So many of us want to experience passion without perspiration. We want fulfillment and satisfaction without the sweat. We want all the puzzle pieces of our success to neatly fit into place before we begin the journey toward living a fulfilling and truly purposeful life.
Just last week I conducted a poll on Facebook and LinkedIn to find out what time people get up in the morning and got a huge response. I could tell I hit a nerve.
But how many of us make strategies around this subject?
I’ve learned that if I really want to succeed at what’s most important in life, I have to develop strategies.
I have always been the type of person who wears my emotions on my sleeve.
Sometimes this can be a really good thing, like when I’m cheering on my son’s basketball team from the stands in a close game. My outward passion and excitement can help motivate the team to bring their best and play at a higher level--especially in critical moments.
However, there other times (like in the story I wrote to you about last week when I reacted angrily to my wife after she pointed out that the kitchen faucet didn’t work properly after I had tried to repair it...twice) when wearing my emotions on my sleeve can serve as damaging and destructive.
Do you ask questions like this:
“Am I a good leader?”
“What am I doing or not doing that might be limiting my effectiveness as a leader?”
“Does my team feel good about how they are being led?”
These are legitimate questions that every leader asks at one point in time. Those who seek to get better as a leader probably ask them often.
I can empathize when I hear people say things like...
“Now that I have received this promotion, how am I going to be able to meet the new demands placed on me?”
“If my team doesn’t come through on this assignment, I may lose my job. How can I lead my team better so this doesn’t happen?”
“Can I really meet the sales goals this quarter? The last two quarters have been brutal.”
“Will I ever get promoted?”
These are real concerns that keep real people like you and I up at night.
John Piper, one of my favorite authors, recently wrote:
“Aimlessness is akin to lifelessness. Dead leaves in the backyard may move around more than anything else — more than the dog, more than the children. The wind blows this way, they go this way. The wind blows that way, they go that way. They tumble, they bounce, they skip, they press against a fence, but they have no aim whatsoever. They are full of motion and empty of life.”
Have you ever felt like that leaf that John describes -- full of motion, but empty of life and purpose?
Napoleon Hill once wrote, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Failure can be a wonderful gift of opportunity to grow in character (patience, humility, appropriate grounded-ness, wisdom) and become more resilient.
But how do we do that?
Did you know that a 2015 Gallup survey revealed that, “The percentage of U.S. workers in 2015 who Gallup considered engaged in their jobs averaged 32%. The majority (50.8%) of employees were "not engaged," while another 17.2% were "actively disengaged."
When you consider the number of workers who are checked out, this is astounding. On many levels this is a problematic statistic -- however, we won't wade too deep into this today.
Although, I do have a question for you.
Which category would you place yourself in — engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged with your job? And furthermore, if you are part of the majority of folks who are disengaged, what factors have contributed to your disengagement?
My guess is that there are multiple issues in play. I’ll even bet that one of the contributing factors involves the dynamics of the team that you are part of.
Are you part of a highly engaged, kick butt (in a good way) team or one that is creating significant stress and draining the life right out of you through the bottom of your feet?
How can you know whether you are part of a cohesive team or a dysfunctional team? I’m glad you asked.
Patrick Lencioni provides a simple checklist in his book, The Advantage, that you can use to determine whether or not you are part of a high-functioning, cohesive team.
Read through the following six statements and check all that apply:
The leadership team is small enough (three to ten people) to be effective.
Members of the team trust one another and can be genuinely vulnerable with each other.
Team members regularly engage in productive, unfiltered conflict around important issues.
The team leaves meetings with clear-cut, active, and specific agreements around decisions.
Team members hold one another accountable to commitments and behaviors.
Members of the leadership team are focused on team number one. They put the collective priorities and needs of the larger organization ahead of their own departments.
So, how many statements were relevant to your situation? If your answer is three or fewer statements, there is a solid reason to feel the way you do.
If you would like to create some great discussion with other members of your team, pass this checklist on to them and see how many statements they agree with.
**Please be sure to clear this with the leader of your team first :-)
Chances are, your team can do better. And if it does, imagine the positive impact it could have on your life and everyone around you. Imagine how much happier, healthier and more productive you would be.
Here’s to creating legacy cultures.
