Leading at a Higher level

Leadership done well has an ascendant quality.

Often the reward for doing a good job is getting to do more.

That’s ok, especially if you love what you do.

It’s an opportunity for the leader with the right motives and vision to have a more significant influence and an impact that ultimately helps more people.

Here’s the thing.

Each time you gain altitude with your leadership, you have to figure out how to do more, and do it better, all while steering the ship and responsibly guiding the activities of an increasing number of co-workers.

The adage “what got you here won’t get you there!” rings truer than ever.

For most organizations, replacing the CEO can be a high-stakes gamble.

Unfortunately, not every transition works out, and the failure rate is steep. (up to 46%)

 In situations like this, high-altitude adjustment training becomes necessary for newer CEOs or Senior Execs.

Much like living and working at a high altitude requires preparation, the same is true for a CEO or senior executive elevated to a new role.

The Altitude Factor

There’s a simple reason that Kenyan and Ethiopian runners dominate world records in marathon running.

They live, work and train at high altitudes year round. So when they compete against elite athletes from lower climes, they have a distinct advantage.

Professional sports teams coming into mile-high Denver, Colorado, deliberately schedule an advance acclimation period before match-ups. Without this prep time, they risk getting trounced by the local teams, who have an altitude advantage.

What Happens in Times of Transition

Hardly anything that happens at an organization is more important than a high-level executive transition.

It’s a given that the new leader’s actions or inaction will significantly influence the course of the business, for better or for worse, for years to come.

Nearly 50% of new CEOs I’ve worked with expressed a distinct “not what I expected!” response early on.

Everyone, regardless of experience, finds transition into a senior role challenging. The disconnect between the expectation and the reality of being a CEO could contribute to a disappointing 27-47 % failure rate in the first two years. (Source – McKinsey White-paper Successfully transitioning to new leadership roles)

Backlogs

Quite often, an accumulated backlog of C-level work got deferred during the search and transition period. So it is understandable that some plans get put on hold until the new leader and their team is in place. Adding to the backlog are avoidable issues like lengthy reports, poorly designed meetings, presentations, and a tendency for trivial decisions to be referred upwards.

Overwhelm and the “Too Busy” Trap

Overwhelm is a predictable outcome of the work backlog. The new CEO often feels pressured to do a lot in a compressed timeframe simply because there’s a lot to do, and all eyes are on them. Connecting and interacting has never been easier. While technology has helped us do many things more efficiently, it hasn’t helped us become more effective. It certainly hasn’t slowed down the pace. If anything, the opposite.

There seem to be endless meetings, and we wind up drowning in real-time virtual technology. There’s Zoom, Slack, Teams, group texting, WeChat, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Loom.

The downside is that actual productivity and value creation get sacrificed in the arena of frequent and low-quality virtual interactions.

Expectations Run High

Leadership is all about managing expectations:  Both personally and that of others.

 The new leader’s goals and ambitions must be realistic and appropriate to the circumstances. If they are unrealistic, they will be perpetually stressed and self-critical.

If the timeline for reaching initial goals is unrealistic, consider adjustments that make things more realistic.

Disappointed expectations often stem from flawed assumptions.

It’s crucial for the new leader to constantly check alignment of expectations and assumptions with colleagues, stakeholders, board and staff alike.

Trust and Confidence are Fragile

Winning trust in the early going is key.

Leaders who can foster a climate of openness and welcome genuine dialogue about what’s going on earn respect and trust.

Trust is that “salt of the earth” quality that, over time, can win approval and support from even the most oppositional people. And of course, there will always be those who oppose change.

In Summary

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a senior leadership transition is more of a process than an event.

Crafting a “Framework for Action” with an accountability structure that addresses all of the above factors is the best way to approach transition.

Having an experienced advisor along side to guide the process gets the new leader established and the whole  organization can enjoy the long term benefits.

 

 

Until next time…..

Here to help.

 

The Mentor Advantage

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

It’s a question I often get asked.

This time the question came from a young CEO inquiring about one of my interactive learning sessions.

Much like harvest gold or avocado-coloured appliances, formal mentoring is something one doesn’t see much anymore. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or necessary.

For centuries the idea of mentoring was considered a cultural norm. It was the time-tested way to learn one’s craft and get ahead. But, first, one would go into a line of work under an ‘apprenticeship’ arrangement where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a trade. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship looks like today.

A quick search reveals that the major business publications like Forbes, McKinsey, and HBR are now touting the superior benefits of finding the right mentor for leaders who want to grow.

If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before. – J Loren Norris

My short answer to the question is that today there are some similarities and overlaps between formal coaching and mentoring approaches.

However, there are also some distinct differences.

Mentoring can be personal and long-term, helping the mentee reach their overall potential as a person and as a professional.

On the other hand, coaching is more likely to be more short-term and aims to improve a specific skill set of the person being coached.

Beyond that, the differences lie in the expertise and skill level needed, overall focus, questions to be answered, and the desired outcomes.

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability in you than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you. – Bob Proctor 

As an Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach, I incorporate the best elements of coaching and mentoring into my working relationships.

One reason I regularly write about leadership topics is to foster long-term mentoring relationships to share with colleagues and clients.

