “Tough Love” to drive home the examples of each approach.
Either-Or: The Either-Or approach refers to your choice to assign priority or privilege to one side and either ignore or dismiss the other side so that they never intertwine and become a paradox in the first place.
The Tough Love Example: You’ve heard the phrase before in parenting, sports, and maybe even in the workplace. It’s the idea of being tough on someone to hold them accountable with the ultimate goal to help them improve because you care about them. With Either-Or, it’s going to be one way or the other. Either you are tough on someone, or you love on them; they can’t exist in the same space.
Both-And: The Both-And approach looks at the two ends of a paradox and says that both are valid both should be acknowledged and work together. This is the most common approach that leaders take when dealing with paradox.
The Tough Love Example: With Both-And, the leader says that both points are valid. They need to be tough on expectations and soft on people. It’s a balanced approach that acknowledges the conflicting points. The leader here would approach the conversation with empathy and thoughtfulness while holding true to the expectation.
More-Than: The More-Than approach is increasing in popularity among leaders that deal with paradoxes. Here they look at the two opposing sides and say that each can’t be in perfect harmony in the real world. One side has to weigh more than the other.
The Tough Love Example: The more-than approach can significantly swing the outcome of this one, and both may be appropriate depending on which side you weigh as more important.
You may weigh the love side more important when someone has dropped the ball and is being overly hard on themselves. You still need to establish expectations, but they are much more critical of themselves than you would be of them.
You may weigh the tough side more when there is a critical error and the associate doesn’t show a level of care or understanding that matches the situation.
When it comes to the tough love paradox in coaching, take a strong stand, but leave room for others to maneuver. I know I sometimes throw people off that lean toward the tougher side. It has taken me time, but I can be quite tough and loving at the same time. You can as well with continued practice. I’ve been asked several times if I really do help people that are struggling in our find a role that is a better fit for them. I do. Our standards and expectations do not change but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about the individual if they aren’t performing well.
Walking someone else’s talk
The paradox comes when you have to present an idea or program when you don’t think in the same way or you don’t agree with the direction yet. Don’t let it be known to those that report to you that you are not fully on board. Your role as a leader is to manage the vision and mission. Dealing with paradoxes can be challenging when the direction around the paradox is coming from somewhere else.
Other paradoxical leadership statements
The only finished leader is an unfinished one.
Be confident and humble
Take the lead and don’t stand out
Plan your day and be flexible
Quick and methodical
Thinking and acting in seemingly contrary ways at the same time may seem weird. It’s a balancing act that the best leaders can walk comfortably.
We have enough challenges out and about in our daily work and personal lives to sabotage ourselves with negative self-talk. Last week we looked at negative self-talk, the 4 main types of talk, and shared some real-world examples that these may play out in.
Today we are going to look at some tips to instill some needed positive self-talk in your life.
Positive Self Talk Tips
Positive self-talk is not about constantly being positive, because that’s not possible at every moment. It’s also not the pursuit of a “good-vibes only” vibe where you push away any negative emotions because failing to acknowledge the negative, or challenges, also is counterproductive.
Dr. Judy Ho describes positive self-talk as, “the study of what makes humans flourish and operate at their best. It’s about leaning into strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses and using our strengths to solve problems in our lives.” Here are some tips as you strengthen your own self-talk:
Ensure that it feels true: Taking the steps towards positive self-talk won’t progress very far if it feels forced, or if it feels like you are lying to yourself. Some days are just hard. Instead of saying “I’m a great leader,” try, “I’m working on becoming a great leader,” or “I will try to be a leader worth following.” Even the best leaders aren’t great all the time. Level set your positive talk in a way that is affirming and realistic for you.
Put the words into action: Saying positive things to yourself is one thing. Putting them into action is what really brings transformation. Ask yourself how you can act on your affirmation. Using the previous example, if your affirmation is to work on becoming a great leader, what daily actions are you taking to progress in a positive way?
Start small: Change can be hard. Going all-in on a massive change can lead to an ambitious failure. Instead of trying to turn your inner voice into a fountain of positive talk and encouragement, start with one area of your life first. Maybe it’s your confidence, health, body positivity, or relationship building. Start with the hardest area and build momentum from there.
Information over judgment: In tough times, or feedback, we sometimes have a bias towards what’s not working. Instead of casting immediate judgment on yourself, take time to gather more information. What’s working well? What was the positive impact or intent? Having more data gives you a more balanced perceptive. It doesn’t change the situation, but it can change how you approach and navigate the situation or circumstance.
