The last 12 months were filled with endings for me. I focused on supporting my son during his final semester of high school, before letting him go to Ireland for his first semester in college. I said goodbye to our beloved dog, Pepper, who had provided us with sweet love for 11 years. He is missed. And I let go of my judgment of my daughter. Yes, mother-daughter relationships are complicated, or they can be. For six years I have taken her path personally for fear of being judged myself. I have come to realize that she is exactly where her path led her and where she needs to be. She is in college as well, and gaining clarity of where she wants to go with her life. My judgment – good or bad – is purely a reflection on me, not her. My children, young adults now, are starting their own lives, resulting in the closing of a chapter for me. As I let go of my kids and form new relationships with them, I realized that the home I had built nine years ago to shelter, nurture and energize my family fit the last chapter of my life perfectly, but with the closing of that chapter I have to move on. During the last four months I have been emptying 4 homes (not all my own) in two continents, remodeling 2 of them and selling my primary residence. De-cluttering and reprioritizing has been incredibly cleansing and refreshing. As I am writing, I am surrounded by boxes and preparing to move, starting a new beginning. I will have right-sized my belongings so I can focus on what I am longing for: To BE Free
Free of attachments, free of judgment, free of social constraints, free of obligations, free of limitations that I have put upon myself, free of beliefs of what I can or cannot do. I am free to recreate myself, explore new friendships and nurture old ones, free to say yes to myself and to this beautiful world that has so much to offer.
I have learned that in order for something new to enter into my life, a part of the old needs to die first. It’s scary, because the old me was quite comfortable. But the new me feels compelled and excited. I have declared 2015 my year of travel and service. What that exactly looks like, I don’t exactly know yet. And I am fine with the unknown. I do have some ideas of where to start this journey. As I move forward I hope you and I will remain in touch. Together, we can create an exciting experience for both of us either virtually or maybe even in person, wherever we will connect in the world.
Purpose – What’s Yours?
As you might know I am in favor of making meaning through storytelling. Often people start working with me when they find themselves stuck in stories they don’t want to be in and are struggling to get out.
Recently, I learned about a new book. I couldn’t ignore it since I read about it in the New York Times, a client mentioned it and I stumbled upon it through linked in all on the same day! The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst is a welcome addition to books like Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan and Doing Good by Jeffrey Kottler
Hurst points out that millennials are not willing to settle for less. They are trading in conventional career paths to launch tech start ups, start small businesses that are rooted in local communities, or freelance their expertise. No longer are they willing to ‘just’ volunteer on the side. They want to make a difference with their career and work as well.
I particularly liked his approach to how to find one’s purpose:
- Who do you serve?
- Why do you serve them?
- How do you serve them?
Notice that meaning comes from engaging in something greater than oneself, hence the questions are centered about serving others.
I suspect if people where to reflect on these questions their purpose would become pointedly clear and their stories would emerge clearly. Just in case, Aaron Hurst also has a psychological assessment on his website that will guide people through this process of discovery. (http://www.imperative.com)
Good luck with uncovering your purpose and crafting a story around it.
Have you ever raised $25,000 in two hours? For some of you this might seem like small change, whereas others might think it’s impossible. Regardless, the principles work for $25M just as much as for $25,000. My co-guide, Sylvia FerroNyalka, and I put 11 bankers through an experience a couple of weeks ago, which demonstrates how powerful the right combination of variables can be.
As part of an 18-month leadership development program for senior executives at a San Jose bank, we challenged the executives to maximize the funds and donations they could raise for Sacred Heart Nativity School of San Jose, a middle school for students from low income families. The executives had previously read and discussed the book “Tribal Leadership” by USC professor Dave Logan. This book highlights how having a ‘Noble Cause’ helps a team to rally behind something that matters. Having one of the students from the school talk about her hard work and dedication to succeeding in school, was crucial for the success of the project. This allowed the executives to relate to the school in a meaningful way. Once the participants were told about the challenge and the short time frame to accomplish the task, the initial shock was obvious. One of the participants later described what she thought when she heard about the challenge: “This is an impossible task.”