 In today’s world, we put much value in being a self-starter, getting our own lives in order without help from anyone else.

There are some aspects of life where we feel we might be looked down on if we ask for help.

We have this limiting belief that we should be able to do it all on our own, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But in fact, just the opposite is true.

The reality is that recognizing you need help usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. 

But let’s face it. When you first embark on a new journey, whether professionally or personally, you feel much better when you have someone you can approach when you need help.

  • Someone you can talk to about your goals.
  • Someone who not only listens but can ask questions from earned experience when you get stuck
  • Someone with insight and intellect who is there for the sole purpose of helping you to get ahead.

  Finding a good mentor can help you:

  • Boost your leadership and communication skills.
  • Deepen the knowledge you already have.
  • See things in a new way.
  • Become more aware of the needs of others.
  • Feel more self-assured and confident

 You see, mentors are incredible individuals who have a sincere desire to give back to the world.

They want nothing more than to see you succeed and have the tools to help you do it.

Depending on the situation, it’s essential to recognize that mentoring can be a paid or unpaid arrangement.

The truth is that mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead.

Mentorship could be considered the original life- hack. LE

 It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way.

So we all need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

In retrospect, I’ve benefitted enormously from the mentors who have spoken into my life.

 I try to recognize and honour them whenever I can.

On the flip side, I’ve also found incredible value in being a mentor. I love sharing my experiences and observations with people eagerly looking to improve themselves or achieve new goals.

That is the beauty of mentoring.

It’s a relationship where we can both give and receive for mutual benefit and advancement in our lives.

Until next time,

Lorne

For more resources on this topic, drop me a line, and I’ll send you my guide:

(Free for the asking)

SEARCHING FOR GUIDANCE

20 Things To Look For When Seeking The Perfect Mentor

When Life Gets Upended

 

 “If things are getting better, why don’t I feel better about things?”

Admittedly, my best leadership articles often flow directly from questions that leaders ask in workshops, webinars, or one-to-one: No fancy fare or clickbait-y headlines. These are just leadership questions that need answers.

This question came from a young woman who had taken on a senior executive role in her organization before the global pandemic.

You may be a long-time reader whom I’ve had the privilege of working with personally.

 Maybe we just haven’t had that opportunity yet, so this is my way to assist, advance, and encourage you in leadership scenarios you now face.

Quality leadership is a deep abiding obsession for me (in a good way). As an ever-learning practitioner, I want to keep getting better at it. I try to live up to what I write about, teach, and coach.

 I write about what it means to lead, communicate, and coach well and the necessary inner work that has to take place for that to happen.

Now back to the question and my shot at the answer.

Effective Self Leadership When Life Gets Upended

As the pandemic-fuelled crisis subsided, my client realized feelings of emptiness and even vague apprehension. She’d weathered the storm quite well throughout the prolonged crisis but was having trouble shifting gears and moving on.

I, too, have sometimes felt that way in recent times.

The pandemic was a wake-up call that life is way too short and fragile to be wasted for many of us. Lockdowns meant we had time to reflect and reassess our priorities, particularly our relationship with work.

We can’t ever avoid the trough of the change curve, but everyone has a distinctly different emotional response to what’s going on.

Fact is, we all get our fair share of life-altering events thrown our way. These could include illness, accidents, business/career failures, relationship failures, and the death of loved ones.

We usually can get through most of these disruptors with relative ease. We adjust, draw on our support networks, and move on.

But what happens when you get a pileup of two, three, or four or them?

Then things can rapidly become disorienting and destabilizing for us.

What’s different about the last two years?

The pandemic represents a massive, collective life quake.

For the first time in a century, you, me, and the entire planet is going through the same disruption at the same time.

Two years of mind-numbing uncertainty, stress, and isolation have had a “piling on” effect that made edgy people edgier, angry people angrier, and crazy folks get even crazier.

How else does one explain the recent rise in hate crimes, mass shootings, and folks being all-around more angst-y.

As a leader, how do you bring clarity, hope, and direction to those you serve through your leadership?

The best way to help your teams, colleagues, and clients who may be in crisis is not to be in crisis mode yourself. So instead, it’s back to the “inner work of leaders” thing.

Some ideas and strategies for effective self-leadership:

  • Adopt the “Just fly the plane” strategy from one of my favorite books the Checklist Manifesto.    

           (What to do in case of engine failure)  I wrote about that here.

In times of extreme crisis, as pilots run through worst-case scenarios,
they need a reminder to focus on the most important job they have, flying the airplane.

  • Don’t try to “boil the ocean” by taking on too much.

Pause for a moment and take your bearings.

Just consider how extraordinary and gloriously unlikely your

circumstances may be right now.

Better yet, you get to do this! (the alternative sucks)

  • Make room for the human side (yourself and others)

Trying to be stoic doesn’t help deal with the realities of change.

Be honest with yourself about how change is affecting you.

Make room for a wide range of emotions from others.

Allow yourself to envision some of the possibilities that change can bring.

  • Catch the vision of what could result from all the change.

Thinking forward and daring to dream even a little bit sparks hope in the human spirit.

  • Celebrate the smallest of wins! 

Take things (and days) one at a time.

