Getting things done

Astoundingly Simple. Boringly Consistent. Still Magic, Nonetheless! (Part 11)

Winding down one year and starting the next is always an ideal time for reflection and thinking forward.

As a leader, having a robust goal-setting mechanism and consistent follow-through is critical to your overall personal and professional success.


My last article examined the rationale for having written goals.

 This month’s article will provide tools and tips to implement the goal-setting process.

There are many sound systems out there, but I’ll stick to the three I’m most familiar with simply because I know they work.

SMART(ER) SYSTEM

The first is the SMART system. It’s an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It first emerged in the early ’80s when the CEO of GE, Jack Welch, used it to enhance employee performance and time management while boosting job satisfaction.

In a nutshell, this technique advises creating a specific goal rather than using vague language (for example, swimming three times a week versus simply exercising more). You also want to be sure that your goal is achievable and relevant to your situation. So, make the goal big enough to challenge yourself but not so big that it will likely be out of reach.

In more recent times there’s been the been the addition of an E and an R representing Evaluate and Re- Adjust.

OKR SYSTEM

Another system being used successfully by organizations I’m familiar with is the OKR system.

OKR stands for Objectives and Key results. Introduced by investor and stakeholder John Doerr, Google began using OKRs in 1999 when they had just 40 employees. With more than 132,000 employees today, Google still uses the OKR approach to setting goals.

But why does such an innovative company as Google still use the same old approach from more than 20 years ago?

Why didn’t they switch their strategy to setting goals with something more innovative and fancy-sounding?

The answer is simple. When you foster a culture that cares about reaching ambitious goals and gives them a simple approach to achieving them, such as OKRs, they lead to success.

Adding needless complexity to such a smooth and easy-to-follow process may have killed Google’s success.

The beauty of this system is that Objectives define what you’re trying to accomplish, and Key Results measure if you’re succeeding. Objectives are best when they’re qualitative. Key Results are best when they’re quantitative. Moreover, Objectives and key results are applicable at the personal, team,  and corporate levels to synthesize and unify efforts toward a common goal.

Placing a reasonable time frame on all of the above makes it easy to see if you’re making progress.

THREE WORD SYSTEM

A third goal-setting system that is a personal favourite is the three-word system.

Simple, but never easy!

It’s a challenge each year to come up with three words representing the year’s strategic directions. But, of course, two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three is about right.

There’s nothing 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 the year to come

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 or not, And what was unclear or perhaps missing. But, more importantly, I understand how I want my next year to unfold.

Sometimes the words come out of the goals I have set. Other times I will jot down words that capture my attention and accurately reflect my intention.

I usually discuss my goals and three words with my wife and 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 interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or workout calendar. Doing this keeps them front and centre, pointing me toward my goals and grounding me in the interim work needed to achieve them.

Other Systems

Beyond the ones I mentioned, there are several other goal-setting systems and processes worth exploring, including HARD (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult), WOOP (Wish, Obstacle Outcome, Plan) and others that may or may not have a cool acronym.

The point here is to have a system that works for you and your organization.

Six Tips For Getting Started

Reflect on where you’ve been.

As you consider where you want to go next, think about where you’ve been. How have you grown? What have you learned? On the other hand, do you need to let go of any behaviours or relationships to move forward? Keep in mind that we all make mistakes in our lives, but these “mistakes” enable you to grow. They aren’t mistakes as much as platforms for advanced learning.

Where do you want to go next?

Now that you’ve reflected a bit on how you got to where you are, it’s time to think about what comes next. And “next” can mean different things. It may mean simply the next area of your life you want to grow. Or it may be time-based, as in by “next month” or “next year.” So take a moment to add a timeline to your written goal. When do you plan to start implementing it, and for how long?

Write it down. Be specific.

Writing down your goals helps to make them more “real” and allows you to commit to them. Plus, it’s easier to keep track of your goals this way. It’s also important to be specific. For example, saying you want to eat better doesn’t give you a way to measure your results. But, if you say you want to start eating a plant-based diet and then specify steps to take, such as doing “meatless Mondays” each week for a month, you have made your goal specific and measurable. Keep a journal or perhaps a whiteboard at your desk. Simply seeing your goals in writing each day can help to keep you on track.

Divide your goals into categories.

