Your brain is not designed to hold ideas, your brain is designed to have ideas.” – Robert Allen, ‘Getting Things Done”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently had the pleasure to be invited to be the keynote speaker for the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Women in Business Leadership Conference (“Women Redefining Business”) where the keynote message was about communication, connection and courage as a pathway to Professional Intimacy: The Key to Sustainable Leadership.
The breakout session piggybacked on how business owners can leverage stress by learning how to have authentic conversations with their employees in order to avoid entrepreneurial burn out.
When I give this talk, I usually ask the audience for a raise of hands if they consider stress a problem for them at work (i.e., negative effect on productivity, experience physical stress-related symptoms and relationship problems like irritability).
When the audience is predominantly male, only about 30% of the men in the audience raise their hands.
This audience was 98% female, and about 80% of the audience raised said “Yes!” to is stress a problem for you at work.
Why such a large difference between men and women?
According to research published by the the American Psychological Association on gender and stress:
” … Men and women report different reactions to stress, both physically and mentally. They attempt to manage stress in very different ways and also perceive their ability to do so — and the things that stand in their way — in markedly different ways. Findings suggest that while women are more likely to report physical symptoms associated with stress, they are doing a better job connecting with others in their lives and, at times, these connections are important to their stress management strategies.”
The bottom line is whether you are a man or a woman, an entrepreneur, a senior manager or CEO, your unrecognized and untreated stress could quickly be the end of your career, your relationships and quite possibly your life as long as you ignore the symptoms or refuse to change your behavior.
While work/life balance is a good solution, I’m not convinced it’s the only solution. There is another most surprising solution, that can be executed at work just about any time of the day and there’s zero financial cost.
A process I have developed over many years of working with highly successful business people whose steps are backed by scientific research and will reduce stress and prevent burn out. Simply stated, you can execute the steps in quick and simple conversations and relationships at work. I call it “Professional Intimacy: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader (one who is built to last for the long haul).
There are three simple steps to Professional Intimacy … (a special thank you to Heather Martinez, who crafted the Story Map of my Keynote )
1. Connection – Know the answer to these four questions asked by Kevin Cashman, Author of Leadership from the Inside Out:
Who Am I? Where Am I Going? Why Am I Going There? and I’ll add Who is Going With Me?
2. Curiosity – When it comes to brain science, the truth is the same chemicals that are involved in a fearful are also involved when we feel curious or excited. What’s the difference? The story I tell myself to explain the situation, why it’s happening and what’ll be the result. Asking better questions when it comes to making meaning of my environment will result in my responding rather than automatically reacting because I’ve assumed the worst case scenario (which is likely not the case, anyhow).
3. Communicate – Have the courage to communicate you care when it comes to your team. Be a real human being, not some ivory-tower-untouchable-walk-on-water-CXO. Vulnerability, letting people see you sweat, showing your emotions (I didn’t say wear your heart on your sleeve), asking someone “How are you doing? What do you need right now?” when they appear to be having a rough day. Oh yes, then shut up and listen … the most important part. Doing this will build trust and respect, which will go both ways. Try it, I dare you.
If you would like more information on how you can reduce, manage or leverage stress and avoid burning up or burning out in your career by using the 3 Key Principals of Professional Intimacy, join me for a free webinar replay available for two more days: You can get more information or register here to get immediate access: Free Webinar “What Your Brain Wishes You Knew About Leadership Stress: Myths & Solutions” – This full video is packed with practical strategies to reduce stress and feel happier and more satisfied at work AND a special announcement at the end!
It was interesting to see the negative, almost painful in some cases, visceral reaction so many people had when remembering their worst boss.
Answer: Two frogs.
Why? The same reason only 3% of the population set and actually achieve their goals or maintain positive, well-intentioned change in the first place. The frog missed three critical steps of Achieving his Goal: Ask, Announce, Act (and Ask again).
The frog understood WHY it was a good idea to jump off, because he was an intelligent, high achieving, upwardly mobile frog. He understood there were more opportunities and freedom if he left the comfort of the log. While the frog understood why, and although he did decide … he didn’t take action.
What about accountability and following up? Perhaps if the first frog told the second frog he was going to jump off, he would have followed through on his promise and lived happily ever after. Does this story sound familiar? Whoops, wrong story. That’s enough about frogs …Now let’s make the story relevant.
Leaders and Learning: Which skills are more critical to your success strategic skills or soft skills?
“Almost 50% of newly hired or newly promoted leaders quit or get fired before their 18 month anniversary …” (Hint: The majority of failure is not a result of lack of business savvy or technical skills, but a lack of interpersonal or communication skills.)
… and another statistic:
“The divorce rate in the US is around 50% …” As a marriage counselor for 14 years, I will also bet the reason is the same … lack of effective communication skills by one or both people.
Question: Which is easier for you to achieve: your company’s strategic goals or your soft skills or interpersonal goals? “What are ‘personal development goals’ and why would I, Mr. or Ms. Super Successful CEO need them?” you ask?
