leadership incorporated blog

March 29, 2010

Inspired To Succeed: Got a True Yes?

Ever said yes to a request, a project, a role, a job, an opportunity, or other responsibility and then regretted it?

I’ve been hearing a lot from people lately who are in situations where they say yes when they mean no for one of the following reasons:

“I don’t want to disappoint.”

“If I don’t do it, who will?”

“Because I can…and someone else might not.”

“They asked me and I just didn’t feel I could say no.”

“I’ve always said yes in the past.”

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m not doing my part.”

“I should be grateful.”

“If I say no, I could lose my job.”

Sound familiar? We all do this sometimes. Some of us do it A LOT. Sometimes we say yes to things that are outside of our responsibility. Sometimes we say yes to things that are outside of our ability. Sometimes we say yes even when we know we don’t have the time or knowledge to follow through. We get in the habit of saying yes and as you probably know, old habits are hard to break.

When we say yes, and we mean no, we set ourselves and/or our business up:

To disappoint

To be incapable

To not get the job done

To be stressed and overwhelmed

To become resentful

To drain our energy from other more important projects

To prevent those who do have the skills, tools, knowledge, time and desire to do a better job than we might have done

And sometimes, as a result people do lose their jobs

Ironic, isn’t it? By saying yes when we mean no, we set up the very things we are trying to avoid by saying yes.

That’s the misguided yes.

Your True Yes, on the other hand, has incredible creative power.

The power of a True Yes is that it creates flow. Your True Yes invites in people and unforeseen opportunities. When things are slow and I want them to pick up, I will often start saying yes to everything (that isn’t a clear no) and see where and to whom it leads me.

True yes never comes from “have to” or “should.”

True Yes Comes from knowing that you have:

The Ability

The Time

The Responsibility

The Desire

The Ability to say No.

To have a True Yes, you must be able to give your Generous No. You must be in active choice. (For more on this, see last week’s Inspired to Succeed, below.)

Here’s what to watch out for:

When you have the responsibility without the desire. Got procrastination? Ask yourself how it might become possible to say no, what conditions can you create that will  still maintain your integrity to your responsibility?  How might you engage others in finding creative solutions? What can you delegate? What can you hire out? Just because you have responsibility for something does not mean you have to do it personally.

When you have the desire but don’t have the responsibility. Are you in danger of overstepping your bounds? Are you taking on responsibilities that belong to others, depriving them of the experience, the satisfaction, the growth, and better solutions than you might have provided?

When you don’t have the time, you always have the power to negotiate. Can you buy time? Can you prioritize differently? First you have to create the habit of knowing that you haven’t got the time!

To get out of that obligatory resentment-laden yes, come clean…as early as possible. Take responsibility for having said Yes when you meant No. Be collaborative. Yes doesn’t have to mean going it alone. We forget that as leader we are still part of the team.

Finally, don’t forget that others lack a Generous No and a True Yes. How many times have you seen all that we’ve just been exploring in others? Watch for the signs and don’t be blindsided by it!

Hope this gets you thinking in new ways about your approach to everything. Next time, we’ll talk about the power of having a policy of openness.

Until then

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March 22, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Do you have a Generous No?

You know those people who start with No? Perhaps you’re one of them. I know I used to be. We say no because we’re overwhelmed or afraid we will be. We say no because we expect to be taken advantage of. We say no because it’s not the way we’ve always done it, because it’s unfamiliar. We say no because we’re not sure. We say no because we’re afraid of what yes will mean.

This all makes sense, doesn’t it? We don’t need to be any busier. We don’t need to lose anything more. We don’t need to give up on what works.

BUT when we start with no, we close off other possibilities.

We are living in a time in which more and more of us are starting from NO and we desperately need new possibilities.

Have you not returned phone calls, not knowing what opportunities might be presented? Have you said no to things that might help because you think you can’t afford them, and you haven’t even found out what they entail, what they cost, or what they might bring? Have you said no passively, just by not doing a thing?

How can opportunity find you when you are in a state of No?

Right about now, you may be thinking something like, “that’s great in theory, Sharon, but I don’t have the bandwidth to find out.”

What I want to offer to you today is the idea that there are two kinds of No. The negative, passive no that indiscriminately blocks the new and unfamiliar — amazing opportunities included — and the Generous No which, used strategically and positively, is essential to create the space for opportunity to walk up and kiss you on the lips.

If you’re like most people, there are probably lots of things you’re saying yes to and you don’t mean it. In this category fall: projects that aren’t aligned with your big picture goals, work that is not being fairly compensated, favors you don’t want to do, time spent on people who don’t take responsibility for themselves.

These enormous time drains keep you too busy to take on projects that are aligned, work that is fairly compensated, favors you do want to do and time spent on people who will make good use of it and create mutually beneficial outcomes.

