Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Don’t Wait for Perfection

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Don’t Wait for Perfection

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about this week but I had an experience that made this topic jump out at me. I will tell my story and then talk about the leadership lesson.

I woke up in the morning and looked at the temperature and our Columbus winter warm snap was continuing — it was almost 50 degrees at 5:30. It would be the perfect morning to get suited up and go for an outdoor run. Unfortunately I looked outside and it was raining pretty steadily and fog was building so thick that I couldn’t see a full block ahead of me.

The morning weather was definitely not the ideal running conditions so I had a choice to make:

  1. Skip the run and make it a rest day and hope for the best tomorrow
  2. Don the hat and rain jacket and go out anyway

I bet you already guessed how this story ends:


I decided not to let the less-than-perfect weather hold me back. I have goals to achieve (less than 90 days until my next half marathon) and I was going to go out for my run.

After making the hard choice not to accept the easy path I ended up having a phenomenal run. It felt great, I kept a steady pace and enjoyed the sights along the way – I love fog! It also led me to have an epiphany about leadership….

Leaders have a similar choice — they can spend a lifetime waiting for conditions to be perfect or just start moving. The best leaders have a goal, have a basic plan and just start moving. As they progress towards their goal they refine the plan as needed. In project management we call this progressive elaboration and rolling wave planning.

For leaders to accomplish big goals they have to commit and go – they focus on speed before perfection.

Call to Action:stop waiting for perfection and push yourself and your team to take a step forward. It might be scary to start moving without knowing everything but it doesn’t get any less scary as you watch the days fly by without progress.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission 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 Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and 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.

Reflections on Leadership: How Not to be a Jerk – Part 3

Weekly Inspiration

How Not to be a Jerk Part 3

I am publishing this week’s Reflections on Leadership a day late. I am doing this because yesterday was a big day and I had a special blog post to share. But I still wanted to share part 3 of my series about how not to be a jerk.

Just as a reminder this series is based on my new favorite (and made up) quote.

“Leadership is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re a jerk!”

Let’s start by pausing to recap what I have shared so far. In the first post I talked about how leaders can avoid being a jerk by treating others as equals. Last week I talked about how leaders need to be approachable so they don’t discourage people from interacting with them.

In this week’s final edition I am going to talk about the things you can do as a leader to best be of service to others. When you are serving others you definitely can’t be a jerk!

  • Think. The Focus 3 Team who created the R Factor talk a lot about Above the Line behavior. This behavior is based on deliberate leadership behavior versus operating on autopilot which often leads to B-C-D behaviors (blame, complain, defend). When leaders pause to think “what does this situation require of me” versus just acting on impulse the results are almost always better. If you stop to think about the situation at hand and react accordingly it is much more difficult to be a jerk.
  • Be honest with yourself and others. Leaders are only as good as their word. When a leader lies to people they are absolutely a jerk. If you are honest with those who you are serving you are taking an important first step to not being a jerk. Don’t forget that being honest with others starts with being honest with yourself first. Know your strengths, know your weaknesses and be honest about both!
  • Ask for help. When you are honest with yourself you know where you could use a hand to offset your weaknesses to get the best results. Use this knowledge and ask for help. When you approach somebody and ask for help you are showing them 2 important things: you trust them enough to be vulnerable and they matter to you. Asking for help not only gets more done but it also goes a long way to building stronger relationships and avoiding being seen as a jerk who goes it alone.
  • Focus on your own growth, development and humility. Invest time and energy in your own growth, particularly your growth as a leader, pays huge dividends with your team and helps you address your areas of opportunity. Plus showing others that you care enough and have enough humility to work on your own development models the behavior that you are looking for in them. Again it is hard to be a jerk when you are openly trying to improve your skills to be a better leader.
  • Teach and help others grow. As you are working to develop your own skills you should also be helping your team do the same. By teaching others, mentoring and finding other development opportunities you are showing your team that you are investing in them. When is the last time you thought somebody investing in you was a jerk?
  • Say kind words and tell people what they are great at. People need positive reinforcement. People need affirmation to know what they are good at. People want to be treated as though they are special … because they are. Take a minute to say a kind word to people. When you see somebody do something they are good at then tell them. Life is too short not to be nice and complementary… but make sure you are being honest and not just blowing smoke.
  • Show your team that they are important to you, you would be nowhere without them. I had a boss once who got a big promotion in the company. As he was sharing the good news with us he thanked us each individually and actually shed a few tears. He explained that it was us who made the promotion possible and that he owed his success to us. This is the case for every leader. Your success is not your success alone and you owe it to the people who are getting the results on your behalf. Never forget to show your team that they are important, remind them that you owe your success to them and that you aren’t a jerk who believes you could be successful without them.