What transpired in the next two hours was short of remarkable. Within 45 minutes a webpage asking for donations was live on the Bank’s main site. Reams of copy paper arrived and the donation of 6 brand new iPads was announced. A used car and later a second one was sourced. 130 fleece shirts with the logo of the school, one for each student was secured. Money donations trickled in. Friends and family members, the 49ers, the Earthquake soccer team and even a solar energy provider to investigate long term low energy costs for the school was contacted.
Here are the 6 principles that led to success:
- Noble Cause
Having a noble cause to work toward made everyone work particularly hard. People’s competitive nature came through as they were attempting to do good in the world. The story of the middle school girl gave the project meaning.
2. Diverse Team
We had a group of very diverse skill sets. There were experts in marketing and finance, knowledge in project management and relationship builders. Each participant brought his or her individual strengths to the project.
3. Diverse Network
If everyone had lived and worked in the same circles, the project wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. All participants live and work in the Bay Area, but travel in very different social circles.
Eleven individuals on their own wouldn’t have been able to raise the funds and donations they did. By being in the same room and focused on the same topic, this group was able to ask questions, bounce ideas off of each other and brainstorm creative ideas together. This is not to say that people can’t collaborate when not being present in the same location, but it works better when everyone is in the same place at the same time.
5. Time Constraint
Two hours can be very long for some tasks, but when you need to organize and connect with people not in the room, two hours isn’t very long. However, having a limited time frame and firm end time helped the group focus. There was no time to get distracted or sidetracked. It’s a good thing.
We eliminated distractions as much as we could for the group. However, when people are left to their own devices, lack of focus makes many projects fail. Eliminate distractions and be clear on the stated goal to succeed.
The result was very impressive. Within 2 hours almost $25,000 in goods and money was sourced for the school.
By the end of the 18 months, we hope to raise participants’ awareness to incorporate even more leadership principles, for example identifying leaders, planning, strategizing, decision making and delegating.
Who knows? If we were to conduct a similar experiment again in 18 months maybe the group would end up making one phone call and source $100,000 for a noble cause. As it is, we are at the beginning of the journey and the standards were set very high. We’ll see where the journey takes us.
Right now I am finding myself in the midst of significant changes as my kids are leaving the nest and I am reinventing myself. I will write more about these changes in upcoming months, but for now I needed a blueprint to juggle all the change that I am affecting. I hope you’ll find it useful to have a broken down version.
1) Know What YOU Want
3) Declare Your Intentions
4) Take the First Step
5) Feel the Resistance
6) Hold Yourself Accountable
7) Keep at it
9) Enjoy the Ride
10) Do it Again
You think I am not talking to you? Think again. Our lives have turned global regardless if we are dealing in business or education, healthcare or Government, even if we spend much of our time dealing with local issues.
Recently NPR ran a fascinating story entitled “Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt.” The story starts with how the cotton is grown and harvested in the Mississippi Delta, continues to show the yarn being spun in Bangladesh, the T-Shirt was sewn in Columbia and the design was printed in North Carolina. Hundreds of people around the world had been involved in the making of this T-Shirt. Who knew? We live in a global economy impacting all of us somehow.
When I went to college and studied global management at Thunderbird thirty years ago, globalization was still in its infancy. A company might send some expatriates overseas to ‘help’ the local team be successful. I was one of these expatriates myself at one point and realized really quickly that it was not for me to tell the locals how to do things. They understood their markets, their culture, their resources much better than I did. Coming from the outside I did have something valuable to bring, but it was different from what I had anticipated. Rather than coming from the outside today’s generation engages from the inside. The game has changed.
Thirty years ago it was unique for a 19-year-old girl to come to the US to attend college. Today this is nothing special. My daughter spent her 10th grade in Lugano, Switzerland and traveled to India in her senior year. My son also went to India and started his college experience with his first semester in Dublin, Ireland. Yes, the world has shrunk.
