Fit to Lead: Stop Trying to Fix What’s Broken

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Stop Trying to Fix What’s Broken

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Benjamin Franklin

I often downplay it but I have to admit that getting fit after 40 years of not being fit was a lot of work. It was an every day focus, it was a sacrifice and it was hard. It would have been a heck of a lot easier if I didn’t have to do it. So, as you can imagine, I am going to have an intense focus on maintaining so I never have to do it again. Believe it or not maintaining is a lot easier than building.

That is a good leadership lesson wrapped up inside this. It is much easier, and usually more successful, to focus on what is working and continue to improve it than it is to focus on what is wrong and fix it.

Why are we always focused on fixing weaknesses (our own, our teams) instead of leveraging the strengths that we already have? It takes a lot more energy, it is more likely to fail and people are more likely to be frustrated with a focus on fixing.

This concept isn’t new by any means and it is the focus of a couple of big name authors. But my fitness journey was a good reminder to focus on leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.

So how do you do it?

Know Your Strengths

First off you have to know yourself and know your strengths. There are lots of ways to do this and you may already be very aware of where your strengths lie.

If you are not sure of your strengths I highly recommend the Gallup / Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. I have taken this assessment several times and find it to be  very accurate tool.

Develop Your Strengths

Once you know your strengths it is time to focus every day on leveraging and developing them. Research your strengths and continually look for ways to learn more about them and ways to make them even better.

One of the best and most rewarding ways to develop your strengths is through practice. Look for opportunities (and maybe even careers) where you can apply your strengths daily. Not only will this help fortify these strengths you will also feel more natural and successful in these roles.

Do Unto Others…

Once you have discovered your strengths and start focusing on leveraging them instead of fixing your weaknesses it is time to treat others the same way. The core job of any leader is to develop their people and a focus on strengths is a great way to approach this. Learn to leverage the strengths of other people to achieve amazing results. Most importantly, stop focusing on weaknesses as your go-to leadership strategy.

Always remember what Einstein said: everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it’ll live its whole life believing that it’s stupid

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Fit To Lead: Don’t Go It Alone

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my new book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also many lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Don’t Go It Alone

“If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb

Our best results in fitness, project management, leadership or anywhere else aren’t accomplished by ourselves. Call it a tribe, a village, a team or whatever else you want to call it but it takes teamwork to make big things happen.

When you are starting, or even in the middle of, any journey make sure that you aren’t trying to go it alone. You need the support of other people to achieve you goals. Here are some tips for how to make it work.

Do The Research

Weather it is fitness or leadership nobody starts out as an expert. It takes work and dedication to build knowledge. This work starts with doing your research.

Spend time reading and learning more about the things that are most important to you. Leverage the work already done by others to build your own knowledge. This should be a focus every day but especially when you are just starting out in any discipline.

Turning to the internet to find sources of information and learning is a great choice. You can find countless blogs, articles, discussion forums, videos and podcasts to help you build your leadership knowledge and skills. Just remember to apply a filter to make sure you aren’t accepting somebody’s unfounded point of view as reality.

Consult the Experts

When I started my fitness journey I didn’t do it by myself. I consulted with my doctor and other experts for input and to gut-check my plan. The knowledge and experience that these people brought to the table was very important to not only my success but my safety too.

Similarly in the leadership space there are tons of experts who have been in your shoes before. Leverage the knowledge that these experts offer to you. Find a few good mentors to help you with your journey. Build a circle of advisors who you can bounce your ideas off of and from whom you can seek advice.

Be the Expert

Remember those experts who helped you advance in your journey? Remember how they selflessly made time to share their expertise with you? Remember how important that was and how it helped get you where you are today? Your turn.

Now you are an expert!

As you advance in your journey you are building knowledge and expertise of your own. This expertise is absolutely valuable to others who aren’t as advanced in their journey as you are. Be very generous with your knowledge and share with others whenever you have an opportunity. It not only helps the other person in their journey but helps you in your own journey as well.

This is one of the main reasons that I share my Operation Melt blog and spend time contributing to it each week. This is also a big factor in why I wrote my book and why I spend time mentoring others. Give generously in all ways including your knowledge.

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness. Plus, because goals are dreams with a deadline, maybe we can work together to make dreams come true!

Fit to Lead: Acknowledge Others

Fit to Lead is a weekly series that connects two of my biggest passions to explore the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my new book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. After a lifetime of obesity I made a decision to change my life and went from 325 pounds to finishing a half marathon in just 16 months. I accomplished this simply by turning to my years of project management, data analytics, technology and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

But my transformation wasn’t just about what I lost, it was about what I gained too. I gained a new confidence, a new perspective on and a calling. That calling is to help inspire and empower people to accomplish their biggest goals using strategies based in project management and continuous improvement.

