Category Archives for creative and leadership

7 Productivity Habits of Highly Sustainable Leaders

Your brain is not designed to hold ideas, your brain is designed to have ideas.” – Robert Allen, ‘Getting Things Done”

Are you paid to be productive, to think, prioritize and make the right decisions quickly?  If you want avoid burning up or burning out, you’ll need to preserve your greatest asset:  Your brain!left-brain-right-brain1-283x300

An informal survey of 150 senior managers who participated in the most recent Sustainable Leaders Strategic Planning workshop revealed the biggest challenge they faced was “having too much to do in too little time with fewer resources than ever before… and having to make the right decisions quickly.”

The often unbelievable demands to be both highly productive and accurate bombard us daily.  What’s different? The speed with which business must get done today is light years faster than even 15 or 20 years ago.  In many industries (technology), change happens too quickly and if you only strive to keep up, you will be out of business faster than you can say “Buck Rogers.”

There are only 24 hours in a day and you cannot create “more time” in a day.  The solution for most is to work longer and harder to get the job done.  The only problem with that solution is that it is a recipe for burn out.

Let’s break the rules and shift your perspective consider this:  Time is a limited resource and energy is an infinitely unlimited resource.  You cannot create more time.  You can, however, create more energy by taking control not only of your time, but where your attention is within that time frame.

My personal observation is that productive and sustainable leaders who feel happy and satisfied at the end of each day actively focus on BOTH how much they DO and DON’T DO to conserve brain power and leverage energy successfully.

Here are the 7 Productivity Habits of Highly Successful & Sustainable Leaders (who feel satisfied and have peace of mind at the end of the day):

#1.  Be Selfish With Your Time

Say “No” 100 times for every time you say “Yes.” If saying “No” is hard for you (as it is for most people), add “No, thank you” so you can get the added benefit of being grateful and appreciative, if not polite.

#2.   Avoid Multitasking

The latest studies in brain based learning prove that multitasking is not only impossible (we switch attention, our brains are incapable of focusing on two things at once), but to make matters worse, the reduction in accuracy for even the “best multi-tasker” doing the simplest of tasks is almost 50%.  Pretty scary when you think about the complex tasks you do simultaneously (driving a car, talking on a cell phone or talking on the phone and typing an email response).  Try to focus on doing one thing at a time.  Notice how much less time it takes, especially because you don’t run the risk of hitting “send” prematurely then spending time on damage control.

#3.  Listen More … Talk Less

Bottom line, people will feel heard and be able to find their own solutions more easily without unnecessary interference from you.  And, you will conserve your brain power for more important challenges that lie ahead.

#4.  Delegate and Leverage OPE (Other People’s Energy)leverage stress

When you delegate, trust and offer challenges to people, not only will it benefit you, but also they’ll feel better about you if you do.  We all know the importance of delegating so that you aren’t seen as the control freak in the corner office.  But did you know that when you delegate responsibilities and tasks (with their buy in of course), the meta-message (as long as the deadline is reasonable or they are involved in setting the deadline) or message under the message, is “trust.”  The receiver feels you believe in them enough to give them the opportunity to rise to the challenge.  Win win.

#5.  Prioritize Prioritizing

Indecision happens when we have too many thoughts getting stuck in or out of sequence in the cognitive pipeline.  Often we can get thoughts flowing again when we ask ourselves “What’s the one most important thing that needs to be decided and acted upon before that decision can be made?”

Whether you are a list maker or mind map fan, get every thought bouncing around inside of your head OUT of your head and onto paper, a whiteboard or computer program you are in the habit of checking or using regularly (“Freemind” is a simple and free example).  Robert Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is a must read for “How To’s” when it comes to being more productive so you can take quick, effective action.

#6.  Take Frequent Breaks

The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC for short) is the part of your brain responsible for your ability to avoid distraction, make decisions, reason, understand and memorize.  Think of it as powered by rechargeable batteries, not a 220v power cord plugged into an outlet in the wall.  It needs frequent recharging (among other ingredients) in order for high performance.  Taking a short 20 minute walk inside or outside your office building at the most hectic time of day will not only benefit your metabolism and your waistline, but also your brain.  Try shutting off your brain for 5 minutes just two or three times a day, talk to a co-worker about a non-related subject (this is probably why gossip is so enticing), play a game of angry birds or juggle.