Today's big question.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Wow! Where has the time gone?” Maybe it was after a great evening with friends or when you watched your child graduate from high school or turned 50 (like me…)?
As November kicks off and I look back over another summer that has come and gone, I find myself asking this question once again.
Your time...whatever your perception of it is, whether dragging along (like my son in school right now) or flying by (like I feel at 51) is your life. Your time IS your life.
Although we cannot control the speed at which life approaches, we CAN control our intentionality to be fully present in each moment.
I had a conversation with a very close friend this past week who longs to be able to have more time with her grandchildren. She felt frustrated that her time with them never seemed enough. I could tell that she was feeling a sense of lost opportunity and regret. I told her, “The reality is you have very little control (because of your unique circumstances in life) over how much time you have with them, but you have total control over making the most of the moments you do have. Just embrace those moments. Let your heart be completely open. Be fully present. Make these moments as intentional as you can and be grateful for every interaction you have with them, even if they are brief.”
There is a life to be lived in each present moment.
Tolstoy said it best in his short story called "Three Questions." He said, “Remember then: there is only one time that is important. Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”
If being present in each moment is of utmost importance -- how will you find significance in each moment today?
Have you ever noticed that truly successful people, whether personally professionally, all have at least one thing in common? They have a very clear sense of their priorities AND they align their lives around them on a consistent daily basis.
Check this out, though. The word Priorities is an interesting word. Originally there was no plural form of the word priority. The origin of priority dates back to the 14th century where it simply meant the first or prime thing to be done or notice. Think about it...if there is more than one, then it ceases to be primary.
Let’s make this a little more personal. How about you? Do you wake up each day with a clear sense of what is first or primary (besides that first cup of coffee obviously)?
And if you don’t, how do you get to the place where you are really clear on what is most important, on what is priority?
Taking it even further, how can we get to the place where that priority is so important to us that it compels us to get out of bed in the morning with a deep sense of purpose?
We can get there by answering some bigger and more foundational questions. I’ll leave you with a few as I close…
What do you want out of life? I mean, what is it that you really, really want? In order to understand what is most important, you need to first understand what you really want out of life. Maybe it’s wealth, popularity or acceptance. Maybe you really desire companionship in a certain relationship. Or maybe you have a strong desire to make a difference in the world. Whatever it is, take a few minutes to stop and reflect and honestly answer that question. Take your time. I’ll wait :-)
Bigger question...Why is that so important to you? Be honest.
And why is that important to you?
And why is that important to you?
As John Maxwell has written, “When you find your why you find your way.”
The reason that truly successful people have such a clear sense of what is most important is that at an even deeper level they understand WHY that is so important to them.
And when you get clear on your “Why”, you gain a very powerful and added benefit. You gain a clarity of purpose that serves as the overarching compass for every decision, every investment of money, every expenditure of time, every relationship you build, and every career path you choose.
We are experiencing a crisis of integrity in our culture today and it starts with leaders. You've probably heard the phrase, "Speed of the leader, speed of the team." I think it applies here. Just last week we've learned of another story in the news reporting on sexual allegations against one of the highest ranking officials at the Vatican. I am deeply disheartened every time I read a story like that. And unfortunately, stories like that are not limited to religious leaders.
In a 2002 Barna Research poll participants were asked "whether they had complete confidence that leaders from various professions would consistently make job-related decisions that are morally appropriate." Here is a breakdown of the percentages of those who agreed:
3% - Executives of large corporations
3% - Elected government officials
3% - Film and TV producers, directors and writers
5% - News Reporters and journalists
8% - small business owners
11% - ministers, priests and clergy
14% - teachers
Those numbers should give all of us pause for personal reflection. Let's face it. It's easy to watch or read the news and see the problems "out there" in the world. We're all professionals at spotting character flaws in others, especially those in leadership...but not nearly as adept when it comes to identifying the blind spots in our own character.
To illustrate this point, a recent study conducted with college students revealed that 84% of those polled believe the US is experiencing a business crisis. And 77% believe CEOs should be held responsible for it. However (this is pretty funny), 59% of those same students admit to having cheated on a test.
I believe that most leaders start out well with a desire to do the right thing, to build something of lasting value, and make a positive difference in the lives of others, but not all leaders finish well. So what causes leaders to lose their way? There are potentially many factors, but I'm going to talk about 3 of the most significant that I have seen.