Thinking in terms of categories can help you to examine your life in 360 degrees. First, you can decide on the categories you want to use. For example, consider goals for your life’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Or, you could be more specific and use categories like health, family, relationships, personal interests and hobbies, spiritual, work, and finance. Next, think about the areas you want to address in your life, and then write one to two goals in each category.

Personally, each year, I reevaluate the areas of my life and hone in on my overall goals— personal, professional, and financial. Then, I make a specific goal for each to be accomplished by the end of that year. Then, every year, I try to advance my goals further, which results in growth over time.

Push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone.

When you set a goal, think big. By placing your goals a little further than your current ability, you will set yourself up to stretch. This may cause a feeling of anxiety. Instead, channel that energy to help propel you forward. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone will provide enough challenge to keep you motivated while also being realistic. And if you don’t quite hit your goal, that’s OK. Chances are you still will have grown more than you would have if your goal were less challenging. Surprise yourself!

Get Started and Set Milestones

Once you have all of your goals and tasks and their start and end dates mapped out, you can get started on working toward them. Follow each step you plan for yourself and try your best to stay on track.

The more you do in one direction, the more momentum you gain.

On days when you feel bombarded with work or personal events, push and motivate yourself to follow through with hitting your goals.

It can be helpful to picture how fulfilled and accomplished you’ll feel in the long run once you’ve successfully hit all the goals you’ve set for yourself.

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,

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

“It’s been crazy – busy around here recently.”

“I’m just so slammed!” 

Does this sound like you? 

Unfortunately, these are relatively common phrases I hear from Owners, mid-market CEO’s and Executive Directors alike. All too often, it’s the top excuse for avoiding something significant getting decided or done.

My question: “If we’re all so busy, why is so little getting accomplished?”

Spoiler Alert: If the boss is constantly “too busy,” it fosters a group busyness culture where it becomes the go-to excuse for everyone. After all, it’s being modelled from the top down.

We all know that famous Drucker truism, Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast!

Granted, the prevalence of the Smartphone synced with the emerging Information Economy are all contributing factors to general busyness.

A common complaint from executive leaders and senior managers is that too much time is wasted on pointless interactions that produce energy drain and information overload.

 

The Problem? Connecting and interacting have never been easier. While technology has helped us do many things more efficiently, it hasn’t helped us be 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, Loom and so on.

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

I’ve found that actual value and productivity work best when leaders and their teams collaborate in three essential areas.

 

  • Complex Decision making with robust buy-in
  • Creative solutions and group problem solving
  • Critical information sharing and coordinating efforts

Three Field-Tested Fixes for the “Too Busy” Syndrome 

These are three personal favourites from experience. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Fixing Priorities 

I’m a massive fan of the Eisenhower Matrix. I’ve used it for years, both personally and professionally, to avoid being busy with the wrong things.

If you do a quick search, you’ll get dozens of iterations of this simple but effective tool.

Me? I try to keep the bulk of my priorities in the “Important But Not Urgent” zone.

Fixing Schedule

Earlier in my career, I used to schedule myself at 100% and then flat-out go. As a high achiever who loves productivity, that is just what you do, right?

When inevitable, critical interruptions occur (which happens a lot when working with people), I would be frustrated, annoyed and get way too busy. It wasn’t in the plan.

When I learned to schedule myself at 80%, there was a margin for interruptions. I could be more relaxed because now it was in the plan. My personal productivity didn’t suffer; in fact, it overall improved.

Fixing Choices

It helped a lot when I recognized slowing down was a choice.

It meant saying “no” a lot more.

Often, they were excellent things, but saying yes would push me over into the too busy lane.

Choosing single-tasking over multi-tasking was a much more calming process for me. Much better than having multiple projects with multiple pressure deadlines

How about you ?

Got a personal tip or strategy to combat busyness? Shoot me a quick note. I’d love to hear about it.

I’m sure it would benefit other readers.

 

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. 

 

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

 


Degrees of Truth, Grasping For Reality,

and Why That Concept Still Matters

I love this fight scene from Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

The fictional Black Knight valiantly denies King Arthur from crossing his bridge and loses all of his limbs in the process.

“Tis but a scratch!” – Black Knight

“A scratch? your arm’s off!” – King Arthur.

“No, it isn’t!” – Black Knight,

Well, what’s that then?” – King Arthur

(Black Knight looks down at his detached arm and pauses)

“I’ve had worse.”  

