March 12, 2020.

That date will be forever burned into my memory.

That morning, I was invited to give an address to a group of Charity and Non-Profit Executives.

It was an informal Mastermind group of CEOs who met periodically for a whole morning of learning and mutual support. A number of them were long-time acquaintances and business colleagues.

While honoured to be there, I was also a bit nervous and wanted to bring my “A” game.

The organizers allowed for a generous presentation time and ample time following the Q&A dialogue. My topic was “Developing a Change-Ready Organization.”

This was a topic of personal interest, plus I’d had success in implementing what I was talking about.

Not long after I began, I noticed various members furtively glancing at their cell phone screens. A few others were ducking out and having animated cell phone conversations in the hallways and the parking lot outside.

The World Health Organization declared a Global Pandemic late the previous day. Some attendees were running healthcare organizations and seniors’ residential care facilities.

Unspoken panic was in the air.

The great shutdown had begun.

Quite unintentionally, my presentation became prophetic in nature.

Everyone was scrambling to deal with massive workplace changes that were unfolding in real time before our eyes.

Since then, we’ve all had front-row seats watching how the pandemic has brought about significant changes in all sectors. Leaders have been compelled to adapt to a rapidly evolving environment.

The changes that have emerged proved to be more than just temporary adjustments.

They have become a new way of living, working, and, of course, leading.

As we navigate the post-pandemic world, the leadership practices that emerged during this period are proving to be more than temporary adjustments.

Here are three of the most impactful changes I’ve observed that have shaped, and continue to shape, effective leadership:

New Emphasis On Organizational Culture: Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Kindness and empathy always stay in style in my books.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought this into sharp focus in new ways. As our world faced unprecedented challenges, leaders were compelled to acknowledge the widespread stress, uncertainty, and personal difficulties experienced by those around them.

This shift demanded a “culture of care” for work colleagues’ mental health and well-being.

Leaders who were capable of genuine empathy and support were able to foster stronger connections within their teams. This helped boost morale and contributed to a more resilient workforce. By recognizing and addressing the mental health needs of those in their care, these leaders cultivated an environment of trust and mutual respect.

Empathy and emotional intelligence also helped enhance communication and collaboration within organizations. Leaders who actively listened to colleagues and co-workers were equipped to provide the necessary support and resources.

This responsiveness helped to alleviate anxiety and uncertainty in the face of turbulent circumstances.

Furthermore, emphasizing empathy and emotional intelligence led to more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures.

Leaders who “baked in” these values were more likely to implement policies and practices that promoted work-life balance, mental health resources, and flexible working arrangements.

Leaders had to acknowledge the stress, uncertainty, and personal challenges faced by their teams. This shift required a deeper understanding and attentiveness to employees’ mental health and well-being. Leaders who demonstrated genuine empathy and support fostered stronger connections and a more resilient workforce.

Flexibility, Availability and Adaptability:

The pandemic-driven transformations in the workplace put flexibility, availability, and adaptability at the forefront of effective leadership.The sudden shift to remote work and constantly evolving health guidelines demanded unparalleled agility from leaders across all sectors.

Organizations had to transition to remote work almost overnight.

I worked with leaders who had to devise and implement new strategies quickly to maintain productivity and engagement.

Traditional decision-making and problem-solving approaches, which relied on routines and in-person interactions, had to become more dynamic.

Leaders were required to think on their feet and make rapid adjustments to accommodate the crisis’s fluid nature. This involved reevaluating priorities, reallocating resources, and redesigning workflows for the new remote work environment.

Flexibility became a critical attribute for leaders navigating this landscape. They had to be open to new ways of working and willing to experiment with different approaches to find what worked best for their teams.

Leaders who demonstrated flexibility by allowing flexible working hours, offering remote work options, and providing additional support resources helped their teams adapt more smoothly to the new normal.

Availability also emerged as a critical factor in effective leadership during this period. With teams dispersed across different locations and time zones, leaders needed to be more accessible than ever before. Regular check-ins, virtual office hours, and open lines of communication became essential in ensuring that employees felt supported and connected.
Leaders who made themselves available for their teams, offering guidance and addressing concerns in real-time, fostered a sense of continuity and stability amidst the uncertainty.

Adaptability is the most crucial attribute that enabled leaders to steer their organizations through the turbulent times brought about by the pandemic.

Those who could pivot quickly and effectively manage change were better positioned to navigate the challenges and seize new opportunities.