- The wrong definition of success - I love John Maxwell's definition of success. He defines success as, "knowing my purpose in life, growing to my full potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others." How different would our world be if that was the vision of success that people were striving for? Far too often, however, the pervading definition of success centers more around doing whatever it takes to win and stepping on whoever I need to step on along the way. If you want to get a vivid understanding of what I mean by this, I encourage you to watch the movie, The Founder. It's the story of how Ray Kroc built McDonald's into one of the largest restaurant franchises in the world. I was pretty depressed after watching it.
- Insecurity - Are you solid in who you are at the core? Do you like who you are? Are you clear on your values? Do you know who you aren't? Insecure leaders will often make decisions based on the desires, expectations, and values of others rather than aligning their decisions with their own values. They will often do things to be liked. They will try to be someone that they aren't. An insecure leader is like a ship without a rudder.
- Choosing convenience over character - Doing the right thing often means doing the hard thing. It means choosing principles over pleasure. Our world is being devastated by the philosophy of situational ethics, doing what serves us best in the moment. The Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit organization that exists to improve the ethical quality of society, states: “Ethics is about how we meet the challenge of doing the right thing when that will cost more than we want to pay."
Bill George, in his book, True North wrote, “Real integrity results from integrating all aspects of your life so that you are true to yourself in all settings.”
As you reflect on these 3 factors, which one personally challenges you the most? What needs to change in order to strengthen your character and become that leader who is "true to yourself in all settings?"
Recently I started receiving Time Magazine in the mail. Don't ask me why. I didn't order it...just showed up in my mailbox one day. I'll have to track that one down. Anyhow, I couldn't help but notice the cover and feature story of the most recent edition regarding all the chaos going on at Uber, the smart phone-enabled taxi cab alternative company based in San Francisco.
It was a fascinating read that covered the Uber's start, it's meteoric rise, and the recent setbacks it has faced over the past 12 months. This is a company that, because of the aggressiveness of its founder, Travis Kalanick, and its ability to recognize and capitalize on the timing of several market related opportunities, grew rapidly, becoming a global force operating in 570 cities around the world in just a little more than 8 years. As of June 2016, Uber was worth more than $67 billion, (that's right...Billion)! That's impressive.
But, the problem is (based on many of the details in the article), the leaders apparently didn't possess the character needed for them to keep pace with the company's growth. Several issues (sexual harassment issues, unethical business strategies that have resulted in pending law suits, a "game of thrones" political power culture, etc.) would indicate that while Kalanick and many others in the organization possessed a ton of talent, they lacked the supporting character vitally needed to build something lasting and sustainable. Most recently this has led to Kalanick's resignation as CEO.
What can we as leaders learn from this? As I reflected on the situation at Uber, it reminded me of story from history that contains a very powerful principle related to this. Do you remember the story of the Titanic?
The Titanic was considered "the unsinkable ship." There was no travel liner that compared to it at the beginning of the 20th century. It was unparalleled technologically. Apparently the the captain and his crew shared the belief that it was unsinkable as it began its maiden voyage in 1912.
As it was sailing across the Atlantic on the night of April 14, the crew received several messages from other ships in the area, warning them of impending danger. They had spotted several icebergs in the Titanic's path and were attempting to alert the Titanic's crew. All of the warnings, however, were ignored. Finally after receiving the sixth warning, the crew member from the Titanic who received the message shot back, "Shut up! I'm busy!" They kept right on going full steam ahead, ignoring the warnings.
When the crew finally saw the ice berg, they attempted to turn the ship at the last minute. They managed to avoid a head on collision, glancing off to the side. Initially they thought they had avoided disaster because they were only looking at the 10% of the iceberg that was above the water line. What they didn't see was the portion of the iceberg below the water line that ripped a gaping and fatal hole in the side of the ship under the water that doomed it to sink. Over 1,500 people lost their lives that night.
This is very instructive for us as leaders. Just like the iceberg, our talent (skills, personality, abilities, etc.) represents that 10% that everyone can see. So that's what we as leaders often focus on and put all of our energy into developing. Our character, however, represents the 90% of who we are when no one is looking. And it is the 90% that must be solid if we intend to become the kind of leaders who build something sustainable, something that builds trust and leaves a legacy for others to follow. If the 90% isn't solid, it will eventually sink us.
