leadership incorporated blog

November 4, 2012

When fear and anger interferes with business growth

My husband has attempted to have a substantive political dialogue with a few colleagues on the opposite side in Tuesday’s election.

The problem is that their positions are consistently based on unsubstantiated stories that predict massive disasters for those with their views.

They use epithets like “snake,” “anti-Israel,” “like Christians rooting for the lions,” “America haters,” “apologists” and other language that seeks to cast both the opposing candidate AND my husband as malicious, evil, ignorant and hostile to the US.

It’s clear that they are very afraid which makes them angry which makes them more fearful and which in turn makes them still angrier. They aren’t interested in facts or reasonable alternative viewpoints and this has made mutual understanding and meaningful dialogue impossible.

A few weeks ago, one of the group invited us to a “debate” intended to showcase each party’s views. She neglected to tell us that the organization putting on the event was strongly affiliated with “her side.” They cheered for their representative  and when the opposing debater spoke (even though he was a highly respected member of the clergy) the crowd began to boo and hiss. Even when admonished repeatedly by the moderator and host to be respectful, they still couldn’t or wouldn’t contain their disrespectful behavior.

The language being used by the debater on their side was full of extremes and violence. He described his opponents as “beating up on our values,” “throwing us under the bus,” “dangerous,” “shoving ideas down our throats,” and so on.

Meanwhile, as his opponent tried to respond with factual and reasoned arguments, the crowd increasingly shouted him down.

As the evening progressed, the angry energy in the room became more and more intense. As it became clear to those around us that we weren’t participating in the heckling, we started to feel hostile glares. Each of us had moments of wondering if we were physically safe.

It struck me that the stories being told and the language being used were intended to incite fear, anger and intense emotion. And that the more fearful and angry the people became, the less able they were to listen, think independently, or to make a rational decision.

One of the biggest problems with using fear and anger as a political tool is that after the dust settles, you’re left with people who’ve been pushed into extreme territory that is a huge challenge to address or control and that can take on a life of its own.

This experience increased my awareness of the emotional and fear-based decisions we all find ourselves faced with, not only in this election, but in our businesses and lives.

A decision made from fear is always the wrong decision. ~ Tony Robbins

We’ve seen a lot of leaders make bad business decisions in the atmosphere of fear that has dominated the past several years:

The manufacturer who stopped all marketing efforts in a panic thinking they could save their way out of financial challenges, and whose rapidly declining market share is making it clear this was an extremely costly mistake from which they may not recover.

The marketing firm that cut several star performers in the early days of the recession and who are now finding that not only have they been unable to replace them, they have to compete against them.

The medical center that for the first time in its history experienced a loss and cut off funding to key departments, creating conditions that guaranteed underperformance, which has compounded their financial problems with decreasing customer satisfaction, bad press, morale issues and turnover that will take much greater investment and time to turnaround.

But what are leaders supposed to do to manage change in these turbulent and scary times?

  1. Notice the emotional stories. Be vigilant! Resist the urge to get swept up in the drama. Be aware of language that triggers fear, anger and other strong emotions — whether it’s coming out of someone else’s mouth, or rattling around in your own mind!
  2. If you do find yourself faced with an emotional or fear-based decision, do the hard work of remaining open. Stay calm. Fact-check. Choose reality. Make sure your sources are reliable. Be curious to see if the opposite story could be just as true.
  3. Create a clear, specific, inclusive and positive vision for what would be better.
  4. Share your vision. Get excited. Get others onboard. You can’t do it alone! Give them an opportunity to get involved; to play a part in creating a better future.
  5. Get into action. Nothing allays fear or anger like positive forward movement.

 The best thing for us all in politics, business or life, regardless of whether you lean toward conservative, independent or liberal views, is to reject fear-based thinking (which can come from either side) get the facts and make the best decisions we can, based on our values. One of the great things about our amazing United States is the built-in respect for competing views, which provides checks and balances that over time keep us moving forward on sane middle ground.

Let’s never forget that. And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!

Advertisements

September 23, 2012

The Re-entry Phenomenon: Coming Back Strong After A Crisis

It’s been one tough summer.

In the last several months, my family has supported both my force-of-nature mother-in-law and incredibly strong father-in-law (and our dear family cat) through intense illnesses and facilitated them in passing on in the most positive, loving, supportive environment possible.