Focus on the things that truly matter and bring you joy

Find ways to help and support others less fortunate.

Our choice to lead means an opportunity to take on more responsibility.

Why? There’s something worthwhile that needs doing. You have the skill and the will to do it.

When a long-term challenge happens quickly, it helps to have some short-term strategies to get you through to the good stuff.

You’ve got this!

Until next time- Lorne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Strategies to Combat That “Not Doing Enough”Feeling

The Unhealthy Comparison Merry Go Round 

Face it. We all play the comparison game. It’s how our caveman software works.

The grand illusion you and I are subjected to each time we spend time online is what success supposedly looks like.

When you scroll through social media posts, you may feel compelled to compare to a perception you see.

Unfortunately, people mostly share the shiniest version of what they want you to see. Skills are highlighted, and flaws are hidden. Wins are exaggerated, and losses are downplayed. Doubt and anxiety are rarely featured in social media posts. Defeated heroes and failed CEOs rarely sit for interviews.

Reality dictates that most things are more challenging than they look and not as fun as they seem. It’s also true that everyone has bad days, and no one has a picture-perfect life. We get a highlight reel of what people want you to know about themselves to increase their own chances of success. Unfortunately, we tend to compare that to the worst parts of ours.

When you compare others’ portrayal of success to yours (or lack thereof), you do yourself a disservice. Revisit what you want to get out of life and go for it. Success to you may be freelance writing from your van as you travel the country. That is perfectly ok and worth pursuing.

Antidote: Recognize when you find yourself on the unhealthy comparison Merry Go Round. Then just hop off it! 

Expectation Management

Leadership is all about managing expectations: Your own and that of others.

Your goals and ambitions need to be based on reality. If they are unrealistic, you will be perpetually stressed and criticizing yourself.

If the timeline for reaching your goal is unrealistic, consider adjusting things to be more realistic.

Consider what you want to get out of life and go for it.

When It comes to having expectations of others, I’ve learned to definitely have them and hold them loosely. When others perpetually disappoint us, it’s easy to grow frustrated. If your team or colleagues are underperforming against your expectations, it’s time to ask yourself how you expected them to act and why. People can only give you what they’ve got.

Disappointed expectations often stem from flawed assumptions. For example, I might assume someone understands what I’m conveying and what I expect, only to discover I’m dead wrong.

Proceeding without an agreed-upon assumption checklist is a sure-fire way to have things go wrong later. On the other hand, you will rarely be disappointed if you go into every situation with well-informed assumptions.

Antidote: Have a robust feedback eco-system. Every good leader I know has their own pipeline to reality. This allows for well-informed assumptions, decision-making, and planning.

Shorten the To-Do List

This might be too simple, but as we know, simple isn’t always easy.

So, often we feel inadequate simply because our to-do list has grown too long.

Learn to divvy things up according to priorities. Then, choose three items that you would feel accomplished if you could only get those tasks done today.

Why three? Well, two’s not enough, and four often is too many.

But hey, – you do you and decide what works.

It helps to remember that life is a journey. So we often get caught up in attaining the goals, and we fail to enjoy the detours and scenic viewpoints along the way. It might be time for you to look back at how you have grown as a person while pursuing goals, even if you haven’t quite reached them.

I’ve found it helpful to journal accomplishments that I can be quietly proud of.

Not in a “hey look at me” kind of way but in a “yeah, I got to do that, and it’s pretty cool !” kind of way.

Even small achievements are worth celebrating. Celebrating how far you have come will boost your morale and set you up for more success. For example, maybe you got in a 30 min daily walk for the last two weeks after being a couch potato for months. That’s an activity win to get excited about.

Antidote: Keep a viable running to-do list but make sure it’s not stressing you out. Journal the good things and accomplishments you’ve been privileged to be a part of.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

Rolling With Resistance

As a leader, I bet you already know a thing or two about resistance.

It usually involves people balking at change.

It can be a new strategy, a new board policy, changing market conditions or even a new person on your team.

Circumstances unexpectedly change, and plans become come unravelled.

Everything slows down or, worse yet, comes to a screeching halt.

In physics, this is known as “Rolling Friction.”

In rough terrain, a mountain bike with fat knobby tires encounters much more rolling resistance than a racing bike with skinny tires on a paved surface.

My truck gets much worse fuel mileage when I’m on a steep incline hauling a heavy load. But, conversely, it sips fuel and goes like stink on a straight-away with no load.

Why? Because there is less rolling friction. This frees the truck to move with greater ease.

The next time a big rig goes flying by you on the highway, this is something to think about.

The dynamics of rolling friction can be just as easily applied in business leadership and life.

“You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.”

I’m talking about change.

As a leader, you can’t change things without upsetting a few people.

After all, a core leadership function is bringing about change.

Resistance is only natural. It’s human nature to resist change.

Bottom line up front! There is no way to make people like change.

You can only make them feel less threatened by it.

From experience, I find it best to just assume resistance exists. It may not manifest immediately.

There can be “issue” resistance that might require people to change a pattern or learn something new.

There’s “emotional’ resistance.

It’s entirely predictable and typical to come up against a wide range of intense emotions around a proposed change.

