leadership incorporated blog

June 19, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: None So Blind As Those Who Focus on Reality

A vice president in a health care organization sees the problems caused by upper management as unsolvable.

She thinks she is just being realistic. She feels powerless to make any changes and fears that she will lose her job if she speaks the truth. She is paralyzed and feels her only option is to tolerate or leave. She doesn’t even consider the potential opportunities that might become available to her in identifying and addressing these challenges head-on.

The president of a digital marketing company believes that “no one has money to spend right now.”  He can find plenty of evidence to support this reality, in the media and from his own personal experience in reaching out to companies for new business who have said “This is not the time.” This belief combined with his fear of rejection and failure is actually preventing him from being able to find and target companies who are growing and profitable and in need of her services.

The head of a PR agency focuses on the likelihood of losing a client if she asks for fair compensation in today’s recessed economy. Not wanting to fight reality, she charges less than she knows she needs and is struggling to make a living. She doesn’t see the potential of winning the client over by making a strong value proposition.

Every business (and life) situation has BOTH challenge and potential. When we focus exclusively on what’s lacking, what’s not working or what might go wrong, we miss the wealth of opportunities that surround us. When we focus too much on “reality” (meaning fear), we become blind to possibilities that could turn our situation around far faster than we could even imagine.

A critical leadership best practice is while remaining aware of the challenges,  keep your focus on the potential. Form a vision for a better way and let that guide your thinking, decisions and actions. Be a little (or a lot) unrealistic. Dare to believe that things could be much much better. And then put your focus on making it so.

Where are fear, frustration or lack keeping you from seeing the opportunities right in front of you?

Ask yourself if you’re being driven by wanting (it may feel like needing) control, safety, approval, separation or connection. Be brutally honest.

Get coaching support in shifting from reacting to these blinding wants to activating the creativity of what’s possible. Your success depends on it.

June 5, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: The Most Powerful Effectiveness Tool

This is the true (if oversimplified) story of two divisions in a manufacturing company.

There’s been powerful movement in the organization toward using statistical tools to increase accuracy and reliability.

Doubters dominate one division. They believe data can be manipulated and while they are following the requirements they continue to put their trust in past experience and knowledge, the way they’ve been doing it for over 30 years.

True believers lead the other division. They are committed to the process. They are engaged and energized. They talk about it, collaborate, problem solve. They are interested in the outcomes. They take pride in the results. They are open to learning, open to being wrong, open to making mistakes and corrections.

Both divisions are using the tools. However, the doubters use them superficially, simply going through the motions to meet the requirements. The true believers, on the other hand, are excited and in a constant process of discovery and amazement.

The doubting group spends much of its time trying to get a handle on the reasons behind all their field failures.

The true believers have no field failures.

Truly. None.

5 observations from this story that I want to share with you:

  1. Belief is the most powerful of effectiveness tools (and disbelief is the most powerful of underminers). People who believe in what they’re doing will do it more deeply, more thoroughly, more effectively.
  2. There is a huge difference between doing something just to check the box and having authentic energy for it. 
  3. There is no absolute and forever right way. Grow along with the body of knowledge or fall behind.
  4. Protecting your position is no protection at all.
  5. Open minds have more fun.

We are all in change/growth situations at all times, whether we know it or not. We all have places where we don’t see that we have become stuck or attached to doing things a certain way that no longer serves us. Some business and leadership coaching — check in with yourself.

  • Where are you going through the motions just to check off the boxes?
  • Where are you protecting obsolete ways of being?
  • Where might becoming a true believer make a real difference in meeting your objectives?
  • Where could you open up your mind and more possibilities?

Perhaps you see other valuable lessons here? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

May 22, 2011

Ever get frustrated that people aren’t following your instructions?

Here’s a story of frustration I’ve been hearing variations on lately:

“I told my (fill in the blank) ___________ employee/vendor (kids) how I wanted it done, but they just aren’t getting it!”Frustrated?

