Master farmer (and brother-in- law) David with a small part of his herd of naturally grown beef cattle.
Photo Courtesy of ohnemusbeef.com 

 

Leading Like a Farmer

I have an abiding relationship with the land. I grew up in farm country. Both my parents came from active farming families.

We lived in a small rural town where life revolved around the seasons, the soil, the crops, and the herds.

My dad started out in farming, but successive years of  prairie drought forced our family to move to the concrete jungle.

There, dad finished degree work and pursued a career as an educator.

A recent visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s cattle farm brought back a flood of childhood memories.

The old adage is true.

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.- Somebody

Having that rich rural upbringing in my background helped shape my pragmatic, optimistic worldview.

(a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll)

Farming is a firm belief in the future. A belief that things will happen according to plan. That growth and change will come in due time.

As I followed my sometimes perplexing early adult career path, the profound common sense lessons from my rural upbringing stood me in good stead.

It helped bring things into sharper focus.

It wouldn’t hurt to think more like a farmer to be a better leader.

Yup, farmer. Just think about it for a bit.

They are faithful stewards of the land, working hard to produce everything that feeds us daily.

Here are five ways to approach your Leadership as a farmer would:

  1. Prepare the field (Master the context)

Farmers would never try to grow crops or herds in a barren place.

They do whatever is necessary to prepare nutrient-rich soil for growth.

Similarly, you can’t grow your career—or the careers of those you lead—if you’re in an uninspiring, stagnant or hostile work environment.

As leaders, we need to consciously create a safe place for others to flourish. We’ll foster trust and collaboration by modelling vulnerability, leading with empathy, actively listening, and encouraging open communication. To nourish our own careers, we need to adopt a growth mindset, allowing our curiosity to fuel lifelong learning.

  1. Begin with the end in mind. (Have a vision, strategy and plan)

A farmer would only plant a crop or start a herd with a plan that includes a clear understanding of their desired outcomes.

In growing your career, having clarity on what you want is critical to achieving it. Maintaining focus will help you do the things necessary to expand your experience and skill set.

When you can articulate your goals, you’ll have an easier time aligning your attention and intention to plant the seeds for continued growth.

The same approach works for helping your team grow, too. When you ask what each member wants to achieve, you’ll better understand their goals and create a plan to accomplish them.

  1. Having started – Let things grow

Micromanaging doesn’t work with plants, herds, or people. If you hover or over-control, you’ll impede progress.

Work teams respond in much the same way. Once you’ve helped plant the seeds and ideas for growth, certainly monitor, but avoid getting into the minutiae of every task. Empower your people to make their own decisions—even if they differ from those you might make.

 As a leader who steps back yet offers support and resources, you send a message of trust—and allows others to thrive.

Just as a farmer must be patient and allow their crops to mature before they can be harvested, a leader must be patient and allow their team members to develop and grow before expecting them to produce results. Remember that leadership growth happens steadily over time.

  1. Removing weeds.

Farmers know they must keep their fields free from weeds that threaten to invade and choke out their valuable crops or harm the animals.

When managing a team, one toxic employee can quickly destroy the morale of the most productive team. If you’re a solopreneur, unreliable partners or even over-demanding, taxing clients can take their toll if left unchecked.

Sometimes, the “weeds” you face aren’t people but outdated processes, services, or activities that drain your precious resources and prevent you from focusing on what truly matters.

When you say no to the people and things that don’t support your goals, you make room for those that do. It’s up to you to proactively assess the fields of your career and take action, pulling the pesky weeds early and quickly.

  1. Work real hard and learn from previous harvests.

Farmers know that forecasts can sometimes be wrong and that some form of setback will strike sooner or later. But when it does, they don’t give up. They use this knowledge to be better prepared.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work!” Thomas Edison

Every leader makes mistakes, but the ones who view their failures as learning opportunities thrive. The next time something doesn’t go as planned, set aside time to review where you went astray, what you learned, and what you can do differently in the future.