It often isn’t logical.

There’s “political” resistance.

Somebody for sure will feel that their authority is being threatened or questioned. Someone might think that personal or professional freedom is being lost.

Rolling With Resistance – What Doesn’t Work

Ramping up persuasions usually backfires and increases resistance.

Stressing the urgency of making a change or highlighting benefits can be equally ineffective.

Arguing or pushing back – forget it.

Rolling With Resistance – What Does Work

Override the strong urge to “set things right.”

Listen intently to understand any barriers or fears the other party is expressing.

Empathize with the concern and explore in a non-judgemental way.

Revisit the agreed-upon goals that brought you together in the first place.

Present the possibility that goals and attitudes don’t mesh with agreed-upon goals.

Identify the gap between “where we are now” and “where we want to be.”

People will only commit to a change if there’s a degree of readiness on their part.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of patience for others to pick up what you’re laying down.

Don’t be afraid to kindly say your piece, and then let silence do the heavy lifting.

Does it always work? No guarantees.

It will get you a bit down the road together in a way that’s better informed.

Until next time.

 

Letting Go to Gain Control

One of my scariest moments happened early in my construction career. I was high atop a wooden beam structure. The task was simple. Drill a hole down through a large horizontal beam to secure it to the supporting post below.

It required a powerful two-handle drill with a sizeable auger bit.

Having double-checked the location, I stabilized my stance on the beam and hit the “on” button. Slowly the heavy drill began its descent.

Then it happened. About halfway through, the bit hit a knot. So instead of turning into the wood, the powerful drill began twirling me around. So yup, there I was, twenty-five feet above the ground, desperately hanging on with legs wildly dangling while doing a not so graceful aerial twirl.

Talk about a pivotal moment!

Moments of high uncertainty often carry a flash of insight. I immediately knew I had to hit the “off” button to halt the process.

It meant letting go of the handle with one hand while groping for the “stop” button with the other. Of course, the letting go had to be timed perfectly so my feet would land back on the beam.

The margin for error was zero-to-none.

Had it not been so dangerous, it might have made a viral “massive fail” video hit on YouTube.

I made it ok. That’s one reason I’m here writing you today. Although, admittedly, it took a while for the adrenaline shakes to subside.

My leadership lesson from that moment is that letting go is hard in times of high uncertainty. Even if it means letting go with one hand to secure a safer future with the other.

 

Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It’s the surprise outcome of letting go.                                                                                
                                –  James Arthur Ray

There’s an old story of how tribal hunters capture monkeys in the wild.

All it requires is a banana strategically placed in a hollowed-out hole of a tree.

Once the monkey happens upon the tempting treat, they reach their hand into the hole to grab the banana.

However, when it tries to pull the banana out, it can’t. The hand grasping the banana is now too large for the hole.

So despite trying different angles and methods, it becomes impossible to pull out without letting go of the banana.

The monkey is so fixated on the banana that it doesn’t perceive the more significant threat.

Even as the trappers draw near, the monkey will refuse to let go of the banana.

Ultimately it leads to their capture.

Fixation on a short-term reward leads to an irreversible long-term consequence.

What do monkeys refuse to let go of? Bananas.

What do some leaders refuse to let go of? Control.

As a leader in times of uncertainty, you’re not alone in feeling anxious about jeopardizing what you already have.

Losing control within your business or your team is a legitimate concern.

It seems counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you gain.

On the flip side, if you do not let go, share leadership, and delegate at some point, chances are you’ll lose control of the situation regardless.

Got any “stop” buttons you need to hit?

Any bananas you need to release?

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Focus  Marc Kleen (Unsplash)

“Guess we’ll have to wait and see” has become a running joke at my house.

My wife and I will be discussing something we plan to do in the future. First, one of us will abruptly stop. Then we’ll start laughing, and in unison, recite, “Guess we’ll have to wait and see!”

It’s been one of those years when extreme circumstances put everything in a state of flux and uncertainty.

At least in my part of the world.

First, there was extreme heat. B.C. Heat Wave Shatters Canadian Record

Then extreme wildfires. BC Wildfires 2021

Then extreme flooding. B.C Flooding  

If all of the above isn’t enough,-There’s been a spike of existential angst due to a resurgent pandemic.  Pandemic Heading into 2022 

No wonder many of us feel like we’re muddling through day by day and looking at life in slow motion through a foggy windshield.

We don’t fully understand the impact of what we’re going through right now, but at some point, there’ll be ramifications from kids losing gobs of in-school time and access to peers. Adults are becoming more insular while grappling with the stress of long-term uncertainty. Close-knit families are being torn apart by the fierce vax/anti-vax personal politics of COVID.

I’m happy to report that I’m still standing and in relatively good spirits despite all of the above.

I sincerely hope I’m confident enough to keep on trying and humble enough to keep on learning.

With this brief prologue, I’m once again diving into some of my aspirational hopes, dreams and goals with “my three words” focus exercise for the year ahead.

What Are My 3 Words About?

Well, it’s simple but never easy. My challenge every January is to come up with three words that represent the strategic directions for the year. Two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three’s about right.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. It’s just a way to incorporate a small success habit by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in 2022

That’s why I’ve been taking the time to thoughtfully select three words that will serve as keys to my year. If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started this in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just check out #my3words.