In the middle of all this, we also moved our eldest off to college and have facilitated him through a series of life-rocking transitions. And I had some surgery to solve a neck/shoulder problem.

Now, after several months of immersion in family life, it seems that the crises have passed, the fog is lifting and we are surveying the damage and realizing that it’s time to come back to our lives in progress.

Maybe you’ve been here before. Sometimes events beyond our control pull us away from life and work as we know them and immerse us in another reality. Then —often suddenly — the emergent circumstances wrap up and we find ourselves changed, contemplating a new normal and trying to figure out how to integrate ourselves into it.

My wonderful husband, Michael Leventhal (of MC Squared Law & Consulting, a digital media law & business consulting firm) and I have talked a lot about what’s changed, the challenges facing us now, and how to approach our comeback. We realized that this “re-entry phenomenon” in its broadest strokes also applies in other situations:

  • Having a baby
  • A significant illness or injury
  • The loss of a client
  • The loss of a job
  • The loss of a business partner
  • The end of a project

Can you relate?

A few of the biggest, most common challenges:

  1. You’ve formed new habits that aren’t compatible with normal life. For example, our sleeping and waking patterns have shifted in ways that are inconsistent with normal working hours.
  2. Residual feelings flow over you in unpredictable waves. Seemingly unrelated comments or images trigger powerful memories. Sadness, loss, guilt, stress can take you by surprise and leave you feeling exhausted and in need of a nap. Not exactly a great recipe for productivity.
  3. You have fear stories and other thoughts that get in the way of getting back to work and life. You may worry that people have felt underserved or needed to move on without you. You may believe that you have lost your momentum and don’t know how to get it back. These stories can shake your confidence, and paralyze you from taking even baby steps that lead back to life.

The power of ritual. In the Jewish tradition, there is a three-phase process prescribed for mourners. First, you immerse yourself in mourning for a week. Over the next month you begin to incorporate normal activities at a reduced pace while refraining from certain aspects of life.  For the rest of the year that follows, the balance shifts again: more normal life, yet you keep some practices that create a structure that enables you to make a gradual and supported return.

Whether or not you believe in the religious or spiritual, this is brilliant from business leadership and coaching perspectives.

We need to process. Those who don’t have religious traditions may find themselves pressured by the world to skip some necessary steps that help us to honor what needs honoring, clear what needs clearing and rejoin our lives in a gradual way that allows for predictable discomforts and challenges and makes them acceptable and natural…thereby supporting us in our return.

How many of us force ourselves to come back from a profound break too soon and too abruptly? What is the cost to our well-being? What is the cost to our effectiveness upon our return?

In strategizing our returns, Michael and I sketched out a few practical rituals (spirituality optional) that I thought might be useful to you someday. Here they are:

Process, process, process: Talk, write, think, read, explore and otherwise immerse yourself in what you have just been through for a focused and limited time, say a week. These thoughts and feelings need to be exposed to the light. Grow with them. Don’t stuff them.

Connect and Reconnect: Your relationships are the most powerful path back into your life. Reach out to people. You don’t have to talk about what you’ve been through with everyone, perhaps only a select few. More importantly, find out what’s been happening with them.

Be of service: Shift your focus from self and family to others. How can you assist clients, colleagues, staff, friends? Rediscover your purpose and value to others.

Create with words: Get back into the language of what you do. Make a plan. Use words to talk and write about what you want to do next.

Replace habits one at a time. Prioritize the habits that will make the biggest difference, but don’t try to change them all at once. Gently, yet firmly, go one at a time. Remember it takes about 21 days to create a new habit. Be sure to reward yourself in healthy ways for success.

Reassess. This is a great time to look at what’s working, get rid of what isn’t and refocus yourself on what really matters. Create new opportunities. Nothing is as re-energizing as what you really care about.

Work the dichotomy of patience and encouragement: Allow yourself extra time and be understanding and gentle with yourself if you aren’t adapting as fast as you thought. At the same time, strongly encourage yourself to get back on your game. Most of us tend to do one or the other. Finding the balance between these two makes for the smoothest possible re-entry.

Ask for what you need. If you share, you’ll probably find that people relate. The most surprising people have stories just like yours. And if they don’t yet, they will. That’s life.