Can you relate? Have you ever felt that frustration when you keep telling someone what you want and they just can’t get there?

Which of the following is your go-to solution in these situations?

  1. Do it yourself. It’s the only way if you want it done right.
  2. Put it on hold, officially or unofficially. Plan to deal with it later.
  3. Give it up entirely.
  4. Fire or take the employee/vendor (kid) off the project and get someone else to do it. (And someone else. And someone else.)
  5. Yell a lot.

A better question: What would happen if instead of getting frustrated with your _______employee/vendor (kid), you took the responsibility for their not knowing how to meet your needs? What might you do differently?

Here’s the Leadership Incorporated approach: Get engaged in the process. Show them how you want it done. Let them do the work while you give supportive feedback. Coach them through it step by step.

My brilliant manufacturing client does just this. And while other divisions in his company are spending all their time trying to figure out why they have such high failure rates, his team is just getting the job done.

But won’t that take me more precious time than just doing it myself?

You already know how shortsighted that objection is! The logical answer is yes, it takes more time the first time, but it will save time in the long run. Right?

Wrong.

It actually doesn’t take more time at all. Because in truth your project isn’t moving forward, your needs aren’t getting met and it’s taking tons of time! Watch the trap of comparing the time it takes to lead-by-coaching with an idyllic fantasy of mind-reading vendors and staff (and kids) that by definition doesn’t currently exist.  It takes far less time to get into the solution than to stay in frustration and blame.

True leadership means taking full responsibility for producing the desired outcome. Keep in mind that your desired outcome is NOT that you do it all.

When you spend the time to be a true leader you’ll end up with people who know what you want and how to get there — and you’ll have greater confidence in their ability to deliver.

May 9, 2011

Why a Chief Inspiration Officer is smart business

When told they had to  shave $3.8M from their budget, one thing the University of Idaho felt was far too important to lose was their $112,500 part-time Chief Inspiration Officer. As you might imagine, they’re getting a lot of pushback on this. But the Provost says, it is “absolutely worth the money. She’s helping us reshape our culture.”

By “culture,” they don’t just mean happy people who like working together. They’re talking about a culture of purpose.

So what’s so important about that? Well, let’s look at just a few ways developing a culture of purpose directly impacts profitability.

BETTER HIRING A clear culture of purpose informs your hiring. You attract and recognize the right people. They are a good fit and improve your employee retention. Have you taken a look recently at the cost of replacing people????

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY People work differently when they’re working for a purpose other than their paycheck. Given a choice: someone who only cares about doing their time and getting the check vs. someone who only cares about keeping their job vs. someone who cares deeply about making your organization excellent. Which would you choose?  People who work for organizations with a culture of purpose don’t just work longer and harder, they bring passion to it and care about what they do. You’ll see the difference in your bottom-line.

EFFECTIVE DECISION MAKING Creating a culture of purpose is actually all about planning. You know how much time and money planning saves. When you’ve planned out a culture of purpose, your decision-making process is clear and universal. Decisions are focused and consistent. You’ll save massive amounts of time by avoiding delays and explorations of choices that have nothing to do with your mission. Extrapolate this to every decision maker in your organization and multiply by what they’re paid. Huge impact.

QUALITY CLIENTS Think about your own product loyalties. Guaranteed, the companies you care about have a clear purpose. You count on them for excellent products and service. You don’t care about companies that don’t communicate and deliver on their caring about delivering something of value to you, and perhaps even something bigger. Why would you? Clients flock to organizations that stand for something bigger than lining their own pockets. When you stand for something meaningful, clients come to you, stay with you, refer you, talk about you, do a lot of your marketing for you, and pay more for what you offer. Any question this impacts your bottom line?

GROWTH it ain’t your father’s economy out there. Growth today will not overlook a lack of vision and purpose. There is too much competition out there ready and able to fill any gap you leave open. Growth and the ability to change are the core competencies of success. If you want to grow you need them. And if you don’t want to grow, you’ll be replaced by someone who does.

