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Posts Tagged ‘praise’

How to Push through “Good Enough”

October 20, 2011 5 comments

Leadership BreakthroughYesterday we discussed the snare of Good Enough—how it entices you to give up, give in, and settle for less than you originally aimed for. Today we’ll talk about how to break free from the comfort of Good Enough.

After moving across the country this summer, my family and I had to quickly set up our new house. I was working full-time on Walmart’s Leadership Academy and my pregnant wife was working full-time keeping up with our two toddlers and getting everyone settled.

Needless to say, once our home reached an acceptable level of functionality (i.e. “Good Enough”), we pressed on to more immediate tasks. And it was fine. For a while. But with Sarah’s due date approaching next month, we both knew that if we didn’t unpack those last boxes, finish the rooms and get the house under control now, it might never happen.

So that’s what we did last weekend. We hunkered down, laid siege to our own home, and came out the other side victorious. Looking back, here are 5 things we did to bust out of Good Enough:

1. First, Focus on what’s at stake. Sarah and I started the weekend with a date. We went out to dinner (sans children) and aside from the usual catching up and enjoying each other’s company, we discussed the consequences of failing to get our house ready. It kept us from inviting people over and engaging with our neighbors. The general disorder was affecting our kids’ behavior. The state of things dragged down our moods and sapped our energy.

2. Fully commit the required resources. I took Friday and Monday off from work. We had planned on cleaning for two days and camping for two days. It soon became apparent, however, that we needed more time for the house so we cancelled our camping trip. It was a sacrifice, but we just weren’t willing to live with the consequences of keeping our house at Good Enough.

3. Bring others along with you. I actually considered sending my wife and kids somewhere else for a few days so I could knock out all the work myself. I’m so glad I didn’t act on that fantasy. I’m certain I wouldn’t have gotten as much done as we all did working together. The combination of accountability, collaboration, and camaraderie not only made the journey enjoyable, it made it successful.

4. Create a realistic plan. Did I mention that we have two small kids? And that my wife is 8 months pregnant? We had to be careful not to let Sarah over do it and we had to account for the daily needs of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. So we also set reasonable goals for each day that kept us motivated and on track. We got our kids fired up and solicited their help where we could, but for much of the four days one parent was always playing with the kids.

5. Celebrate Successes (then keep going). At each room’s completion we threw a mini-party with our kids. We made sure they knew where everything was and the freedom they had within each space. We also shared some new rules, like clearing your own dishes from the table (which they absolutely love) and cleaning up the playroom before going to bed (which they aren’t as crazy about). The trick here is not to celebrate too long—keep moving forward!

With these 5 steps we successfully gained the upper hand on our house. We’ve been maintaining the ground we gained—while continuing to isolate and eliminate remaining areas of resistance. I hope you can use some these steps to help you push past Good Enough and get into something truly Great!

What other tips do you have for pushing through Good Enough?

5 Temptations Every Leader Faces

August 18, 2011 3 comments

leader selfLeading is treacherous work.

Like Odysseus sailing past the sirens we are constantly lured toward rocks and ruin by charming melodies that seem as harmless as they are desirable. They start small and innocent, but if not resisted, can destroy a leader.

Odds are you won’t face all of these temptations at once. Depending on your personality and preferences, you may easily avoid some, while others will continually harass you.

There are at least five temptations every leader faces:

1. Respect from others. Being respected isn’t a bad thing, but a desire to be respected that ferments into a need to be respected can have devastating results. That need for others to see you and regard you in a certain way, may cause you to attempt to become something or someone you aren’t. Combat this temptation with authenticity. Be yourself—nothing more, certainly nothing less.

2. Praise from others. Again, nothing wrong with being recognized for your accomplishments. It’s only when the desire for recognition starts driving your actions that trouble seeps in. It may start with not correcting an exaggerated report of your contribution, but it soon morphs into hoarding and taking credit from others. Fight this temptation with generosity—give away as much credit as you can whenever you get the chance.

3. Success at any cost. The ability to deliver results is a common expectation among leaders. However, it’s not the only measure of excellence. How you achieve those results is important. When the accomplishment of our mission supersedes the principles and values we stand for, then we lose our identity and purpose. Resist this temptation by clinging to honesty. When you fail, don’t just move the goal posts; assess reality and adjust as necessary.

4. Power over others. Every leader has—and uses—power over others. And that’s fine. Alarms should go off only when you start to see yourself actively trying to lord power over others just for the sake of having it. At that point your motives have become selfish and you’ve lost sight of why leaders exist. Battle against this temptation by cultivating a service attitude.