As the battle ensues, the Black Knight is reduced to a trash-talking torso

hollering “I’m invincible” and “Come back here. I’ll bite your legs off!”  

After all, he’s a Black Knight, and everyone knows that Black Knights are totally invincible.

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”.- Oscar Wilde

Take away: Coming to terms with the truth of the situation can sometimes be a painful experience.

It’s said that John Cleese wrote this scene because he hated the saying, “You never really lose until you give up.”

The deadly assault on the Capitol by a bizarre coalition of self-proclaimed

neo-Nazis, white supremacists, camouflaged preppers, Christians, and Viking

wannabe’s, has got to be one of the great head-scratchers of our time.

If you’re anything like me. me you’re wondering, “why are things so haywire?” and “where’s the truth in this situation?”

Everyone wants to believe they’re thinking independently, understanding how things work and why things are happening.

But everyone has only seen the world through the narrow lens of their own experiences and their social network.

There’s a strong force in our human nature that propels us toward interpreting reality in a self-serving and unrealistic way.

There’s an equally strong force that pulls us to conformity.

Demagogues have always understood and exploited this human flaw.

Throw in a compelling storyline that may or may not be true, and suddenly

typically smart people are embracing and defending ideas that range from

goofy to disastrous.

It shows up all over the place.

The same story, again and again.

The best leaders can grasp the reality of situations and take appropriate action for themselves and others. The best leaders also resist self-serving behaviors and mindless conformity.

I really admire that.

To make sure I’m still on track, I revisited my assumptions and framework on the various truth types and how we’re governed by them.

OVERRIDING TRUTHS

“Gravity’s not just a good idea; it’s the law.” Seth Godin

This is one of those absolute, axiomatic truths that just “is.” It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not.

Gravity is the truth that keeps you from spinning off into outer space. You can ignore it, but there’ll be a price to pay.

You can pretend it isn’t true. That also comes at a steep cost.

The same goes for the seasons of the year, death, and taxes.

Takeaway: The same way gravity keeps you grounded, there’s always an

absolute truth that overrides everything else in any given situation.

WORLDVIEW TRUTHS

(Also referred to as personal or experiential truth)  

We all have a worldview, whether we know it or not. It’s the set of our beliefs and assumptions that serve as our personal operating system.

Most kinds of truth we experience are about the past and the present. These are the easiest to see and confirm, but there are also truths about cause and effect. I.e., stove element- hot! Ice cream – yummy! Etc.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” Albert Einstein

We all experience things at our own pace and time. Personal experience truth is the truth that’s mostly determined by you.

How you react and respond can only be seen and reported by you.
It’s how most of us interact with truth most of the time.

As we live out a truth based on experience either through direct or indirect participation

“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.Rita Mae Brown

Take-away: Your worldview is essential, but it can also change as you learn,

change and grow through experience.

MISCELLANEOUS TRUTHS  

Beyond the types mentioned above, there are many perspectives on veracity that fall along a continuum of sorts.

In the strictest sense, truth is provable, objective, and not “opinion.”

“Likely truths.In the sciences, these are called theories. A theory isn’t always right. Instead, it invites skepticism, opinion, debate, and rigorous testing.

A “half-truth” is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The information might be partly accurate but intended to evade, misdirect or lay blame.

“Truthiness,” coined by Stephen Colbert, is a belief or assertion that a particular

statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or

individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or

facts.

Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate

duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions.

Outright BS – (Not the Bachelor of Science ) Well, that’s self-explanatory.

Take away – The more you know yourself and align yourself with facts and reality, the better off you are.

In Summary 

Centuries ago, a famous religious leader declared “the truth shall set you free!”. 

This phrase’s original context and intent refer to spiritual freedom from the bondage of our mortal sins.

“The truth shall set you free” has become part of our common English lexicon.

It is one of those axiomatic truths that has a liberating effect

wherever applied.

This works in business, in relationships, and yes, even in politics.

Yours Truly,

Until next time,

Lorne

Regret Has A Dark Side 

Here Are Three Ways To Overcome It In 2021

Well now. Didn’t see that coming!  Regrettable. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Painful. Difficult.
It’s like the cosmos did a once-in-a-century hit-and-run and there’s no going back to the way things were.

Whether we like it or not, we’re all in some kind of in-between space and dealing with some form of loss.

It’s been a universal public stress test and a very uncomfortable patience-builder.