By thinking like a farmer, you’ll sow the seeds of Leadership and reap a bountiful career harvest.

Until next time- Lorne

Credit Acknowledgement: Adapted from a Forbes Article with a similar theme by Amy Blaschka 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all been there—

standing on the precipice of expectation, heart filled with hope and eyes fixed on a vision.

 

The exhilaration of a new project, the buzz of a fresh idea, or the thrill of an ambitious goal. Yet, the wind doesn’t always blow in our favour.

The ground beneath sometimes shifts, leaving us grappling with confusion, frustration, and even self-doubt. These moments, when our expectations hang in the balance, teetering between realization and disappointment, are the crucibles of leadership.

Navigating the intricate corridors of leadership, we often find ourselves charting courses led by aspirational visions. After all, isn’t it an important part of our job to encourage and challenge others to pull together toward a common purpose?

While this inspires us and others, it can sometimes be clouded by unmet expectations and unforeseen challenges.

When such disappointments arise, how we respond reflects our leadership acumen.

Having a grip on our own expectations is foundational.

Before setting out on any leadership venture, it’s vital to ascertain foreseeable challenges that may lie ahead. Sometimes, our ambition and enthusiasm might be racing towards an overly ambitious deadline. The key lies in recognizing these moments and recalibrating our approach, mainly if others are involved.

It helps to have well-defined personal goals and challenging yet attainable goals for our team. Beyond that, how we interact with others is pivotal in outcomes. Reflecting on the roles, goals, processes and people around us often offers clues and insights into how we function as a team as we strive toward

our preferred future. I usually have to remind myself that colleagues and co-workers can only give you what they’ve got, and sometimes there’s a shortfall.

Adaptability is a hallmark of strong leadership when the inevitable occurs and disappointments happen. Like a ship navigating turbulent waters, the key isn’t to avoid the waves but to adjust our sails and find a path through. However, during these storms, we must not become our own harshest critics. Instead, recognizing each setback as an opportunity for growth provides us invaluable wisdom.

Assumptions, often made with the best intentions, can lead us astray.

By promoting open communication, we ensure a mutual understanding that keeps everyone aligned. Furthermore, in today’s connected age, we must remember that platforms like social media showcase highlights rather than whole stories.

Constant comparisons to others can distort our perceptions, so grounding ourselves in reality is essential.

Some leaders strive to minimize setbacks. This usually backfires, and team members begin to lose trust. Preparing for setbacks and dealing with them as they happen builds our resilience. Keeping in mind that our leadership journey is as much about responding to others as it is about steering the way helps foster mutual respect and understanding.

In conclusion, disappointments, while challenging, are an inherent aspect of our leadership journey. Rather than viewing them as insurmountable obstacles, we can see them as gateways to new perspectives. Every disappointment can lead to newfound insights, attitudes, and realities, like a traveller discovering an uncharted path. We often stumble upon richer landscapes and deeper understandings through these very challenges.

The art of managing expectations isn’t about avoiding disappointments but about leveraging them as stepping stones to a brighter, more informed future.

To our continued growth, resilience, and fresh horizons,

Lorne

There’s an old Project Management joke that describes the six phases on any large project

Unbridled enthusiasm,

Total disillusionment,

Panic, hysteria and overtime,

Frantic search for the guilty,

Punishment of the innocent and

Praise and honours for the uninvolved.

As with any good humour, there are some elements of truth and exaggeration in there somewhere.

 Perhaps you’ve even experienced some of those six phases.

 If you’re  like me  you want to be productive in both your  personal and professional life.

That often can seem like a daunting task.

How can we stay motivated and get things done in the face of adversity?

In his recent  book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, author David Allen offers practical advice on how to achieve greater levels of productivity and efficiency while still enjoying life.

His approach, which emphasizes setting manageable goals, breaking tasks down into smaller parts, and staying organized, is one that can help anyone in their quest for success.