For companies to succeed today they need to have people with Global Intelligence, forget IQ and EQ. They need leaders that can adapt to the global context, understand diverse cultures, know themselves enough to not impose on others, have an insatiable interest in other cultures, are able to align others around a mission and values with integrity intact, have the ability to nurture a cross-cultural network and understand local needs while leveraging unique global strengths.
You might think that only large corporations need employees with these skills. Not any longer. 37Signals for example started out with 7 people in 7 different countries. •UP There, Everywhere, the global consultancy I am working with has members in 15+ countries collaborating, and we are all small business owners with high level expertise. Size doesn’t matter, all of us are engaged globally.
So, what does it take to develop yourself as a global leader today?
1) Live in a foreign country, or two, or three
I have lived and worked in 3 countries. For anyone at the beginning of their career, I would recommend to live in a number of different countries, ideally one of them being an emerging country. Life is different in a vastly different culture. The bigger the difference to the home country the more learning there is.
2) Have line responsibility in an overseas business
Don’t just travel to a foreign country, work there. Take on responsibility for a department, a business unit, a company. The learning is priceless.
3) Learn local languages and customs
I know much of the communication on the internet is in English. If you want to understand the mindset of the people you are dealing with it is essential to speak the local language. Much of the culture is wrapped up in the language. I am fluent in German and English and still I come across certain words that just can’t be translated with the same meaning.
4) Understand your own culture and cultural biases
By traveling and dialoguing with people in your own country you get a better understanding of what your own culture is all about. Inevitably, you formed your own biases growing up and starting your adult life. Keep questioning what you think is true and reexamine. The more self-awareness you bring the better you can understand the other culture.
5) Understand cultural differences non-judgmentally
You will come across different mindsets, customs, cultures. Just because they are different, doesn’t mean they are good or bad. They are simply different. Being curious about others will widen your horizon and often guide you to unique solutions to problems. Connect on a human level and observe the differences.
6) Lead cross-cultural task teams
Working for Kodak in the 80s I led a cross-cultural team in Europe including 12 different nationalities. Without a doubt it was one of the most educational, interesting and humbling experiences in my life. Picture 12 different nationalities represented around a table. You are bound to make assumptions about who the executives are and what they believe in.
7) Educate yourself in cross-cultural communications
Much has been written about different communication styles in different countries. The Japanese won’t say NO, the Germans like organization, the Indians are highly analytical. Cultures are blending more and more and yet the basic cultural communication traits still exist. Don’t just dabble, really study this to be effective when you hit the ground.
Some global corporations are now requiring of all their leadership potential to have lived and worked in at least 2 foreign countries. I think we need to make this a goal for the next generation of leaders as well. When I see where my children’s peers have lived and traveled to, I find it imperative.
Think local, act global is my new motto!
Everyone is a leader, correct? We tend to think of leaders as the figure ahead of an organization, a group or a movement. Nelson Mandela was a leader, Rest in Peace. Richard Branson is a leader. Leonard Bernstein was a leader.
What about you? Aren’t you a leader? Yes, you are. At least you are the leader of your own life.
“A leader is a person who has a vision, a drive and a commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills to make it happen.” according to F. John Reh.
Check. I think this applies to you as well.
Regardless if you see yourself as a leader or if you have been given a title to reflect the responsibility taken on for others, being a leader has its challenges. You are supposed to have all of the answers and yet the more you look ahead, the murkier the waters get.
Everyone is leaning on you to make the right decisions, take actions, know the right course. Well, it isn’t so easy.
I have been a life long scholar of leadership: my Dad is a former CEO, my mother was one of the first German women to get an MBA (or the equivalent) right after the war, I have worked for leaders and have been working in several leadership roles myself, and now I am privileged to work with company leaders in the for-profit and not-for-profit world in a global economy.
There are some universal truths about leadership and one of them is the fact that it is not easy to be a leader.
Recently, I came across a blessing by the Irish author and poet John O’Donohue. I found it so profoundly beautiful that I want to share it with you. It captures the essence of what I want for you – the leader:
For A Leader
May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the center of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
May you work on yourself,
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know
You see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or disappoints you,
May the graciousness with which you engage
Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.
