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!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Are Learners

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 learners

I spent a big portion of last week at the CMH Startup Week conference learning about startup businesses, smart cities, social enterprises and other interesting topics. Since then, I have spent some time on follow-up reading and exercises based on the conference. I learned so much and it really got me thinking about another key trait of the best leaders I have know.

Great leaders are lifelong learners and try to gain knowledge every single day. They are never done learning and that makes the can make the difference between success and failure in your leadership journey.

Think for a second about your own career. How much has the nature of your work evolved in just the past few years? If you don’t keep learning, you won’t keep up and you will allow yourself to become obsolete. Think ahead to the next 5 years or 10 years and how different the world is going to be. If you stop learning now, how will you survive as a leader?

Wondering how you make sure you are always learning? Well, after lots of reading and learning about learning, I have identified 4 main steps to improving daily learning.

Be Self-aware: this is critical through every aspect of your career and life! You don’t have to strive to be an expert or even interested in everything, you need to be yourself. But you do need to figure out what those things are that interest you and that you could learn and talk about every day. Hopefully those things are relevant to your work because that will help you be a better leader.

Be Curious: after you have figured out what the things are that interest you the next step is to unlock your natural curiosity. Strive to learn how things work, why they work that way, who the people are who are associated with the things, why they are associated and any other piece of knowledge you can gain. Think of your curiosity as a beast with an insatiable hunger that you need to feed.

Be an Explorer: the next step is to be an explorer on a quest. At every turn be looking for the opportunity to feed your curiosity. There are many routes for this:

  • Asking questions
  • Reading articles, books, blogs
  • Listening to lectures and podcasts
  • Observing your interests in action even if just on YouTube
  • Build theories and attempt to disprove them
  • Attend training classes
  • Try new things hands-on

Be a Teacher: finally, try teaching others about what you have learned. This helps better cement your understanding and to help others feed their curiosity beast. Talk about your interests, share articles that you found interesting with your insights about why, teach concepts to others, write a blog or anything else that helps you move from learner to teacher.

Call to Action: find something you want to know more about and learn something new today! Then, share your newfound knowledge with somebody else to help reinforce your new knowledge and build somebody else’s knowledge.

Thanks for listening!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Judge Appearance

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.

Note: I am publishing a day early this week due to some schedule conflicts. Enjoy!

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders judge appearance

No, not like that!

When you rise to a leadership position, or really any time, it is not right to judge people by their appearance in a professional setting. As America has become more casual, more inclusive and more tolerant, people have started expressing themselves more through their appearance. This is why you have to take time to dig deeper and look for everybody’s talents and contributions.

It is more important than ever to not judge a book by its cover…. when the book is a person!

When I talk about leaders judging appearance, I am speaking about making sure that work products / deliverables are properly finished. To understand what I am talking about, please picture the following scenario.

You have just assigned a task to somebody to research a new idea and to put together a presentation on how it could help your business. Your plan is to have your direct report present this information to your boss as a proposal to pursue an exciting new project. This project could be a huge transformation for your business and you are excited for the potential. Plus, this is a great growth opportunity for your direct report to get face time with your boss. A clear win/win situation, right?

You direct report comes back after 2 days of work and the results aren’t exactly what you were expecting. She has all of the right content, a brilliant assessment and the perfect conclusion, this is going to be a huge innovation! But, your excitement immediately drains from your face because the presentation missed the mark in another way. All of the content is included in a 3-page slide deck, all text, with no formatting, multiple fonts and sizes and spelling errors. This is not a presentation that you can put in front of your boss. It is a great coaching opportunity, but not the influence tool it needs to be.

This scenario, that I totally made up, happens all of the time for leaders and it is frustrating. The reason it is frustrating is because the way your look products look is nearly as important as the content itself. When you produce a deliverable that is full of spelling errors, inconsistent formatting and missing the professional polish of a final document, it makes it harder to digest. The appearance overshadows the content and leads you to subconsciously discount the value of the content. And, because this is a document, not a person, the appearance matters…. Design matters.

Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, sums up why design matters so much in products in the following quote… and where would Apple be without fabulous design:

When you see an object, you make so many assumptions about that object in seconds: what it does, how well it’s going to do it, how heavy it is, how much you think it should cost. The object testifies to the people that conceived it, thought about it, developed it, manufactured it. Ranging from issues of form to material, to its architecture, to how it connects to you, how you touch it, how you hold it. Every object, intentional or not, speaks to who put it there.

So, please make sure that you are focused on both content and design. Don’t let a lack of finish or polish on a work product overshadow the hard work you put into the content.

Call to Action: after you are done with a work product, take a pause before turning it in. Look back over your deliverable and think of it is a “product” that you are selling. What things in your deliverable may reduce the value of this product to its consumer? Take a minute to fix spelling, grammar, font consistency, your template and use some images to help tell the story.

Thanks for listening!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Keep Score

Reflections on Leadership

Thank you for reading my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader! I hope that these thoughts, inspired by my research about and experience with leadership, 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 keep score

Let me start off by clarifying what I mean when I say “keep score.” I am not talking about tracking who has bought lunch for another person most often. I am not talking about maintaining a secret book of grievances. I am also not talking about the countless other ways that you can be a jerk by keeping score.

The way that I am suggesting that great leaders “keep score” is by determining ways to measure progress and performance versus goals. Then tracking those measurements continually until the goal is achieved and beyond.

It may just be the fact that my top Gallup Strenghtsfinder strength is competition, but nothing motivates me more than clearly measurable performance. It provides the opportunity to immediately answer the “how am I doing” question and removes the emotion from the evaluation process. This is because, properly utilized, numbers don’t lie though plenty of people lie with numbers.

Good examples of how to use metrics to measure performance are all around us. In retail, you live and die by your Comp Store Sales numbers, a metric that measures this year’s sales in each store versus the sales in those same stores last year. This is an indicator of whether your sales are getting bigger or smaller. Customer satisfaction surveys including the Net Promotor Score are also very popular ways of measuring performance through the eyes of your customers. Plus, in my weight loss journey, I identified a small handful of KPIs/metrics that I tracked daily to see if I was on track or if I needed to take some corrective action to get back on track.

While a good leader’s objective should be to figure out numerical metrics to manage performance, that is not always feasible. Sometimes the best way to track performance is not a number at all. For example, the reason that I (and many other leaders) journal every morning is, in part, to track performance. I use it to track my performance in my life versus various goals I have set that don’t have numerical measurements. However, my intent is to figure out numerical measurements for as many goals in my life as I can.

One final word of caution: make sure that the measurements you choose are meaningful. It is easy to over-measure performance and to end up spending more time measuring than you do performing. There is a reason why KPIs are KEY performance indicators and not EXCESSIVE performance indicators. Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

Call to action: write down your most important goals on a piece of paper. Then, brainstorm a few ways that you can measure if each goal has been achieved or not. Start taking those measurements on a daily basis to track performance. From now on, make this a habit and do this for every goal you set for yourself or with other people.

Thanks for listening!