I often observe many leaders who think they are the exception to the rule. Maybe in some regards they are, but not across the board. Moreover, not all exceptions are created equal or warrant consideration. There are some obvious rules of personal and business behavior that we should all respect or at least take heed […]
We have become an excuse-making culture. I have been a bit frustrated lately with the quality of service provided by various contractors and service providers. It seems as if there is a minimal connection between what people promise and what they do. Excuses abound as work doesn’t get done and/or quality issues emerge. There is […]
The more success you have the more temptations will come your way. It’s easy to start to think of yourself as different or special when you outperform your peers. You may begin to rationalize that the same basic moral rules don’t apply to you, but they do. Character is certainly forged in the fires of adversity. However, you also learn a lot about someone’s character when everything seems to go their way. The saying goes “if you want to know who someone truly is then give them money and power.”
You can never lose your edge in business as a leader. The moment you get complacent your organization becomes vulnerable to its competitors and the vagaries of the marketplace. I’ve seen many good companies and talented leaders get caught off guard by changes taking place in their industry or economic realities they were slow to identify and adapt to. The pace of change is only accelerating as the world becomes flatter, technological innovations come more quickly, and customers push for more options at lower prices. Being good enough no longer works, at least not for any extended period of time. Today’s champion is tomorrow’s goat if he/she gets complacent or rests on his/her laurels.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in my line of work is that you can’t save everyone. Despite your good intentions and best efforts, sometimes the formula will not work. In some cases, you might have to accept the fact that you are not the right fit for a given engagement or client relationship. In other instances, there is always a reason why someone is struggling and until they fully come to grips with this fact and take ownership of their behavior, there is only so much you can do.
In my line of work, I am constantly on the lookout for life lessons and what leads to happiness and success. Fortunately, I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people who provide me with excellent fodder for my learning. While most of my time is spent on the business leadership front, I do get a larger picture view at times. I have never believed in compartmentalizing important life issues and prefer to take a multidimensional approach to my work since there are no one dimensional human beings. Over the years I found that how you answer the following 12 questions will have a big impact on your overall quality of life:
It may take awhile but most liars eventually get caught. There is a great saying that “if you don’t want to forget what you did, then always tells the truth.” I also like the common refrain these days that “…the cover-up is often worse than the crime.” Honesty matters! If people feel like that they should regularly question what you are telling them, then they won’t trust you. This is a problem that many our current (and past) political leaders have to deal with and it is of their own making. All you have to do is turn on the TV or read a newspaper or magazine and there is ample evidence of individuals dealing with the consequences of being caught in a lie.
Sometimes I am a little late to the party and only recently discovered the powerful original STARZ TV series “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammar. It sure is a departure from his typical roles as he plays a brilliant yet dark and ruthless Mayor of Chicago who recently was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. The power he evokes on the screen is quite remarkable. You get the sense that maybe he started out with the right intentions but then became obsessed with power and position at all costs. It’s actually hard to identify a protagonist in this show. The scripts and acting are a very clever take on what has always happened to leaders throughout history. It’s pretty obvious that both Shakespeare and Machiavelli are a huge influence on the writers.
After watching the whole first season, a number of things jumped out at me as someone who studies leadership for a living:
When something is not good for you there is usually a symptom or other sign. I was speaking with a colleague the other day and they said that watching the news only depresses them and puts them in a bad mood. I asked him why he watches it then and he said to stay connected […]
A career and life is just a series of interconnected days. Success comes about by developing constructive daily habits. Most people tend to “wing it” instead of creating some sense of consistency and discipline in their lives. As a result, they regularly end up dealing with the consequences of undisciplined behavior. Sure some people get lucky, but this is a relatively small number and not a good life strategy. I’ve observed the following success behaviors in my clients, colleagues and friends:
I come across a lot of books, magazines, TV shows these days that are selling simplicity and the quick fix to life. The main contention is that all of our lives are too busy and complicated and if we would just scale back and reprioritize what’s most important to us then everything would be better. The focus is squarely on the individual and what he /she feels they want or need. All we have to do put ourselves first and everything will go our way. Moreover, we shouldn’t settle for anything less than regular happiness and self-fulfillment which in my opinion is an unrealistic and often damaging perspective.
I’ve always believed that life rewards those who are prepared when an opportunity presents itself. To do this, you need to honestly know what a great opportunity would mean for you and why. You need to have an underlying sense of your personal values and priorities. You need to be actively searching for success and happiness and be on the lookout for positive signs. You need to know what you would be willing to give up or sacrifice to make something work. You need to be flexible but not jump at every opportunity that presents itself. You need to have a sense of context and perspective. You need to learn from your mistakes. You need to be brave enough to answer the door when opportunity knocks and be willing to risk short term comfort for long term gain. You need to be intellectually, physically and mentally prepared for the ensuing challenge. You should also be wary of burdening yourself with a lifestyle that affords minimal flexibility and boxes you into a financial corner.
Is the current situation salvageable and if so what would it take? How much would you grow and learn personally and how much stronger would your bonds be in life if you were able to persevere and work it out? There are few worse emotions in life than remorse and regret. Chasing rainbows is a fool’s errand, but successfully navigating the emotional roller coaster of life is a real and self affirming activity.
There seems to be a dearth of good strong corporate values these days (and basic common sense). While the objective of any business should be to make a good profit, it should also be to build long term sustaining economic value that accurately reflects the risks inherent in their internal and external environments. The best way to navigate these risks is to have a strong sense of who you are and what you will and will not do.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as an adult is the importance of “letting go.” When life gets hard or you feel wronged or things don’t go your way it’s easy to harbor resentment and anger. The problem is that unless you are careful these emotions can well up inside you and become part of your identity. Its one thing to have a brief period of grief or bitterness it’s quite another to let it define you.
Sometimes in the smallest ways we impact other people. Less frequently but more powerfully are those actions that over time have a significant impact on others.
I continue to be fascinated and a bit troubled by people who claim an unwillingness to grow or change. They seem to live by the Popeye motto, “I am what I am” and assume everyone else will simply accept this point of view whether they like it or not. Our actions and behaviors will always have consequences both good and bad. The goal should be to maximize the good and limit the bad.
Many leaders I know struggle initially with the idea that the most value they bring to their company or organization is their ability to think not act. Of course, thought without action is meaningless. However, the top people in any organization need to regularly step back and reflect on strategic implications, priorities, etc.