May you treasure the gifts of the mind
Through reading and creative thinking
So that you continue as a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old,
And you never become a functionary.
May you know the wisdom of deep listening,
The healing of wholesome words,
The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,
The decorum of held dignity,
The springtime edge of the bleak question.
May you have a mind that loves frontiers
So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.
May you have good friends
To mirror your blind spots.
May leadership be for you
A true adventure of growth.
From the book “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue.
“ Rip currents are a source of danger for people in ocean and lake surf, dragging swimmers away from the beach. Death by drowning comes following exhaustion while fighting the current,” according to a definition from Wikipedia.
To me the holidays sometimes seem like fighting the current:
It happens every year. Like clockwork. Even if we don’t pay attention, the holiday season is almost as certain as death and taxes, at least in the Western world. A blessing and a curse, all the same, it often seems.
According to a study by Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner in 2006, 49% of men and 51% of women strongly agree that they feel responsibility to make sure everyone in their family is happy.
Stress, stress and more stress…
And herein lies the problem. Rather than focusing on one’s own happiness, the focus shifts to others.
But in the spirit of ‘giving’, isn’t the focus on others what it’s all about?
Not so fast. As much as we want to be with family and friends and give to those who are less well off in one form or another, the shift to pleasing others causes enormous stress. Let’s be honest, for many it’s not a shift at all. They try to please others all the time. The effect is compounded during the holidays since there is more interaction with family than during the rest of the year. The desire to please others is flawed thinking in my mind, especially, if our vessel is depleted already, psychologically, physically and emotionally. What more is there to give? What good does it do, when we recognize and acknowledge others, while feeling miserable inside? So, here is my #1 strategy for not just surviving, but actually thriving during the holidays:
Put Yourself First!
Let me repeat.
Put Yourself First!
Ask yourself what you need to not only survive but thrive?
Need some alone time? Great. — Time to say NO to others.
Need some one-on-one time with a special someone? — Time to ask.
Need time outdoors smelling the roses? Building a snowman? — Time to give yourself permission.
Need to not be under the in-laws’ roof? — Time to get a hotel room.
Need work to not encroach on family time? — Time to set boundaries with the boss.
Need to let go of perfectionism? — Time to let go of being attached to the outcome.
Or how about this one:
Need to feel loved? — Time to love yourself first.
It starts with YOU! Start with yourself first and manage your resources (time and money) accordingly and you will float through the holidays with ease and meaning. Pretend you are a kayaker conserving energy by going with the current rather than against it.
One last tip:
Consider what you need to say NO to in order to say YES to yourself. It works!
Brain Fog. Body Fatigue. Soul Perspective.
Jet lag sucks — or does it really?
I never give myself credit for being an expert at handling jet lag, but I am. For five decades (yes, admittedly), I have been dealing with the after effects of long distance travel. And unlike a pilot who never really adjusts to the time zone, I have taken on the challenge of jet lag hundreds of times (suffering at a high level, I suppose).
In my teens, I went from Germany to the United States totally oblivious to the rhythm of traveling across time zones. Commuting for college between Munich and Los Angeles in my early 20s taught me to respect the distance, but youth allowed me to roll with the punches (at least in my memory).
In my late 20s and early 30s, traveling to sometimes three countries a week while based in London was exciting and exhilarating. Jet lag, who cares? London to San Francisco for a weekend? Sure, no problem.
Then came travel and jet lag with young children. There is enough material in that to fill another article or two. Suffice it to say, I can still see the remnants of freshly watered plant soil smeared all over the house while Mommy and Daddy were in exhausted deep sleep shortly after the long-haul flight from SFO.
Kids also seemed to introduce the idea of catching colds on airplanes. Don’t get me wrong, you can catch a bug from anyone on a plane, but children seem to exponentially increase the risk and it doesn’t have to be your own kids that spread the germs.