You need a Chief Inspiration Officer if:

  • There’s no sense of energy and purpose in your organization
  • Clients aren’t coming to you
  • Clients aren’t loyal
  • Staff won’t go the extra mile
  • You have a lot of turnover
  • Decisions take forever and take you down wrong paths

Someone in the leadership of your organization needs to hold, clarify and communicate your message. Keep everyone on track. Remind everyone of your purpose, holding your vision. Facilitate agreements on how you make decisions, how you hand-off to one-another, who you work with and who you don’t, what you do and what you don’t do.

But just having purpose isn’t enough. You need to communicate it. Cultivate it. Coach it. Design it in to each team member’s role and responsibilities.

This is not “HR’s Job.” Slotting this into HR means overwhelming your HR people and overlooking the place it’s needed most and where culture originates before rolling downhill: senior management.

You can call the role Chief Inspiration Officer, Chief Culture Officer Chief Purpose Officer. Call it whatever you want. But whatever you call it, get one.

There’s a reason the brands you know invest millions in developing culture and purpose. That’s how they got where they are. And the companies that don’t? You probably haven’t heard of ‘em.

March 21, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: What business leaders can learn from a girl’s volleyball team.

I’m writing this while watching the third match in my daughter’s Club Volleyball tournament. The team came out of the box slowly. It took them a little while to get communicating and start working as a team. They lost match 1 but it was close. In match 2 they found their focus. They killed and actually started to have some fun. But now in match 3, they’ve lost it again. They’re not talking to each other. They’re not working well together. They’re making mistakes. Blaming each other. And they’re certainly not having fun.

This same thing happens to businesses trying to grow. They can fumble around trying to find their direction and ways to communicate and best work together as a team. Then their efforts pay off and they experience some progress, some success. They get excited, start having fun. But often what they’ve created isn’t sustainable because they aren’t really paying attention to what’s working and what isn’t. They forget they’re in the middle of a process with no end. They stop communicating collaboratively. And they feel the same panicky, pressure that the volleyballers felt as they watched their success slipping away.

How to turn it around:

1. Realize that growth is a process. As you move from point A to point B, all kinds of things change and to be successful, you need to continue to adapt. Don’t get cocky with your first success and think you’re done with the work!

2. Analyze your progress. Look at what’s working and what isn’t. Look at what’s changed. Look at what is now possible that wasn’t before. Work smart.

3. Communicate. Blame only accelerates the loss. Start talking it up. Get team members input. Let them know what you’re doing and what you need from them. Keep everyone focused on getting to point B together.

4. Focus on the fundamentals. John Wooden (sorry for mixing sports metaphors) never had any team focus on winning. Instead he had them work and work on passing, shooting, driving down the lane. Do the same with whatever the fundamentals are in your business. Usually quality, customer service, and teamwork top the list.

5. Have fun. My daughter’s team started having fun when they started winning. What they didn’t realize is that you can accelerate your success by having fun first. Figure out how to make the process fun for everyone on your team and quality will improve, customer service will improve and the results will follow. Making it fun is one of the most powerful secrets to winning at business. Most companies don’t get this one right.

6. Celebrate. This is one thing the girl’s volleyball team has down. They celebrate after every play. When they ace the serve, it’s “Aaaahh, ace! Woop! Woop! “ On a good block, it’s “Access Denied!” And when they lose the point, they slap hands just as if they were congratulating each other. And in every way, they are moving forward, even when they lose the point. If they’re smart they’re learning from it.

This week, one of my clients shared with me that a $300,000 lesson they were regretting a few years ago turned into something they are immensely grateful for today. That lesson more than paid for itself over time.

I like the idea of celebrating this. In fact, I think I’ll start to celebrate all my progress, too. I invite you to join me.

Ace, Ace, Baby!

March 6, 2011

When leaders don’t know they don’t know.