One of the laws of leadership that John Maxwell writes about in his New York Times best seller, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, is the Law of Solid Ground. The Law of Solid Ground states that "trust is the foundation of leadership." Without trust, leaders have no foundation from which to lead. And without character, leaders cannot build trust.
I wonder how many of us, much like the crew from the Titanic, might be ignoring warning signs from our own life telling us that there is danger ahead because of some areas of our character (areas that no one can see) that lack integrity. And how many of us are saying, "Shut up! I'm busy!"
I encourage you to take some time over the next few days to do some self-reflection. How would you evaluate your character on a scale of 1-10? Who are you when no one is looking? What warning signs have you potentially been ignoring? What mid-course corrections do you need to make?
Remember, it's what's below the water line that sinks the ship...
How do you get more done in less time? Isn't that THE question? Well, there are many answers to that question and I don't want to give the idea that the point of life is to get a bunch of stuff done, but there is something to be said for leveraging the advances in technology to work more efficiently.
Our life is our time. So why not benefit from some of the many tools that have been created to free up our time so that we can invest this precious resource in the higher priority areas of our lives?
The tools that I'm specifically speaking of are those amazing things called apps. As of this morning, there are over 2 million of them in both the App Store (for all of you Apple fans) and 2.8 million in the Google Play Store (for all of you Android lovers...that would be me).
Because of this overwhelming number, you and I both know that when you're searching for a specific kind of app, trying to choose the "best" one can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume you have to choose from.
It's kind of like when my wife and I go to Home Depot and she wants me to help her pick out paint colors...NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Sometimes I honestly wonder if the paint color designers at Sherwin Williams have a sadistic side to them...I digress.
There are a dozen or so apps that I use regularly, but I want to share my top 3. I use these every day and they have become invaluable for me as a solopreneur. The thing I love about these beyond what they do, is they can be used across multiple platforms, whether you want to access them from your computer or phone, and regardless of whether you are an Apple or Android lover. Here we go.
- Evernote - Evernote is an app that helps me capture, store, file, and organize information. So many people waste an incredible amount of time simply because they don't have a system for storing and organizing information. Trust me. I know. I am one of the more disorganized people on the planet. That's why I love this app. Evernote has an amazing filing system that helps me organize and retrieve my information through the use of notes, notebooks, and tags. For example, much of what I do involves coaching, teaching, and writing, so I read...A LOT. As such, I need a system that helps me capture and organize all of the valuable and relevant information that I want to use. Evernote has a camera function that allows me to capture that information and then easily choose which notebook I want to save it in. I have an "Illustrations" notebook that I keep all of my illustrations in and use tags to separate my illustrations into different topics. This saves me so much time when I am preparing talks. Evernote also has a really cool Web Clipper function that is an icon in my browser on my laptop. Whenever I come across an article that I'm reading that I want to save or use, I click on the Web Clipper icon, my Evernote window pops up, and in a few clicks, store the information in one of my notebooks. Evernote can be used for so many things...journalling, capturing recipes, storing pictures, storing documents, etc. In short, it's awesome!
- Todoist - Todoist is my task/checklist app. There are a ton of these kinds of apps out there and I have used many of them. I like Todoist because it is so easy to use. It allows me to easily enter tasks, set dates and times of when I want to accomplish them, set up recurring tasks, and organize them into my priority categories. The mobile platform is awesome. Enough said.
- Buffer - Buffer is the app that allows me to send updates to all of my different social media channels in one simple place. All I need to do is link my different social media accounts to my Buffer account and voila! One update goes out to multiple channels. Buffer even gives me the opportunity to set up a schedule of posts at the beginning of the week and then forget about it. It automatically sends the posts based on the schedule I set up.
There you have it. Those are 3 of my favs. I'd love to hear what some of yours are for getting more done in less time.
How do you know when you should listen to criticism and when you should ignore it? From my own personal experience, I know there are times when I need to really lean in when it comes my way, but there are also times when it can actually be destructive. So how do you know when to appreciate it and treat it as a gift for growth and when to ignore it?
In his book, Put Your Dream to the Test, John Maxwell provides a list of 5 statements that serve as a great filter that you may find helpful to use the next time you hear from a critic. I am going to phrase them in the form of 5 questions.