At its core, Allen suggests that becoming more productive starts with understanding our goals and deciding what it is that we want to accomplish.

Begin With The End In Mind.

 “You need clarity about what your outcomes are supposed to be before you do anything else.”  This allows us to focus on the steps that will lead us towards achieving these goals, rather than getting lost in the details.

Once we have our goal defined, Allen suggests breaking it down into smaller, achievable tasks. This makes each step of the goal more manageable and allows us to feel a sense of progress as we complete them.

The actual steps are as follows:

Capture – Collect all the tasks, thoughts and ideas that are buzzing around your head into a centralized system.

 Clarify – Take each item in the system and determine what action steps need to be taken in order to move forward with it.

Organize – Sort and prioritize these tasks based on urgency and importance.

Reflect – Regularly take stock of your progress, and see what processes can be improved or streamlined.

Engage – Finally, start taking action! Tackle the highest priority items on your list first.

Stay Organized

Staying organized is also key to staying productive. Often times, lack of organization can lead to wasted time and effort that could be better spent getting things done.

Having a cluttered desk or overstuffed file cabinets full of loose papers can really slow you down.

To combat this, Allen recommends creating a system of filing away important documents and notes that simplifies searching tasks quickly and efficiently.

Keep emails and messages handy and organized into folders on your computer.

Stay Motivated

Finally, remaining productive requires finding ways to stay motivated. This can come from simple practices such as taking breaks throughout the day, rewarding yourself when you reach milestones, and talking positively to yourself when faced with difficult tasks.

As Allen puts it,

“Productivity isn’t just about doing more; it’s about accomplishing meaningful work in less time.”

All in all, becoming a successful and productive person both personally and professionally does not have to be an impossible task.

By following the advice outlined by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity”, we can learn to organize our minds and set achievable goals that will ultimately lead to success.

To quote Allen “Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” So take some time away from your work to relax and regroup – it might just be the most productive thing you do all day! And remember –

“Nothing is impossible… except for maybe trying to do two projects at once!”

Productivity. It’s a tricky skill to master, but  once you master it, that can be a game-changer!

And if there is one person who knows how to get it done effectively and efficiently, it’s David Allen.

It’s essential to remember that any productivity system is only as effective as you make it. Just going through the motions won’t make you productive—you have to be consistent and put in the hard work in order to see real results.

Another gem from David Allen:

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

Until next time….

In a recent conversation with a mentoring friend, he reminded me to stick to the basics of what I was doing. His phrase that stuck with me was, “the basics won’t ever let you down!” 

One of my dog-eared, coffee-stained books that is a part of my permanent library is Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA: Master The Art of Business. 

With elegant simplicity, Josh explains the basics –  five interdependent processes that are the core of every enterprise.

  1. Value creation- discovering what people need or want, then creating it.
  2. Marketing – attracting attention and building demand for what you’ve created.
  3. Sales – turning prospective customers into paying customers.
  4. Value Delivery- giving your customers what you’ve promised and ensuring they’re satisfied.
  5. Finance – bringing in enough money to keep going and make your effort worthwhile

These five parts of every business are the basis of every good business idea and business plan.

Note that two of these five basics center on creating and delivering value. Therefore, any skill or knowledge that helps create value is crucial to your economic success!

This concept prompted this month’s leadership question;

How Valuable Is Your Leadership?  

(Five Ways that Good Leaders Deliver Value)

I think we can agree that leadership is a crucial aspect of any organization. Effective leadership can significantly impact a company’s success.

Here are five ways that effective leadership can add value to an organization:

Vision and direction: A great leader can set a clear vision and direction for the organization and then inspire and motivate their team to work towards that vision. The famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said:

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

An effective leader can read between the lines and understand the needs and concerns of their team, and then use that understanding to set a clear direction for the organization.