One evening (about 15 years ago), my infant son who’d been playing quietly with building blocks suddenly began to scream. I looked up to see that he had grabbed a handful of his own hair and was pulling as hard as he could. The harder he pulled the louder he screamed. He couldn’t see the connection between what he was doing and the pain he was feeling.

I see this in business all the time.

This week, I coached the leader of an organization who thinks everyone around him is stabbing him in the back. He is suing one client. He has just terminated another. He’s fired one employee and thinks the rest of the staff are taking advantage. He recently stormed out of a professional association because he felt ripped off.

I see him entering new relationships already angry and expecting the worst. As a result, he doesn’t communicate well. He is so worried that he is not going to get his fair share, that he ensures he doesn’t get what he needs. At the first hint things aren’t going his way, he blows a gasket. He feels he’s given and given and he isn’t going to give anymore.

The best clients experience him as angry and demanding and back away from doing business with him. Retention of clients and staff is a problem.

He goes through his life and work screaming and screaming — not realizing that he has the power to change what he’s doing and get different results.

Before we judge him too harshly, let’s be honest. We’ve all had times when we’ve had a metaphorical fistful of our own hair in hand and haven’t made the connection that we are causing our own pain.

We are particularly vulnerable to this in stressful times, during change and even growth — when we are overwhelmed, exhausted, scared, frustrated, depleted, and low on resources.

Here are a bunch of TO DOs — and a few TO DON’Ts — that can turn it around:

TO DON’T: Ask “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?” This question tends to keep us stuck and feeling and acting like victims.

TO DO: Ask “What might I be doing to cause this?” And “What could I do differently to produce a different result?” It might seem subtle, but there is a huge difference!

TO DON’T: Blame others or yourself, even if wrongs have been done. Blame doesn’t get us anywhere.

TO DO: Take responsibility for creating the results you want and need to see.

TO DON’T: Give in to the urge to hyperbolize. Even though it may feel like it, it’s just not true that NOTHING is going right. Or that EVERYONE is against us.

TO DO: Turn your focus to what is working. See how you can leverage that.

TO DO: Remind yourself of your vision and purpose

TO DO: Prioritize

TO DO: Get your focus off yourself and onto being of service to others

TO DO: Find the opportunity in the crisis.

TO DO: Control what you can, let go of what you can’t.

TO DO: Laugh. At yourself. At the situation. Find the humor. Trust me, it’s always there. And finding it makes a real difference.

TO DO: Go outside, take a walk and clear your mind

TO DO: Remember what’s really important

TO DO: Breathe

TO DO: Delegate

TO DO: Ask for help

Finally, here’s an exercise that can help you to spot where you may be part of the problem. Simply answer the following questions:

  1. Identify the undesired results you are currently experiencing. Be specific.
  2. Do you truly want to change the results you are getting in this area?
  3. Are you willing to be completely honest with yourself?
  4. Flip it:  Imagine you WANT TO create these results, how would you go about it? Make a list. Go for volume. Have a sense of humor. Ask others.Brainstorm every possible way you could create the results you are currently getting.
  5. Now look to see what on this list you may be doing — intentionally or unintentionally.
  6. Now that you see your situation in a fresh way, turn it around and brainstorm ways to create the successful results you actually want.

Feel free to let me know how it goes.

Wishing you an inspired week.

January 23, 2011

INSPIRED TO SUCCEED: Is your drive to create results getting in your way of achieving them?

Have you ever been so driven to reach your vision for growth so quickly, that you skipped steps?

Have you ever looked back to realize that you hadn’t even seen all the essential little steps along the path that you missed — and then had to compensate for?

It’s often in the nature of leadership to focus so much on scoring the home run that you neglect to touch all the bases. People who are driven to achieve results can create incredible forward motion only to arrive at a somewhat different destination than they intended OR show up to the performance only knowing half of the song. They want to start pitching business before writing (or revising) the business plan. They want to execute on ideas that excite them without exploring how (or whether) they fit into the mission. They want to execute new initiatives before they’ve fully explored (and planned for) all the potential pitfalls. They want to jump in and land their next gig without spending a lot of time or energy on knowing exactly what they are — and aren’t — looking for.