Call to Action: first off, thank you so much for reading my How Not to be a Jerk series. I appreciate you spending some of your precious time reading my thoughts on how to be a better leader. Please try some of the tactics I have shared in this 3-part series and try to make it easier to be a good leader.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission 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 Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and 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.

Reflections on Leadership: How Not to be a Jerk Part 2

Weekly Inspiration

How Not to be a Jerk Part 2

In last week’s post I started a 3-part series about how not to be a jerk. This series is based on my new favorite (and made up) quote.

“Leadership is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re a jerk!”

In this week’s edition I am going to share a few more strategies leaders can adopt to not be a jerk. While last week’s theme was treating people as equals this week’s theme is about being approachable. I firmly believe the best leaders are approachable and don’t do things to discourage others to interact with them.

  1. Give generously. When you are generous and you give to others it immediately demonstrates that you are approachable. It shows that you aren’t just in it for yourself and that is critical. Do things for others even when there is nothing in it for you.
  2. Make time for others. The most important way to be generous is with your time. A leader makes himself/herself available to others even when it is inconvenient. Yes, you have a lot going on but that isn’t an excuse to hide away and avoid people. Your number one priority as a leader is the people and you need to make time for them even if you have to schedule and protect the time on your calendar.
  3. Don’t complain especially about being busy. Nobody wants to hear you complain. If you are complaining and negative people will not want to approach you because they will feel like they are bothering you. This is particularly impactful when your complaints are about being busy. Everybody is busy or at least they should be. So don’t fall into the trap of the cult of busy – see my 5/13/2018 post Leaders are not too busy.
  4. Say please and thank you. Manners are important. When you say please and thank you it shows people that you respect them. This respect helps give them the opening to approach you because they will assume you are not a joke.
  5. Don’t interrupt or talk over people. While talking about manners I want to address one of the most annoying habits that immediately shows other people that they don’t really matter to you. When you talk over people or interrupt them you are saying “yeah yeah, but what I have to say is really important and you are not.” It annoys people, it sends a terrible message and makes people not want to talk to you at all!
  6. Make people laugh even if you are the target of the joke. Victor Borge once said “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” A good laugh brings people together and making people laugh is a great way to make yourself approachable. When you can laugh at yourself and the joke is at your expense it is even more effective.
  7. Be vulnerable and trust others. The reason laughing at yourself is so effective is that it shows vulnerability which is the gateway to trust. While it may be uncomfortable being vulnerable really shows others that you trust them and that they should trust you and that is the cornerstone of being approachable, right?

Call to Action: Same as last week make life as a leader, and the life of your followers, a little easier by actively taking steps to not be a jerk. By taking simple steps to make sure that you are approachable you break down one more barrier between yourself and others and are that much less jerkish.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission 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 Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and 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.

Reflections on Leadership: How Not to be a Jerk

Weekly Inspiration

How Not to be a Jerk

John Wayne is credited with one of my favorite quotes:

“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid. “

I would like to propose an alternate version of this quote for you leaders out there:

“Leadership is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re a jerk!”

Pick the saying of your choice (you catch more flies with honey?) but the message you send with your behavior makes all of the difference. If you are accidentally telling people that they don’t matter to you then your results won’t be what you are hoping. Remember that good leaders are easy to follow and that starts with not being a jerk.

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on how to avoid being (or at least appearing to be) a jerk. These are based on some of my observations and are things I try to do myself.

Rather than just unload a huge list of items on you all at once, I am going to break these up into 3 weeks. So get excited because I am going to be taking about this for a while!

You may notice that many of these are things that apply outside of work and that is important. The saying goes that character is what we do when nobody is watching. Maybe leadership character is what we do when we aren’t trying to be a leader.

Part 1 of the ways not to be a jerk starts with how you treat people even when they have nothing to offer you.