I firmly believe that we have been changed in profound ways by this year, and probably will continue to be.

Our hopes rise and fall like a yo-yo in tandem with the daily tally of new infections, hospitalizations, deaths, jobless claims, government relief action and inaction, the latest news on therapeutics and vaccines, school opening and closings, and so much more.

Too soon to breathe a collective sigh of relief?

As much as I’d like for that to happen, I think we’re still in for more uncertainty at least for a while longer.

You see, I’m writing as much to myself as anyone else.

I resolved a long time ago to live life with as few regrets as possible.
How’s that going?

Pretty much OK, but I’ve got to admit, the impact of the past year has brought this area back into sharp focus.

Regret comes up a lot. It is a recurring conversation theme with many of my colleagues, clients, friends, and acquaintances.

No one seems immune. It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and coming professional or a hardworking barista, sooner or later you encounter the effects of cumulative loss.

Personal freedoms lost. Opportunities lost. Health or income losses. Time lost. Pandemic fatigue is real and I think we’re all allowed the occasional crank-out or bout of cynicism.

Even the indomitable Michelle Obama is admitting to low-grade depression due to quarantine.

The long term effects of regret (a form of grieving) are well documented. Not only is it detrimental to our mental health, but it also has physiological effects as well.

The litany of nasty side effects can include sleeplessness, heart disease, diabetes, addiction, and eating disorders.

How To Face Regrets Head On 

Practice Intentional Change Adaptation 

Innumerable changes have been foisted on us and there are numerous rationales we feed ourselves that make us resistant to change.

How many times have we needed to “pivot” in 2020? (plans changed, course reversed, gears shifted, etc.)

We all know people who haven’t been able to change with the times. Sooner or later they slide into irrelevance.

Our brains are just wired to prefer the familiar.

The good news here is that we can be intentional about metabolizing change. How we feel about it is less relevant than trying to understand why the change is needed, then make the necessary personal or professional adjustments.

Another piece of good news is the more you engage with change the easier it becomes. Keeping a clear sense of personal mission and an end goal in mind makes moving through changes easier.

Fighting the irrelevance that comes with not changing helps keep things on track in the face of discouragement, delays, and setbacks.

Have A Self-Care Routine That Works 

Well-being is a key aspect of living a truly successful, satisfying life even through challenging times. What does that actually mean?

It means tapping into a daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm that supports your health and well-being.

It should, at the bare minimum, include getting enough sleep, fresh air, recreation, and a balanced allocation of time and activity in the seven areas of optimal living (Body, Mind, Spirit, Work, Love, Play, Money)

Body – Our energy levels, diet, stamina and strength, sufficient sleep.

Mind – The ability to focus and learn new things.

Spirit- Care for that intangible life force at the core of our existence.

Work- Meaningful and financially rewarding career, business, or profession.

Love- The quality of our relationships.

Money- How we utilize finances.

Play – Our recreational options.

All of these areas are vital to our existence. If even one of these areas is short-changed, or out of whack, personal well-being gets messed up pretty quickly.

Lead With Gratitude 

This actually works if you dig in and do it.

There’s plenty of scientific data to back it up.

In his book, A Simple Act of Gratitude author John Kralik set out to write 365 thank-you notes over the course of a year.

Initially, he did it as a way to feel less hopeless during a time when he wasn’t sure his life was worth living. But with each letter he wrote and tracked, he was able to literally count his blessings.

At the same time, the act of sitting down each day with pen and paper helped to retrain his brain to focus more on the good things in life and less on the bad.

But Kralik didn’t just write letters. He also made a practice of answering simple “how-are-you?” with things he was grateful for rather than complaints.

“Gratitude gives us a break from regret and despair”

Personally, I’ve found that gratitude gets me out of my own self-absorbed head, and soon it becomes just plain fun.

It is so much more helpful than focussing on all the ways life is unjust or imperfect.

Does that mean I’m turning a blind eye to poverty, racism, social justice, climate change, and other important issues?

Nope.

Color me weird, but gratitude regularly reminds me of the important things I’m standing for, fighting for, and want to see change.

It also is a great way to sustain and build relationships. Relationships are necessary for any good fight. We can’t be in this alone. Telling people that we value them and their contributions is the very least we can do.

For me, giving thanks each day has made truly tough times more bearable. For that, I’m thankful.