Take yourself out of the equation: When things go wrong or plans change, especially in social settings, you may have a tendency to blame yourself. For example, if your group of friends cancels a planned outing, you may think that it has something to do with you, or if you go with a couple of weeks with less than regular communication with a close one, you may feel like you did something wrong. Remember that life happens. It’s highly likely that something has come up in their own lives that has caused the change and has nothing to do with your relationship dynamic. Rest assured they have their own problems to deal with too!
Give yourself permission to change your mind: It’s ok, and actually quite healthy, to give yourself permission to change your mind about topics of discussion, other people, and even yourself. You’ve likely seen people who have had heavy personal consequences because of their lack of willingness to change their minds or opinion. (Maybe you’ve been that person!) The ego can be a huge source of negative talk as it seeks to feed itself. Let go of pride, ego, and a source of negative self-talk by simply allowing yourself the ability to change your mind. You’ll not only help yourself, but you’ll be a better person and friend to others as a result.
Take control of your self-talk. Turn that inner critic into a positive supporter that cheers you on as you make progress. We are worth it!
I’ve coached hundreds of leaders through deep dives on their teams to understand each person’s individual development needs. One of the common themes that come up in these sessions is this idea of a leader being too hard on themselves.
We found that these people usually were very driven and wanted their area of responsibility to be a successful part of the organization. They also typically had a high level of care for their people. The feedback about the individual was that they took constructive feedback hard and were in fact harder on themselves than their actual leader could ever be.
Maybe that hits a little close to home, or you know someone that describes.
I certainty was that leader for a time. I had a high drive to be the best field location in the organization. We had very high expectations for our people while having a great time with wonderful results. It was also not uncommon for me to get wrecked as my leader layout constructive feedback during visits. I was too hard on myself and I often felt failure after the visit.
Negative self-talk can eat you alive in your personal and professional life. Being mindful of positive self-talk can make a lasting impact on your overall leadership and emotional health.
4 types of Negative Self Talk
Before we fill our lives with positive self-talk, we need to understand negative self-talk so we can identify when it’s happening and how often it occurs.
Personalizing: The, “It’s not you, it’s me” mantra. This is one of the most common forms and basically follows the pattern of when something bad happens you automatically blame yourself for the outcome. It’s important to do some reality testing here to determine if you are truly responsible or are there outside circumstances at play.
Real-Life Example: You weren’t chosen in the interview process. Constructive feedback at work.
Filtering: Here you filter out the good things in the situation and magnify the negative. An example of this would be an area leader’s visit to one of our locations. They leave a heap of positive observations and affirmations while giving you a couple of things to work on. After the fact, you only focus on the couple of negative things and discount all the positive pieces that they gave you.
Real-Life Example: Filtering teachers/professors/mentors’ notes on a paper/project/challenge.
Catastrophizing: This is where you automatically think the worst in situations. It’s important here to think about the likelihood that your thought will actually occur and consider other possible outcomes.
Real-Life Example: You always get stuck in heavy traffic. You feel like you are always going to be excluded.
Polarizing: It’s either all good or all bad. There is typically no middle ground in this thought process. You have to be perfect or you are a total failure. Maybe you have a goal to run or walk three times a week and you are only able to do it twice. Your overall focus is on the “failure” and not on the progress that you are making.
Real-Life Example: Hobbies/home projects are perfect or you failed overall. Being destroyed by a “B” in school. When a friend/customer experiences a service failure.
Identify those areas in your life where you are sabotaging yourself with negative self-talk, and remember that it’s not created equally across all parts of your life. You may struggle with personalizing-type of negative self-talk at work and be fine at home. You may be polarizing at home, and be fine where you volunteer your time.
Now that we know those areas of opportunity, we’ll cover some tips for positive self-talk and reflection next week.
Most kids learn about climates in grade school which is defined as the overall weather patterns of an area. They also learn about microclimates; the climate of a small or restricted area that differs from the surrounding area.
Microclimates are everywhere. Think how different the weather and environment are in a valley with a river vs the mountain top that is next to it. Microclimates can also be as close as your backyard. Our backyard is open and grassy, while our neighbors have a large coverage of trees and vines.
While your company sets your overall culture, values, and climate, you are in full control of the climate and culture of your team. That’s the reason multi-site organizations see inconsistency in aligned culture from one location to another. No matter how hard you push the big culture, it will always fall on the local team leader whether that will standard and philosophy will become reality or something else entirely.