  1. Treat others as equals in all aspects of life. Let’s start with the most important item…. You are an amazing person but so is that person next to you, you are no better or worse than they are. So treat that person, and everybody else you interact with, as an equal. Treat them the way you would like to be treated.
  2. Tell your barista good morning. One way people tend NOT to treat others as equals is one of my biggest pet peeves and jerkish behaviors. You walk into your neighborhood coffee shop first thing in the morning and the barista says “good morning how are you this morning?” Your response is “I’ll have a large latte” or something similar. You are talking to a human being who was up way earlier than you who wants to give you a positive experience and you failed to acknowledge her as a human being. Pause for a minute, say good morning, smile back and show some warmth to a fellow human being.
  3. Tip well for service and very well for great service. Staying on the topic of servers for a minute…. Servers work very hard in a low paying and often thankless job. They actively cater to your nearly every whim and depend on tips. Make sure to do your part and be as generous as you can. When you get over-the-Top service make sure to adjust your tip accordingly. If you get lackluster service still tip well because that service is likely somewhat out of your server’s control. And if it isn’t you can think of it as paying it forward to help change somebody’s bad day.
  4. Talk to people and try to learn something about them. A big part of treating others as equals is talking to them and learning about them. If you seek to learn something from the people you interact with you can establish common ground and bond and that is the first step to viewing them as an equal. Plus by seeking to get to know people you show them that they matter to you. As you learn about people and start to understand their hopes, goals, backgrounds, struggles and opinions it makes it way easier to be empathetic to their needs and struggles.
  5. Listen to understand and not just to plan your next words. When I say you should talk to people I also mean you should listen to people. Don’t just let them talk while planning your next comment. Truly listen with the intent to understand and learn.
  6. Help people even when there is nothing in it for you. I know a lot of people who are good at giving assistance when they think there is some win in it for themselves. The people who will step up and take on the extra work because they want it to lead to a promotion not just because it needs to be done. One easy way not to be a jerk is to offer your help even when it gets you nowhere – well maybe just the karma points. Start with little things like holding a door open or helping carry something, then maybe pick up that piece of trash in the office hallway and maybe even ask that coworker who has to stay late if there is anything you can do to help lighten the load.

Call to Action: make life as a leader, and the life of your followers, a little easier by actively taking steps to not be a jerk. These steps start with how you think about and treat the people around you. If you treat everyone as an equal and look for ways to get to know them and to be of service to them you really set the stage for next level leadership.

Check back next week for the next update in my How Not to be a Jerk series.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission 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 Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and 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.

Reflections on Leadership: More Than a Job

Weekly Inspiration

More Than a Job

One of my coworkers left last week to start a new job in Arizona. So we were going through the standard end of working together motions and saying our goodbyes and saying that we want to stay in touch. That is when he made a statement that really resonated with me:

“We have very similar views about project management and it is more than just a job.”

Wow, that statement hit me like a ton of bricks and gave me a big ah-ha moment!

The difference between a job (or even a profession) that is energizing and exciting and one that is just meh is in how you view your work. Are you just doing things that you are told to do and that you have to do and going through the motions? Or do you see your work as part of a bigger calling and opportunity to make an impact on the world?

For example my chosen profession is project management and it is definitely more than a job to me. I look at project management as a way of life and sincerely believe that great project management can change lives.

Let’s look at a very simple definition of what project management is. At its heart, project management means the following:

  1. Establishing big goals, documenting the goal and why it is important and committing to accomplishing it
  2. Building a plan to accomplish your goal and beginning execution
  3. Monitoring progress towards the goal in an empirical and fact-based manner
  4. Managing the balance between the work, the timeline and the budget and reacting to issues and changes as they occur
  5. Finishing the project, celebrating success and moving on once you are finished

Yes, there are lots more aspects to project management but those are the basics.

Why do I say that great project management can change lives? Well the project management approach can be successfully applied to any goal that you want to accomplish and the probability of success will skyrocket. I proved this to myself when I used project management to achieve success in my fitness journey and managed myself from obesity to athlete in 16 months.

But project management is just the start…

Leaders have the opportunity to make a bigger impact wherever they go. Whether you are in a position with a leadership title or if you are just leading by influence you are making an impact. You are helping build leaders around you, you are making an impact on people, you are helping to achieve big goals and you are learning every step of the way. This impact is even further amplified when you engage in servant leadership!

Call to Action: If you want to feel great about your job and excited every day just make sure that you continue to view your contributions and your impact as more than just a job. You have the potential to leave your mark on the hearts of everybody who you serve. Spend every day trying to make that mark an inspirational one.

About Reflections on Leadership

Reflections on Leadership is my weekly article series reflecting on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission 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 Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and 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.