Decision-making: Effective leaders can make tough decisions, even in facing uncertainty. They can weigh the pros and cons of different options and then choose the course of action that best serves the organization. Warren Buffett once said:

“The best thing a leader can do is to listen, to hear what is and isn’t being said. Never assume that you know it all.”

Communication: Effective leaders can communicate effectively with their team and have a knack for clearly conveying their vision and direction. They also ensure that everyone on the team knows what they’re supposed to do and how they can contribute to the organization’s success.

Empowerment: Effective leaders understand that their team members are their most valuable asset, and they make sure to empower them to take ownership of their work. They give them the freedom to make decisions and take risks, providing them with the support and resources they need to succeed.

Adaptability: Effective leaders can adapt to changing circumstances and have the skill and will to lead their teams through difficult times. They have the capacity to make quick decisions and take decisive action when the situation calls for it.

Great leaders have added value to organizations in many ways.

Some examples include:

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, is widely recognized as one of the most influential leaders in recent history. Jobs was able to set a clear vision and direction for Apple, inspiring and motivating his team to work towards that vision. Under his leadership, Apple created some of the most innovative and popular products of the last several decades.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, is another example of a great leader who added value to his organization. Welch was known for his ability to make tough decisions and his willingness to take risks. Under his leadership, GE grew from a $13 billion company to a $410 billion company. Welch was also known for communicating effectively with his team and empowering them to take ownership of their work.

As a leader, measuring your performance and ensuring that you are adding value to your organization is essential.

Three key performance indicators that can help you determine whether your leadership is making a valuable impact:

Employee satisfaction: If your team members are happy and engaged, it’s a good sign that you are providing them with the support and resources they need to be successful.

Productivity: If your team is productive and can meet or exceed their goals, it’s a good sign that you are providing them with clear direction

Financial performance: If your organization is financially stable and growth-oriented, it’s a good sign that you’re on the right track.

Spoiler alert. There are many more ways that leaders add value. Perhaps another time.

For now, it’s food for thought.

“Champions are brilliant at the basics”

– Quote by John Wooden , Reknowned basketball coach

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 The Magic of Written Goals

Roald Amundsen was a superhero of his day. He was a scientist, adventurer, and explorer.

In 1911 he led the group that first reached the South Pole.

As a researcher, he made observations and took scientific measurements.

He was one of the “big thinkers” of his era.

He was also an inveterate “journal-er” and note-taker of daily happenings and activities, large and small.

Consistency and the 20-MILE MARCH

 In his book “Great By Choice,” business writer Jim Collins tells the Amundsen/South Pole story this way: In 1911, two explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott would, lead separate teams on an expedition race to the South Pole.

The final push was on foot. There and back was roughly 1400 miles, representing a round trip from New York to Chicago in some of the world’s harshest climate conditions.

While both teams had the same goal. They would travel the same distance in near-impossible conditions. However, each had entirely different strategies for their journey.

Scott’s strategy was to walk as far as possible on good weather days and then rest up on bad days to conserve energy.

Conversely, Amundsen and his team kept up a strict regimen of hiking only 20 miles a day, no matter what. Of course, on good days, his team could do more than 20 miles; however, Amundsen was adamant that they pace themselves at 20 miles to conserve energy.

Which team won?

 It was Amundsen’s, simply because they took consistent action toward a measurable goal.

Scott’s team arrived nearly a month later.

Numerous books and movies have been dedicated to his compelling story.

Here’s a grainy 10 minute YouTube Clip.

There’s a simple elegance in mundanity, especially when it moves you in the direction you want.

That same leadership principle holds true for you and me with our “here and now” goals.

As a leader, having a robust goal-setting mechanism and consistent follow-through is critical to your success and that of your organization.

Jotting things down in real time has become second nature for me. I rarely think about it. I just instinctively do it. Sometimes it’s as simple as a one-word goal for that day or that year.