My request: I want to reconnect with you. How are you? What have you been doing while I’ve been gone? Please let me hear from you.

January 22, 2012

Leaders: Are you focused downstream or upstream?

A man walking along a river suddenly sees a local farmer being carried along in the current, struggling to keep his head above water. He heroically jumps in to the rescue. No sooner has he got the man to shore and caught his breath, but he sees another farmer bobbing up and down, screaming for help. Again he jumps in. But they just keep coming. He can’t pull them out fast enough. He starts to become angrier and angrier at these big, stupid farmers who kept falling in the river. He sees the Mayor walking by and calls out for help, but the Mayor runs away, making the man even more furious.

Does this sound like anything you are doing in your work?

Frank, the CEO of an ad agency,  is frustrated by the constant conflict between the creative and account teams, which results in a tremendous waste of time and money — not to mention the impact on client retention and company morale. The creative group complains that the account team doesn’t provide adequate input and sets unrealistic deadlines. The account team fires back that the creatives don’t address the input that’s given and over-create. Meanwhile, they continue to miss the target and have to do work over and over, job after job, month after month, year after year. What makes Frank the angriest is when the creative department starts demanding a presence in client meetings, not understanding how that undermines the account team or the cost of that duplication of effort to the company.

Jody, the head of a regional commercial bank, is trying to support Samantha, one of her VPs in solving a problem with team meetings. Team members aren’t engaged and when they aren’t specifically “on,” they are checking email and doing “who knows what else” on their smart phones. Important information needs to be repeated often. People who slipped out for calls need to be tracked down at critical moments. Meetings take at least twice as long as they should and waste company time and money. She has tried to outlaw smart phone use in meetings. She is outraged when team members have the nerve to complain about Samantha who is the one person Jody can count on to be focused and dealing with business issues.

Back to our man at the river.

Why were the man’s tireless efforts having no impact? It turns out that one mile upstream, on the path to the mill, there is a rickety wooden bridge with no guard rail. A section of supports are loose and as the farmers move across the bridge with their heavy loads, the slats dip and tip them right into the river.

And who discovered this? Why, the Mayor, who hadn’t been running away from the problem at all, but running upstream to find its cause.

If Frank were to look upstream, it would become obvious that his problem lay neither with the account execs nor the creatives but with agency protocol that has the account team as the sole point of client contact. From this perspective it might be easier to see that giving the creative team client contact is not duplicating effort, and is actually a solution to the problem.

Looking upstream, Jody might see that Samantha, her engaged team leader, was actually causing the problem, by using meetings to think out loud and presenting every bit of data before reaching her point or a conclusion. From here, it makes much more sense to solve the problem by coaching Samantha to prepare her thoughts in advance and communicate more succinctly.

When we’re in a downstream solution, it’s only natural to turn our anger on people looking upstream.

When looking downstream at a problem, it can feel quite compellingly that we stand to lose everything by shifting our attention away from the problem. But, that is often exactly what we must do. It’s all about perspective. And the cue to stop what we’re doing and look upstream is when we find ourselves continuing to pull metaphorical farmers out of the river — and becoming angry at the farmers for being there.

So, how about you? Where would looking upstream give you a different perspective on the problem at hand? Where are you trying to solve a business or personal problem downstream when an upstream solution could be a game changer?

Wishing you the inspiration to see your challenges with new eyes over the next few weeks.

October 16, 2011

Want more downtime? You’ll have to make an appointment.

25 years ago, it wasn’t possible to work this hard.

Without fax, email, and Internet, you couldn’t connect to the information or people you needed “after hours.” Nothing left to do but go home and have a life.

All the blessings of technology have brought us the curse of the endless business day. We no longer have “normal business hours.” All hours are fair game. More and more business meetings happen at 7am and 11pm.

If we’re awake, we’re emailing.

I remember a client who used to say “if you don’t come in Saturday, don’t bother coming in Sunday.” At the time, it was funny and prideful to have these extreme work habits that separated them from the rest of their industry. Now we don’t even have to “come in” to work all weekend. We don’t even joke about it anymore. We barely even think it’s extreme.

And it keeps speeding up. The faster we can do things, the faster we demand things. The more time we can save, the less we have for ourselves.

We think we have so much on our plates that taking care of an email or a meeting in what used to be “our time” will mean we don’t have to take care of it during our already full day tomorrow. We think we have to get it “all” done.