My Process

I spend time reflecting on the past year, what’s worked, what has not. Also, what was unclear and what was missing. But more importantly, I try to understand what I want the coming year to look like.

Sometimes, the words come out of my goals, so I’ll jot down words that capture my attention and accurately reflect my intention.

I usually talk through my goals and my three words with my wife and several close friends.

That’s always helpful.

It shaped my ideas into something more tangible. It also reaffirmed that we’re in this together, and no matter what goals I have or the words I choose, they are meaningless without mutual support.

My Approach

I try to interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or on top of my workout calendar. Doing this keeps them front and center, not only pointing me in the direction of my goals but grounding me in the interim work that needs doing to achieve them.

Here Goes

 

I’ve come to think of my words as three keys that unlock potential in the coming year.

So far, I’ve settled on:

1. GUIDE

2. CO-CREATE

3. DEMONSTRATE

Guide: It’s a noun and a verb that packs some intention into what I do. A guide fits my role as a coach and consultant. My job is to move ahead of my colleagues and clients, survey the landscape, assess risks, recommend paths of action, and communicate a cohesive plan. In my profession, that makes sense. The most famous guides in the real world were also very physically vibrant, so I’m piggy-backing my intention to stay strong and healthy into this word. It has to carry a lot.

Co-Create: This idea is a lot more simple than a guide: what do I intend to co-create with other people in any given situation? For example, when I work with the Executive Leaders and their teams, I survey and test ideas before meetings. When I talk to stakeholders or fellow board directors, I co-create a very different experience. Sometimes, with my grandkids, I get a bit lost in the actual intentions of the moment and just plain have fun, so this relates to me there as well. My job is to co-create scenarios where those around me can grow and thrive.

Demonstrate: This one’s the hardest for me to explain to you because I’m still working on it.

Recently I was helping my granddaughter sell her handmade toques at a Christmas Farmer’s market. When someone looked interested in a particular toque, we’d demonstrate by getting them to hold it, feel it, try it on and then take a phone pic to show them how good it looked. Most of the time, it resulted in a sale. (The kid cleaned up)

I know it’s marketing basics 101, but I’m learning how to scale up and maintain an online marketing presence to showcase and demonstrate my products and services. The enemies to this kind of intention are many: procrastination, fear of rejection, unrealistic negative self-talk, and on and on.

This idea, roughly, is to seek out small marketing wins in everyday opportunities. If I hit a wall or a roadblock, waste NO time, but instead go around, switch tasks, move to the next effort. If something unforeseen happens, shrug it off and find the next win.

This one will be the hardest of all 3, but it’ll make for an exciting year if I pull it off.

Review Them Daily

The more you review your 3 words, the better. I have mine scribbled into my daily planning guides and workout calendar. They help me decide stuff. For example, “Should I say yes to this project?” or “Well, how does this align with my three words?”

What Are your Words for 2022?

It’s your turn:

  1. Please shoot me a note or share it wherever you like to share.
  2. Use the hashtag #my3words to find other people’s shared experiences, and if you’re a last-minute person, don’t worry.
  3. Start when you’re ready.

I look forward to seeing what this next year has in store.

Until next time.

Turning Your Endings into New Beginnings

This recent article in the New Yorker caught my eye.

Soon I was laughing out loud.

Let’s just say I relate. After all, who knew I’d be pursuing a new career after my 70th birthday and lovin’ it.

Changes!

I’ve seen a lot of them. Whatever era you hail from, there’s an iconic playlist anthem about starting over. Whether it’s Stevie Nicks (Landslide), David Bowie (Changes), or Beyonce (I Was There), changes and fresh starts play a decisive role in our lives.

The global pandemic is winding down, and there’s a lot of “churn” and foment happening.

Starting over. Reboot. Makeover. Shot at redemption. Fresh Start.

Call it what you will. We’re at that point again.

Not every New Beginning comes about because we want it. Sure, many do.

We can get excited about moving to a new place or starting a new job. But sometimes, the process of a Re-Do can feel more angsty than positive. We might be leaving someplace where we’d rather stay. Even if the outcome is good, proper, and necessary, there are always memories and baggage to sort through. The new beginning which follows can feel more overwhelming than exciting.

So, how do you cope with these situations? How do you do it in such a way as to take something positive away from experience?

It’s not quite as complicated as you might think. And no, it’s not just a matter of a fresh mindset, though this can help. Sometimes your endings will take a little more work to shift them into new beginnings.

Here’s my brief guide.

Start with Saying Goodbye

There comes a time when you will have to let go of the past to make friends with the future. It’s really up to you what this looks like. Some people find journaling about the process helpful. Others need to process verbally and talk things through. Depending on your circumstances, counseling or coaching may be a good idea. Whatever you decide, remember to give yourself time to process. Some baggage takes a little time to unpack. It’s never good to rush the “goodbye stage.”

 

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” –  “J.P.” Morgan

Look for the Silver Lining

OK, maybe this fresh start wasn’t at the top of your list, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent opportunity to accomplish something you’ve intended to do—Hunt out the good in the situation. Who knows, it might be you even have reason to celebrate this fresh start you didn’t see initially.