If this describes you (and it sometimes describes me) this story is for us.

I recently facilitated a workshop with the management team in a manufacturing company. We began with an activity designed to surface the challenges of communication between teams in remote locations. The task was for one person to build a structure using colored blocks then communicate to a partner how to build the same structure with a matching set of blocks, without either person being able to see what the other was doing. Two of the teams jumped right in and started directing their partners through the building process. The third team began by cataloging their blocks into colors, shapes and sizes. They made sure they each had matching blocks. They hammered out a common language to describe the various pieces. They created a strategy for working together.

I was beginning to wonder if they would even begin building before I called time. But then an amazing thing happened. They did begin to build and although they were second to finish, the total amount of time they spent in the actual building was about 1/4 of the time the building process took the other teams. They made no mistakes in the building, needed no time for corrections. And their result was a perfect replica. One of the other teams also created a matched copy, however, the third team demonstrated breakdowns in understanding and quality control that made for a hilariously mismatched structure.

Although this was a fun and harmless exercise, we only have to read the news to see that these kind of breakdowns happen in business — with much more at stake — every day.

So what’s the takeaway? Besides taking extra care to create trust, common vocabulary and other agreements among team members, the big learning is that being in a hurry to get to results doesn’t necessarily get you there faster — or get the job done right.

It doesn’t get you clients faster. It doesn’t grow your business faster. It doesn’t get you your next job faster. And the hurry can — and often does — lead to disastrous results.

What I observed with my client is totally consistent with studies that show that every 15 minutes of planning saves an hour. Perhaps this story begins to illustrate how that works.

We may feel that the time it would take us to get really clear about the results we want to create, to design a detailed and strategic path to our goals, to get others fully on board, and to prepare for breakdowns, will slow us down — but that’s just how we feel. It’s not what’s real.

Consider shifting your focus FROM the hurry to reach your vision TO making the time to create the conditions that will result in your vision. You’ll save time and breakdowns much faster than you think.

 

 

 

 

January 9, 2011

Inspired to Succeed: Get Your Team Onboard for Growth in 2011

 

If you want to grow from point A to point B in 2011, you can’t get there alone. You need to get your team onboard.

I’m coaching several leaders who are confronting the many challenges of creating engaged buy-in. These challenges take many forms, but ultimately boil down to one or more of the following:

  1. Team members can’t see the destination or the benefit of getting there
  2. They want to go somewhere else
  3. They don’t understand your way of getting there
  4. They see their own way to get there
  5. They don’t see their part in getting there

Remember that your team will come from their own perspective. But only 100% of the time.

Your opportunity to manage the change you want to see, is to make your destination and the path to it very clear and show your team WIIFT (What’s In It For Them).

It can be tempting to take the path of least resistance and try to create the change you want to see by yourself, or  by engaging only a few key team members. But true leadership involves leveraging the power of your entire organization. That’s where you’ll create your greatest growth.

Here are 8 strategies for getting everyone on-board to create effective business growth:

1. Invest in understanding what’s important to them. Get into conversation and ask questions that will illuminate what they want — and what they don’t want. You need to understand how your goals and objectives align or misalign with your teams’ personal and professional goals and objectives. It’s impossible for people to focus effectively on your needs when theirs aren’t being attended to. The act of taking an interest and striving to create win-win scenarios will take you far in surprising ways.

2. Connect the dots. Don’t expect them to figure out WIIFT themselves. Engage them in the conversation and help them to identify ways your vision for growth is an opportunity for them, as well. Don’t hesitate to ask them to define the benefits and detriments for themselves. Find ways to create alignment or expect to create intentional and unintentional sabotage of your objectives. Remember, not everyone has to share the same benefits to commit to the journey.