In my 40s and now 50s I have learned a thing or two about jet lag, but some of the effects I still can’t change, such as being wide awake at 2 a.m. as I am writing this article. People awake at this hour without jet lag typically aren’t productive. They tend to be destructive with their minds going into overdrive. Jet lag offers me intense productivity at really odd times of day, usually when nothing and no one else can distract me.
But I digress.
I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, once east, once west, in addition to hundreds of trips across the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and close to the North Pole. So, yes, I have learned a thing or two about how to ease the pain. Here are my golden rules for preventing, managing and surviving jet lag:
1) Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Plan for your arrival when you book your flight, regardless of whether you book yourself or you delegate this task. Know when you will have your natural low in the local time. For example, I know that I will be very sleepy early in the morning when going to Europe, but that will occur in the afternoon when I return to California. I avoid meetings or extensive driving during the REM sleep phase for safety reasons. As an executive you don’t want to argue your case before the Board of Directors during the REM sleep phase. Neither do you want a surgeon to operate on you when he just returned from a conference halfway around the world.
2) Fit as a Fiddle
Especially busy executives tend to fall short on this. If your body is not in good health and you are not in shape, your immune system is not at its best. The fitter you are the quicker you bounce back after landing. Exercise before, during, and after flight makes time travel a lot more pleasant. We typically know how to exercise before and after, but what about during? Here are a few tips: Take the stairs rather than the elevator or the escalator. Walk around the airport rather than sit in the lounge. Stand instead of sit. Walk the aisle of the airplane when possible. Do stretching exercises, even while sitting in your seat. Ask a personal trainer at your gym for suggestions. Some people do yoga; it’s rumored that Sting does that on all flights. You can almost do a full workout while on a plane, except for cardio exercises. Use the hours upon arrival that you feel good to exercise and help your body adjust.
3) Cool as a Cucumber
Lots has been published about our diets and how we need to focus more on eating vegetables and protein and less processed foods. Unfortunately, that is not easy in airports and airplanes even though it has gotten better in some. My # 1 rule: Eat lightly. No Duck a l’Orange before stepping on an airplane. On the contrary, eat a salad before so you won’t feel bloated in increasingly tight seats. It will help you transition with your digestion as well. Think twice about the salted snacks and the mashed potatoes or the dessert that will make you crave more salt or sugar. I often take sliced bell peppers on board.
When you arrive, make sure you have access to light snacks for when you wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Eating lots of vegetables and salads also helps with traveler’s constipation, a not-so-pleasant side effect of traveling across time zones. Also, depending on the local cuisine, watch what you are eating. More or less fiber than in your usual diet can have a big impact. The same goes for unusually spicy or bland food. I personally have to watch my bread and cold cut intake when going to Bavaria. Leberkaes’ und brez’n are my all-time favorites and because I can’t get them in California I tend to overindulge — at a price! The same might be the case for pasta in Italy, pommes frites in France, or shepherd’s pie in the United Kingdom.
4) Liquid Lunch – Think Not
Avoid alcohol, especially at 30,000 feet! The alcohol affects your body much more at high elevations. Being confined to your seat for long stretches of time and being bored is no excuse. I used to love a split on my British Airways flights from London to Frankfurt. But drinking alcohol on transatlantic flights can prove to be quite challenging. Getting up after a long flight and then dragging yourself through customs is no easy task. American Airlines used to greet flights from Scandinavia with an extra allotment of wheel chairs to handle all the drunk passengers. Are you sure you want to be one of them? Also, alcohol tends to mess with your sleep rhythm, so best stay clear.
Caffeine is tricky too. I just spoke with an executive who flew to Barcelona and kept himself going with lots of coffee. He had a terrible time with jet lag. A cup of coffee or tea to get you over the hump is fine, but all in moderation. Otherwise, you’ll be so wired at 3 a.m. you’ll wonder why you didn’t resist for hours.