That is where Fit to Lead fits in.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also many lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

These Fit to Lead articles are another step I am taking to help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Acknowledge Others

When I started running and I started working out at the gym it surprised me how friendly the fitness community is. As I am out there running, my head in my music, my focus is on my course but everybody I pass along the way gives me a smile and maybe a wave. Every one of them acknowledges my existence. It is kind of a way to say “hello fellow human, enjoy your version of the same journey I am on” and it is pretty uplifting.

Shouldn’t this be exactly how we behave as leaders?

The first step to building solid relationships as a leader is simply acknowledging the existence of others. Once you do this you can continue breaking down barriers and establishing a solid foundation of approachability. It is amazing just how powerful it can be to send the “hello fellow human, enjoy your version of the same journey I am on” message as a leader.

Star by asking yourself what kind of leader you want to be. I am guessing your answer will absolutely reinforce the value of acknowledging the existence of other people. Who wants to be that aloof, unapproachable and out of touch leader?!

Here are a few tips to help make this happen.

Look Up and Make Eye Contact

First and foremost you need to realize that there is another human being present and this starts with looking up and making eye contact.

All too often we leaders fancy ourselves as too busy. So we go walking down the hallway, eyes down, checking our phones and don’t even see the other human being. How do you think this makes that other person feel? What message do you think this sends about you as a leader?

If you don’t even acknowledge that a person exists when passing in the hallway, how likely do you think that person is to be comfortable walking in and sharing the next big idea that revolutionizes your company? Even if that person doesn’t have the next big idea they are still a human being. Who do you want to be?

Smile

The next step after making eye contact is to smile. Beyond acknowledging that another human being exists a smile shows a little bit of warmth and helps put them at ease. There is enough stress and anxiety in most of our workplaces every day. How much more stress and anxiety gets added when a leader looks at you and grimaces or frowns?

I can tell you first hand that it is relaxing when a complete stranger smiles as they pass you when running. It is even better when it is the boss!

Say Hello… with the Person’s Name

You have made eye contact, you have smiled and the next logical step is to speak.

If you say hello to people in the hallway it is another inviting step that helps indicate that you are open to being approached. Then, if you greet the person by name, they know that they matter you you, their leader. They know that you know who they are – even if this is all you really know about them.

Extra Credit: Engage with People

Finally comes the pinnacle of acknowledging somebody’s existence: engage them.

This can be as simple as asking how they are – though I think “how are you” has become a super cliché question and I usually think the person asking it could care less how I am. So I would encourage you to find something more unique to ask when starting to engage people. Maybe default to “how is your week so far?” Or even dig even deeper and go with something like “what are you excited about this week?” Or maybe you could randomly ask people in the hallway “what is one thing that would make your job easier / more enjoyable / more fulfilling?”That really stops people in their tracks and makes them know that you care that they are there. Plus it may help you keep your finger on the pulse of the business!

An ideal scenario would be to ask them about something that you know is important to them inside or outside of the office. I had a leader ask me if I felt like I was ready for my next half marathon and it floored me! How did that leader know that was something I was working hard on and was top of mine?

When you are a leader who acknowledges other people, smiles, greets them (by name) and engages with them about something that indicates that you really know them you are going to be a leader that people love. They are going to enjoy working for you and will work even harder than if you were the unapproachable guy in the office. Plus you are going to bring a little more humanity into the office and isn’t that something we all need right now?

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness. Plus, because goals are dreams with a deadline, maybe we can work together to make dreams come true!

Fit to Lead: SMART Goals Are Important

Fit to Lead is a weekly series that connects two of my biggest passions to explore the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my new book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. After a lifetime of obesity I made a decision to change my life and went from 325 pounds to finishing a half marathon in just 16 months. I accomplished this simply by turning to my years of project management, data analytics, technology and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

But my transformation wasn’t just about what I lost, it was about what I gained too. I gained a new confidence, a new perspective on and a calling. That calling is to help inspire and empower people to accomplish their biggest goals using strategies based in project management and continuous improvement.

That is where Fit to Lead fits in.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also many lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

These Fit to Lead articles are another step I am taking to help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Set SMART Goals

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

The secret to making any dream come true is setting goals. Goals translate your fuzzy dream into a clear vision for the future. Defining a good goal often makes the difference between success and failure.