3. Make sure that WIIFT is positive. Avoiding negative outcomes is not nearly as powerful as real benefits. To be effective, WIIFT should not sound like “you get to keep your job.”

4. Be specific. Do the work of identifying the contributions you need and from whom you need them. Invite your team to find specific actions they can take to make a difference. They may come up with things that hadn’t yet occurred to you.

5. Ask for their involvement. Ask for their best work.  It might seem like it should go without saying, but don’t let it!

6. Share progress. Connect them with the results they are creating.

7. Create a positive pressure to perform. Schedule regular progress meetings. Make these positive, celebratory — and mandatory. Have the team lead the meeting. Let them know everyone needs to speak. Find little ways to celebrate progress as you go.

8. Appreciate often. Notice what people and teams are doing and acknowledge it.

To lead successful growth focus on the greater good, not just WIIFY (What’s In It For You.)

Their buy-in begins with you.

Here’s to your growth in 2011!

December 27, 2010

Are you taking the right kind of break to turbocharge your growth?

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. — Ovid (43 B.C. – 17/18 A.D.)

Taking a break isn’t easy for me. (Can you relate?) But I know how important rest is for being on my game upon my return.

So, this past week in Mexico, I resisted the urge to work (with 2 quite minor exceptions) and instead read books that had no redeeming value and walked on the beach without trying to solve any problems whatsoever. I breathed dust at 25 km/h and learned to shift gears on an ATV and ziplined through the canopy. I practiced my Spanish with total strangers and ate more shrimp in a week than I have in the past 5 years combined!

And I came back full of ideas, even though I hadn’t been thinking about work at all.

If you want to create growth for yourself this year, breaks are essential for nurturing and encouraging the creativity and leadership you’ll need. Of course, you already know this, right? Right.

But did you know that not all breaks are created equal? YOU need a particular kind of break to act as muse to bring out your creative and productive best upon your return. And that may be a very different kind of break than I need. Or, more important, it may be a very different kind of break than your spouse or significant other needs!

I notice a lot of people (clients and friends) who take breaks that aren’t their most nourishing choice. Sometimes we have a particular kind of break forced upon us (family trip!). Or our situation may demand a particular kind of respite: for example after a period of intense activity, you might need a chill-out week, regardless of your style. But more often we don’t even think in these terms. And when we don’t proactively plan our breaks with the intention to nourish our own unique constitutions upon our return, we are missing an invaluable opportunity to turbocharge our growth.

So how can you know if you’re taking the right kind of break to bring out the best in your leadership style?

To find the ideal way for you to get the stress relief and creative inspiration you need, base your vacation plans on your personal professional style and what motivates you.

Take this quick self-assessment for a broad brush idea:

If you are ambitious, direct, decisive, driven, competitive and independent: you need physical activity. You’ll want to find ways to sweat out the stress and distract your active mind. Take a break that gives you a fun challenge, that lets you get your competitive ya-yas out. Treat yourself physically, as well: massage, yoga, steams, ocean water. Make sure that you can set a pace that’s as fast as you want. Bring reading that you can absorb in small bites.

If you are a people-person, highly expressive, enthusiastic, friendly, demonstrative, and talkative: your vacation should be all about the experience. Build in fun, new people and things. Make sure your vacation has a social component. You thrive on connections — and the space for long conversations — but take care that it’s with people who are compatible with you and each other or you’ll find yourself very drained on the other side. You need a “safe” environment to be yourself. And you need to set your own pace. Make sure you have lots of unstructured time so you can choose to spend time with others or dive into some great fiction or a book that allows you to reflect on who you are and how you can improve.

If you are highly organized, methodical, reliable, steady, and loyal: make sure your time off includes lots of rest. Indulge in massage, hot baths, lying under a warm sun. Get rid of any hurry and keep your pace slow and relaxed. You can get a lot out of a break with others, but make sure you get your alone time, too. Nothing will rejuvenate you as much as reading a great story (or even some nonfiction) and dozing, reading and dozing.

