Reflections on Leadership: Leaders are predictable

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, a recent addition to my  Operation Melt blog.

What does this have to do with fitness and my weight loss journey? Nothing!

My goal for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the broader vision for Operation Melt...

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

Please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

 

Leaders are predictable

Have you ever worked for leader who is a complete rollercoaster ride?

You know the type of leader I am talking about, right? The kind of leader where you have to evaluate what kind of mood they are in before speaking up. The kind of leader where you have to try to read their face in real time to figure out what they are thinking. The kind of leader who will react differently to the same situation every day.

There are two major obstacles with this kind of leader. First, their people are constantly on edge and are less confident because they don’t know where they stand. This causes their teams to be less productive because they have to walk on eggshells. Second, these leaders don’t usually follow any kind of process and react in the moment purely based on instincts. As such, their results tend to be less consistent and more coincidental.

Because of this, the best leaders tend to be those who are more consistent and more predictable. In fact, at their best moments, a leader can ask one of their team members “what am I thinking” or “what am I going to say” and the person can answer correctly!

Moving from a “trust your instincts” leadership model to a consistent, predictable model is not easy. There are a couple of best practices that I think will help you get there.

  1. Start with Shakespear’s advice – to thine own self be true. You have to first figure out what you stand for, the leadership values that will guide you every day. Don’t rush this process take your time and reflect, be introspective what you really stand for. Then write it down.
  2. Figure out the framework for your leadership approach. This means having some sort of structure for how you guide your every day leadership decisions and how you lead your team. I have previously shared an example of my leadership approach in my article A Leadership Model for Everybody. By relying on a framework, you can remove the inconsistency from your day-to-day behaviors.
  3. Share & teach! Now that you know your leadership values and your leadership framework, you can turn these into teachable moments. Share them with your team, your peers and anybody you mentor. Then continue looking for resources, quotes, articles and such that align with your values/framework and share them regularly. By continuing to teach and share and help other people grow you also help them understand more about how you think and how you act.
  4. Set high expectations. Based on your values, framework and the goals for your team, set high expectations and hold them accountable for all those expectations. Whehter you hold people accountable for high expectations or low expectation they will meet them!
  5. Stick to your values and your process every day. Be consistent about how you think about things and how you approach things. If you’re consistent every single day and people learn to be able to anticipate what you expect and react accordingly.
  6. Consistency is not stagnation. Continue to learn and innovate and continue to evolve your values and framework and repeat the process. These are always works in progress!

We live in a culture where we been taught predictability is bad and that you should always be unpredictable. That’s just not the case when I comes to being a leader. To improve your leadership, move yourself away from operating by gut instinct and move to a place where you’re operating by process.

Be predictable for your team, build strong leaders and help them achieve better results.

Thanks for listening!

Week 49: An Eye-opening Week… I Still Have Work to Do

This week has been filled with lots of ups and downs and some eye-opening moments. This may be my last week in between jobs or at least my last full week. So over the next two weeks my routine is going to be changing and I will be starting a whole new chapter. Plus we are only 3 weeks away from my Operation Melt First Time 5K… still time to sign up to join me!

Progress Slowing or Progress Changing?

My progress with weight loss was minimal again this week. I am concerned that my progress is slowing but I am not sure that is really what is happening. I think my progress is just changing a bit and not reflected directly on the scale as much.

As I have been working with my trainer and as I have been continuing to train for my 5k, I think that my fat loss has continued but I am gaining muscle. I am seeing myself get stronger and seeing my muscles grow. That cannot happen without an associated weight change from the muscle gains.

It is frustrating not to see the numerical results that I have been seeing for a year because that is how I am wired. But, I also need to be patient with myself a bit because I am transforming before my very eyes!

Calories Increasing

One area that is has me a little concerned is that my average daily calories seem to be increasing and I am not sure how that is happening.

Here is a quick refresher on how my calorie management works. My daily calorie target is in the low 1700s (based on my current weight) which includes enough of a deficit to drive a 1-2 pounds per week weight loss. Any calories I burn through dedicated exercise time get added directly to my calorie target. So burning an extra 1000 calories of exercise means that my daily calorie target is now 2700. Think of it as gross calories and net calories.

As I have looked at my calorie trend over the past 4 weeks, the average daily gross calories have been increasing. Some of this is intentional as I have been on a quest to increase protein intake and not over-train and under-nourish. But not all of it has been intentional and I need to spend some time debugging the issue.

I am not drinking more alcohol, though there have been some days where that is the case. I am not eating more crappy food by any means – I am eating pretty damn healthy. But I am eating more meat and other protein heavy things which do come with more calories.

On the positive side, I am not seeing myself miss my net calorie target because I am also exercising a lot. Though I did exceed my net target this weekend and I will talk about that more in a minute.