Here are some tips to help you have a happy, healthy, and productive micro-climate of culture right where you are.
Look past the swirl
The swirl of the day can easily derail and ruin your day. While the swirl of the day and the larger storms of life can leave you feeling helpless, you have more power than you may realize in those moments. Here are a couple of ways that we feed the daily swirl and larger storms in our life.
We feed the storm with our fear, pride, and permission. Life happens and sometimes it’s downright tough to make it to the end of the day. We add fuel to the swirls and storms of life by leading with our pride, fear and by giving the situation permission to control our lives. Turn your focus outwards to remember your purpose, your people, and your passion. It will help guide you through the distractions and challenges that threaten your culture.
We let the swirl influence our actions. The swirl of the day can more influential than we give it credit for. How much you let it drive your day determines how much it influences your decision-making. You’ve probably seen or experienced someone make poor judgment calls while they were under pressure in some way and it seldom ends well. Recognize when it happens and take a moment to pause and take back control of the moment.
The swirls and storms can devastate your team’s climate and culture.
Shed the facade
Authenticity is a must to build a quality culture with your team. As a leader in the social media age, it’s important to understand that all that you do can be scrutinized by others. That doesn’t mean you have to worry about every single thing you do and walk on eggshells your whole life. It does however empathize the importance of being authentic in your daily life and leadership walk.
Be true to others and lead yourself well by:
Leading yourself with excellence
Lead yourself and others with integrity
Hold yourself and the team accountable
Lead at your level. Let go of things you used to do in a prior role in order to be efficient in your current role.
Share your feelings with others.
Open yourself up to others. People aren’t interested in the false front that you’ve got everything figured out. They want to that you understand your flaws, that you feel the same things that they do, and that you can rise to the challenges that the team faces.
Embrace trust and transparency
The foundation of any great culture is trust. Your team has to trust that what you stand on is truth and not simply words to say without meaning. This is often the point of misalignment between a larger organizational culture and a small local one. The members of the small team may feel like the large values don’t apply to tot them or, even worse, they haven’t seen their leader live out the company’s values in their daily work.
Build strong culture by being honest and building trust with your team (Ep 323: Building trust with a new team) Starting here helps people feel safe to connect with each other. Lead with humility (EP 162: Holding unto Humility) to help others see how they lead themselves. Led them with Heart by leaning into your calling and purpose (EP 161: Are you following your Calling?)
Put Heart, Humility, and Honesty together to build a strong foundation for your team’s culture to thrive.
Through all my travels in coaching and leading others, there is one saying that comes up in nearly every area that I’ve been to. It goes something along the lines of, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change.” Follow the tips above so your team’s culture (and climate) isn’t constantly changing and is one where they feel empowered, valued, and want to stick around.
We’ve all had to deal with excuses and we’ve all given excuses to others in both our personal and professional lives. Life happens. There are times when you run across someone who consistently uses excuses and it can be extremely frustrating for you as a leader, friend, or family member. Today we’ll dive into excuses and how you handle them in a positive way.
Where excuses come from
As you begin to work with someone who excessively uses excuses, it is important to know where excuses come from so you can address them properly.
They were never interested in doing what was asked of them. There are plenty of people that just won’t say no to anyone no matter how much they don’t want to do what’s being asked of them. For others, they just agree to do something to get you to move on or they don’t think that you are truly invested in the topic and think that you won’t follow up on the item.
The situation was out of their control, either real or perceived. This is the classic, “The dog ate my homework.” These excuses are based on outside factors that influenced and impacted the expected result. Sometimes these changes are quite real, and other times they are only real in the person’s mind. An example of this would be when a person doesn’t feel empowered to handle the situation. In their mind, the situation was out of their control, when in reality they had the power the whole time and didn’t use it.
They weren’t told what to do. This excuse sits on the leader or the person who made the request’s shoulders. The person with the excuse couldn’t complete the task because there weren’t clear explanations and instructions. We see this all the time in businesses. A leader may say “Do a better job in hiring.” and then come back frustrated when turnover rates are the same. How does the person do better in hiring?
Tips to handle honestly missed expectations and excuses
Make sure that the excuse is real. The person may try to throw you or someone else under the bus with their excuse. “You didn’t tell me to…” Think back to understand if you did in fact give the instructions. Sometimes we mean to and then distracted and forget to actually have the conversation. If you did have the conversation, were you clear in your instructions?
Understand where the excuse is coming from. Understanding the type of excuse helps you address it the right way. How you handle an excuse because the person simply isn’t motivated to participate should be different from how you address someone who just needs some better direction.
