The All or Nothing Myth — June 3, 2022

The All or Nothing Myth

The lesson for May 9th in The Maxwell Daily Reader says that just because you are not the Top Dog at your organization or on your team, it doesn’t mean you should give up on being a leader. John suggests finding out where you fit and how you can be most helpful to the team. Don’t let other people or your current situation define who you are to become.

A life-changing opportunity opened up at a company I worked for and I expressed interest in the position. I knew they already had a preferred candidate in mind, and I wasn’t surprised when that person was offered the position over me. I was one of the first people to congratulate her. Over the next two years, I volunteered my time to help her team with several programs and initiatives.

A few years later, another life-changing opportunity presented itself. This time, instead of me going after it, the head of the department walked into my office and offered me the job. They were grateful for the work and support I provided to the other team over the past couple of years. During this time, I developed a reputation for being a team player capable of producing high-quality content.

In the end, I didn’t do the extra work for the other team because I wanted to be recognized or rewarded for it, not entirely. I did it because they were working on stuff that I was interested in and that I wanted to get better at. Had I not been offered the position, I still had achieved the goal I set out to in the first place.

Avoid Jumping To Solutions At All Costs — May 31, 2022

Avoid Jumping To Solutions At All Costs

You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t jump to conclusions before you have all the facts.” The same can be said about jumping to solutions before getting to the root cause. Somebody raises an issue during a meeting. People immediately jump in with proposed solutions. The best idea wins and the solution is implemented. Issue resolved, right? Only if life were that simple.

When an issue surfaces, it is important to spend time defining exactly what the issue is. Write it down in the form of a Problem Statement: A short description of the current issue and the desired end state you hope to achieve once it is fixed. Then spend some time thinking about the potential root causes of the issue. Use simple techniques like 5 Why’s and Fishbone Diagrams to help you.

Fight against your natural urge to jump straight to proposing solutions and invest more time thinking about the issue and its root causes. It might not be as fun or sexy, but it will make your work and life better and drama-free.

Don’t Mistake Extra Conviction for the Truth — May 10, 2022

Don’t Mistake Extra Conviction for the Truth

Robert Greene’s Daily Law for May 10th says that some people who get caught doing something wrong will become overly defensive, animated, self-righteous, and make themselves out as a victim. This is all a ploy to hide the fact of their wrongdoing. It is a ‘tell’ if you will.

This lesson reminded me of two Employee Relations cases I investigated years ago while working as an HR Generalist. When confronted, each person (separate incidences) stood up out of the chair and started saying things like, “How dare you to accuse me of something like this!” And, “I’m a married, God-fearing Christian!”. In both cases, enough witnesses corroborated the initial complaint and appropriate actions were taken.

These were both pretty much open-and-shut investigations. However, I had two cases that proved to be much harder. In one case, it took me six months to gather enough evidence to complete the investigation. In the other, I was never able to gather it and it remained an open investigation after I left the company.

When I think back on it now, the difference between the first two and the latter two cases was the individuals in the latter lacked empathy. I’d bring them in for questioning, and they’d sit across from me cold and stone-faced. They would deny everything. In the first case, even when confronted with undeniable video-based evidence, the person did not accept it and showed no remorse for their behavior.

My takeaway here is that while today’s lesson may apply to normal people that have a conscience, it may not manifest itself in folks that score high on the dark triad personality scale (Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy).

Leaders are Teachers — January 9, 2022

Leaders are Teachers

The first time I went snow skiing was at Mountain High in 1989. I was 17. I went with my best friend, his two brothers, and their dad. All the boys learned how to ski at a very young age. It was second nature to them.

I clicked into my skis and followed the boys onto the chair lift. We continued going higher and higher until we reached the top of the mountain. My best friend kept telling me I’d be fine. Skiing is easy, just follow him and do what he does.

I made it off the lift…barely and lined up to make my way down the mountain. My friends took off, and I followed. I did okay for the first few seconds. But as the terrain steepened, I dug my edges in, and I froze, unable to turn my skis the other direction and make my way down. My friend did pause and attempt to help me. “Just plant your pole and turn!” I remember him telling me.

My friend couldn’t understand why I couldn’t turn my skis. It just came naturally to him. He forgot how difficult it was when first starting out at such a young age. Fortunately for me, his dad had come up behind us on the chair lift and headed in my direction to help.