I know that I am not eating so many more calories that it is having a negative impact on me and I am likely eating a healthy amount based on my training intensity. But it is concerning that I am both eating more and losing weight more slowly, though I know that there is not necessarily a direct correlation based on all the facts.

Old Habits Die Hard

We decided to celebrate the impending end of my sabbatical (that is what I have decided to call it) and the long Memorial Day weekend by taking an extra long weekend at our lake house. We came up on Thursday afternoon and, with the exception of a quick trip back to Columbus, are staying through the long weekend – 5 total days.

When we are at the lake, we spend a lot of time relaxing and I spend a fair amount of time exercising now. In fact as I am writing this, I just finished a 3.2 mile run after doing some yoga. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that because I like to share my meals and my workouts with my followers there.

The other thing we do a lot of at the lake is eating and drinking. We live .4 miles (oh, you better believe that I count those walks as exercise!) away from an amazing waterfront bar on our island, Cranberry Resort. We love going there, watching the people and watching the water and having a few beers while listening to the bands.

Plus in this small town it is really easy to find food options that are bad for you. You can easily eat pizza and burgers for every meal if you want. You have to be more intentional about your choices in order to eat healthy. I am going to be sharing a full how-to guide for eating healthy in small towns over the next 2 weeks.

With that context, I learned this weekend that my old unhealthy habits are still inside my brain just looking for a chance to come out. On Friday, I consumed over 3000 calories through the day at the lake! It wasn’t through any one bad decision and it wasn’t all terrible foods, but it was a series of 100-calorie decisions that all added up.

I had a healthy breakfast before going for a run and a healthy snack, I call “second breakfast” after the run. All good, healthy foods, but it totaled 470 calories versus my 1700 gross calorie target for the day.

Then at lunch, I had a burger and a beer. I substituted a salad in place of the fries, only ate half the bun and the burger was topped with tons of veggies (southwest burger) including avocado. But my lunch came in at another 800 calories. That left only about 400 calories left (before adding exercise) for dinner. Then we stopped for a couple of drinks at a local bar that had just reopened after a fire and that pretty much exhausted my calorie target for the day and there was still dinner to be had. At dinner, Liz and I split a steak and we each had a side salad and wine for a total of another 750 calories. Then we went to Cranberry for drinks and to hang out and watch the band. In total, I consumed 3107 calories.

Fortunately, I also had a ton of exercise and burned about 1200 calories in running, walking and yoga through the day. Then, when I noticed that my net calorie target was in jeopardy, I went out for a long and fast late night walk that totaled another 480 calories burned.

Then the whole process repeated on Saturday with the exception of the exercise because I planned Saturday as a rest and recovery day – though I did decide to go for a semi long walk to get some calorie burn in. So, on Saturday, I exceeded my net calorie target for the first time in a long time and I did it by over 400 calories.

I know this was a long story but I wanted to share it for a reason. Poor fitness isn’t something that we can just fix and move on. Improving your fitness is a lifelong commitment to a new lifestyle. While not every day will be a success, the vast majority of days need to be. Those old bad habits are still there and can easily take over if you let them. If you operate on fitness autopilot for just one day they will certainly seize that opportunity to take over.

So… I have learned that I need to always be diligent, always stay focused and always remember that my health and fitness is a top priority. I am not where I want to be, but I am miles away from where I started!

Check back next week for more!

Last week’s stats (5/14- 5/20):
Distance walked/run: 45.6 miles
Total calories burnt: 25,829
Total calories consumed: 14,441
Weight change: No change

Recipe: Banana Protein Snack

Some of you have asked me to share some of my go-to foods that I have used to fuel my body along the way. So, I am going to start sharing some of them along the way. I can’t commit to a regular cadence of recipe posts, but I will do it as often as I can and will try to share pictures too in order to help you recreate my recipes.

Banana Protein Snack

I have struggled to figure out a good breakfast to eat before I go running. I want something with a little protein, some carbs and low calories so my body has some fuel to keep going. That is how I developed my easy banana protein snacks. I have been eating these pre-run (about 30-60 minutes before) with a glass of water and cup of coffee and they haven’t let me down.

These are so SUPER easy to make… just 3 ingredients: banana, peanut butter, honey. I almost feel like I am cheating by calling this a recipe!

Nutrition Information

With the 3 basic ingredients, these snacks are pretty packed with nutrition.

The total calories will vary based on your peanut butter of choice but you are generally looking at around 160 total calories following this recipe. With these calories come the following key macros:

• Protein: 2.9g
• Carbs: 31g
• Fiber: 3.1g
• Sodium: 39mg

How to Make It

Start by adding a teaspoon or teaspoon and a half of your favorite peanut butter into a bowl. I usually just use the grocery store brand but you can absolutely upgrade to organic or even select a different nut butter.