Get Your Head on Straight

Once you’ve started looking forward, it’s time to assess the situation. What are your options? What do you need to accomplish, and what would you like to do? The great thing about a fresh start is it’s a chance to fix other stuff too. For example, you might need to move right now, but this doesn’t mean you can’t work on a few other things on your wish list, such as making sure you’re moving somewhere with a home gym or workout option nearby to create a new exercise plan.

Take a Reality Check

Not everything on your wish list needs to be dealt with immediately. Some things might require funds or other resources which aren’t available just yet. Others are simply too much of a fresh start all at once. There’s a lot to be said for pacing yourself and not setting yourself up for failure. What’s reasonable here?

 

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” —Steve Jobs

Take Stock of Lessons Learned

If you’re being thrust into a change, chances are you didn’t have the optimal outcome in whatever was just ending. The good news? You can still take away something good from experience. So, before you get too deep into the fresh start, take a moment to ask yourself what you learned from the previous situation. There are lots of knowledge nuggets in endings that will serve you well going forward.

Adopt the Choice

No one likes being told what to do. If you feel like this fresh start is being forced on you, it can easily lapse into resentful feelings of victimhood regardless of the good you’ve found or the goals you’ve set. There comes a time where you need to step back and say, “Yes, I do want a fresh start,” making this situation your choice. This puts control back in your hands. Whatever happens from here is more like you want it to be.

Adjust Your Mindset

No fresh start will go well if you harbor resentment over the change. This is especially true if you feel forced into things. It might be you have to do some things you’d rather not initially, but this doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the change and still get some good out of it. Start looking for the best outcomes. If you need an added adjustment to the situation, try making a list of all the positive things which can come from having a fresh start right now. Find an outcome that excites you and makes you feel better about this Fresh Start.

 

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

Know What to Hold Onto

You don’t need to ditch every aspect of your life because you’re engaged in a new beginning. There are things from before which were good and will be valuable moving forward. Take stock of these things, making a list if necessary to remind yourself you already have some great resources you can use in this fresh start.

Take Breaks

New beginnings can be draining, especially if there’s a lot of physical or mental work involved. Schedule some breaks when possible to prevent burnout or overwhelm in the new situation.  A little playtime can do wonders for keeping your spirits up. The nice thing? You don’t have to go all out on these breaks. Even an afternoon outside or with friends can change your mood for days. You get the most benefit from breaks when you take them regularly, so be sure to add them to your schedule nicely spaced out. That way, they come often enough to be beneficial, but not so often as to keep you from making positive strides on your fresh start.

Try Again

Sometimes the most daunting thing about a fresh start is the actual getting started. You might find yourself holding back, not wanting to take chances, and certainly not volunteering for new activities. While this might seem sensible, it’s the worst thing you can do. New beginnings are all about taking chances and trying new things. The way to get started and find a better attitude? It may take a few false starts but accept you won’t be perfect at whatever you’re trying to do, especially not on the first try. Remind yourself it doesn’t matter if you fail. This gives you another opportunity to learn.

You like that, right?

Try a Mission Statement

If you’ve come this far, you’ve set some goals for yourself and even feel like you have a reason for this fresh start. You may want to take this information and turn it into a personal mission statement that outlines your goals and what you want out of this next chapter. Why? Sometimes everyone feels discouraged, and it’s this statement which you’re going to come back to time and again to re-energize yourself. So it might help write this down and post it where you’ll see it and feel inspired throughout your day.

Appreciate Your Strengths

Look, you just came through a tough time, and you’re still going. This alone is worth more than anything else on this list. So take a moment to realize just how far you’ve come and how wonderful it is you’re moving forward.

Take it One Step at a Time

Nothing happens overnight. There will be various stages to your fresh start, involving many smaller goals and lots of small successes. Celebrate each marker as they come, and you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere (because, of course, you are!)

 

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Ask for Help

Hey, no one ever said you had to take on a Fresh Start all by yourself. There’s a lot to be said about support systems. Invite trusted individuals into your process by letting them know what you’re doing and asking for their encouragement. If you have mentors, go to them for advice. Or find a mentor if you don’t have one already. Remember, the key here is you want support for your New Beginning. The last thing you need is to “get the stink eye” from people who will only be critical or put down your efforts. This is the perfect time to create boundaries and keep those out while at the same time keeping your tribe close to where they can encourage you the most.

Persist

How are you at being stubborn? If you’re still not feeling it and are struggling to get going on this Fresh Start, the best thing you can do is just keep plugging away. Go back through your list and remind yourself of everything here. Try again and keep trying. The funny thing is that this persistence will pay off in the long run, especially if you can maintain a positive attitude and be open enough to try new things. Sooner or later, the fun will creep in, and you’ll realize just what a glorious opportunity this is. In the meantime, the very fact you’re still carrying on is something to take pride in.

Don’t be afraid of new beginnings. Don’t shy away from new people, new energy, new surroundings. Embrace new chances at happiness. L.E

You’re still in the game, and you’re still trying. So take a minute to give yourself a hand for being amazing!

Until next time .