See My Three Words

It’s resulted in a growing archive of notebooks and daily planners that I often refer back to. Particularly when it comes to tracking progress toward my personal goals.

Why is this important?

It boils down to three immediate benefits.

For starters, it fast-tracks my thinking toward clarity. It helps me distill facts from those annoying emotions. As a “dyed in the wool” INFJ, I seem to have an overabundance of those.

Secondly, writing things down creates a measure of accountability. I’m a progress and productivity nerd, so having goals and interim reference points to measure progress are vitally important to me.

Thirdly, it provides a platform for meaningful interaction when others become aware of my goals.

They have a chance to metabolize information, respond, and maybe even join me in an adventure.

 

Unwritten goals are like unplanted seeds. Not much happens until you plant and care for them.

 

The benefits of written goals are numerous. Here are but a few

Goals Show You Where To Go

Okay, so there are some things you want to get done in life. But to what extent? Setting a goal shows you where and how to get there. While you may be headed in the right direction, you could wander off the path without a plan and get lost. You could also end up somewhere other than where you wanted to go.

Goals Measure Your Progress

You may be already pursuing something you are passionate about in life. How far have you come? Do you know? If you don’t, you don’t have a goal guiding you.

Besides just showing you where to go, goals also help you see how far you have come, giving you a good measure of what you still have to do.

Goals Keep You Motivated

Do you struggle with staying motivated? This is why you need goals. As you see your progress toward your objective, this will help keep you motivated, even when the going gets tough.

The physical act of writing down a goal has been shown in one Harvard study to increase the likelihood of you achieving it. Simply writing it down can be a huge motivator to help you change your everyday life to make your goal a reality.

Goals Inform Your Purpose

Knowing where you should go or the career you should pursue can take time and effort. Goals help us make choices. A seemingly insignificant and simple goal might even help you make better choices.

In Conclusion 

There are umpteen reasons why written goals are essential. But overall, to achieve success, you need to start by making a written list of your aspirational goals. Then start crafting a plan about how to get started.

This will help show you where to go, keep you on track, and keep you motivated as you go.

Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to achievement.

Until next time,

 

 

 

 

Recently we watched the people of the United Kingdom and others from around the world mourn the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Both the funeral service and the procession that followed were tremendously moving.

As a very young boy, I saw the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) pass by while I was perched on my father’s shoulders. It was her very first trip to our country. The palpable joy of the enthusiastic crowd that day left an indelible impression.

A short time later, I watched her Coronation speech on a very grainy early 50s TV broadcast.

“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart, I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.    Queen Elizabeth II June 02, 1953— London, England

  Each year that followed, she would address the world with her annual Christmas message. She would talk candidly about hard things going on in the world and sometimes in her own family.

Yet, her message was always one of wisdom, courage and gratitude.

She always built trust and inspired hope!

Even in her departure, there was a measure of grace and elegance.

Today she is being remembered as a world leader who consistently served the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth with grace and dignity. The crowds lined the streets, and millions more watched online to pay homage and respect. It says a great deal about her legacy and how she will be remembered.

We can only imagine the volume of change and turmoil she witnessed in her seven decades of leadership!

It might be my understatement of all time, but we live in uncertain times.

We’re witnessing one of the most rapidly evolving business and social environments ever seen.

There’s never really has been a time when people could be sure how things would play out. But now, with new powerful forces in motion, it’s dicier than ever.

What’s different now is that the volume and the pace of change have increased dramatically.

Well huh!! There it is.

In the midst of it all, people are looking to leaders for help and hope.

And that takes grace.

Much like authenticity, art, or love, -grace is hard to define.

But we sure recognize it when we see it.

Rocker/philosopher Bono (U2) says it this way:

Grace, she takes the blame

She covers the shame

Removes the stain

It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl

It’s also a thought that changed the world

 

In a recent book, The Five Graces of Life and Leadership, author Gary Burnison delivers a meaningful and thought-provoking exploration of leadership.

