10 Ways to Reduce Your Stress

I practice six out of ten of these. What does this say about me? (reaches for stress ball…)

How Science Can Teach You to Stay Calm by Lolly Daskal

Mistakes Unhappy People Make

Lolly Daskal lists ten mistakes unhappy people make every day. I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another, but especially #8 Spending time with negative people and #9 Perfectionism (an effort to control something, anything, when I couldn’t affect the things that really mattered.) I’m better now.

Five Excellent Lies We Tell Ourselves

I was just telling myself “I’m too old” ten minutes ago. I think I’ve told myself every one of these lies at one time or another.

Feedback: Why You Suck at Giving and Getting It

…and what to do about it: First thing to learn, whether or not you agree with the feedback / criticism / attack, is to say “thank-you”. As a leader please set the example you want your team to follow.

The Ar t and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work

Remember, you don’t have to take it all at face value, but you should listen. Really listen.

Should You Really Be a Leader?

No matter what kind of leader you are (collaborative, tough but fair, influential, etc.) or want to be, emotional self-awareness and self-control are the common traits. If you can’t control yourself, you sure as shooting can’t control anybody else.

7 Traits That Indicate You Might Not Be Leadership Material

Emotions are Contagious

There’s a joke I used to tell my Scouts around the campfire, when it was late and that youngest ones had turned in:

There was a pirate captain who, when attacked by the British Navy, called for his cabin boy to bring him his red vest. The captain fought bravely and his men, following his example, repulsed the Royal Navy ship trying to arrest (and then inevitably hang) them.

The cabin boy was curious but hadn’t worked up the courage to ask the captain why he called for a red vest when they were under attack. It seemed odd to the boy that a change of clothing be at the top of the captain’s mind at such a time.

The next time they were attacked, this time by three Royal Navy ships, the captain called for his red jacket. Again, he and his men fought bravely and barely managed to escape. The cabin boy couldn’t hold himself back any longer.

“Captain, sir, if you please. Whenever we’ve been attacked you’ve called for your red vest. The last time we fought off three ships, but not until you donned your red jacket, sir.”

“Yes, that’s right.”, replied the captain, “And you want to know why?”

“Yes sir, if I may.”

“Well, whenever there’s a chance I may be injured in a skirmish, I don my red vest or jacket so that the men won’t know if I’m injured and bleeding. That way they won’t lose heart no matter how dire our situation, and fight on.”

The cabin boy nodded and smiled, because he know knew how the captain inspired his men. “I want to be as brave as the captain one day.”, he thought to himself.

The next day six ships of the line came over the horizon, spotted the their ship, and made sail to catch the dread pirate.

“Shall I bring your red vest, sir?”, the cabin boy asked.

“No.”, said the captain.

“Shall I bring your red jacket, sir?”, the cabin boy asked again.

“No.”, said the captain.

“Then what shall I do, sir?”, the cabin boy asked a last time.

“Bring me my brown pants.”

On the Importance of Trust and Relationships

Trust and relationhipsHere’s an article I wrote for RESULTS.com on discovering the importance of trust and relationships in business (and life). Enjoy!

Outstanding Entrepreneurs Do This Well

Are you getting sucked back into the daily drama, details, and problem solving that you (supposedly) hired others to take care of? Are you unable to pull your head out of the minutia of running a business to think about where that business needs to go next? Are you reacting to daily and hourly crises instead of being “proactive”?

Sprinter and Rabbits

If you’re a successful entrepreneur, you probably have a strong bias towards action. You’re a doer, a decider, the action gal. It’s a big part of why you’re successful. Like a fast running sprinter, or the hard to catch rabbit, you move fast..

A sprinter runs so fast and so hard they leave everybody else behind in the parking lot. That’s good if you’re ahead of your competition. If you’re leading a business it may be a problem.

If everybody else is still trying to figure out where the finish line is when you’ve already crossed it, then you’re not really being a leader. The idea of leadership is to get everybody across the finish line as quickly as possible. Not just you.

The rabbit is also fast. A rabbit who is trying to evade a coyote will zig-zag and change direction quickly. Also not a bad thing if you’re taking advantage of opportunities and can change direction quickly to stay ahead of your competitors.

This doesn’t mean your staff knows which way you’re going next, or if they’ll be able to keep up. It may seem to them that they’re chasing a crazy rabbit who keeps changing its mind.

If Nobody Else Can Keep Up, Maybe They Aren’t the Problem

Your bias to action comes with a blind spot, sometimes. Making sure the team understands where you’re going next as a company. This helps them make decisions that line up with the company strategy (so you don’t have to), or anticipate where they need to be next. You may be frustrated that people don’t seem to get it, or keep up, or have the same excitement or energy or engagement as you. But they’re frustrated with you too.