Early in my career, I was a 6th-grade teacher in an inner-city school that was politely ranked as “difficult.”

One of my early moves was to make homework optional.

My learning agreement with students was that they would have to put in the work if they actually wanted to learn anything.

While I could teach them almost anything, I couldn’t actually make them learn anything.

It helped if I could spark sufficient interest and curiosity to kindle inner motivation. Then suddenly, students were delving into topic areas on their own and enjoying it.

While I couldn’t force kids to learn, it was up to me to provide a positive learning culture and present opportunities. One little guy who struggled to read suddenly became an avid reader. He was keen on hot-rod cars. I accidentally (on purpose) left a couple of hot rod magazines lying on my desk. He asked to take them home. I said he could bring them back and read to me the parts he liked the best.

And a reading program was born!

While there’s some overlap in the understanding of these terms, it’s generally known as unstructured learning, leveraged learning, and self-directed learning.

One enormous benefit of my stint in the teaching profession was that I became steeped in the “Socratic Method” learning system. This allowed me to perpetually channel my inner 4-year-old to ask questions. That’s something I cherish to this day.

This learning approach has worked well in becoming a leadership practitioner in Project Management and then as a Founder and CEO.

How It Works

Everything we learn in formal education is well structured and predefined.

First, teachers and professors tell us what they think we need to know. Then at regular intervals, we cram to prove that we understand what they’ve been saying all along.

The process takes anywhere from 12-20 years, and we compete with peers to get good grades.

When we hit the real world, many of us hardly apply what we’ve spent years learning in a formal setting.

That’s unless we pursue specific things for what we currently do or intend to do. (I.E., Accounting, Law, or Medicine)

 

“We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies,”  Ken Robinson, the author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

How It Can Work

The real question is, how do you learn the hard, essential things that matter to your success in life and career? How do you explore and dig deeper into complex topics you deeply care about?

In the mid 90’s, I came across an article published by the Center for Creative Leadership that put forward some bold ideas about how people learn at work.

70% of what we learn is from hands-on, on-the-job training, problem-solving, and just plain doing it.  20% is from trial and error, failure, peer learning, and observing others, and 10% from formal classroom training and courses.

Much like your daily weather forecast, it’s not highly prescriptive. The great thing about this model was that it recognized that up to 90% of our work-related learning can happen very informally.

This new way of looking at things spawned a whole new movement of “learning organizations” characterized by strong teamwork, and a high capacity to solve problems.

“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.”
— William Crawford

I embraced this style of unstructured learning many years ago. I followed curiosities, read many books, and reached out to experts I knew who succeeded in the things I was interested in.

Many significant achievements that I’ve been a part of over the past decades are directly attributable to unstructured, self-directed learning.

It’s also important to recognize that everything necessary we’ve learned or accomplished is because of a teacher or a guide. In my instance, many teachers. It just wasn’t formal. Quite often, they didn’t even realize they were teaching me.

Consider this: If you or I set about to climb Everest, where conditions are harsh, and every step could be a life or death decision, we’d definitely want a Sherpa guide.

Hard skills don’t lend themselves to some YouTube instruction or easy hacks. I’d like someone experienced to show me that way and teach me step-by-step on the path forward. Right?

While mastery is the goal, I consider myself an ever-learning practitioner in the topics of Leadership, Human Behavior, Faith and Spirituality, Organizational Development, Investing, Coaching, Consulting, Writing, and Film Making, to name a few.

 “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” Richard P. Feynman

Unstructured learners find and stick to learning methods that work best for them.  They find a “flow” that creates an environment and routine to sustain the creative learning process.

Build your own “learning scaffold” that can be used over and over again.

I’m amazed watching my grandson assemble complex and functional Lego creations from a bucket of random pieces. He has a personal creative learning process that he developed, follows, and repeats with every new product he produces.

 “Perseverance, pleasure, and the ability to retain what you learn are among the wonderful byproducts of getting to learn using methods that suit you best and in contexts that keep you going,” Kio Stark Handbook for Learning Anything.

If you don’t love the process of learning, this probably won’t work. Sometimes, it’s necessary to master a new skill or topic to advance your career, but this is when you find your bigger why and hold on to that motivation to keep learning.

The Basics

Here are some of the basics that can help you become a successful unstructured learner:

  1. There’ll be core content and foundational basics to whatever topic or discipline you pursue. So, immerse yourself in the basics first.
  2.  Find topics that augment and support your life’s purpose — it’s fundamental for sustaining the process.
  3.  Know what learning methods work the best for you and then explore, search, and discover. Build a personal learning scaffold that you can re-use.
  4.  Channel your inner four-year-old and ask endless questions. It takes at least 5 “why’s” to start getting to the bottom of things. Ignorance can help you dig deeper and learn faster.
  5.  Know what you don’t know — and use that to ask the basic questions. It’s astounding to me how ordinarily smart leaders deflect and B.S. their way through stuff when all that is needed is a simple “I don’t know.”
  6. Find a guide and/or cohort of like-minded people who share your interest.
  7.  Create your own feedback process. Double down on what’s working

Every unstructured learner invests in their unique process. Build your learning method and make it your own. Tricky things, topics, domains, and skills take time to master.