Water is your best friend. Airplane rides tend to dehydrate us (and alcohol tends to add to that problem). I know you can’t take water through security. But do yourself a favor and buy a bottle of water before you get on a plane. Even better bring an empty bottle and refill it in the airport and on the plane. That way you can have water when you need it, not when the flight attendants provide it. After arrival continue with keeping water with you at all times and drink frequently. Waking up in a bed at midnight, disoriented, thirsty and groggy is bad enough, but having to go on a hunt in unfamiliar territory is hard. Plenty of water also helps flush out toxins in your body. I know plenty of people who don’t want to drink a lot of water for fear of having to get up and use the facilities, but don’t buy into that story. I suspect you won’t have to get up more often than otherwise, because you are just countering dehydration at 30,000 feet.
5) The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
Even, if you are not a fan of taking vitamins regularly, do take them when traveling across time zones. I personally take Airborne (no, they didn’t sponsor this article, although I wish) before, during and after every long haul flight to boost my immune system. It helps me fight off all the germs that are in airports and airplanes just waiting to attack me.
6) The Emperor’s New Clothes
Think carefully what to wear on a flight. Start with the shoes. You want well broken-in, comfortable shoes that won’t leave you with blisters on the long way to the gate, that you can easily slip on and off during security checks and that will fit again after a long flight with swollen feet (exponentially brutal while pregnant, I might add). I personally always travel with slippers that I put on right after take off. You might wonder what slippers have to do with jet lag. My philosophy is the more I can relax and enjoy the flight, the easier time I will have with jet lag.
Moving on to clothes. You want to dress comfortably and in layers. You never know if you will be sweating or freezing on the airplane and usually you don’t have any control over the temperature whatsoever. Just recently I found myself stuck in a window seat freezing for almost eight hours. Luckily, I didn’t get sick this time, but I would like to think only because I was prepared. Always carry a scarf — men, you too.
Clothes also matter for jet lag. You want to be comfortable for the first few days in a new location. Super tight clothes or scratchy new outfits might not feel so good, when all your body wants is to curl up.
7) Ahead of Time
Change your clock as soon as you get on the airplane and structure your food intake and sleep cycle according to the new location. Try not to calculate what time it is in your body. Otherwise your mind will use it as an excuse and make you feel even worse.
8) Sleep Tight
When it’s dark out, sleep. That’s it. When it’s dark outside, close your eyes, use eye shades and ear plugs as necessary and meditate. It will lead you to much needed sleep. Even if not, it will leave you more rested. Upon arrival, try not to give into the temptation of taking a nap. An espresso can help you over the hump. Ideally, you want to sleep at night and be active during the day.
What if you can’t fall asleep or wake up early totally wired? Rather than fighting it, use this time to your advantage. It might be your most productive time for the first few days (hence, I am writing this article now). Avoid the temptation to be physically active or to use screens during the dark hours to keep you from being bored. A TV or computer will give you the illusion that you are supposed to be awake when you are not. Instead, read, meditate, or write on a note pad. Dump your thoughts and then turn the light off again. Even if you get up, keep the lights dimmed and engage in mellow activities.
9) Worth Its Salt
Because your body needs to adjust to a totally new rhythm, you will be productive and creative at different times than you normally would. Use it to your advantage. For example, I am writing this article at 2 a.m. and I know that I will be unproductive and mellow at 2 p.m. today. Work with this shift. Because your body is out of sync and at odd times it can offer you a completely new perspective on life where you came from, and life where you are going. I call this the gift of jet lag. As much as I dread the strange feelings of fatigue, I marvel at my output when I am in lockstep with people on the other side of the earth. Please share your thoughts below. What did you take away from this article? What actions will you take as a result of reading it?
An incredibly easy way to increase your executives’ performance and grow your organization
Improving employee performance is simple. It doesn’t require a rocket scientist, a slave driver or a bolt of lightning. You don’t have to micromanage, get picky about your executives’ productivity metrics or incentivize them with tons of money.
The truth behind increasing employee performance is obvious, easy to understand and will result in a net gain for your business.
In fact, it is so simple it can be explained in just two sentences:
1) Provide a clear vision and set realistic expectations.
2) Equip your executives with all the tools to succeed.