This adaptability was evident in the swift adoption of digital tools and platforms that facilitated remote work, virtual collaboration, and online customer engagement. Leaders who embraced these strategies maintained business continuity and drove digital transformation initiatives that positioned their organizations for future success.

Moreover, the emphasis on adaptability extended to strategic planning and execution. Leadership teams had to continually reassess their strategies, often shifting focus to address emerging trends and changing market dynamics.

Purpose and Values-Driven Leadership: A New Imperative in the Post-Pandemic World

This may be one of those “Well, Duh!” observations, but that does not make it less true.

Organizations with strong, values-driven leadership fared much better throughout the pandemic than those with fuzzy purpose and values.

I tend to think this was true both before and after the crisis.

As circumstances unfolded, there was much angst and turmoil driven by the heightened expectations of stakeholders and funders.

Employees, customers, investors, and the broader community began to demand that organizations not only navigate the challenges of the pandemic but also contribute positively to societal issues.

This shift placed a premium on leaders who clearly articulate and embody their organization’s purpose and values. Such leaders were able to inspire and engage their teams more effectively by providing a sense of direction and meaning amidst the chaos.

New hires were no longer content with simply working for a pay check; they want to be part of organizations that stand for something larger than themselves.

My Gen-Z work colleagues want to have a clear and positive impact on society!

The new expectation became that leaders consistently convey how their organizations were contributing to the greater good.

Sometimes, this is through charitable initiatives, sustainable business practices, or efforts to support public health and safety.

This communication has to be authentic and transparent, as stakeholders are quick to discern any discrepancies between a company’s stated values and its actions.

DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) criteria needed to be championed and integrated into policies and planning.

Numerous emerging studies now show how emphasizing purpose and values-driven leadership has led to a more inclusive and socially responsible way of doing business.

This holistic approach to business, which balanced profit with purpose, has become a key differentiator in the competitive landscape.

As we all transition into the post-pandemic world, the importance of purpose and values-driven leadership remains paramount.

To wrap this up:

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about profound leadership shifts. Empathy, flexibility, adaptability, and purpose-driven values are not just temporary adjustments but foundational elements for future success.

To succeed, you and I must continue prioritizing these qualities to inspire teams, drive innovation, and build resilient organizations. Embrace these lessons learned and commit to fostering a culture of care, agility, and purpose.

Let’s help shape the future of leadership together!

Until next time!

“If you don’t know where you’re going any road will do”

  Lewis Carroll

 

The Art of Personal Strategy

Hey there! Have you ever wondered how some people seem to navigate life’s complexities with grace and foresight? Well, the secret might lie in having a personal strategy. It’s not just some fancy business jargon but a practical, versatile tool for everyone.

Think of it as your very own GPS for life, guiding you through the winding roads and unexpected detours with confidence and clarity.

The Essence of Personal Strategy

A personal strategy isn’t just a to-do list or a set of New Year’s resolutions that fade by February.

It’s a comprehensive plan that aligns your deepest values, strengths, and goals with the reality of your everyday life. It’s about knowing where you want to go and having a realistic and flexible plan to get there.

Why Personal Strategy is a Game-Changer

Imagine sailing through life’s storms with a sturdy vessel under your feet.

That’s what a personal strategy offers. It equips you to make decisions that are not just reactive but proactive. It’s about being the author of your life story, not just a character swept along by the plot.

Adapting Business Strategy Frameworks for Personal Mastery

Here are three of my favourite Strategy Frameworks that I use in various business settings.

Each tool is designed to address different aspects of a problem.

A good general purpose framework is the tried and true SWOT analysis. This examines Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

An external analysis framework that has emerged in recent years is PEST. Political factors, Economic factors, Social aspects and Technology.

A third tool I like is the McKinsey 7S. This assesses internal factors. They are Strategy, Structure, Systems. Shared values, Staff, Skills, and Style.

It’s not too big a leap for these business strategy frameworks to be adapted and used for developing personal strategies.

 

  1. SWOT Analysis – Your Personal Consultant: This is where you sit down with yourself and get brutally honest. What are you great at (Strengths)? Where could you use some work (Weaknesses)? What opportunities are knocking at your door? What threats should you be wary of? It’s like having a heart-to-heart with your most trusted advisor.
  1. PEST Analysis – Your Life Detective: This framework makes you an investigator in your own life. How do political upheavals affect your career path? What economic trends should you be aware of? Are social changes influencing your life choices? And how does technology play into all this? It’s about seeing your life in the context of the larger world around you.
  1. McKinsey 7S – Your Internal Symphony Conductor: Here, you’re orchestrating the various elements of your life to create a harmonious symphony. Are your personal goals (Strategy) in tune with your daily practices (Systems)? Do your relationships (Staff) reflect your core beliefs (Shared Values)? It’s about ensuring each part of your life plays the right note at the right time.