Next up, add a teaspoon or so of honey to your peanut butter in your bowl. I tend to look for a good locally sourced honey because it tastes better, it has more beneficial stuff (very technical!) in it and it helps support local business. I am in love with Nina’s Honey which is produced a couple of blocks away from my house by an urban beekeeper.

Next, stir together the honey and peanut butter until well blended and semi-whipped.

Find a delicious banana, any good ripe banana will do but you can certainly go high end here or just use the grocery store brands.

Break the banana into pieces and slather the peanut butter and honey mix onto the banana and enjoy. It is just that simple!

Suggested Upgrades

I have not tried any upgrades to this recipe yet. I have intentionally tried to keep it simple so my body is able to easily process it when running. But I would imagine that some ground flax seeds would work well in it too.

Transformation Tuesday

Each day of the week has a set of pre-defined hashtags associated with it on Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. For example, every Monday is #MotivationMonday and people post motivational finds or other helpful motivational things. It adds a touch of routine to social media and ultimately helps more people find your social media presence.

Every Tuesday, one standard hashtag is #TransformationTuesday. People use this hashtag to post a variety of before & after pictures from contractors, salons and other such things. One of the big uses of #TransformationTuesday is to show weight loss pictures.

On this transformation Tuesday, I posted the following picture. The before picture was from last May in our hotel room when we went to Florida for Liz to swim with manatees. This was about a month before I started my Operation Melt weight loss journey. So, I was easily at my heaviest in this picture. The after picture was taken this weekend in an attempt to recreate the pose pretty much exactly one year later.

The picture shows a pretty clear difference and a big transformation.

What is transformation anyway?

After posting this I really started thinking about the nature of transformation. Since I spent the last 4 years in a retail business transformation team, I have had lots of opportunities to consider the transformation process.

Ponder for a second the definition of transformation… we will use the root word of “transform”…

The pieces of the definition include changing composition, outward appearance and character or condition. I think each of these pieces are really relevant for the transformation I have undertaken over the past 11 months.

Changed Composition: Check!

First I have absolutely changed my composition. I was 325 pounds when I started this journey and had 45% or more body fat. As a result, I had high blood pressure and a high resting heart rate. I am now down 114 pounds with a body fat percentage of 24% or so and a resting heart rate in the low 50s… which is in the range of “athlete” by the way!

Change Appearance: Check!

Second I have certainly changed my outward appearance as evident in the picture above. I have decreased from a size 52 waist to a size 38 and I am still going. I have shrunk from a 3XL to an XL and almost large. My feet have gotten smaller, my ring finger has gotten smaller and I have more defined muscles than ever.

Changed Character: Check, Check, Check!!!

But the third piece of the definition is even more compelling – change in character. Let me start by saying that I am still me at my very core and have not changed the fundamental definition of who I am. But at the same time there are some big differences in how I live my life versus where I started.

  • I make more conscious decisions about how I treat my health including what I eat and what I drink.
  • I enjoy exercise and I enjoy pushing myself to perform better than I did last time and care about physical performance.
  • I have reinforced some of my core values that I only passively believed in before but am now 100% convinced about. For example the power of choices and that our choices are what shape our future is something I believe in now more than ever.
  • I am more in tune with my body and understand more about how it works, when something isn’t right and what I need to do to care for myself.
  • I no longer shy away from looking at myself in a mirror or appearing on camera, I know I look good and I am happy with my body and getting happier.
  • I am proud of myself. I have had many accomplishments in my life and have a great story. I know that I have value, I know that I have been successful, I know what I am worth and won’t let anybody undervalue me!
  • I have discovered my passion and want to help other people be successful in their own journey and have the feeling of success that I have experienced. I love talking about fitness, I love helping people figure out how to improve their fitness and I love love love love when I hear that my advice or story has inspired somebody else and led to success.

I guess the part of my character that has changed the most is that I really like myself. I like both what I have become and what I am becoming. I like it so much that it inspired me to write a book and to explore starting a business. That is a lot of liking!

Becoming a Butterfly

As a final thought on this “yeah me” rant, I want to talk for a second about another example of transformation. This is an example often cited by one of my best friends for over a decade now, Beth Rick. Beth was the leader of transformation at the same retail company I worked for and often had to explain it to people.

Think about a caterpillar and a butterfly.

The caterpillar is born with a mission, to become a butterfly. When he is born he probably has no idea that this is his calling in life. He deals with people thinking less of him and thinking he is ugly just because he looks different. Then one day the caterpillar goes into a cocoon and emerges as a butterfly.

The caterpillar is still the same inside but he has now realized his potential and people love him.

Yes, you can argue that some of the love is superficial based on looks, but a good portion is more than that. Maybe a portion of the newly fund fans of the butterfly are fans because of what the butterfly represents. The fulfillment of potential and becoming what you are meant to be all along and never knew it.