They’re frustrated because you’ve left them behind, or they’re tired of chasing your zig-zagging rabbit backside. They can’t see the stuff you, the leader, can see.  And you’ve taken off without sharing what’s happening in your brain. So what are they supposed to do next? You could hire mind-readers, but my wife isn’t available.

You’ve lost your staff. As an entrepreneur or leader you can’t do it all yourself, and you’ve learned (hopefully) how to delegate and supervise. This frees you up to do what you do best: Create and discover new opportunities, get out in front of emerging markets, anticipate changes, hire the right people.

You may keep getting sucked back into the daily drama, details, and problem solving that you hired others to take care of because you keep running away without telling them where the finish line is.

You Need Them, They Need You

You do have to recognize that people can’t read your mind. People don’t know what you know, and they certainly don’t know what you’re thinking. Changes in speed and direction need energy, especially for the non-rabbits.

Those  detail guys and gals sometimes drive you nuts, but they keep you out of trouble. Worker bees get the mundane but important things done every day. The ones that are effective and efficient and complete because they take their time and think things through. And drive you crazy because they can never decide anything without you.

Maybe you can’t slow down to their speed, and maybe they can’t accelerate to yours. But you can meet them halfway.

What You Can Do

* Think a little more

Sit on your new ideas before throwing them out, and expecting people to understand what they’re supposed to do next. Not every idea you have is a good one, so don’t overwhelm the detail guys and gals with stuff that’s not going to happen because you change your mind tomorrow

* Over-communicate.

Keep your message simple and repeat it constantly. If you can’t explain what your company does and who its customers are in a way an eighth grader can understand, then it’s not simple enough.

* Listen more than you talk

Close the loop and listen as intently to your internal staff as you do your customers. You listen to your customers, right? This will tell you if your message is getting through, and having the desired effect. Adjust as necessary.

When Blind-Spots Surprise Us

Katherine Spitzer first woman to run the Boston Marathon 1967

The universe is conspiring against me. Well, not really against. It’s conspiring on my behalf to take me to the next adjacent possibility. It’s tapped me on the forehead and made clear that I need to step up my game, especially about how I speak about women. Please let me explain.

Last week I was listening to a ManagerTools podcast on ethics, where two former West Pointers and now successful consultants were talking about the code of ethics they adopted at the academy:

“I will not lie, steal, cheat, nor tolerate those who do”.

With events in popular culture, the news, and politics, I decided to adopt a new personal honour code:

“I will not lie, steal, cheat, hate, nor tolerate those who do.”

Then I realized this week, while working with a woman CEO of a construction company, twice I used the term “girl” to describe an adult woman. Doh! Seems I have some work to do. I don’t think I do this maliciously, or trying to control others. At least that isn’t my intent, but I realize now it will sure come across that way.

I don’t want to be just another guy talking about women in the workplace. So how do I link my purported values to my behaviour? How does what I believe translate to how I am in the world. How are my words and action perceived by and impact others?

This is the work I do with business owners every day – how do we translate how we want to impact the world into everyday actions that take the company in the right direction? What is really going on? It often comes down to doing the basics well and consistently. In my case, dropping the use of “girl” to refer to adult women. Small changes often make the biggest difference. Especially when they allow us to make bigger changes.

Then I ran across an articles about  Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. That’s her in the picture above running the first time 45 year ago this April. One of her cadre is body-checking a race official attempting to throw her out of “his” race. Katherine ran the race herself. Nobody carried her. That’s what she wanted, I imagine: the opportunity to run, to test herself, to do her best. Just like most of us.

It’s not enough to just give somebody an opportunity, job, or place, then stand by and watch them fail. In order to be leaders, in order for management to be a force for positive change in the world, sometimes we have to get up off our asses and run interference. Call bullies on their bullying. Deliberately solicit every opinion. Not tolerate poor behaviour. Let others lead. Which is what leaders are supposed to be doing when we’re “building teams”.

So I’m going to watch my language better, do some more volunteer one-on-one mentoring, and try to figure out how deep this blind-spot of mine goes. My little circle to start with. It will be interesting to see where this goes. Researching and writing this article has only made me realize how far I might have to go.

Who’s with me? What are you going to do to “lead”? What’s your blind spot?


It’s Not About Changing Who You Are

Making changes to how you do things is not about changing who you are. It’s about making who you are more effective.

If you think you have no weaknesses then your biggest weakness is a lack of self-awareness.  It’s holding you back.

You might be able to get away with it where you’re working now, but if your company’s growing or you ever hope to move ahead, it’s holding you back.

Eventually the pain you’re putting your peers and boss through working around the stuff you don’t do well  (instead of recognizing it and doing something about it yourself) is going to outweigh the benefit of that thing that you’re really really good it.

When that day comes you’re going to get put out on the street. I hope you have a good severance package.