Be tolerant up to a point. Remember that we all make excuses from time to time. If the person doesn’t habitually use excuses, help them save face by redirecting and coaching instead of spending too much time discussing the excuse itself.
Tips to deal with a person who consistently makes excuses
Let’s be real. There are people that make excuses for almost everything. These people probably hold very little of your trust and/or respect because of their failed accountability in themselves to get things done.
Open up with curiosity. It’s tempting to open the conversation in an accusatory way, but just maybe the excuse is really this time. It also starts the conversation in a way that the other person isn’t immediately shut down to feedback and conversation. Ask questions to get an understanding of why things happened the way that they did.
Acknowledge the bigger picture. If there is a pattern for the same type of excuse all the time. It’s fine to step back and acknowledge that with the person. “This is the third time you’ve had this reason for not getting the task done this month. What’s really going on here and how can I help?”
Be clear on the why and the impact. To drive home the point of a needed change in behavior, you should tie the miss to why it’s important to meet the set expectation. “The next shift needs this to be done so that they can work on other things.”We lose some of the reimbursement when charting isn’t turned in on time.”
Reestablish expectations and follow-up. Be sure to reinforce what the expectations are as you begin to close out the conversation. Check for any resources, knowledge, or support that the person needs to get the task done and affirm their commitment to the expectation. Close in the time periods that you normally follow up so that they are more frequent and informal.
People often respond back with an excuse when confronted with falling short of an expectation. Your job as a leader is not to prove yourself right or look for “I told you” moments. Instead, understand the reasoning, equip them to be successful going forward, and reestablish expectations, especially for those that have a tendency to use excuses as a crutch.
Whether it’s a larger promotion in leadership, or your first time leading others, jumping into a new role can be exciting and rewarding long term. Despite all of your goals, dreams, and ambitions, you can flounder in your new role, if you approach it the wrong way. You must be able to change yourself, your leadership style, and your priorities in order to be successful in your new role.
The phrase, “What got you here, won’t get you where are going” certainly applies to this critical juncture as you transition in your own leadership.
Be willing to let go of things that you love
We all have things that we love to do in our jobs. From the super quirky to the very relevant, there are just things that we love to do ourselves. It’s also highly likely that you are the best person at whatever the particular task is and you also get a nice level of satisfaction for completing the task.
One of the personal rubs that you will have to overcome in your transition, are the things that you love doing. Those projects or tasks that you enjoyed so much are likely not appropriate for you to be doing at that next level of leadership.
Continuing to do those old things that you loved will mean that you are leading a level down, which means that you are likely going to frustrate those that you are serving and cause things to be less efficient.
Let go of those old things that you love and give grace and space to those that take up your previous passion projects. Rest assured, the work will still get done and you’re likely to find a whole host of new passion projects in your new role.
Adapt how you lead
Your leadership style is going to need to change as you make your transition, regardless of your current leadership status.
For those leading others for the first time: You need to really lean into delegation and supporting your team to avoid the temptation to try to do it all yourself. Stay close to your direct leader and a trusted advisor or mentor to help keep you on track with what to prioritize and delegate.
For those that were previously leading people: You are now likely leading leaders instead of individual contributors, or you are leading a full segment of the business. Your influencing skills need to take center stage for you know as you lead leaders. Prioritize your direct reports and make sure that they are prioritizing their direct reports (instead of you) to ensure the vision, and the message are getting down to the front line people.
Other items that you’ll need to assess and change are your communication style, how you spend your time and the way that you carry yourself among other things.
Consider your sweet spot
I’ve seen many leaders over the years get unpleasantly surprised with then promote a great employee from within. They showed all the right signs; high performance, and dedication to the job and to others while having a can-do attitude. Once these great people got into their new roles they floundered. The leader was frustrated, efficiency dropped and many times the employee ended up leaving.
The person was extended one past their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is your calling. It’s your happy place where you are the most impactful and feel the reward in what you do. You are typically very good at what you do and that’s why leaders are naturally drawn to give these people promotions. They think, “They are wonderful at this role, then they’ll be great at the next one.” Once the person is extended past their sweet spot, they will drop in engagement and capability. It’s not really the person’s fault. They just aren’t in the role that was meant for them anymore.
Based on your personal goals, passing and personal calling, you should have a fairly good sense of knowing if you’ve hit your sweet spot or not. Once you do, don’t continue to move up the organizational ladder. You’ll be doing the company and yourself a disservice. Instead of passing through a leadership transition that you shouldn’t, invest in yourself by going deeper in your expertise or by gaining new knowledge. This will keep you relevant for the future and help you from getting bored in your everyday work.