Like the butterfly I am sure that people find me more beautiful than ever. This is not because I look better but because I have become what I was meant to be all along while still being me on the inside.

Plus, like the caterpillar to butterfly transformation, this is the new me forever and I will never go back to being the caterpillar.

I am not sure what compelled me to write this long dissertation… my treatise on transformation if you will. But they were the thoughts in my head and I wanted to write them down. As I have learned through this journey, my thoughts and ideas are inspirational and beneficial to others so I would be remiss if I didn’t share with the world.

So…. Here’s to you!

Here’s to you being able to successfully get through whatever transformation you are trying to get through to become your butterfly. And if you need help along the way, please reach out and I will help in whatever way I can.

After all, I am a new member of caterpillars anonymous!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders are not too busy!

Reflections on Leadership

Thank you for reading my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey. Please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this article, a like, a share or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders are not too busy!

Let me share some semi-hypothetical conversations with you:

  • “How have you been?” “Busy”
  • “Why don’t you read more?” “I’m too busy.”
  • “Why don’t you exercise every day?” “I don’t have time.”
  • “Would you like to take on this stretch assignment?” “I’d love to, but I don’t have the time.”
  • “Have you found a mentor?” “No, I have been too busy.”
  • “Do you a few minutes to help me with a problem I am having?” “I can’t, I am too busy.”

Do any of these sound like conversations that you have been part of recently? It seems like everybody is busy, too busy and doesn’t have time to invest in some pretty important things. These things include personal development, developing others or caring for their own health. How is it possible that everybody is this busy?

Contrast this perpetual busyness with the fact that the average person spends more than 2 hours each day on social media. Add to this the hours that the average American adult spends watching TV each day – that is 4-5 hours by the way. Plus you can mix all of this with the time we spend discussing things we watched on TV, sports in particular, and it gets harder and harder to understand how we are “too busy” to invest our time.

In an article I reread about once every 6 months, How to Escape the Cult of “Busy”, Janet Choi translates the “I’m busy” phrase into more honest terms. When somebody talks (or brags!) about how busy they are, they are usually saying once of the following:

  • “I matter” – people want to remind you of their significance
  • “I am super-important” – people like feeding their own ego
  • “I’m giving you an easy excuse” – they just don’t want to be honest and say no
  • “I’m afraid” – they are working to conquer their fear of missing out
  • “I feel guilty” – they are feeling guilty about spending too much time on unproductive stuff

In an second article I read last week from Inc., Benjamin Hardy argues that your life my be significantly off-track if you find yourself too busy for 5 things:

  1. Organizing your life
  2. Planning and investing in your future
  3. Tracking important metrics
  4. Prayer and meditation to reduce the noise
  5. Moving towards your goals every day

I would respectfully add a 6th item to this list: being approachable and contributing to others.

Being so busy that you aren’t available for others is a fatal flaw for a leader. In fact, if your are not contributing to others with your time, I would argue that you are not being a leader at all. A top priority for any leader should be helping others develop and, at its core, this requires approachability.

When you say you are “too busy” you should really be saying “that is not a priority” for me.

We all have the same 168 hours available every week (as our friend Laura Vanderkam reminds us in her books) and we all make choices about how we want to invest that time. We can invest it in service to others and in self-care and self-development or we can invest it in garbage – much like our savings, right? But saying we “are too busy” or “don’t have time” is simply a crutch and is dishonest, so call it what it is “not my priority.”

Ok, maybe I am being a little too harsh. Maybe you really think you are too busy and cannot imagine trying to fit one more thing into your life. Very much like “I don’t know why I am not losing weight” or “I don’t know why I can’t seem to save any money”, right? My recommendation is the same for all… it is time to do an audit!

Spend the next few days or weeks auditing how you are investing your time. Track how much time you are spending on all of your daily activities. How much TV are you watching, how long is your commute, how long are you sleeping, etc.? By collecting this data you will be in the position to make more fact-based decisions about your time.

Once you have identified how you are spending your time, you will be able to reallocate your time based on your priorities. What are your goals, what do you want to accomplish, what are your values and so forth. Based on the answers to these questions you can decide how to prioritize your time. Next thing you know, you can accomplish great things in the same number of hours that you couldn’t have imagined adding one more thing to just a short time before.

Just make sure to prioritize being of service to others and helping people develop if you want to be a leader.

Call to Action: the first step is to change your vocabulary and stop saying “too busy” or that you “don’t have time” and start saying “that isn’t a priority for me right now”. Just by doing this, you will rewire your brain a little bit. Then do a time audit to see how you can reprioritize your time to make space for the things that really are your priorities. Then, live a life full of productivity, accomplishment, success and happiness!

Thanks for listening!