Historical Examples: Strategic Greats and Their Life Lessons

  1. Abraham Lincoln: The Strategy of Resilience- Lincoln’s life was a tapestry of triumphs and tribulations. His resilience in the face of personal and political challenges is legendary. He transformed his weaknesses into strengths, turned threats into opportunities, and ultimately changed the course of history. Lincoln’s journey is a powerful reminder that understanding and leveraging our personal SWOT can lead to extraordinary achievements.
  1. Marie Curie: Strategy in the Face of Adversity- Curie’s relentless pursuit of knowledge in a male-dominated field was nothing short of revolutionary. She navigated the social and technological landscape of her time with unwavering determination. Her life is a testament to how a deep understanding of the broader PEST factors can fuel breakthroughs, even in the most challenging circumstances.
  1. Nelson Mandela: The Strategy of Unification and Transformation – Mandela’s life is a profound study in the McKinsey 7S framework. His Strategy was the eradication of apartheid and the establishment of a democratic South Africa. His Style was characterized by forgiveness and reconciliation. Mandela’s Skills in leadership and negotiation, coupled with his Shared Values of equality and justice, were instrumental in transforming not just a political system but an entire nation’s psyche.

We have a strategic plan. It’s called ‘doing things’.

Herb Kelleher

Crafting Your Personal Strategy

How can you take these historical insights and weave them into your life tapestry? Start by doing a SWOT analysis on yourself. Reflect on the PEST factors shaping your world. Align your personal 7S – from your ambitions to your daily routines. The goal is to create a strategy that is as unique and dynamic as you are.

Bringing It All Together: Living Strategically

Creating a personal strategy is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process of reflection, adjustment, and growth. It’s about being mindful of the lessons from the past while staying agile and adaptable for the future. It’s about embracing change, celebrating progress, and always striving for alignment between your inner world and the outer reality.

Your Year of Strategic Living

As we embark on this journey of strategic living, let’s draw inspiration from the greats, adapt their wisdom to our modern lives, and write our own stories with intention and insight. Remember, the best strategy is the one that resonates with your unique journey and helps you navigate the complexities of life with confidence and purpose. Here’s to a year of insightful planning, bold moves, and rewarding achievements!

Until next time.

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….

 

Photo by Johan Godinez on Unsplash

Saying “yes” to something significant in life or business can be downright daunting.

It requires a leap of faith, a willingness to face the unknown, and an inner conviction that it is the right thing to do. It can be scary, especially when we are accustomed to saying “no” to opportunities that push us outside our comfort zones. However, when we muster the courage to say “yes,” we open the door to a range of possibilities that can transform our lives in ways we never imagined.

Here are five transformative  things that happen when you’re inspired to say “yes” to something significant in life or business:

Overcoming the Predominant Human Tendency to Say No

The first and perhaps the most significant thing that happens when you say “yes” to something important is that you overcome the predominant human tendency to say “no.”

We are predisposed to seek comfort, security, and familiarity. We avoid risks and stick with what we know. Communicating “yes” requires stepping out of our comfort zones and facing the unknown. It is a powerful act of courage that can be transformative in itself.

Overcoming Misgivings and Fear of the Unknown

Saying “yes” can also help you overcome misgivings and fear of the unknown.

Of course, it is natural to have doubts and reservations when facing something new and unfamiliar.

However, saying “yes” means acknowledging and facing those doubts and fears head-on. It requires a willingness to take risks and push through the discomfort. By doing so, you can develop resilience, self-confidence, and a sense of empowerment that can carry you through other challenges in life.

Overcoming Self-Doubt

Saying “yes” can also help you overcome self-doubt. Self-doubt is a common human experience and can be a significant barrier to personal growth and success. It can cause us to question our abilities, worth, and capacity for change.

Saying “yes” to something highly important requires believing in yourself and your potential. It means recognizing your strengths and your ability to learn and grow. You can develop a greater sense of self-confidence and self-esteem by taking action despite self-doubt.

Aligning with Your Values

Saying “yes” to something significant also requires aligning with your values. Values are the guiding principles that shape our decisions and actions in life. We feel a sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment when we align with our values.