Pull out your Generous No and create the space for the possibilities you need. Here’s how:

  1. The Generous No is about giving your truth. It is never angry, resentful or judgmental. If you’re angry that someone is asking you to do something that is not good for you, you are displacing that anger on the other person. Just because they ask doesn’t mean you have to say yes, The only person responsible for your choices is you.
  2. The Generous No is clear and specific. You give this only when you have all the information you need to be clear that this situation is a definite No for you.
  3. The Generous No begins with understanding. It only takes a moment to appreciate that the person(s) asking you for favors, work, time, etc. are asking because they appreciate you on some level. They value what you have to offer. They are stuck themselves and don’t know how to get out of it. Nothin’ to be angry about here.
  4. The Generous No always begins with Thank you. Thank you for asking. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for your trust in me. Thank you for the idea. It’s amazing how people can receive your no when it begins with appreciation.
  5. The next thought is…”and No. I’m going to respectfully decline.” You can put it in your own words.
  6. The Generous No does NOT include: justifications, rationalizations, explanations. These send a mixed message. Just give  your Thank you and your No. With kindness.
  7. You are not responsible for how They feel about it. All you can do is tell Them respectfully. You may be surprised by how well They take when your no is delivered generously.
  8. Your Generous No gives others the opportunity to find a better solution, to discover that they can meet their own needs, or to find resources that will serve them even better.

Try it out. If you’re still unsure, practice on little things where the stakes aren’t great. OR… if there’s something you really NEED to say no to and you haven’t, jump in. This is a great and freeing tool that will help you create the space you need for the opportunities you need now.

Next week, we’ll talk about Yes.

March 14, 2010

Inspired To Succeed: What is keeping you stuck?

I’m hearing a lot of “shoulds” this week.

I’m hearing about work people just can’t seem to get to. Deadlines approach, the pressure is on. Lots of thought time and energy are going into knowing something should happen and yet, it keeps getting put off.

I’m hearing about difficult conversations that need to happen, and people who know they should speak up, but delay, day after day. Meanwhile situations that need to change persist.

I’m hearing from people in transition who have a whole list of shoulds they can’t bring themselves to get done.

Can you relate? Where are you telling yourself you should be moving forward that you’re not?

The dictionary says “should” means must — or ought, meaning duty.

In my opinion, the dictionary is missing the point. In practice, “should” means we expect action even as our reaction is, “I can’t,” “I won’t” or “I don’t want to,” PLUS — and this is important — a slap of guilt.

When we tell ourselves we should, we are at war with reality. The thing ain’t happening. Should doesn’t help.

Continuing to think we should is toxic for both our business and our lives. Here’s why:

Should is passive. When we tell ourselves we should be doing something, we are by definition, not doing it. Yet, we have not chosen to do it or not to do it, putting ourselves in a limboland of disempowerment. Whether you are aware of it or not, this effect ripples out and drains your energy and power in other areas as well.

What happens to us when we are not doing what we think we should? On some level we judge ourselves. We put energy toward justifying our inaction. We avoid. We procrastinate. We delay. We channel our effort into activity that is ineffective. We blame other people or situations.

Meanwhile, should keeps us stuck. It sucks away our productive energy. It diminishes our confidence in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It makes the task-at-hand grow to epic proportions in our mind, whether or not it merits those in the real world.

There’s almost always a reason we aren’t moving forward. It’s not as simple as we think. Often we’re missing something we need. Sometimes, we know intuitively that taking this action leads to other undesirable outcomes. For example, once we write that letter, we’re going to have to deal with the reaction it provokes. If we do that work, we have a pretty good sense that we’re going to have to fight to get paid.

Should keeps us from identifying what we need or if there are other problems that we can solve. Instead we create a cycle of avoidance and blame that gets in the way of our success, both specifically and generally.

What good comes of should? You might argue that should keeps things on your radar so they will eventually get done. My response to you: you can keep things on your radar by putting them on a future to do list and skip all the energy-draining should self-talk. Which do you think is more effective?

I invite you to outlaw should from your vocabulary. It won’t be easy. For many of us, it’s a powerful habit. I’ve been living without should for about 5 years now and I highly recommend it.

Here’s a simple tool that may help.

First, get in the habit of listening for should in your thinking.  When you hear it, stop and ask yourself these questions. It only takes a few minutes to reclaim your power:

  1. What will I gain by doing this? By not doing this?
  2. What will it cost me to do this? To not do this?
  3. What do I need to move forward?
  4. What am I avoiding that needs to be addressed?
  5. Do I really truly intend to do this now?
  6. What is my next step?

Based on your answers to these questions, COMMIT either to do it, not do it, delegate it, or put it on your Later List. Take that next step immediately.

Remember reality always wins, but only 100% of the time.

March 8, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Lead Like Mary

This past Saturday, I had the sad privilege of sharing in the incredible life-affirming memorial service for my extraordinary friend, Mary Herczog. I learned more about how to live—and how to die—from this woman than I’ve learned cumulatively from just about everyone else in my life.