We feel that this is temporary. Just for now. Just till business improves. Just till things calm down.

We believe that if we aren’t responsive around the clock, our clients or employers will replace us with someone who is.

So, how do we live with this? How do we “work to live” in this environment? How do we not work ourselves into heart attacks?

Here’s the deal: This is not temporary. It is not possible to get it all done. And we are not powerless.

We made an appointment to be here. And now we’re making an appointment for what our lives will be like half a year from now. Through our thoughts and actions we lay the groundwork for our future. Whatever we set up now, we’ll be doing harder and faster in 6 months. Whatever we’re doing now will continue to expand.

So if you want to work even longer and harder in 6 months, don’t set any boundaries and keep setting expectations (especially your own) that this is how you’ll continue to work.

The business world used to set our 9-5 appointment for work. The leadership opportunity here is to start making our own appointment for how we work in our future.

How do we do this? By being intentional. If you want more life in your life next year, if you want your work to grow in ways that are sustainable, take responsibility for setting that up now.

Schedule time. Workout time, family time, you time. Time to sleep. Time to work “on” and not just “in” your business.

And honor these appointments the same way you would your client meetings.Follow the same rules. Yes, there are times you’ll cancel with a client— and ways to do that. Follow these same rules for yourself. When you cancel on yourself, reschedule. It’s common courtesy, right?

If you want other people to value your time, you have to value it first.

Here’s the upside: If your best brain time is after dinner and you want to take afternoons off,  you may well be able to create that. You could work at the times that are best for you. And play at the times that are best for you. A blessing/curse of the 24/7 workday is flexibility. And that’s something else you couldn’t have done 25 years ago.

July 31, 2011

Do you know where you’re leading from in stressful situations?

 (458 words, less than 2 minutes read time)

An exec, high in ranks of a financial organization, was dealing with a CEO who was increasingly angry and demanding. The harder the exec tried to figure out how to please the CEO and gain his acceptance, the angrier and more demanding, and even abusive, the CEO became. With each new conflict, the exec always came at it asking the question: what do I have to do to get him to accept me?

It turns out, the CEO didn’t give a whit about the personal relationship. All he cared about were the business results. He was becoming more and more frustrated by this exec’s focus on the personal. The more the exec pressed for acceptance the less accepting and more demanding the CEO became.

Neither of these smart, talented, experienced professionals were wrong. Results are essential. So are good working relationships. What was going on is that each of them was approaching every problem from their own particular style and with a huge gaping blind spot to the style of other.

We all do this. We may think that we have many reasoned approaches to dealing with our business partners. But if we’re brutally honest with ourselves and take a  deep look, we’ll see that especially in the face of problems — real problems, the ones that stump us, the ones we don’t know how to solve, the ones that get under our skin — particularly in those moments, we each have our own habitual reaction that is our default. And it blinds us to other options and opportunities.

We might become angry and demanding. We might get very worried about the relationships and be unable to see anything else. We might focus on finding any solution that will stabilize the situation, anything to create peace now. We might focus on the details and facts, trying to prove our way out of the situation. We might go quiet and avoid the problem, hoping it will just go away. And so on.

The more stressful the situation, the more likely that we will approach it from that same room in our minds.

What room in your mind do you lead from when you are stuck in a business problem?

One of the ways I coach leaders and management teams is to make them  aware that they are only seeing the one room, while there’s a whole estate worth of other options available to them that can increase their effectiveness and their organization’s productivity.

The poet Hafiz said “Change rooms in your mind for a day.”

True leaders, when frustrated, change focus inside themselves before focusing outside themselves.
Become aware of your internal scenery. Find the door out of the room you’re stuck in and see what new solutions become possible.

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.

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.

February 6, 2011

Why your first act in any leadership role (or any role) should be designing your exit strategy

This week I found myself in several conversations with clients about exit strategies.

As often as I hear from leaders who want to create something they can retire from or hand over to someone who can take it even further, I also hear from people who feel they are reaching the limits of their growth within an organization. I hear from directors who feel they’ve taken their team, department or company as far as they can with their current situation and constraints. I hear from people who feel frustrated and ineffective and stuck.