Thanks also for the important work you do!

Until next time,

Lorne

 

2020: Blessed, Stressed, and Downright Hard.
(Revisiting The Big Why ) 

Too soon to debrief 2020?
C’mon, admit it. You’ve been thinking about that as well.
It wasn’t as though you didn’t have a plan. Getting lambasted by massive upheaval has seen a lot of plans, hopes, and dreams go flying out the window.
(not to mention jobs and in some instances, personal and mental health, and well-being)

LEADERSHIP IS HARD 
Finding personal motivation for hanging in there when the going is particularlychallenging is a key to forming resilience.
Having a clear personal reason for leading—a  “Big Why”—is not only a good strategy but it’s the secret sauce for developing sustainable resilience and tenacity that perseveres when resistance arises.
Usually, I’m pretty resilient. My rear-view mirror “take” on this past year is like that great line from the 1976 flick Gumball Rally.
(1st rule of Italian driving)
“What’s a behind me,…. is not important!
For whatever reason, when I face the worst, it fires me up to become positive, driven, and eager to be part of building a better solution.
On the other hand, the monumental difficulties of this last year have caused the empath part of me to be working double overtime.
I need to hit the pause button every once and a while to remind myself and those around me, that there are still a lot of good things going on and we can we live hopefully and with courage in this coming year.

Author Simon Sinek burst onto the public scene making one point: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” in his TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” (52 million views), Sinek lays out his view that the key to bringing change is to “start with ‘why.’” Your inner motivation or purpose is directly linked to rallying others to buy-in to a cause.

START WITH WHY
In the talk he draws a diagram of three circles; the center circle is labeled “why” and two outer rings are labeled “what” and “how.” “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he says. The key factor for bringing change to the world is not in the strategies (the what) or the tactics (the how) but in the motivation (the why). For Sinek, the key to unlocking change is to find those people who share at the center of their being your same central beliefs and motivations and engage them in joining you.

Leadership, at its core, is about gathering people together to create value, in order to accomplish or produce something worthwhile that needs to be done. That mission is usually focused on a need or pain point that if addressed, benefits everyone, and makes our world a better place.

In this way, leadership is born not of the desire to lead but—at the center of our being—a desire to serve others in light of the painful realities of the world. It flows not from a desire to achieve, succeed, or accomplish, but to serve others at the point of real need and in turn experience that as one’s own calling.

For most of us, this is straightforward enough. For those of us whose leadership is characterized by words like transformation and mission, we are eager to make a difference and meet those needs. It’s a big part of how success is measured on our scorecard.

The prolonged Pandemic threat has had a blunt-force-blessing effect by forcing an examination of the status quo, plus adding some new perspectives.
Existential threats tend to do that.

  • The business world as we know it is transforming and resizing.

  • We’re personally needing to adapt, transform, and resize our worlds as well, to accommodate imposed changes.

  • Relationships have taken on fresh new meaning and value.

  • Simplicity, complexity, and uncertainty seem to cheerfully co-exist everywhere.

  • Usefulness and people’s time have become a new form of currency.

As I engage with executives and leaders, the recurring themes are eerily familiar; Survive, stay together, deal with rampant anxiety, regain a market share, return an organization to sustainability, or even “save the company.” The question before any leader of an organization is to “save the company for what?”

Fact is, the end-user of whatever product or service you work hard to produce, may not care all that much if your organization survives.

What they do care about is if you care about them!

Resilient leaders endure through resistance because of the deep care they have for people in pain in the world and the deep belief that their organization, institution, or company is meant to meet that need. The Big Why (Purpose) is both critical for an effective strategy and vital for forming the resilience to see it through.

It’s All About Purpose 
One of the best statements of “Purpose” comes from the ubiquitous Agent Smith character in Matrix Reloaded. I always liked Smith’s banal politeness, even while he’s trying to kill you.

“There’s no escaping reason, no denying purpose, for as we both know, without purpose we would not exist.
It is purpose that created us,
 purpose that connects us,
purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us;
it is purpose that defines, purpose that binds us.”
Agent Smith

I doubt if Mr. Sinek could say it any better.

Thinking It Through 
How would you describe your personal “Big Why”?
What is your deepest reason for life and service?
What is your motivation for developing resilience as a leader?
How does your ‘Big Why’ help you face the challenges that come from leading and serving other people?

Until next time.
Lorne