Saying “yes” to something that aligns with your values can give you a sense of direction and purpose that can be transformative in and of itself. It can help you stay focused and motivated even when faced with challenges and setbacks.

You Create Opportunities for Success

Saying yes to something new and important creates opportunities for success. By taking on new challenges and expanding our skills and knowledge, we increase our chances of achieving our goals. We create new networks and connections that can open doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

Opportunities for personal growth and betterment can have a ripple effect on all areas of our lives. We become more engaged and fulfilled in our personal and professional relationships. We are more likely to take on leadership roles and make a positive impact in our communities. We become more empathetic and understanding of others, and we develop a greater sense of compassion and gratitude.

Success is not always guaranteed when we say yes to something new, but by taking on new challenges, we increase our chances of success. We learn to be more resilient in the face of failure and setbacks, and we become more persistent in the pursuit of our goals.

Figuring it Out

Of course, saying “yes” is just the first step. Then comes the fun part of “figuring it out”.

Once you have committed to something significant, you will likely face various challenges and obstacles. You may have to figure out how to navigate unfamiliar terrain, learn new skills, or overcome unexpected setbacks.

My wife loves the challenges of living off the grid for several months of the year.- particularly the figuring it out part.

 She’s found that problem solving in this setting can be an enriching and gratifying experience. It requires creativity and a willingness to adapt and change course when necessary.

In Conclusion

It’s a principle I strive to live by: say “yes”, then figure it out.

Life and leadership lessons can be found in the most unexpected places, even in a lighthearted family movie like “Yes Day.”

While saying “yes” to everything in real life could lead to disastrous consequences, the film highlights the importance of flexibility, compromise, and the power of saying “yes” to new experiences.

As a leader, it’s crucial to be open to new ideas and be willing to try different approaches. However, it’s also important to set boundaries and communicate effectively to avoid chaos.

 Also, opportunities in real life don’t come gift-wrapped in safe, comfortable, packages. They usually require  that you commit first, then do whatever is necessary to ensure that your effort is successful.

Ultimately, “Yes Day” teaches us to find a balance between saying “yes” to opportunities and knowing when to say “no” to protect ourselves and those around us.

How about you? What opportunity is in front of you right now that feels a little intimidating? Is there any place where you need to say yes, then figure it out?

Until next time ….

PS – If you wind up saying “yes” too much, you may want to read The Too Busy Trap

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

                                           YOUR THREE WORDS – GOT ‘EM YET?

I was recently invited to speak to a group of Real Estate professionals about “What Success Looks Like For You.” The organizers asked me to share based on my decades of business and leadership experience.

This presentation was a part of their annual planning and strategy for their business. 

Having begun my year-end review, this request was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the ups and downs of my own leadership adventure.

The funny thing is that after my seventy-plus trips around the sun, I don’t have any particular strong  feelings about being successful. 

I know the alternative really sucks, so it’s more about having a “success journey” than having arrived.

Examples of “success” in any field if examined, come after a ton of hard work, sacrifices made and obstacles overcome over extended periods of time.

I wrote more about that here  if you’re interested.

Admittedly, there are some very cool things I was privileged to be a part of. Even got some recognition along the way.

However, what jazzes me the most is navigating the here and now while looking ahead with a strategic intent to whatever is next. (hence the Blogpost title- Hey, What’s Next!)

All the people I regard as successful have found the fulfillment of a calling,  – something deeply personal and meaningful that energizes them and keeps them going.

My “more vintage” perspective is that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, winning/losing and sense of calling never stops. 

Much of life and leadership success is keeping going with what you love and capitalizing on second chances.

As long as we are still topside, till the very end, there is always another chance. 

That’s why I love each New Year. 

It allows me to see things from a fresh perspective, set the tone and make room for change.

Back To The Presentation:

After some personal introductions, it was obvious that I was with a group of bright, motivated business practitioners who were highly committed to their craft. 

They had already achieved what most would consider a fair measure of success. 

When I asked the question about their “why,” they all had a remarkably similar response.

Foremost was a genuine love for service to others with their particular skill set.

 Beyond that, a deep appreciation for their co-workers and a vibrant workplace culture that drew them in and kept them there. 

A third aspect was the personal freedom that this line of work afforded. 

Their responses aligned closely with the Japanese concept of “Ikigai” (pronounced ee-kee-guy), which roughly translates to “the thing you live for” or “purpose, meaning, or calling.”