If you are highly analytical, contemplative, careful, a perfectionist: You need time alone to fully recharge your batteries. You also need a structured break. You need to know where you are going and what you are doing, even if it’s nothing at all. You need to be someplace where things run well and you don’t have to deal with any irritations at all. Bring some meaty nonfiction to nourish your active mind. Solve a puzzle or two.

With all this in mind, depending on what motivates you, you might pair the above with:

  • An educational vacation
  • A focused break with a clear purpose
  • Beauty and aesthetics – art, theater, nature
  • Doing-good – about helping others
  • A leadership vacation — you’re the guide providing a great experience for others (family, friends)
  • A highly structured vacation – a yoga retreat or a biking tour in which every day has specific planned activities and all you have to do is show up

Of course, your style may be a complex brew of types and your best growth nourishing break may include aspects from more than one of the above broad categories.

If you’d like to get a deeper understanding of your personal professional style and motivations, email me at sr@leadershipincorporated.com

December 6, 2010

Inspired To Succeed: How did you get schooled by 2010?

The last year has provided plenty of learning  opportunities —although you may not have seen them that way. How have you grown as a result of what’s happened in your work and life?
Most of us  stopped noticing our growth years ago. Still. we continue to grow every year. We still go through phases in which we develop new skills or circle around to master those we’ve already acquired.

We’re all always in the school of life, always growing, but our curriculum is no longer set by teachers, it’s set by our own challenges, opportunities and desires.

Looking back over 2010, in the Life University School of Business, what courses were you enrolled in?

Were you learning about dealing with adversity? Or perhaps seizing opportunity? Did you develop new ways of seeing yourself or your work? What are you taking away from this year’s lessons?

And what courses are you signing on for in 2011? Of course, you can wait a year, let life choose for you, and see what you’ve learned in hindsight. But I’d like to invite you to get intentional about your growth and experience the difference that makes.

Does that sound woo-woo to you? Well, it doesn’t to my client R.S. At the end of October, she set a clear intention for her career. This week, she realized her objective almost to the letter of what she had described one short month ago. Her comment to me:”I’m a little freaked out by my power here.”

Her message to you: don’t underestimate the power of intention.
If you’d like to get intentional about your personal and professional growth in 2011, here’s a tool you can use:
I call it my Annual Theme. And I’ve used it for 5 years with incredible results. The annual theme is a personal stretch that can be a game changer.
How do you identify your stretch? I usually spend the month of December reflecting on where I am, how far I’ve come and what’s next for me. As I think about my goals and desires for the coming year, I look for the missing piece of the puzzle, and usually something rises to the top as my area for focus in the coming year.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself to help your theme rise to the top:

What do you want for yourself in 2011? Look at both business and personal

Now, what do you really want?

Fill in the blanks on this sentence:

I’d have everything I need to get  [what I really want], if I were more _____________.

Is there someone out there who has been down the path you want to travel? Someone who’s gotten close? Who did they need to become to get there? What do they have that you don’t think you have?

Your theme will be personal. It will be simple — usually just one word. It will be something you have control over. Something you can apply to any situation.

Here are some examples:

  • Focus
  • Planning
  • Confidence
  • Public Speaking
  • One-to-one speaking
  • Closing
  • Connection
  • Communication
  • Understanding
  • Patience
  • Organization
  • Vision
  • Decisiveness
  • Innovation
  • Observing
  • Listening
  • Slowing down
  • Speeding up
  • Inspiring others
  • Clarity

I usually put my Annual Theme up on the desktop of my computer and look at it every morning. I work on making a habit of walking into every situation with the intention of seeing how my theme can be applied. I make it a priority. And then I practice, practice, practice.

You’ll know you’re on the right track if the idea of stretching into your theme scares you a little (or a lot).

Get growing. And feel free to let me know how it goes.

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