The use of clearly defined goals was a key contributor to success in my fitness journey but is also a very important tool in leadership. Leaders who set good, clear goals establish a foundation on which success can be built. But all too often we skip the goal setting step or build vague goals that don’t do their job.

Get Smart

Before I talk more about the importance of goals I want to talk about what constitutes a good goal. Good goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals, that means they are:

  • Specific: the more specific and clearly stated that the goal is the more likely it can be achieved.
  • Measurable: a good goal must be measurable and must be measured. If you cannot empirically measure your progress towards your goal you will have no idea if you are on track and moving the right way.
  • Attainable: a good goal needs to be one that can be achieved. It is ok to be aggressive and set big goals but if they can’t be achieved they will not do their job.
  • Relevant: goals have to matter. They have to be something meaningful and motivating or it will be too easy to take your eyes off the prize.
  • Time-bound: as the quote said a goal is a dream with a deadline so good goals must specify a timeframe over which they will be achieved. “Eventually” Just isn’t good enough.

Why are goals so important in fitness and leadership? There are three main reasons.

Meaning

Goals establish a common understanding and vision of the future.

Goals give meaning to the work required to make them come true. Without a clearly defined goal you are just chasing a list of tasks without knowing where they are taking you. In leadership this gives the team a common purpose to rally around to stay focused.

Measurement

Goals establish the basis for measuring progress.

As I described above you cannot have a S.M.A.R.T. goal without measurement. Measurement is critical because it is the only way to know if you are getting closer to your dream or not. Measurement is a way that every person involved in your effort can see their hard work paying off.

Motivation

Finally a well crafted goal that you (and your team) have committed to establishes a constant source of motivation. When the going gets tough, and every journey does have tough moments, the goal helps remind you about why you started it in the first place.

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness. Plus, because goals are dreams with a deadline, maybe we can work together to make dreams come true!

Fit to Lead: You Have to Commit

Fit to Lead is a weekly series that connects two of my biggest passions to explore the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my new book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. After a lifetime of obesity I made a decision to change my life and went from 325 pounds to finishing a half marathon in just 16 months. I accomplished this simply by turning to my years of project management, data analytics, technology and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal. 

But my transformation wasn’t just about what I lost, it was about what I gained too. I gained a new confidence, a new perspective on and a calling. That calling is to help inspire and empower people to accomplish their biggest goals using strategies based in project management and continuous improvement.

That is where Fit to Lead fits in.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also many lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

These Fit to Lead articles are another step I am taking to help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

You Have to Commit

One thing that helped me be successful in my fitness journey was that I started with a commitment to my goal. I committed to being successful, I made it my priority and was all-in. Anybody I talked to or who knew me knew that I was all-in. There was no mistaking my commitment!

The power of committing to a goal doesn’t just apply to a fitness journey, it is an important part of great leadership too. In my experience the best leaders are the ones who personally commit to and are all-in on achieving their goal. Those are the leaders who get things done!

As I reflect on why committing to a goal is so important for leaders I think there really are three big factors.

Boost your odds. 

I was all-in for my fitness goal instead of being half in and half out. This meant that my probability of success increased significantly. Committing means that you are prioritizing this goal over all of the other important stuff you could be doing. Your priorities get your attention. Your priorities get your time. Your priorities get your energy. In short, your priorities get the best you have to offer and that gives them peak opportunity to succeed.

Walk the talk. 

One thing I have learned the in leadership is that people see right through you when you are saying one thing but living something different. For example, leaders who make a big deal about punctuality but are themselves late all of the time aren’t walking the talk. No matter how subtlety a leader isn’t walking the talk the people around them can tell.

Think about what a noncommittal leader means to a big goal. A leader that is half hearted about their commitment to anything will inspire others to be noncommittal too. It is called the shadow of a leader. When you have a whole team of people that aren’t all-in on the biggest goals how likely do you think it is that those goals will ever be accomplished?

Inspire others.

I just talked about how people can see through half-hearted commitments and don’t want to follow those leaders. Now let’s consider the flips side of that.

When a leader is passionately committed to a goal he or she inspires those around them to be all-in too. I want to follow a leader who believes in their mission. These leaders have clarity of purpose, they can explain their passion and are very influential. In short they are great leaders.

Imagine what your team can accomplish if you are fully committed to a goal and influence others to be just as committed. Nothing can stop a team who is all-in together on the same goal!

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness. Plus, because goals are dreams with a deadline, maybe we can work together to make dreams come true!