He emphasizes the five kinds of grace that leaders absolutely must have to lead their teams in today’s rapidly evolving world. He also happens to be the CEO of the iconic consulting firm Korn Ferry.

That fact alone grabbed my attention.

In today’s world, leadership is all about establishing community and connectivity.

People instinctively long to be part of something bigger than themselves. But, to have the grace to create this kind of leadership, we need greater self-awareness and a genuine connection to others.

To Burnison, G.R.A.C.E. is an acronym for what great leaders convey.

He calls us to be “radically human leaders with greater self-awareness and genuine connection to others.”

I love that “radically human” part.

The best leaders make their teams feel accepted, safe and secure that they’re headed in the right direction.

It includes insightful discussions on each of the five indispensable graces, including:

Gratitude–the mindset that elevates our spirits, boosts morale and lifts our hearts. It recognizes we’re not in this on our own. We need the help and contribution of others to succeed.

Resilience—that quality that allows us to weather the ups and downs and helps us achieve beyond our wildest dreams.

Aspiration–the knowledge that we can make tomorrow better than today. It elevates everyone’s vision around us of what’s possible.

Courage–the ability to understand and move beyond our fears. This requires us to ask hard questions of ourselves and sometimes others.

 Empathy–the understanding needed to connect with others from their perspectives and meet them where they’re at.

Like the late Queen, we all have a limited shelf life with an expiration date. It was only three days before her passing that she was swearing Great Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Like her, we also don’t have any control over when our time is up.

It begs the question …….. – How do you measure a life lived in grace?

Can you say you’ve lived a life of grace?

For me, it’s never been easy. I can’t pretend that I’ve been successful at it in any consistent way.

(just ask my wife)

Have you given yourself grace?

Giving yourself permission to forgive your mistakes, lapses in judgment, or hurtful behaviour is probably the most important of the Graces.

Extending that same grace of forgiveness to others is equally important!

Let’s face it, no one is perfect.

We all have to come to a point where we recognize our fragility and mortality and that we cannot always control outcomes.

Leadership and Grace

“A leader’s higher calling is to surround the organization with purpose.” – Gary Burnison

All of these qualities overlap and intertwine. For example, it’s difficult to be resilient without gratitude and courage.

Approaching each day with gratitude fosters a mindset of humility. You know you can’t achieve success on your own. Humility opens us to greater awareness and the ability to empathize with others.

Then add in aspirations. – That’s truly powerful!

As the leader, it’s your job to see the vision, be the vision and articulate what the vision looks like for everyone in the organization.

In Conclusion

 Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it.

(This is a powerful exercise that I encourage my coaching clients to do)

Find some quiet time and space and write a letter to your future self.

In your letter, I want you to consider these questions:

What do you want to be known for?

 What accomplishments do you want to have achieved?

How do you want others to remember you? 

Be as wordy and as eloquent as you like. Then, when you’re done writing your first draft, set it aside.

Give it some marinade time and come back to it.

When it’s done, keep it close by and refer to it often.

This powerful tool helps you become the change that you want to see.

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!

 

 

 

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

 

A PERSONAL STIMULUS CHECK

True confession: It’s hard for me to stay motivated these days.

 And that’s unusual for me. Usually, I’m a pretty motivated self-starter type, but I hit some invisible wall and have to dig way deeper to stay motivated.

My whiteboard of “to-do’s “is glaring at me from across the room. I have trouble deciding where to start, and then a sense of overwhelming arises.

Maybe it’s the S.A.D. Season and my vitamin D levels are down.

Maybe it’s the mild cognitive impairment brought about by ever-lurking pandemic fatigue.

Yeah, that’s probably it.

“He who moves not forward goes backward.”

– Von Goethe 

 

What I Know Works 

Well, first, I have to remind myself that this is a weird time when millions of lives have been lost. Millions of more jobs have been destroyed. 

In a few short months, we’ve had to reshape how we work, socialize, learn, and generally do life.