#7.  Practice Mindfulness vs. Mindlessnesshanding_down_the_key_pc_1600_wht (1) - Copy

Think of how many “mindless” automatic patterns you have every day.  Repeatedly doing routine tasks (like shaving, putting on your pants or brushing your teeth) the same way every day, doesn’t do your brain any favors.  You are just deepening the same brain groove over and over.  You are wasting valuable real estate!  If you normally put your right leg in your pants first, put your left leg in first instead.  If you begin shaving your face left side first, try starting your first swipe on a different part of your face.  Do you have stairs in your office building?  Which leg do you typically start with as you start up a flight of stairs?  Try what you think I’m going to suggest next ….

If you are paid to think, treat your brain and your energy as precious commodities that need daily TLC to function most effectively and with ease.  Pick one of these 7 Tips to practice each day and notice what happens to your mind and your mood; you too will become a Sustainable Leader one small step at a time.

 

 

 

What is a Sustainable Leader?

Sustainability: the capacity to endure; to conserve resources; built to last.

What is a Sustainable Leader™?

teamwork_lift_earth_pc_800_clr_2960A Sustainable Leader is one who is built from the inside out, and the outside in, connected to the team by being an authentic, leader who genuinely cares about others.

A Sustainable Leader is resilient and an agile learner, built to last through uncertain and rapidly changing economic conditions.

A Sustainable Leader intentionally develops the potential in others, so they too can develop into exceptional leaders who can carry through the company’s mission and vision.

“In today’s fast-paced, high-demand and global business environment, being a Sustainable Leader™ who can stay focused, think creatively, easily manage stress and emotions, communicate effectively and set the standard in their organization will make the difference between a healthy, thriving and resilient company and an ineffective or worse, a non-existent one.” – Christina Haxton, CEO & Founder, Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

What steps does your company take to ensure it’s leaders and managers are Sustainable Leaders?

 

One famous cowboy’s secret to success in life and business …

“Community happens when people serve selflessly to achieve a common purpose, neither for

Out West Leadership

duty nor cause, but because they truly love and care about the people they are serving with. When this transformation happens they will do, with joy, tasks that would otherwise be perceived as burdensome or even impossible.”

In the 90′s movie “City Slickers” the cowboy character, Curly, shares with Billy Crystal the secret to life (and business)…“ONE THING”.

Do you know your “one thing”? Does your organization have a “one thing”? Is there a word or idea that is at the center of everything you do…can you name it? Can the people in the organization name it? One of my favorite sayings is that unless you have a bigger “YES” it’s hard to say “NO” to the things that don’t really matter. Often times your “One Thing” provides that bigger “Yes”.

Click here to read the rest of Scott Mabry’s post on “Out West Leadership …” (and my response)

 

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A “heads-up” for newly promoted or recently hired leaders: How to keep from losing your new position …

Congratulations on your promotion (or maybe you are in line for one) … but don’t celebrate too soon. Did you know almost 50% of newly promoted or newly hired executives get fired or quit before within the first 18 months on the job?  

Are you wondering whether you are meeting expectations or falling short in your new position?

The expectations are high (yours and theirs) and yet there’s so much you don’t know about the people, the culture and the “unspoken rules.”

On top of that, you must get up to speed quickly so you can hit the ground running and feel satisfied at the end of the day.

You’re invited to see the webinar replay now available through June 17th:

 “Just Promoted? Discover 3 Powerful Strategies to Keep Your Leadership Position”

Discover the pitfalls you need to avoid and understand the critical strategies new leaders must practice to eliminate “leadership stress” and earn the trust of your new team … so you don’t end up a statistic.

Here are just two of the biggest mistakes new leaders make:

Pitfall #1: Failure to understand why change (even “good” change) is hard and most change initiatives fall flat (and this includes your presence, even if your predecessor was a miserable manager). Hint: Small change over a period of time leads to lasting, long term change.  Scale down a change initiative into an “experiment” in one department or with one small group first, instead of rolling it out company wide and crossing your fingers it takes hold. 

Pitfall #2: Believing that understanding the problem alone is enough to make change happen.  Don’t fall into the trap of “over-analysis” or worse, who’s to blame for the problem.  Ask better questions to find solutions and take action as soon as possible.  “What is good about this problem?” and “What is not perfect yet?” are just two of the five questions teams need to feel creative and take decisive steps to action.

For more pitfalls to avoid for new (and seasoned) leaders, click here to get access to the replay through June 17th

“Just Promoted? Discover Powerful Strategies to Keep Your Leadership Position”

(The bottom line is you’ll want to have these tools to accelerate your leadership effectiveness for the long haul, too.)

Questions? Comments? Advice for new leaders?  Post your thoughts below!

