High impact leaders focus on doing the right things well and consistently live up to their commitments especially when it is hard. You don’t ever have to worry about their personal behavior or professional discipline.
As we finish off the final accounting on 2011 it’s a useful exercise to reflect on the past year and how we actually performed against the goals we set out at the beginning of last year. I believe you start by being honest with yourself about whether hit your goals or you didn’t. There should be no wriggle room or rationalizations. Progress is certainly good, but it is no substitute for achievement. Too often in business and life we accept less than stellar results.
As we wind down another year, I thought it would be useful to share some best practices I have observed over the years by leaders who tend to end every year on a high note:
I have the good fortune to spend a significant amount of time with CEOs and business owners. I may be one of the few people who will spend a full day with them on a regular basis. It’s always fascinating to watch how they cope with a long meeting. For some of them, it is […]
The right technology can make a big difference but it needs to be put in the proper perspective.. I remember when cell phones were a bit of a novelty but then became a regular everyday tool. It was almost as if the world couldn’t have existed without them (but it did). Many technology tools have […]
Too many people really aren’t fully listening. As part of my work, I am in a lot of meetings and conference calls. It’s amazing and somewhat disheartening at times to see how the quality of these interactions can vary. There are moments where it feels like everyone is “dialed-in” and paying rapt attention, but these […]
Just about every week I meet with a client who bemoans the lack of accountability in their work environment. My first response is always, “we are what we tolerate.” However, I then walk them through the four reasons (in my experience) why things don’t get done: There is a lack of clarity about what needs to […]
The biggest mistake leaders make is to think it is all about them. They believe that success or failure is a direct result of their own personal behavior rather than a team effort. Show me a successful leader and I will show you a person surrounded by good people who each do their own jobs exceedingly well. While it is common practice in this country to celebrate the individual, no one builds a high performing organization by themselves. This doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t an essential ingredient; however, he/she needs other ingredients to complete the recipe.
Without a plan your business is a like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. You don’t know where it will end up and the course it takes to get there is subject to the whims of other forces. Unfocused effort only ever leads to frustration, miscommunication, wasted effort, poor financial decision making, unnecessary stress and less than optimal results.
There is a wise old saying that “if you want to get something done, then give it to a busy person.” In my experience this is a pretty accurate depiction of how families, organizations and communities work. They “Type A” person will always assume the most responsibility and be the hub of critical activity. Other people tend to rely on them and their boundless energy for execution. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, this dynamic also ends up becoming somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy as time goes on.
I spend a majority of my work life in meetings or one on one conversations. It never ceases to amaze me the different attitudes people have about basic communication and meeting etiquette. We’ve all read countless article about the importance of “being present” and minimizing distractions, but I’m not sure the message is sticking. Moreover, I haven’t seen one article that supports the premise that multi-tasking makes you more effective as a leader. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
If I had to pick one thing that inhibits success the most amongst small business and nonprofit leaders I would say it is a lack of sustained focus. By the very nature of them being entrepreneurs, they tend to be very opportunistic. It is common for them to see a business opportunity around every corner. Their mindset is that every problem has a solution and the only obstacle to progress is a lack of effort. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Yes, every problem does have a solution, but the effort needs to be put forth by the right people with the right plan. It is not merely a question of resources, attention and willingness to put forth effort. Great leaders and strong businesses focused on the wrong opportunities/problems typically only achieve mediocrity at best. At worst, this distracts their true potential for greatness by limiting their attention on what they should be doing in the first place and creates business vulnerabilities that should never have existed.
I always like this time of year. After a great football weekend, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and watch the inauguration of our President. It is a very proud time to be an American. As I was reflecting on this experience it dawned on me that there are several characteristics of winners whether they are football teams, civil rights leaders or presidents. Several common traits emerge:
You get to decide what you focus on. You can spend your time and energy on things that bring you down or lift you up. I know people who are pretty blessed who can find something wrong with just about every situation. On the contrary, I’ve been amazed by others confronting great difficulties who manage to keep their spirits up through positive thinking and proper perspective. Life isn’t what happens to you, but what you think about it and how you end up responding to whatever has transpired. You can go through life accumulating personal baggage because things haven’t always turned out as you had planned or you can accept the ups and downs as part of the journey – easier said than done I know.
Most things of importance and value in life require some level of effort. Some people get lucky and have success, happiness and self-fulfillment fall in their lap, but they are few and far between. In life it has always been that little extra effort that makes the difference. We all must accept that there are many people who will be more intelligent, better looking, more talented, have more advantages, and be more capable than us, but only you as an individual decide if they will outwork you. I’ve found that when you are tired and/or feeling lazy and could easily talk yourself out of doing something, but do it anyway, that’s what separates you from the pack. Success in life and business requires consistent, focused, sustained effort.
Time is limited. We all know this fact, yet how many of us manage our time poorly. Two of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they are too busy or that there isn’t enough time. I can certainly empathize with this mindset and various times in my life have struggled with these challenges myself. However, I’ve learned that you manage your time or it manages you.
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:
When you lead people it is important to be true to who you are as a person. Employees will quickly pick up on it if you try to be something you are not. There is no perfect personality profile of a leader despite what many books of the topic would like to portray. I’ve seen all types of individuals thrive under the mantle of leadership. I’ve also seen others who look impressive on paper struggle when they attempt to step up and lead. When you are true to yourself you are more likely to be effective in whatever you do.
The most successful people I know do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. They are also good at being “present” in the moment and fully engaged in whatever they are doing. They avoid distractions and abhor excuses. High performance isn’t optional but instead a way of life. To them, hyper-performance and multi-tasking is for amateurs.
Ideally a person would want to use their time well and be highly productive and effective. They wouldn’t get easily distracted or lose focus. Instead of procrastinating on things they need to get done, they’d be disciplined about accomplishing what’s most important when it should get done with minimal stress. The days would flow smoothly rather than bounce around between shifting priorities and putting our fires. Time should be spent doing your own job not making up for the shortcomings of others. We also need to be smart enough to ask for help when we are in over our heads. If we are being honest with ourselves, we’d own up to the fact that most of the stress in our careers is self-created.
What strikes me the most is how many organizations view planning as an event to get through rather than the impetus for an ongoing strategic dialogue that is critical to long term success. When it comes to planning, you are never done, just sharpening your focus and increasing your performance capability as you go along.