5. Target fixation. Focus is your best friend when it comes to successful execution. However when your focus is so narrow that you lose sight of the big picture, things starts to fall apart. Whether you’re neglecting one market for another, ignoring individual needs to accomplish a mission, or letting your family down while you concentrate on your career, it’s never sustainable. Avoid this temptation by maintaining perspective on your life and work. Schedule times to step back and take a holistic view.

Awareness of temptation is half the battle. If you sense one of these temptations is sucking you in, fight back—cling to who you are, be generous, tell the truth, seek to serve, and keep an eye on the big picture. These disciplines will help you navigate the potential pitfalls that every leader will face.

What other temptations are common to all leaders? What’s the best way to fight them?

7 Tips for Leading Top Performers

June 28, 2011 3 comments

leadership motivation25 years ago the best employees set their sights on the gold watch, a comfortable retirement, maybe a house in Florida.

Things have changed.

In today’s free-agent economy, top performers are building their personal brand, pursuing multiple careers, and choosing great opportunities over company loyalty.

So how do you create a culture where the thought of leaving is laughable? How do you establish an environment where the very best can thrive? Here are seven ways to lead the best of the best:

1. Keep your ego in check. Sometimes, your best performers are better than you. This is a good thing! Don’t let your pride get in the way of serving the best interests of your organization. Find a way to help them release their potential. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

2. Give them your time. It’s said leaders spend 80% of their time with the bottom 20% of their performers. Well, stop it. Deal with or eliminate the bottom 20%. Regardless, give your top performers the time, attention, recognition, development, and resources they need. Pour your capital into the investments that are working!

3. Let them run. Let them run fast. Give them responsibility, authority, flexibility and autonomy. Listen to their ideas. Establish clear, mutually agreed upon boundaries and then give them the freedom to exceed your expectations.

4. Don’t let them be unevenly yoked. Don’t rely on your top performers to continually pull the weight of slower members of your team. Yes, it’s important that their values and goals are integrated with the rest of the team and yes, they’ll pitch in to help when needed. But don’t make that the rule. Don’t shackle them to people who can’t keep up with them.

5. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Don’t take them for granted. Don’t think for a second that just because someone is good that they know they’re good. As long as you’re honest, you can never go wrong giving sincere positive feedback.

6. Talk to them about their dreams. Expect them to want bigger things. Where do they want to go? What do they want to do? Helping them work toward their personal goals will bind them to you and your team all the more.

7. Let them go when it’s time. Protegés get promoted. Kids leave for college. Star players move up to the next league. Don’t hold them back. You’ve got a limited amount of time—use it to develop your top performers into solid leaders. They’ll move on, but their gratitude and loyalty will remain.

Keep these seven tips in mind and you’ll keep your best performers happy—not to mention become a magnet for top talent in your organization, if not your entire industry.

What tips do you have for leading top performers?

The 7 Elements of Surprise

June 3, 2011 4 comments

leadership skillsWant to help a customer or client feel appreciated? Seeking to recognize someone on your staff? Want to show your spouse how much you love them? There’s one thing exceptional leaders have up their sleeve to do all of these: They can pull off a good surprise.

I love springing a good surprise. Whether proposing to my wife, throwing a party for a coworker, or just making someone’s day, I try to work the following into all my suprises:

1. Listening. It all starts here. Always have your antennae out. People unwittingly drop hints all the time about what they want, need, or like. Store this information away. Also, gauge receptivity—would something small and private work best or would they prefer something more public?

2. Patience. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to act. Don’t give in or give up on a surprise just because it’s convenient. Bide your time. Generally, surprises are like wine, the longer you take to plan them, the more impressive they are. (Having said that, don’t wait too long!)

3. Assistance. The more people involved, the better a surprise can be. However, the more people involved, the greater chance you have of someone slipping. It only takes one careless word to tip off your target. Only bring on people you need who can keep a secret.

4. Unpredictability.  Surprising people on holidays or special days is nice, but popping a big one on an average, run-of-the-mill Tuesday can be epic. I love to catch people with their head buried in the everyday and startle them with how valuable and cherished they really are.

5. Preparation. Surprises don’t have to cost much. It’s the time and planning that’s appreciated—and that’s what makes others feel appreciated as well. Part of the joy of a surprise is the realization that other people are thinking about you when you’re not around. Who doesn’t like that?

6. Deception. Warning: Only attempt this to the extent that you (and whoever else is involved) can pull it off. The point here is to throw off your intended target. Lead them to believe it’s business as usual. The equation is simple: The bigger the deception, the bigger the surprise.

7. Mass. Pile on the surprises. Just after you’ve surprised someone and their shock has faded into a relaxed smile…is the perfect time to spring another surprise! It takes planning and coordination, but you get an exponential reward.