When I mention exit strategy, often people balk. They feel that planning an exit is somehow disloyal. Quite the opposite! Having a strong exit strategy in place will:

  • facilitate the growth of your organization
  • enhance your personal and professional growth
  • positively impact your leadership
  • help you to meet both your and your organizations’ goals and objectives
  • set you up to leave on good terms and in a way that’s best for everyone
  • make for a far more satisfying career
  • and keep you from getting to a point of complete frustration that is toxic for both you and the business

Not only is it NOT disloyal to have an exit strategy, it’s one of the most loyal actions you can take.

First of all, to think that you will never leave your company is to be in denial. We all will leave at some point, even if it’s when they carry us out on a stretcher. ( Not a desirable way to go for you or the company.)

Your best executive exit strategy may well be one that plans for you to stay with the company until you retire at 99 after having adequately prepared and transitioned to your perfect successor. An equally valid exit strategy outcome is to accomplish x, y and z for your organization and then hand over the reins and go do the same for another business. It may be to sell the company and retire. Or start another one. Or perhaps, your strategy is built on your intention of a series of promotions that lead to becoming that perfect successor for the current CEO.

Regardless of what your greatest desired outcome is, knowing how you want to leave has a profound influence on your actions during your tenure. As you might imagine, the decisions you make would be very different if you knew you intended to hand over control than if you intended to take on more responsibility.Knowing where you are heading makes you more effective. It’s really that simple.

Acting-as-if  you’re in it for the long haul, when you aren’t, doesn’t actually benefit the business— or you, either.

So, what does a potent exit strategy look like? It has the following elements:

  1. Where you are going: Your ultimate goal
  2. How you will get there: A clearly defined step-by-step path made up of objectives which lead logically to your ultimate goal
  3. What you need: The traditional (and non-traditional) requirements to reach each step. (Who says you have to take the usual path??!)
  4. Your ETA: Your ideal time frame…as well as explorations of ways and reasons to speed it up, or slow it down
  5. Who you will be along the way: What are your values? What standards will you hold yourself to? what kind of leader will you be?
  6. How you will exit at each step: Be specific (you can revise as needed) and always strive to make it a win-win
  7. What you will accomplish: When you set these intentions ahead of time, you are much more likely to meet them!
  8. What’s so great about that: Know what’s in it for both you and the organization

If you don’t already have one, I invite you to sketch out an exit strategy today. And see how it immediately impacts the choices you make and the actions you take.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights.

Wishing you an inspired week.

 

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

September 20, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: Growth Mode

Having a full plate is a wonderful thing.

Especially these days when so many businesses are struggling. I’m having the great good fortune to work with organizations in rapid growth mode — and to head an organization in rapid growth mode!

Growth has its challenges. For example, the sense that you’ve been cloned and are in seven distinct places right this very minute. The gift of growth is that it gives you the opportunity (and incentive) to reprioritize and simplify.
One of the ways I’m responding is by cutting back these Inspired to Succeed entries to twice a month. From now on, I’ll be sending them the 1st and 3rd weeks of each month…and see how that goes.

How about you? What can you simplify to make more room in your work and life for the things you want to create?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Look at what you’re putting up with first. I noticed that there were some technology issues that looked like minutes each time but are really sucking hours out of my week. I’m focusing on replacing those things that aren’t working as well as I need them to.

2. Delegate. What are you doing that you could pass off to someone else? Come on, there must be something!

3. Go with what’s working, lose what isn’t. Pay attention to where you’re getting the results you want to see, and where you aren’t. Dump what’s not working. It might seem obvious, but I notice that many of us continue to do things out of habit that have outlived their usefulness — and we didn’t even notice!

4. Focus on one thing at a time. We’ve become addicted to multitasking. But the effort to do everything at once actually makes us do everything slower. Put your focus fully on what you’re doing now, complete it (to whatever stage is right for the moment). Sometimes it only takes a minute or two. Only then shift your attention to something else. You’ll get more done faster and better — and with less stress.

5. Set clear boundaries. For yourself and others. Give yourself a certain amount of time to complete a job (we tend to fill whatever amount of time there is!) Give yourself a fixed time for responding to emails or answering phone calls. Tell people how long you have to talk or meet and stick by it, graciously, of course.

Note: If you’re not in growth mode yet, these ideas may just help you create it!

Got other ideas? Please share them by commenting or emailing.

See you in October!

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.