It’s much more nuanced and robust than the North American concept of pursuing your dream or following your passion. 

It answers four basic questions 1. What do you love doing? 2. What are you really good at? 3. What does the world around you need? 4. What can the world pay you for? 

Finding Success In My Calling 

I re-assess my calling every year. It’s a part of my “three-word” exercise.

Some folks stress about “finding their calling. “

In my instance, it was my calling that found me. 

I’m a builder at heart. As a kid, I had a fascination with building things.

Whether it was building a tree fort, an airplane from an apple crate, or a box kite so big it would lift me off the ground. That one really freaked my parents out.

The point is I loved building things. 

After some vocational detours into teaching and marketing, I settled into a career in building things. Houses, stores and restaurants, apartments, you name it. I loved the whole process of providing people with a home.

Then a career-ending injury forced a change of plans.

For quite some time, I felt devastated and at times, quite despondent.

Gradually, with the help of influential friends and mentors, I discovered that the basics of being a good builder were readily transferable to building other things. 

Opportunities and second chances came knocking. I had the privilege of working with others to build entire organizations, systems, and communities. 

Fast forward to the present.

While circumstances and venues might change, the calling hasn’t changed.

As an Executive Coach and Consultant, I can co-create, scale up, and build things together with others.

Make Room for Change 

That’s what the annual Three Words are about.

My challenge every January is to come up with three words representing the year’s strategic directions. It may sound simple, but it can be challenging. Two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three words are about right.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. Instead, it’s a way to incorporate a small success habit by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in the coming year.

That’s why I’ve thoughtfully selected three words that will serve as keys to my year. If you’re still getting familiar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started this in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just plug in #my3words and see what others are doing.

My Process

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

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

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

That’s always helpful.

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

My Approach

I 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 center, pointing me toward my goals and grounding me in the interim work needed to achieve them.

Here Goes

My words are keys to positive change in the coming year.

I’ve settled on:

1. BUILD

2. RECONNECT

3. BREAKTHROUGH

Build: It’s a noun and a verb that packs some intention into what I do. Builder fits my role as a coach and consultant. My job is to come alongside my colleagues and clients, survey the landscape, lay a sure foundation, assess risks, recommend paths of action, and start following the blueprint. It fits my calling, and that makes sense.

It’s in my DNA. Sometimes it’s people or a team that needs building. Sometimes it’s a physical structure. But, of course, that’s always fun too.

Reconnect: This is self-explanatory. The circumstances of the past several years have meant I’ve lost touch with way too many folks. I’ve always relied on the benefits of networking. It’s so much more than developing valuable contacts. Networking gives me access to something bigger—the insights and knowledge of others. These insights, in turn, can spark creative thinking, leading to new ideas, products, and solutions. Who can say no to that?

Breakthrough: There are some long-term situations that I’ve been working on where things haven’t materialized the way I hoped. This one’s the hardest for me to explain because it’s personal. Achieving a personal breakthrough can be a challenging process, but it is also very gratifying. We’re all unique, so the steps to a personal breakthrough will look different for everyone, including me. Timing is also different for everyone, so it may need patience. Meanwhile, I’ll maintain a positive mindset, surround myself with a supportive network and hang in there.

This one is the most complicated of all 3, but it’ll make for an exciting year if it happens.

Review Them Daily

The more you review your 3 words, the better. They help me decide stuff. For example, “Should I say yes to this project?” or “Well, how does this align with my intent?”

What Are your Words for 2023?

It’s your turn:

1. Please send me a note or share it wherever you like.

2. Use the hashtag #my3words to find other people’s shared experiences, and if you’re a last-minute person, don’t worry.

3. Start when you’re ready.

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

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.

 

When Life Gets Upended

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effective Self Leadership When Life Gets Upended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then things can rapidly become disorienting and destabilizing for us.

What’s different about the last two years?

The pandemic represents a massive, collective life quake.

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

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

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

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

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

Some ideas and strategies for effective self-leadership:

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

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

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

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

Pause for a moment and take your bearings.

Just consider how extraordinary and gloriously unlikely your

circumstances may be right now.

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

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

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

Be honest with yourself about how change is affecting you.

Make room for a wide range of emotions from others.

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

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

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

  • Celebrate the smallest of wins! 

Take things (and days) one at a time.

Focus on the things that truly matter and bring you joy

Find ways to help and support others less fortunate.

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

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

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

You’ve got this!

Until next time- Lorne