Never Underestimate the Power of a Shower

(Originally written by Christina Haxton for LeadChangeBlog)

A client opened his coaching session today with “I had the most incredible thought in the shower this morning …”  I waited, remembering to breathe and keep my eyebrows up.

As he proceeded to describe his idea about what he could do to understand his staff at a human level, which will in all likelihood catapult his leadership potential to greater heights, I exhaled with relief.

How many great ideas come to us in the shower?  Or while we are engaged in a seemingly mindless activity?

Compare it to how many great ideas come when we are focused on finding THE PERFECT SOLUTION, staring at a blank screen or whiteboard, frozen in time.  I got nuthin’ … is what everyone sitting around the silent conference table is thinking.

Because the HR Manager would need CPR if anyone suggested community showers be made available so the team could get inspired, what else can we do at work to stop looking so hard for the solution and take a PFC (Pre-frontal Cortex) break?

Our brain only needs a few minutes of non-focused attention to create a space for the creative solution, the Aha! thought to present itself.

What might be some small signs to you that it’s time to take a mental shower?  What does your mental shower look like while you are at work?

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Are you paid to think? 5 Strategies to make better decisions, solve problems and get more done!

Are you paid to think?  Sustainable Leaders® know that the secret to success is not only managing time, but also managing energy, is an essential practice to making great decisions, especially under stress.

Are you paid to think?

Successful leaders also know being efficient with their energy is critical to their success.

The latest research in the field of neuroscience (how our brain works) describes our pre-frontal cortex as the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking.  However, since it’s relatively newly evolved, it is also very inefficient as compared to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores our hard-wiring,  what we can do “automatically” without too much thinking power.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, describes the pre-frontal cortex as “powered by rechargeable batteries” and needs frequent re-charging, in the form of sleep, glucose (and Ill add play and fun!).

How do you know when you’re pre-frontal cortex is running on empty?  Here are some common signs:

1.  (More) easily distracted by sounds, visual stimuli

2.  Difficulty focusing

3.  Irritability

4.  Unable to make a decision

5.  Unable to remember things you “should” be able to remember (like your bosses’ name)

Here’s an ironic conflict of interest.  The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for higher order thinking or “executive functions” such as:

  • Inhibiting (keeping out distractions, both internal and external)
  • Decision-making (comparing two or more possibilities)
  • Reasoning (if-then thinking)
  • Understanding (listening, reading or watching a new idea and integrating it into existing knowledge base)
  • Memorizing (learning or hard wiring new ideas, concepts)

In order for us to increase the odds we are being most economical with our brain’s limited brain-power, we must take time to recharge, and make time for our self, and preserve our limited brain power.

5 Strategies to make better decisions, easily solve problems and get more done:

1. Unplug/Disconnect for 10 minutes a day no cell, no tv, no radio, no computer – Turn off notifications on your phone, your Blackberry, your computer email program.  Go for a walk without your phone. This is completely doable even if you are marginally neurotic.

2. Give up on perfectionism in areas where you don’t need perfection – What if you can get away with a C instead of an A?  Let your friends know from now on when they receive a return email from you and see: a   that means “I like it!”  This might not fly for business emails.  For work, do your response emails really need to win a Nobel Prize?  Will “C” work be satisfactory for some things so you can save “A” work for the really important things?

3. Schedule a one minute break every hour during the busiest time of the day – Set a timer/bell at the end of every hour or pick a number between 0 to 59 and at that minute in that hour, take a one minute  “bathroom” break.  Take 20 deep breaths, pay attention to your breath, nothing else.

4. Practice saying “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” instead of “Yes.”  Think about how responsible you’ll feel saying this rather than irresponsible because you’ve over committed, again.

5. Schedule a 10 minute session with yourself (yes, put it in your calendar) once a day (with no deliverables) and totally unplugged.  Early mornings or right before bedtime is a perfect time to reflect and think.

How do you recharge in 1 to 3 minutes at work?  Reply to this blog with your suggestions and … Thanks for playing.

… I’m off to recharge with a 5 minute walk!

If you like this, click the link to sign up and get more free tools to become a leader who will be built to last here:  Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

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Leaders: Do you have what it takes to lead from your seat?

Leadership Doesn’t Rest on Your Title nytimes.com

Terri Ludwig, a Wall Street veteran who now leads a nonprofit organization, says that all employees can learn to influence its direction. Do you have what it takes to lead from your seat? Read more …

Leadership Lessons from the Horse’s Mouth: What can horses teach CEO’s about people?