A lot is said about micromanagers and overmanaging people on the team. On the other end of the spectrum is the leader who undermanages their team. These types of leaders are discussed as much because they typically aren’t noticed. While the micromanager is always around and in someone’s business, the under-manager is nowhere to be found.
Under-managing can have as large of an impact on a team as over-managing but without obvious overtones of micromanaging. If you feel like you are too busy, don’t have enough time with your people, or don’t know your team well on a personal level you may be undermanaging your team.
Build authentic engagement
Check-ins that are surface level, may feel like you are staying on top of your people, but in reality, you aren’t engaging them in a way that adds value. be mindful of the questions you ask and move the conversation to a deeper level, both in their professional work and their personal life.
Move from “How’s it going?” to “Tell me how your camping trip went last weekend.”
Engage in value-added questions and conversations. Share personal things from your own life to build trust and transparency with the person.
Ask “Tell me how the progress the team has made on the project (or task).” Instead of “How’s the project going?” The first asks for more details and involvement on your part while the second one may garner a simple, “It’s going fine”
If the person responds back with a surface-level answer like “It’s going fine,” follow up with additional questions to dig further. Many under-managers will leave the conversation here and believe that they got a good update.
Just as in everyday life, it’s easy to go through the motions and just skim the surface. Slow down and maximize the time that you spend with others during personal check-ins and conversations.
Assess your week
Most people want to spend time with their leader unless the leader is bad. Do what you can to free up time to be with your people. Meeting are giant time sucks taking blocks of precious time out of your daily leadership. Assess which meetings that you truly need to be involved in. Could some be delegated to someone else as part of their development? Does the meeting need to happen as often as it does? Does it need to happen at all?
Schedule open teamwork and team-building time in order to protect it and ensure that happens on a consistent basis
Check your own personal engagement
Even good leaders can fall into under-managing when they themselves are no longer bought into the organization. The root of the issue is not that they don’t care for their team, it’s that they have an issue with someone or something else in the organization. Sometimes it’s a new leader, a big change, your own changing motivations, or even burnout.
If you feel like your engagement is pulling you away from leading others, take some time for yourself for thought and reflection. Seek advice from trusted advisors and mentors. Reconnect to your Calling and Why you do what you do. This can help motivate you to get back into your sweet spot of leadership or may be a wake-up call that it is time to do something else.
Another way that you check your self-awareness about your level of under-managing is by seeking feedback from your team, peers, and upline partners. You may discover that your level of engagement is not uniform around your circle of influence. You may be well engaged with your team, but not your peers or other partners. Maybe you are really close to your supervisor, but that level of relationship doesn’t extend down to your team.
Ask for the feedback, accept it well, and improve your leadership.
You likely care a great deal for your team. Give them the engagement that they deserve and provide them the support to thrive in their role.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader
I think it’s fair to say that most people appreciate knowing where they stand in the organization, affirmation of their performance, and guidance to reach their fullest potential. The reality for many people in the workforce is that this has not been a true reality for you yet.
Continual feedback is a set cadence of both formal and informal touches where the leader and the associate sit down to discuss development opportunities both personal and professional. Whether you influence the entire organization or lead a small team, you can implement a continual feedback process that will add value to others.
As in most things in life, you don’t want to dive straight into the deep end of this change. Here are the general steps that teams take as they strengthen their process.
Annual Reviews: This is the baseline that you start from. This conversation helps wrap up the previous year and set goals for the upcoming year. These are typically a little more formal but certainly can adapt to the culture of your organization and team.
Quarterly Check-ins: This allows you to keep a consistent conversation of growth centered around the personal and professional goals that you made together with your leader.
Natural Informal Check-ins: These are typically sprinkled in between the quarterly check-in and may be focused around a particular growth opportunity or situation that the person is facing.
Advanced Feedback Methods: There are many tools out there to provide targeted feedback through technology or leveraging other people on the team. 360 reviews are helpful, but be very cautious and mindful if you do conduct them. They need to be implemented at the right time, at the right audience, and under the right cultural settings, otherwise, you will do more damage than good.
As you build this continual feedback process to engage better with your team, remember to add in continual recognition and appreciation as well.
Make the time impactful and meaningful
The time that you spend together should be mindful and wrapped around something specific that you want to discuss and give your perspective on. Without an agenda, the time can easily pass by before you get to the reason for the meeting in the first place.