There were hundreds of us there, dressed dutifully in black and carrying umbrellas and handkerchiefs at Mary’s specific request. You see, Mary had scripted one last incredible experience for us to revel in with her, to feel something new, to grow from, to be transformed by. From wherever she is now, she managed to transport us, at least spiritually, to her beloved New Orleans, complete with Dixieland Jazz band and second line parade. There we all were, dancing in the street in the rain, pumping umbrellas in the air, and waving Mary on.

You can probably tell that Mary was a natural leader.

She got the people in her world to go places they’d never been, to experience things they would never have tried, to feel things they’d never felt, to taste things they’d never tasted. She brought people together. And inspired them to be more than they’d been. Inspired them to live more than they were living. We would have followed her anywhere and been better for it.

And what I kept hearing in every conversation I took part in, as well as more than a few I eavesdropped on, were people—powerful, interesting, intelligent, amazing people— wishing they had what Mary had. Hoping they can become more like Mary. We are still following Mary.

What if more of us were like Mary?

What if our leaders were more like Mary?

What if we could bring this kind of leadership into American business? How much more might we enjoy what we do? How much more successful might we be? How much more good might we create?

I am committed to being that kind of leader. If you are too, here are 13 things we can learn about leadership from the life of Mary Susan Herczog:

1.    See the best in people

2.    Encourage them to see the best in themselves

3.    Speak your truth with kindness

4.    Find the humor and share it

5.    Always choose the option that will give you the best story

6.    Under pressure, choose grace

7.    Bring people together

8.    Celebrate the wins

9.    Keep showing up

10.  Savor every moment

11.  Bring all of yourself to everything you do

12.  Live (and work) in the details

13.  Don’t be afraid to try it, you can always spit it out

March 1, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Creating Opportunities in this Economy: Yes, You Can!

Things I heard many times from many people this week:

“It’s awful out there. It’s not reasonable for me to expect things to be good now.”

“I don’t really want this client, but if they show up, we’ll have to take them.”

“I know I’m going to have to settle.”

“I’m just not good at this.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I keep pitching but nothing happens.”

“I don’t have the time.”

“I know I need this but I don’t have the money.”

“I’m waiting for things to get better”

“it’s really hard right now.”

“it’s not like me to toot my own horn.”

How many of these have you been repeating out loud or to yourself over and over? Can you see how this kind of thinking can get in your way of creating new opportunities?

Last week we talked about what NOT to do if you want to create opportunity in your business, career or life. This week let’s talk about what you CAN DO. Here are 10 Ways to Be that Create Opportunity:

  1. Be unreasonable. Expect success. Go after big clients. Plan to transition up. Of my transition clients, those who aim low, land low. Those that are open to aiming high, land higher. Brian Tracy says “You can never earn more in the outside world than you earn in your own mind.” This holds true in terms of landing clients, winning pitches, searching for work, getting promoted, or any other goal you want to set.
  2. Be effectiveness-minded. We’re all hyper-productive now. Productivity doesn’t count unless it produces results. Be willing to take a hard look at what isn’t working as well as what is. Don’t just keep working regardless.
  3. Be new. The world is reordering itself into something new all the time, to be successful we need to be willing to try new things, think in new ways, tap into new resources, take new approaches.
  4. Be an opportunity magnet. When we put our focus on what’s wrong, how bad things are and what we’re afraid will happen it can’t help but limit our ability to create new opportunities for ourselves and our business. Put your focus on what is possible, what you would like to create, and where the opportunity is hiding.
  5. Be a solution. Know and be able to speak to the problems you solve for others. Nothing creates opportunity so powerfully.
  6. Be intentional. This is closely related to being effectiveness-minded. Focus on one thing at a time, know why you’re doing it and what its purpose is. Give it your all. Time Mastery expert, Bill Barena says “I don’t have time for anything I’m not fully committed to or it’s simply a waste of my time.” He’s right. Watch where you are wasting your time by not being intentional and choose differently.
  7. Be generous. Of course, being generous requires being connected. How do you feel toward people who are generous with you? Doesn’t your regard for them increase? Don’t they make a memorable impression? Don’t you want to reciprocate? What would happen in your business, your search for work and your life, if instead of looking for how others could help you, you looked for how you could be of service to others? In my experience, this is the most powerful tool for success there is.
  8. Be a student. Learn from those around you. Especially those who challenge you most. Learn from your mistakes (they’re not failures unless you give up). Get the support you need. Fill necessary gaps. Invest in your own growth and development. And watch new opportunities, new associations, new possibilities blossom in front of you.
  9. Be mad. Is it okay with you to settle? To compare yourself unfavorably with others? Is it okay with you to give up on your business, your self in little or big ways? Is it okay with you to be financially strapped? Is it okay with you to fail? If not, don’t just accept this. Get mad. Decide not to play this game. Take your ball and go play a different game. (If you don’t know how…call me. I love showing people what else is possible!)
  10. Be easy. For people who think what they need to do to be successful in this economy is hard, it’s hard. For those who think what they need to do to be successful in this economy is easy, it’s easy. It’s the same economy.

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