Who was your favorite boss, coach or teacher? Your tough situation that turned out to be your greatest inspiration? I’ll bet you could tell some stories … well, here’s mine from a recent post I wrote for Leaders at The LeadChange Group Blog:

" ... a reining horse is willingly guided by seemingly imperceptible cues between horse and rider ..."

Some of the most powerful leadership lessons I’ve experienced have not come from my high school swim coach, my first inspirational boss or any leadership guru at all. One of the first teachers of my most powerful lessons in what makes great leaders great weighed in at just over a thousand pounds, had four legs, a tail and really big teeth, which he never brushed.

His name was Banjo and he was a horse … of course, of course.

Early on, I struggled, often for hours, trying to get Banjo into the horse trailer so we could go somewhere, a trail ride, the vet or moving from California to Colorado. I would start out calmly, then as he got more stubborn, putting two front feet in then flying out backwards as fast as he could run, I would get frustrated, then angry and then … well, let’s just say I tried all the tricks in the book; coercion, threats, intimidation, pressure and yes, pain. Do these old-style management tactics sound familiar?

An old, scruffy, wise cowboy helped me see the writing in the dirt. After working with Banjo for just a few minutes, then loading him easily several times, he politely tipped his hat to me and said, “Excuse me ma’am. If I can say … what you have here is not a loading problem, it’s a leading problem.”

What you have here is not a loading problem, it’s a leading problem.

A brutal a blow to my “know it all” ego, but he was right. Horses are prey animals and herd animals, who follow trustworthy leaders instinctively. I was not a trustworthy leader in Banjo’s eyes. Being a predator, we were already at odds. Trailers are caves. What lives in caves? Bears, cougars and other predators who eat horses. I was an angry predator to Banjo, with unpredictable emotions and not an ounce of empathy to try to see the world through his eyes.

From that moment on, the lesson “You can judge the quality of your communication by the response you get” became crystal clear. It was my responsibility to take 100% ownership in the quality of my communication … and ask for a “do -over.”

Lucky for me horses are very forgiving creatures … and in my eyes, the most powerful teachers I could ever ask for.

Who have been your most unlikely, yet powerful teachers?

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Leaders & Influence: It is within a relationship and in conversation we learn and grow

If you are a leader in your organization (and anyone who makes a difference can be a leader), what if you were to notice opportunities to make a positive difference in another person’s self-image.  What difference could you make today?

Common sense and now recent discoveries in brain science of social intelligence research, proves it:  It is within a conversation in a relationship we learn and grow and our minds are shaped (ideally) to become more of who we are supposed to be.   However, in many conversations we end up feeling criticized, deflated and unmotivated.  Especially   if that conversation happens with the boss or where there is an imbalance of power, as in a leader vs. direct report relationship.

Let’s make this practical and now take it a step further.  We communicate through language (verbal, non-verbal).  Stay with me now … In our conversations we influence and change our minds and subsequently our neural connections.  When new neural networks and connections in our brain are made, due to neuroplasticity,  our self-identity is constantly shaped and re-shaped and in turn we influence the self-identity of others.  Oh, and many of us are in contact with more people and have more conversations with people at work … therefore many opportunities to create positive, constructive neural connections in not only their brain, but our own.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100826182510.htm

ScienceDaily (2010-08-27) — In the first study of its kind, researchers have found compelling evidence that our best and worst experiences in life are likely to involve not individual accomplishments, but interaction with other people and the fulfillment of an urge for social connection.

What if you were to notice opportunities to make a positive difference in someone else’s brain … what difference could you make today?  Go ahead, I dare you.

Leaders: Secrets to finding solutions to problems – stop looking!

I posted a question asking what Senior Leaders do to recharge on the LinkedIn Group Developing the Leader within You.  Below is a quick summary of great suggestions and ideas for creativity, solution-finding and recharging from senior leaders from around the world, and included:

  • Listening to music
  • Reading
  • Golfing
  • Walking
  • Driving country roads (avoid traffic)
  • Riding horses (mine) … p.s. just being in their presence recharges and relaxes many people)
  • Showering
  • Meditation
  • Hand washing dishes
  • Vacuuming (mine)

The consensus seems to be in order to recharge or to find solutions, we can get there easier and in less time when we switch off the thinking brain and switch on the the being and doing brain and “mindless” (preferably enjoyable) activity.

Activities in which we enjoy and lose track of time (the state of flow) also may encourage alignment of our heart waves and brain waves, which will clear the clutter and allow you to recharge your thinking brain (which is why we have Aha! moments doing these very things).

The evidence in the latest brain-science research proves it. Now … go forth and play (and of course, shower)!

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