Some tips to help the time have the most impact and value:
Be willing to accept some feedback yourself during the time. Seek feedback for your own leadership during your time together. This will help you hone your own leadership skills and show the other person that you are open to feedback as well and value their input.
Set the right tone. This may be awkward for some people, especially if they have never had continual feedback in their role. Set the right tone and setting for the meetings. Choose bright and open areas for in-person meetings and the cameras on (Be well lit!) for virtual meetings. Mind your voice (Ep 202) and body language (Ep 186) to ensure you are consistent in your communication.
Celebrate progress. Be sure to highlight progress from previous meetings to acknowledge and reinforce positive behaviors and changes that the person has implemented.
For the associate/employee
So maybe this all sounds wonderful and your ideal situation, but you are not in a place to implement this level of culture change on a large scale. I would encourage you to, at a minimum, lead up to your supervisor. Take the initiative to ask your leader for time to sit down and discuss your performance and potential. Make it easy for them by suggesting the cadence and length of the meeting and be willing to bring topics that you want to grow into the first few meetings. Remember to start out small and work your way to more consistent times together.
Take time to have those important people conversations with your team. They will be more engaged in the company and will be one of the factors that help keep them around with you longer.
Sit down, spend uninterrupted time together, and help your team strive.
We should act with humility when things go wrong….and then make them right.
I get things wrong sometimes. Unfortunately, I’m not a perfect leader. There are times when I miss the mark and other times that I’ve outright blown it. None of us are perfect.
There are going to be times when you drop the ball as a leader and your team falls short. There are going to be occasions where you’ll have a big miss as well. It’s just a part of life! When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders, and widespread tragedies.
Three types of service failures that deserve an apology When you disappoint a customer or client it’s almost always in one of these three categories: Operational breakdown, service blunders widespread tragedies.
Operational breakdowns: These types of service failures occur when there is a breakdown in the process that causes frustration for your customer. Not having the right product for a sale, service, or product not arriving when promised or a policy that gets in the way of service are just a few examples.
Service blunders: We’ve all experienced these. People say one thing and then do another or they don’t answer your communications in a timely manner. Another obvious example is how a person treats the customer or client.
Widespread Tragedy: These are certainly out of your control. Think natural disasters, or a tragic loss on the team. While you can’t control when or how these occur, how you react and accept responsibility does matter immensely to the customer.
These types of service failures don’t just apply to your business life. Operational breakdowns happen as you lose control of your time management, service blunders happen as you drop the ball on a commitment and we all go through tragedies in life.
Tips to apologize in an authentic way
It’s easy to say the words, “I’m sorry.” It’s more difficult to believe it yourself sometimes, much less convincing the other person that your apology is truly heartfelt.
Have a swift response: A disgruntled person only gets angrier if they feel like they are being ignored. Think about a time when you experienced a service issue and no one gave you the attention you needed. You likely felt your patience wear thin pretty quickly
Show humility and empathy: This is one of the key actions to turn around a bad situation. If your apology is authentic, you’ll be on a much quicker road to resolving the situation. if your apology is perceived as fake or just lip service, then the situation may escalate even further.
Accept responsibility: Avoiding responsibility is one of the quickest ways to dig yourself into a deeper hole with the person you let down. Take responsibility to fix the problem even if it wasn’t your fault. Own the issue that is being communicated to you.
Provide an honest explanation: Truthfully share how the failure in service or commitment occurred while avoiding making excuses. Don’t hide behind a policy; it’s an easy out that no one likes to hear.
Extend an olive branch: Right the situation and rebuild the relationship. You should feel empowered to take care of concerns and complaints as they happen. If you don’t feel empowered, let your leader know so the two of you can work on a potential solution together. Do what needs to be done within reason to amend the mistake.
Instead of running away from responsibility and trying to push blame elsewhere, step up and own the mistake. Apologize with sincerity and authenticity and work to make things right with the other person. This is a lost skill in today’s public eye. Stand out above the crowd by turning your apologies into a strong point of your leadership.
While most of the kids in my elementary school wanted to be sports stars growing up, I wanted to be a Jedi. I ran through the woods around our country home training to be a Jedi. During the summer, I would burn a whole day watching all three of the original movies back-to-back. I was certainly all in. I just needed a real lightsaber to cut down trees and through rock and I would have been set!
The Star Wars movies are certainly loved by millions across the world. Previously we covered Star Wars twice in our Findling Leadership series. Even still, I think there are still a few things we can learn in leadership by being a Jedi.