Jim first learned to ski in his late 20s. In 1989 and well into his 50s, he had not forgotten how difficult it was when first starting out. He worked with me patiently until I could get down to a more manageable path on the mountain. He spent an hour teaching me the basics. Then he let me go on my own and would check in every now and then and give me advice like, “Keep your knees bent, plant your pole, lean back a bit, you’ll do fine.”

​This past weekend, I read this quote, and it reminded me of that day 32 years ago when Jim taught me to ski:

​We could all stand to remember how hard it is for others to master what we now find second nature and take for granted.  All leaders are teachers, and good teachers must possess the empathy to understand the difficulties of learning the basics.  It’s a lesson one should never outgrow or forget.

Admired Leadership

​​​Remember this the next time you sit down to teach your team something new. Be patient and understanding. Try to remember back when you first learned how to do it. Break tasks down into simple steps. Focus on the basics and leave out the finer details until they are ready for more. Remember the Jim in your life and aspire to be that kind of teacher.

How I Killed a New ‘Good’ Habit (Almost) — October 11, 2021

How I Killed a New ‘Good’ Habit (Almost)

This summer, I started a new daily Reading Out Loud habit. I started this new habit with two goals in mind: 1) Work on a Positive Mental Attitude; and 2) Practice speaking out loud. Each morning, the first thing I do when I start my workday is to stand up and read a passage out loud from either John C. Maxwell’s, The Maxwell Daily Reader, or Ryan Holiday’s, The Daily Stoic. After 30 days, I had established this new habit and everything was good.

Three months in and I was still going strong. Yes, there were days that I skipped. If I skipped a day, I did not try to make up for the day that I missed. I just picked back up to the present date in the calendar. Then in late September, I noticed that I was starting skip multiple days, and then a week went by and I had not read a single passage.

What went wrong?

1. Instead of sticking to reading one passage a day, I started reading the passages from both books. Then I added a third book.
2. I started taking notes.
3. I removed the books from my desk and put them onto a bookshelf that sits behind and away from me.

What started out as a simple 5-minute task each day, soon began feeling like a chore. Also, when I removed the books from my desk, they became ‘out of sight, out of mind’. To fix things, I put just one of the books back on my desk and I am no longer taking notes. I just spend about 30 seconds reflecting on what the passage means to me and I try to summarize the key points.

This experience has taught me something that I realize I do quite often. I decide to start something new. I have some early success. Then I add too much too quickly and end up killing it completely. In the past, I’ve done this with nutrition, exercise, writing, and even home improvement projects. Hopefully, I will learn from this latest lesson and work to keep things as simple as possible.

Manage Your Emotions with a Body Budget — September 13, 2021

Manage Your Emotions with a Body Budget

Back in August, Ryan Holiday interviewed Lisa Barrett on Mastering Your Emotions for his nine-week Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge. During the discussion, Lisa used a systems approach to how describe how we should think about managing our emotions.

She used the term Body Budget to explain how the brain’s most important job is to regulate all the systems in the body in a metabolically efficient manner. You will be less likely to experience negative emotions if your body budget is solvent. If you are running a metabolic deficit, this can lead to feeling negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and shame. Left unchecked, long-running deficits can lead to bigger issues like anxiety and depression.

How To Body Budget:

  • Reframe your approach to managing your emotions as a body budgeting problem.
  • Don’t allow yourself to run a metabolic deficit for any length of time.
  • Catch deficits it in the moment and don’t let them get to the point that they drive your body budget into a deficit.

Do these to Stay on Budget:

  • Get a full eight hours sleep every night.
  • Eat healthy – Skip a meal if there isn’t a healthy option available.
  • Exercise rigorously for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Make sure you have social connections with people.

This Is Your Brain On Leadership — September 10, 2021

This Is Your Brain On Leadership

How your brain works:

Your brain resides in complete darkness. It has no direct contact with the outside world. It uses your five sensory organs to collect information on the outcomes of events happening around you. The five senses can only collect data on the outcome of an event. They cannot determine the cause of the outcome. In order to determine the cause, your brain uses past experience to make an educated guess about the most likely causes. The more similar a current event is to past experience, the better the guess. Brand new or unfamiliar stuff, your brain will still make a guess, but it may be a poor fit that doesn’t feel right, or you may just be plain wrong.