Because you don’t want to be a statistic.
By lack of interpersonal or soft skills I mean the inability to manage your emotions. You, who growl and snap when your assistant forgets an important detail about a meeting. You, the exhausted Senior VP who feels like you start your day in at a jog and feel like you’ve run a marathon by the time 8 pm rolls around. You, the up and coming leader who promised your son you’d get home in time to see him play baseball and you missed it again. Yes, you, the human part of the executive equation.
What difference will it make when you have mastered the higher level communication and relationship skills that prevent these conflicts? You understand why personal skill development is important, may have decided to make a change, but are you ready to take action and jump off of the log?
What if you had a simple, 3 step brain-based learning strategy to make lasting, positive changes in your actions, your communication style or your interpersonal skills as easily as you develop and achieve your strategic company objectives for 2012? I said it was simple, I didn’t say it would be easy …
AAA: The Triple Threat Solution … 3 Simple Steps: Ask, Announce & Act (Repeat)
Step #1: Ask. Ask others what they see you can improve upon. After all, perception is reality and their perception of how you communicate rather than your perception of how you communicate matters most.
Step #2: Announce. Tell people what you are working on. This not only holds you more accountable for change, it also subconsciously invites people to look for and more likely notice the positive change you will be making.
Step #3: Act. Just do it. Look for opportunities to interrupt an old pattern. Try taking a few deep breaths next time you feel tense going into a meeting (holding our breath triggers Lizard Brain). Instead of saying “No” immediately to an idea proposed in a project meeting, take a moment and respond “Interesting, let’s consider that idea.”
Then, repeat #1: Ask. Remind others of what you are working on and then check in and ask “How am I doing?” Where are you inviting them to focus? Right. On what you are changing, because otherwise, people may not notice, allowing the negative things you say or do to stand out more automatically.
So, what are your waiting for? Jump!
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Sustainable Leaders create keystone habits that leverage small wins to achieve BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)
While “SMART goals” have their purpose and place, creating and maintaining new habits is a more effective strategy.
There are many reasons people are reluctant to set goals, and even more reasons why they fail to achieve goals. If this is you, consider these key ingredients:
1. Public accountability – Tell someone, better yet put it in writing AND share it with others!
2. A shorter feedback loop or time-frame (30 days is perfect) with which to adjust course as necessary.
3. 1 Action Step you can take in the next 48 hours is essential to motivate you to continue with the next Action Step (and public accountability for that action is essential, too).
4. Clear Impact: Can you answer the question, “What difference will it make for me, my family, community, organization, customers, etc.) when I achieve the goal?”
5. You have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious) goal, that involves your team and their public buy in, too!
Start now: Post your BHAG for 2013? If you have one for yourself and one for your organization, post it too!
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When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit
Thank you to Michael Hyatt, who published this inspirational poem, Author Anonymous on his blog over at Intentional Leadership.
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The grass isn’t always greener on the entrepreneurial side of the fence. Here’s what you need to know before you make the leap to have a successful and satisfying second career as you own boss: Click here to read how you can leave what you hated about your corporate handcuffs behind and more importantly, how to keep what you loved the most in your new venture! Read the entire post on LeadChangeBlog.com here: http://leadchangegroup.com/5-strategies-to-go-from-cxoceo-coocfo-to-successful-entrepreneur/ If you’ve made the transition from CEO to Entrepreneur or Business Owner successfully, what is your best piece of advice? What would you add or emphasize? [sharebox4 sharetext=”Share This Page”] [/sharebox4]
If you were a Senior Manager, VP or Executive at any level, what 3 things do you miss the LEAST and the MOST from holding the corporate title or your life in the corporate world?
What is better or different? What do you miss the most?
I’m writing an article on “life after the corporate world” and would appreciate your input. Feel free to post your comments below or send me a private email – Your input is 100% strictly confidential (or not, your choice!).
Yes, it’s shocking to see the dirty laundry of public heroes in their own right being aired in public, and perhaps that’s what makes the news.
Yet, it seems to be happening more often than ever before: Leaders who are responsible for making decisions and who have such influence over so many lives making shockingly poor decisions for their own personal gain or satisfaction.
Which leads me to ask a different question …
Why do we continue to be so shocked at the misbehavior and poor personal decisions of leaders compared to “regular” people who make the same poor decisions?
Let’s start by asking: Whose problem is it?
Maybe it is the problem of the leader who, perhaps as a result of extraordinary success and accomplishment, develops one or a combination of the following belief systems:
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Because you can’t play enough golf, or tennis to stave off the feelings of “dis-satisfaction” and “dis-appointment” of your unmet expectations of what life will be like when you retire, unless you ask yourself these 3 critical questions …
Here’s the radio interview on Boomerbeat: “3 Questions Retiring Executives Must Ask Themselves Now to Be Satisfied in Retirement”
Click here to listen now: http://bit.ly/MRBopD
I look forward to your comments below!