Be mindful of the present
Jedi are very intentional about being in the moment. They tap into everything that is going on around them to make the ultimate connection to the Force. That can be really hard to do in real life!
Today’s world is full of distractions that try to pull you away from the moment. Your phone, of course, social media, troubles, and stressors you have going on at work, school, or at home are just a few of the things that can pull you out of the moment.
You won’t be able to meet your fullest potential in leadership or in life until you can begin to appreciate and become fully involved in the moment in front of you. Distractions pull your engagement levels down with others, which impacts your relationships in a potentially long-term manner. Being pulled out of the moment also makes you miss the important things going on around you that will soon pass you by.
One of our more popular shows came from a listener question that centered around the question: Is the desire for more time really a desire for more meaningful memories? (EP 243) One of the themes from the show was that the lack of being in the moment made people feel like they needed more time or at least better time management in their day when in reality they needed to slow down and enjoy the day as it unfolds.
Qui-Gon Jinn tells Obi-Wan Kenobi, ” Don’t center on your anxieties Obi-wan. Keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.”
It’s a great reminder as we focus on getting our to-do lists down today while fully appreciating the moment in time that you are in.
Let go of fear and its power over you
Fear is a common underlying theme for nearly all the Jedi in the movies. Anakin chases fear that leads him to become Darth Vader. Yoda warns about its grip and power several times. Luke and Rey both faced fear in different ways as well. One of Yoda’s famous sayings is, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”
Isn’t that statement true?
Fear can turn into the driver of our life if we let it. Think about people that you know or perhaps times you yourself hesitated because of fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown was always the biggest obstacle for me when I was running competitively on the obstacle course circuit. Those were certainly more mentally taxing than they were physical.
Fear of failure. (PTB 283) Fear of rejection. The list can go on and on about fear and its crippling power over both our personal and professional lives.
Actively combat fear cut off its hold over you. Do research ahead of time to help with the fear of the unknown. I would download course maps, go to the site early, and lay out all my clothes the night before a race to help ease the unknown.
Take small steps towards conquering your fear with the first goal of just stopping it from increasing space in your life. Once you gain some small victories, celebrate and move to start shrinking and ultimately eliminating that fear in your life.
In over 300 shows, there are a few underlying themes that we always come back to. One of those is the emphasis to have balance in your life. It’s certainly a trait the Jedi strive to have in their own lives. The phrase “a balance in the force…” is referenced or said many times as the Jedi teach each other. They are so attuned to balance that they famously get a physical reaction when things become unbalanced or there is a disturbance in the Force.
Is there a disturbance in the Force around you today? Are you off your game a little because you are unbalanced? It happens to all of us.
Self-reflect on the different aspects of your life today, from home to work or school. What’s taking up too much space? What’s not getting enough space? Those two simple questions can help enlighten you about opportunities to get things back in balance. Sometimes the demands of a project can take up more space in your life, which is ok as long as you don’t allow it to permanently occupy an unhealthy amount of space in your life.
I love willow trees. It stems from my early childhood when we didn’t have much, but we did have a huge (to me) willow tree that grew in our backyard. They are found all over the world, but the one in our backyard was the only one I saw as a child. It was unique, beautiful, and tree uniquely it’s own. Something that I also wanted to be growing up.
Here are a few things that willow trees can teach us about our own leadership and life walk.
They grow very quickly
Willow trees are one of the fastest-growing trees on earth, producing large amounts of biomass in as little as 4-5 years. It’s a tree that truly puts all of its efforts into growth and expansion. Willow trees take full advantage of the day, and so should we.
The idea of living a life full of personal growth, adventure, and experiences has been a huge personal driver for me in my adult life. Don’t let time be an excuse to put off something that you want or need to do. 15 years ago,
I lived in Birmingham, AL, and had a goal to visit every county in the state while doing some geocaching. I remember vividly when some of my friends stop me and commented how crazy I was for traveling so much when the price of gas was so high. My response was, “Gas is never going to get cheaper.” The price of gas then was about $2.30 per gallon then.
Another ambitious goal was to run all the Disney races in the US in one year. 29 races across both coasts. People thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy! We saved up some money and we were able to make it happen. Two years later, all the West Coast races were canceled, and it wouldn’t be much longer before COVID would shut down the East coast races as well.
If you have a goal, don’t put it off. Life happens and will throw a curve or downright destroy the path to realizing your vision. Maximize your time like the willow tree to grow to your fullest potential.
