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!

 

Just the other day, I caught myself reminiscing about the good old days of floppy disks and dial-up internet.

Ah, that ding-ding sound of “You’ve Got Mail!”

But, as much as I love a good jog down memory lane, I’m grateful for the progress we’ve made.

Thanks to our rapidly evolving digital landscape, we now have access to an abundance of knowledge at our fingertips.

So, what better way to “carpe’ the diem” than by becoming a lifelong learner?

The Lifelong Learner:

I recently came across a fascinating PDF (which I will refer to as the “The Lifelong Learner”)

The article eloquently and succinctly highlighted the important benefits of embracing learning throughout our lives.

The document reveals that lifelong learning not only enhances our personal and professional lives but also contributes to our overall well-being.

I already know what you’re thinking:

“Great, another thing to add to my never-ending to-do list.”

But fear not, my fellow knowledge-seekers!

The beauty of lifelong learning is that it can be pursued in a variety of ways – from attending workshops to reading books to listening to podcasts.

It doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be an enjoyable journey of growth and self-discovery.
As the renowned Albert Einstein once said,

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

This sentiment perfectly encapsulates the essence of lifelong learning.

The Zone of Proximal Development:

Coined by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the ZPD is the sweet spot between what we can do independently and what we can achieve with guidance.

In other words, it’s where the magic happens!

Initially the Zone of Proximal Development referred to early childhood learning where it provided  a framework for teaching tailored to each child’s individual needs.

By identifying a child’s Zone of Proximal Development, teachers and parents could provide appropriate challenges and support to help the child learn and develop new skills.

The concept of  ZPD is equally applicable to leadership development in adults!

In this context, the Zone of Proximal Development is the range of skills and abilities that a leader can develop with the help of a mentor or coach.

Just like in early childhood learning, learning in the Zone of Proximal Development in leadership development requires a balance between challenge and support.

The ZPD  concept perfectly aligns with the idea of lifelong learning, as it encourages us to continually push our boundaries and seek new challenges.

As an Executive Leadership Coach, I often witness the power of the ZPD firsthand.

Picture this: A seasoned executive, initially reluctant to embrace new technologies, suddenly finds herself leading a team of digital natives.

With a little guidance and support, she flourishes in her newfound ZPD and becomes an innovative force within her company.

Voilà – a lifelong learner in action!

From Experience:

Now, if you’re still not sold on the idea of lifelong learning, let me share a personal experience.

A few years back, at what some might consider a “more distinguished” age, I wanted to up my game skills in the area of videography and independent film-making.

I enrolled in some part-time courses at a well-known international film school.

Here I found myself surrounded by a group of enthusiastic twenty-something creatives.

They came with all the add-ons like tats, piercings, and unusual coloured hair.`
(Disclaimer- just reporting, No judgement here)

There I was, the proverbial “old dog” learning new tricks. My much younger counterparts acted as both my guides and fellow students.

This personal adventure taught me a lot about cross-generational laughing and learning.

My younger colleagues and I bonded over our shared passion for life, good coffee, and storytelling.

Our differences in age, experience, and perspective only enriched the process.

Today, I’m glad to say that I’m still in touch with friends from that learning cohort.

We continue to support and inspire each other in our creative pursuits.

As the celebrated author and motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, put it,

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”

My Call to Action:

So, my fellow aspiring lifelong learners, let’s embrace the journey and dive headfirst into the Zone of Proximal Development.

Whether it’s picking up a new language, exploring a new hobby, or mastering the latest technology, remember that the pursuit of knowledge knows no age or bounds.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a short screenplay to write.

Lights, Camera, …Action!  (I always get kick out of saying that )

Until next time.

 

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

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!

 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,

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling With Resistance

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

It usually involves people balking at change.

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

Circumstances unexpectedly change, and plans become come unravelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m talking about change.

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

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

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

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

You can only make them feel less threatened by it.

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

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

There’s “emotional’ resistance.

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

It often isn’t logical.

There’s “political” resistance.

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

Rolling With Resistance – What Doesn’t Work

Ramping up persuasions usually backfires and increases resistance.

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

Arguing or pushing back – forget it.

Rolling With Resistance – What Does Work

Override the strong urge to “set things right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does it always work? No guarantees.

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

Until next time.

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

Finding Focus  Marc Kleen (Unsplash)

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

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

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

At least in my part of the world.

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

Then extreme wildfires. BC Wildfires 2021

Then extreme flooding. B.C Flooding  

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are My 3 Words About?

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

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

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

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

My Process

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

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

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

That’s always helpful.

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

My Approach

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

Here Goes

 

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

So far, I’ve settled on:

1. GUIDE

2. CO-CREATE

3. DEMONSTRATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Them Daily

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

What Are your Words for 2022?

It’s your turn:

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

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

Until next time.