 “The future ain’t what it used to be.” 

― Yogi Berra

If you’ve ever endured a significant house renovation, you’ll know the unsettled feelings that accompany the chaos. Walls and wiring get ripped out; spaces are re-configured; everything is re-routed. Life for many folks is something like that.

The temptation is there to be scared and anxious about a thousand stupid things. 

But really, the job these days is to do the best we can and take it one step at a time.

And then take those steps. 

Motivation Is A Task

Intrinsic motivation is indeed part of every project that you and I are working on. It’s a task to check off. I frequently have to motivate myself to stay on target with my work, relationships, spiritual, and life goals. 

Why? Because some people are counting on me to show up. 

The same goes for you. 

If my goal is to be healthy and “eat well,” and I crave cookie dough ice cream, it’s my job to say, “I’ve got a better plan, and that craving will have to wait right now.” 

An acquaintance of mine is a competitive bodybuilder. He works out daily, sometimes twice a day, and eats a lot of food but according to a rigorous and well-constructed plan. When he’s in training for an event, he would MUCH rather chow down on a double cheeseburger with fries than another five ounces of steamed chicken breast and asparagus.

So motivation is something one must consciously choose.

Grit Is A Factor

Let’s face it. Perseverance, determination, willpower, and sticking to it don’t get much air time these days.

I mean it’s just not sexy. 

We live in a culture where people expect immediate results. There’s Nexus lanes, movies on demand, coffee drive-thru windows, high-speed internet, Instagram, and Door Dash.

If you want something right now, all you have to do is spend a few bucks. 

Unfortunately, people carry this idea into the work world where success is anything but instant or without effort.

The reality is that it takes a lot of hard work, patience, and time to experience success.

Success often comes and goes in cycles. This intermittent nature of success can be too much for some aspiring leaders to handle.

It doesn’t take much to be motivated when things are going well. But how will you respond when you go through a rough patch? As your energy slips, will you stay the course and continue striving toward your goals?

You see, grit isn’t necessarily the same thing as success, but it’s positively correlated with success because how can you overcome obstacles 

unless you’re willing to grind out through all the failures?

It seems there’s no such thing as easy on the stuff that’s worthwhile.

People who train hard and run a marathon don’t ever say, “Wow, was that ever easy! “

Grit is a critical factor that determines outcomes.

 

Take Some Steps – The Passion Thing Will Follow 

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” 

Yogi Bera

 

There’s this pervasive, unrealistic life theory out there that says you have to be passionate about just about everything you do all the time, or else why bother. Wrong!

True – it’s great when you can find that sweet spot in your work, where you feel challenged, rewarded, and fulfilled all at once.

Statistics and life experience tell us this is very much the exception, not the norm.

It is also true that sometimes there’s great wisdom and sound judgment in knowing when to throw in the towel.

 It shouldn’t be the default response when things start heading south.

All too often, I see initiatives, jobs, and vocations getting ditched because someone “just isn’t feeling it “(aka discouragement, overwhelm, disillusion, unmet expectations) 

 I think it’s a net result of the digital era where we’re all a part of a massive cognitive disconnect between what’s virtual and what’s real. 

I’m bombarded every day with smiling faces, successes, and achievements of others on Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, etc., which leaves me feeling “what’s wrong with me” or “I must really suck at life.”

But it takes doing something to actually “do something.” You can quote me on that.

Being persistent and consistent at doing the right things is what builds your influence and a leadership presence.

Sometimes that means just showing up and doing the work even when you’re not “feeling it”. 

Just do the work. The passion thing will follow. Trust me. 

The vast majority of leadership is a mental attitude. 

One of the most significant mental challenges for leaders is self-motivation, especially during slow or tumultuous times. If you find yourself struggling to move forward, you’ll need to get a grip.

“90% of the game is half mental.”

Yogi Berra 

Can we take this one step at a time? 

Until next time

Lorne