Their presence adds value to others
Willow trees hold quite a bit of symbolism for different cultures. Some associate hope, compassion, a sense of belonging, and safety to the tree, while ancient Chinese culture believed that willow trees warded off evil spirits and brought good luck. There is just something about willow trees that bring people a sense of calm and security.
How are you doing in bringing calm and security to those around you? Do you inject drama and stress into the room when you arrive or do you give people a sense that things are going to be ok? Be mindful of how you carry yourself around others and reflect on the energy and value that you brought, or didn’t, to the gathering that you attended. Some people are great at either life or work scenarios but may struggle to carry the same level of commitment and excitement across both. If that’s the case, check your personal calling (EP 161) and your level of commitment to each part of your life.
They aren’t perfect
As beautiful as the willows are, they are not perfect. The fact that they put all their effort into growth, means that they are more susceptible to catching a disease and dying. Their roots are also aggressive and can be bad in residential areas that rely on underground and ground-level amenities like water pipes, drain lines, and buried cables.
Nobody should expect you to be perfect and if they do, you may want to check that relationship. Even though the willow tree looks healthy, it’s the flaws just underneath the surface that could get the best of it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself in leadership and life. It can feel like you are letting your team or your family down…and maybe you did, but that’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up, and keep growing. Remember to lean into the power of accountability partners (EP 191) and mentors (EP 171) when things get tough, or you just need an ear to listen.
Embrace your flaws as you grow in your leadership and life walk. Put time in its place by being intentional and actionable towards your goals, be the luck maker for those around you, and remember to be a calming presence in both your personal and professional life.
Our family loves glow sticks. We typically keep a pack of the sticks and some of the necklaces and bracelets just in case a need arises on a trip, campout, or just a fun time in the backyard. Our kids and friends are always pleasantly surprised when we hand them out.
Whether you had fun with some over the weekend or used them in the distant past, you’ve likely encountered glow sticks at some point. Simple in design, but I’m sure there are a few good reminders that we can learn to better our personal and professional lives.
They have to break to work
A glow stick that has yet to be used….is kind of boring. It’s very muted and the shape itself is typically uninteresting. It just sits there and exists. You know how to make the magic happen though; you take it, apply pressure to snap it, and then give it a good shake. Then the glow stick comes alive!
Sometimes things in our work and home lives have to break in order for us to reach a new level of potential. The breaking is not the fun part; think of a loss of a job, a relationship ending or relocating to a new area. As you go through a tough time either by choice or not, focus on the positive that is sure to happen on the other side of the change. It will help you as you move to your new normal.
Be on the lookout to break things in different parts of your life to various degrees to find new and exciting ways to accomplish your goals. Maybe there are processes at work that you have done the same way for years, that need to be re-examined. Perhaps you’ve been living in the same location for a long time and have gone blind to all the updates that need to happen. Don’t go about trying to wreck your life, but look for things that could use a fresh approach and perspective.
They live out their purpose & light the way
A glow stick has one purpose. To provide light for its owner. Singular in focus, the glow stick always does its job well.
We talk pretty consistently about finding your life calling (EP 161) and finding purpose in your work (EP 312) Today may be a good day to do some self-reflection in this area. Are you following your calling and purpose? I know that it can be a challenge to step out in faith and do, but the long-term benefits vastly outweigh the short-term fear and discomfort. In the business world, I emphasize the concept of finding your job (Find your job series) instead of just going after the first opportunity in front of you. It’s a joy to see leaders embrace the concept and process to truly find and enjoy their purpose and it’s also frustrating to see another leader continue to go after just a job and job hop from one thing to another. They are wasting their valuable time and doing a disservice to the organizations and people that they encounter along the way.
Find your purpose and calling and live it out wholeheartedly in all that you do. You’ll light the way for others as a result and become a guide for others to find their own purpose.
They are fun
I haven’t run across anyone that had an awful time with a glow stick. In fact, it’s usually the opposite! No doubt glow sticks are fun to play with. They simply bring joy when it’s their time to shine.
How have you brought joy to others this last month or week? Are people happy to see you or could they not care less? Some of that dynamic rests on their shoulders, but the rest is your responsibility. You don’t have to be an extrovert either to light up a room. Be authentic, genuine, and caring. Those three things always bring joy to others.
Remember that Leaders don’t have bad days (PTB #13) and to leave your baggage at the front door of your work and house. It will be there for you to pick up and your way out if you want to! Shake off the crummy parts of your day and be intentional about having a great time with others, however, that looks for you.