What’s the best surprise you’ve ever been a part of?

How to Share Credit without Losing Any

April 6, 2011 15 comments

LeadershipI made a mistake when I was twenty years old that has stuck with me my whole career.

It was the summer before my senior year at West Point and I was half-way across the world and half-way through a five-week stint playing the role of an Army aviation platoon leader. I had come a long way in the few weeks since I showed up as a clueless cadet. At the very least, I had figured out a few of the symbols on a status report, so I was no longer making a fool of myself at maintenance meetings.

The mistake came in a meeting I had with the company leadership. During the meeting, my commander asked me about the status of a few missions he had given me, one of which was transporting one of our tugs to another Army airfield. I had delegated the mission to my platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Fletcher, who had taken care of the whole thing and given me confirmation that it had arrived. When Captain Pippin asked if I had gotten the tug to Gieblestadt, I said, “Yes, sir. It arrived yesterday afternoon.”

After the meeting the XO pulled me aside. “You missed a big opportunity in there,” he said.

“Really?” I was genuinely surprised. I felt like I was finally getting the hang of this.

“Sure, you’re getting things done,” he admitted, “but, that’s the easy part. The hard part is the leading.”

“What do you mean?”

“When the CO asked if you got the tug to Gieb, you just said, ‘yes’. You should have said, ‘Yes, sir. Sergeant Fletcher made it happen. We heard from them yesterday that it had arrived.’ You see, if you had said that, you still would have gotten the credit—you’re the leader, you made it happen—but Sergeant Fletcher gets the credit as well. Never pass up a chance to let your soldiers shine.”

Reflecting on this later, I realized that I didn’t want to share the limelight with Sergeant Fletcher. I thought sharing the limelight meant I would get less of it. Not so. Sharing credit as a leader doesn’t diminish your share of the recognition, it enhances it. Which is more impressive: getting things done or equipping, encouraging, and empowering a team of others that gets things done?

How are you at sharing the credit as a leader?

Are You Enjoying Your Followers?

February 23, 2011 6 comments

leading joy childToday my one-year-old daughter danced in circles whilst tickling herself silly. Meanwhile, my three-year-old son built a castle-spaceship-car out of Lego’s.

I love my kids.

I believe that’s one of my chief jobs as a Dad—to enjoy my children. Sure, Sarah and I can teach them to use the potty, say “please” and “thank you”, tie their shoes, eat their veggies, play nice with others, work hard, and, overall, become productive members of society. But if they never learn that they are enjoyable—not just useful—they’ll never know true joy themselves, regardless of how “successful” they become.

We often place such a disproportionately high value on the utility of a person that we forget to enjoy them. The truth is, positive reinforcement just encourages someone to repeat a desired behavior. On the other hand, delighting in someone for who they are (not just what they do) unleashes confidence, creativity and poise. It frees them to be themselves and offer the best they have.

If that’s the case, then one of my chief jobs as a leader must be to let others know how much I enjoy them.

How have you seen enjoyment unlock a person’s potential?

Refueling your People

January 21, 2010 8 comments

Leader Refueling PeopleBefore we get into talking about leadership, I have a confession to make. I try to use up every ounce of gas in my tank before going to the station to fill up. Maybe I believe I’m not “wasting” gas that way. Maybe I don’t want to mix new gas with old gas. Or maybe I just like the thrill and challenge of seeing how far I can get once that little light comes on. Whatever it is, I confess that I’ve actually run out of gas – twice! Luckily, both times were before I was married with kids. I’ve wised up a little, but to this day when I hear that “bing” and see the Fuel Low light, a little voice in my head says, I wonder how far I can get?

Here’s the funny thing: I’m also a helicopter pilot. I can say without a doubt that this urge has never surfaced when I’m flying. Why? Well, when you run out of gas in a car – like I’ve done…twice – the engine stops and you coast along until you stop. When you run out of gas in a helicopter the engines stop and you fall out of the sky. As a result no sane pilot ever passes up the opportunity for gas. You always top off your tanks, no matter how insignificant the amount. There’s an old adage in aviation: “You can never have too much gas…unless you’re on fire.”

You see, I still catch myself occasionally leading people like I drive my car, trying to get every last bit out of them before I refuel them. The truth is we’ve got to lead our people like they’re helicopters, not cars. Never pass up the opportunity to give them honest and sincere praise (here’s how). As long as it’s not fabricated and fake, you can never give too much praise – no matter how insignificant the amount.

So top off your followers’ tanks and get in the habit of not letting them get too low.

Who do you need to thank and praise today?