If you’re curious enough, don’t be afraid to invest in hard skills that will serve you for life. Commit to a process you can sustain.

Don’t rush it and burn out. Learning anything new will probably change your life for good.

The joy of mastering new skills or figuring things out on your own is a fantastic and worthwhile experience.

Until next time.

P.S. This October, I’ll once again be offering LeaderLab TM, a high-value blend of Executive Training and Coaching for successful applicants.

Watch for details in your inbox in the coming weeks. 

 

 

Resilience

Photo by Biegen Wschodni on Unsplash

I love this time of the year. The unmistakable scent of damp earth, cut grass, and fresh pollen evoke the real prospect of new growth and possibility.

Knowing that it’s getting warmer and lighter every day here in the northern hemisphere is such an appropriate metaphor for coming out of the darkness and hibernation of this past year.

It’s a great time to be alive.

An operative word for this time is resilience.

Our world has changed in ways we haven’t fully processed yet. A lot of strong conversations are taking place.

I believe that resilience is our current best response.

Resilience buys us time to adapt!

 

“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.” Dean Becker

 

Foolproof planning these days requires a more perfect knowledge of the future.

That’s just not available to anyone right now.

Resilience is that deep commitment to a mindset and a skill set that builds and rebuilds ecosystems that work even when things don’t work out as planned. Especially when things don’t work out!

Resilience buys us time to adapt.

Flexibility in the face of change is where resilience comes from.

As leaders, some look to us and rely on us.

I’ve often wondered why building resilience isn’t a key business imperative. My observation is that quite often just being human is at odds with work life.

Work can routinely bring stress, negativity, setbacks, and outright failures — and most of us are challenged to combat the effects.

We often equate resilience with overcoming extreme hardship or impossible odds.

Adequately understood, resilience can serve as an ever-present, daily mentor, helping us rebound from the collected frictions and pressures of work life.

Most of us just motor on— unaware of the increasing toll of emotional depletion — and building resilience isn’t considered.

I’ve been fortunate to have highly resilient people to learn from in my life.

I’ve also had personal challenges and circumstances where I could apply what I learned.

Here are seven observable characteristics of my resilient friends and mentors.

Networks of Support

Having a robust support system is an integral part of resilience. It really doesn’t matter who has your back in life – parents, friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, or colleagues. Real friends (not the Facebook kind) will give you understanding, guidance, and comfort when you’re struggling with a problem. They help you define your priorities and provide honest feedback just when you may need it the most.

Asking for help or counsel from the people who support you is a valuable life skill.

From my decades of work with marginalized populations, having a solid network always was a key determinant of capacity to rebound from the impact of life trauma.

“Others” Mindset

Resilient people aren’t very self-absorbed. They give freely of themselves to those around them. It may appear counterintuitive, but being generous or devoting time to a worthy cause (like volunteering) are helpful strategies to take the focus off your problems.

Helping others can help expand your life skills and problem-solving abilities. Giving back to yourself is also helpful. Proper care of your health and periodically rewarding yourself contribute to thinking and acting “resiliently.”

Stick -to -itiveness

Doggedness, grit, hardiness, stamina – call it what you will. Resilient people learn to accept emotional pain and stress as part of life.  They don’t allow their difficulties to define them. All the resilient people I know avoid personal pity parties. Instead, they recognize their feelings, acknowledge the problems being faced facing, trust that their ability to meet their problems, and believe they have the strength to maintain their emotional balance.

Change Happens

Accepting the fact that things are going to change is a fundamental part of resilience. When your goals, plans, ideas, or hopes are ruined because of unavoidable circumstances, a flexible and positive attitude will allow you to focus on new projects or new hopes. If you accept the things you can’t change or control, you’re free to put your effort into the things you can change and control.

Choice of Attitude

Most of the time, we don’t get to choose the obstacles and difficulties that life puts in our way. We always get to choose our attitude toward adversity. During hard times, it’s helpful to find something positive to think about and imagine a positive outcome. Even if you don’t have all the answers and even if the solution to your problems isn’t apparent, you can choose to believe that things will work out. You can tell yourself that your issues are manageable. You can choose to see yourself as a fighter, not a victim.

Reframe Perspective

When a resilient person faces adversity, they’re likely to avoid making things worse by jumping to extremes. Resilient people tell themselves that their troubles won’t last forever. They don’t see every bump in the road as a catastrophe; they understand that things can’t be perfect. Having realistic expectations of themselves, others, and what can be achieved is the answer.

Humor

It’s been said that “laughter is the best medicine.” And really, if you can drum up some self-deprecating  humor and laugh with others, you will lighten your load and lighten up!

Appropriate laughter and humor are beautiful ways to connect to others. They help release the feeling of stress that adversity causes you.

Laughter is also good for your body – it changes your body’s response to stress.

Conclusion

Can we strengthen our capacity to think and act more “resiliently”?

Absolutely, yes.

Think how a trainer at the gym helps you concentrate on certain muscle groups for strength and endurance. Similarly the various components of resilience can be exercised and strengthened.

Check the work of Dr. Fred Luthans. It points to evidence that resilience can be learned.

Another helpful article from Harvard Business Review – How Resilience Works 

Have a great month!