- Are you unconditionally loved by the person who criticizes you? This is the person who says, "I love you if you do. I love you if you don't." At the beginning of each week I try to set aside time to outline and prioritize my wildly important actions for the week. I create these on a simple Google spreadsheet and then I share them with one of my best friends from Michigan. I send them to Doug because he is a great accountability partner. I know that he is one of the few people in my life who loves me and is totally for me. He is also one of those rare people who will tell me the kind truth when I need to hear it and ask me the hard questions that few others will.
- Is the criticism tainted by their own personal agenda? Most of us can sense this when it is happening and nothing undermines trust faster.
- Is this person naturally critical of everything? It's one thing to receive criticism from someone who looks at life through the lens of the glass being half-empty. It's quite another to receive substantive critical feedback from someone who is typically positive and supportive. That should give us pause to stop, reflect, and honestly process the feedback.
- Will this person continue to support you on a personal level even if you choose not to listen to the criticism? This is a sign of a really mature person. They understand that they are responsible TO you, (telling you the truth as they see it), but they are not responsible FOR you (attempting to manipulate your response to their criticism).
- Does this person have knowledge and success in the area of the criticism? They've been there. They've done it. They've done it well and they want to pass it on to you.
I hope this helps.
In one of my recent newsletters, I asked my subscribers to tell me the number 1 change they seek in 2017. Their responses centered around three primaries areas of change:
- Some want to change and improve a vital relationship.
- Some want to change something personally (lose weight, develop better character, build your confidence and self-esteem).
- And MANY of my readers want to get better at managing your time so that you can live a balanced and healthy life.
Because the theme of time management represented most of the responses, I'm going to start there.
Many of people believe that getting better at managing their time would enable them to live a more peaceful and less chaotic life, have more time to devote to their most important relationships, get more done in a day, etc.
I can assure you that they are not alone.
The key to changing this or any other area of our lives, however comes down to changing repeated behaviors that we call habits. But here's the deal. Our behavioral habits flow out of something deeper...the beliefs we hold.
This is something that comes up over and over again in coaching. So much of what keeps us from realizing our dreams and living the lives we were meant to live, flows from a deeper, more fundamental inner game issue.
Sometimes our beliefs serve us well and sometimes not so much. When the beliefs we hold are holding us back, we call these self-limiting beliefs. And quite often we aren't even consciously aware of their negative impact. We don't realize that they are the cause of the effects we are experiencing.
Time is one of these areas that all of us have beliefs about and some of those beliefs generate results (the effects) that were not too excited about.
I'm going to expose what, in my experience, are the two biggest self-limiting beliefs regarding time. We'll call these myths.
Myth #1 - "I just need to manage my time better." There's only one problem with that. Time is not the issue. You don't manage time. Time is just the currency of our lives that we trade for the priorities we choose to invest in. What you need is clarity of what is most important and a plan to live by those priorities.
Myth #2 - "I don't have enough time." I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that phrase. This is an incredibly powerful self-limiting belief. What are the consequences of continually telling yourself that you don't have enough time? You will constantly feel under pressure and stressed out. You will be continually disappointed because of what didn't get accomplished. You will run the risk of falling into the trap of making excuses at work for not fulfilling key responsibilities or meeting critical deadlines.
Instead of living with a scarcity mindset regarding time (there's only so much to go around), replace it with an abundance mindset. Begin to tell yourself, "I have all the time in the world...to do what I need to do and to do what is most important." Imagine the clarity and freedom that change could create. Imagine what it would feel like to go throughout the day feeling peaceful, centered, and in the flow. You would do better work. Your work would be more fulfilling. You would become more productive.
And all because you fixed an inner-game issue.
I'll leave you with these questions for further reflection:
- What are the 6 most important priorities of your life? What are those key accounts?
- What do you need to do to give them the priority that they need?
- What activities consistently show up in your calendar that do not tie back to one of these 6 key accounts?
- What do you need to stop doing so that you can invest more time in one of these key accounts?
- When will you start doing that?
- What might be some additional beliefs that you hold that are not currently serving you well? What are some of the negative effects you are experiencing because of them?
- What empowering belief could you create to replace this current self-limiting belief with?
I hope this helps.