I know … you are probably a little disappointed. You wanted some magic, something different and clever, the missing ingredient that has held you back and will produce breakthrough results. Instead I am proposing something your human resources department has told you for years, and if not, they should have been.
But hear me out: I have coached hundreds of executives in thousands of coaching hours and the results are obvious. It’s not just me saying this. Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill passed on this wisdom decades ago. It is wisdom that has been proven over time and will probably also work for you (if you just put it into practice).
In short, if you want peak performance and the highest probability of success, then these two sentences contain the essential wisdom you need to know. Let’s get into more detail on them.
PROVIDE A CLEAR VISION AND SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
The first sentence includes a couple of concepts that aren’t optional unless you want to provoke chaos. If these concepts are not realized, decisions are either not made at all or are poorly made — both recipes for disaster.
- Provide a clear vision
- Set realistic expectations
There are endless ways to arrive at a vision. You can take it from the organization’s founders or have your own aha moment in the shower. You can brainstorm it with your executive team or dream up something outrageously exciting on your own.
Whichever way it happens, you must create a gap between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why would anyone work hard to get exactly nowhere? If a goal can be checked off like an item on a to-do list, it is just not lofty enough. A vision, on the other hand, is so inspiring and exciting that it naturally pulls your team forward. It provides meaning and ideally a noble cause.
A clear vision provides something to take risks for because the benefits far outweigh the costs. It needs to be clear and specific enough to rally the troops. When John F. Kennedy professed in 1962 to put a man on the moon within a decade, an entire nation rallied behind the vision. For a vision to work it must come alive. Writing it down on your annual report or the entrance wall in your headquarters isn’t good enough. You need to be the steward of the vision and breathe life into it every day.
A vision alone won’t do, though.
In addition, it is your responsibility as leaders to communicate individual, team and organization-wide expectations. How else will people know what to do? How else can you measure if a job is well done? How else can you possibly ask your executives to hold themselves and each other accountable?
Here are the top expectations I have of myself and of anyone I am working with:
1. Act with integrity – always
2. Be committed to the cause; if you can’t, please make room for those who can
3. Show up and be prepared to take action; nothing less will do
4. Collaborate for the best ideas to come to fruition because it is fun
5. Accept ambiguity since the only thing that is certain is that change happens
EQUIP YOUR EXECUTIVES WITH ALL THE TOOLS TO SUCCEED
In the middle ages, a man was given a horse to do his work. In the industrial revolution, he was given a machine to be productive. Today he needs a person, another human being by his side to sort through the clutter and messiness of rapid change.
It is wisdom my late mother knew when she said ‘behind every successful man is a woman.’ It is not the gender that matters, but the fact that one human being needs another to succeed.
No athlete in his right mind would ever attempt to make it to the Olympic Games without a coach (or two). Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, publicly stated that the advice that stuck out for him was to get a coach.
“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” ~John Wooden (basketball player and coach)
Remember when Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy referred to Cristina as her ‘person?’ Cristina was her go-to person when things got tough, when moral and ethical dilemmas came up, when relationship issues stifled progress, when the stress became unbearable. Cristina was her friend, her confidant, her ally. A coach does essentially the same and some. Coaches aren’t attached to the specifics of the outcome, just to the overall success of the executive.
Can you imagine what your business would look like if every executive was given the opportunity to partner with a coach? Every single one? It would be like equipping each employee with a rocket booster to perform better in his/her job, to live happier lives and be more creative/innovative in the process.
Why should you take on this expense? Because it is probably cheaper than what you are currently doing.
Think about it: All executives get directions from the boss, the board, the powers that be. But who actually helps them to succeed? Who acknowledges all the hard work and the long hours? Who cheers them on when the going gets tough? Who can challenge them without demotivating them at the same time?
According to a Towers Watson Study, attracting employees is challenging as well.
- 52 percent of United States companies have a problem attracting “critical-skill employees” while 31 percent have problems retaining them
- For “top-performing” employees, the numbers aren’t much better: 45 percent of U.S. companies have problems attracting them and a quarter have problems with retention
- Even “high-potential” employees are hard to come by: 40 percent of U.S. companies struggle to attract them and 25 percent have problems with retention
If you add up the cost of attrition, retention and motivation, it might just make sense to support your valuable employees with someone who will focus on their success.
“Looking again at the employers’ list of qualities, it seems that there’s a tendency to forget that employees have lives — or needs or wants — outside of the office.” ~ Phil Stott, Vault.com
Increasing your executives’ productivity and leading them to peak performance is simple. Show them where to go and be specific about the part you want them to take in the journey. Then value their contribution by giving them all the support to succeed.
The only thing between you and a growing business is your willingness to take action.
Please share your thoughts below. What did you take away from this article? What actions will you take as a result of reading it?
Learn How Four Simple Truths Will Automatically Put You into the ‘Great Leader’ Category
You have made it to the C-Suite!
Or to head of the business unit or country manager or what have you.
Just because you have made it to the top, though, doesn’t make you a great leader. All it means is that you have made it to the top of the political food chain. Each company has a different company culture and with it an inherent political process as to how to make it to the top. Congratulations, you have figured out the system.
You have worked hard to be at the top, but now all the responsibility lies on you. Everyone is looking to you for bottom line results. And it starts to get really lonely, really fast.
Let’s establish a few basics about leadership:
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?
Leadership is being a resource to the group. Nothing more and nothing less.
You might be surprised to read this. You are there for your team, not the other way around. If you can make your team succeed, you succeed. You don’t have to have all the answers, all of the connections, all of the resources. In all honesty that’s kind of a relief, isn’t it? So, what do you need to do?
WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AND HOW DO YOU GET EVALUATED?
It is your responsibility to build and maintain a high-performing team around a common purpose. And you get evaluated by the performance of the team. That’s it. Plain and simple.
WHAT MAKES YOU A GREAT RESOURCE TO YOUR TEAM?
Here are four simple truths that your team expects from you. The people on your team will only follow you if you exemplify all four of these. Only then will they get moving and make the impossible possible. Only then will they enthusiastically show up for work, innovate, execute and grow the business. Any misstep in these categories and you will pay a price. So, let’s take a look:
Your team members want to know they can trust you, that you won’t betray them or stab them in the back, that you won’t steal their ideas, their health, their livelihood or their dignity. Simply put, the people on your team expect your highest level of integrity. And they deserve nothing less because they spend their precious time for you, your cause, your destiny.
2) Good Judgment
Good judgment is the ability to make the best decision possible on the basis of an objective assessment of facts while resisting influences of peer pressure and emotion.
Ironically, good judgment can’t be recognized directly but can only be inferred by the lack of bad judgment. What one person sees as good judgment, another will see as bad.
“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” ~ Will Rogers
Not making a decision is rarely the best answer. Only when you don’t have sufficient information to make a decision is it wise to consciously decide to wait until you do. Beware, though, that sometimes decisions then get made for you.
As a leader you are in the business of decision making. Listen to your team’s advice and then make your own decision. Your team expects that.
Your team will demand experience from you. Do you know what you are talking about? Have you gone to battle before? Have you succeeded in similar situations? If you are not authentic in how you show up, your team members will be able to tell and they will test you. Walking the talk is essential.
And last but not least:
Do you have a vision that you can communicate and rally people around? Does the vision make sense? Is it a believable story and does it fit into the context of the business? Is it worth your employees’ effort? If the vision is big and compelling enough, it will pull a team, an organization, even whole nations to success.
Doing the right thing at the right time is easier said than done, but it’s the ultimate goal.
You don’t have to be a CEO to be a leader. Everyone can be a leader. And as a matter of fact we need a lot more leaders, but not just any leaders. We need great leaders.
Below are some of my all time favorite leadership quotes to help remind you of what it takes to be a GREAT leader.
A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. —John Maxwell
No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it. —Andrew Carnegie
I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? —Benjamin Disraeli
Earn your leadership every day. –Michael Jordan