How it impacts they way you lead:

No matter how smart you are, or how much experience you may have, you’re still going throughout your day making guesses. Given what you’ve achieved so far in life, I’m guessing you will be right more times than not. But you will be wrong, sometimes. Be humble and accept it when it happens. Seek out evidence that you are wrong. Give the people you lead the authority to correct you when you are wrong. Finally, learn from your mistakes. That is the beauty of how your brain works. Today’s mistake is tomorrow’s past experience to draw from.

Robert Greene on Dealing with Bad People — September 7, 2021

Robert Greene on Dealing with Bad People

Ryan Holiday (The Daily Stoic) interviewed Robert Greene (48 Laws of Power) during Week 3 of the Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge. The theme for Week 3 was about dealing with people. The conversation was mostly about dealing with bad people. I compared his advice to dealing with bad people in my personal life and I think it stands up.

Why should an aspiring leader read 48 Laws of Power?

  • The game of leadership and power is a complicated and competitive game.
  • There are a lot of people with dark energy out there that do not have your best interest in mind, but are looking out for themselves.
  • Most of the time, the people you are going up agains are kindhearted and generous and a win-win solution is likely possible.
  • However, you need to be aware of and ready for the 1% of times that you’re dealing with bad people looking to win no matter the cost.

When it comes to people taking advantage of us, where do most of us fall short?

  • We see the world as we wish it were to be rather than how it actually is.
  • We have to learn how to divorce our emotions from the situation. Learn to look at things more coldly and objective.
  • Don’t take what is happening to you personal. Don’t complain about what the other person is doing to you. Instead, figure out a way to overcome it and beat him.
  • You can’t just leave the match because you don’t like how it is going. You have to learn to adjust your game accordingly.

How do you effectively deal with bad people?

  • Bad people want to drag you into their problems and drama.
  • You are never going to change or reform them, it is about what you are going to do to get them out of your life.
  • The greatest problem we have is divorcing or removing ourselves from the situation emotionally.
  • We need to think more coldly and objectively about the situation. This will give us more time to come up with better options to respond or behave. Remember a good offense is your best defense.
  • The goal is to never let these people into your life in the first place. Strive to be a better judge of people’s behavior and character.

Why is it so hard to deal with bad people?

  • Because they can be very charming, seductive, and charismatic people. They pull you in.
  • You pick up on the signals that tell you to run, but you ignore them because they are charming.
  • However, you have to listen with your brain and not ignore the signals. You have to be ready to make really hard decisions and live with the consequences.
Randall Stutman on Leading During Times of Change and Transformation — September 6, 2021

Randall Stutman on Leading During Times of Change and Transformation

This is the last topic I cover from Ryan Holiday’s deep dive with Randall Stutman from the Admired Leadership Institute during Week 1 of his 9-week Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge. It is on the topic of change management.

From my experience, Randall captured 80% of the important stuff during the interview with these 5-steps:

  1. Nobody wants to change until they feel they’s been heard. Spend time listening to people, what works or doesn’t work, and how they think and feel about it.
  2. If we can get people to feel they’ve been heard, the next step is to communicate a strategy or vision that people can buy into and get behind.
  3. Next comes the often difficult decision of who will be a part of the change effort or the go forward team.
  4. Once the team has been chosen, get everyone together, make a conscious choice to commit, and publicly agree that we’re in this together and we’re going to do it.
  5. Lastly, execute the plan.

The remaining 20% is in the details within each step. The more change efforts you go through, the more you learn what to do and not to do and where to make small adjustments needed to ensure your change effort is effective and it sticks.

Randall Stutman on Fanness — September 4, 2021

Randall Stutman on Fanness

Ryan Holiday asked Randall, “How do you help your people reach their full potential?”.

His response:

As a leader, you need to demonstrate that you are in their corner and will do everything in your power to help them succeed. You must become their biggest fan.

The Admired Leadership Institute provides a list behaviors leaders can perform to motivate and inspire their people. From this list, I chose the four behaviors that I feel had the biggest influence in motivating and inspiring me from leaders I greatly admire and respect.

  • Encourage others when they are down or discouraged – Ken, Professor
  • Give others exposure to those who might help them – Steve, Previous Boss
  • Ask others to tag along, shadow or follow you to take part – Belinda, Previous Boss
  • Trust others with a prize issue or responsibility – Lori, Current Boss

I started writing a story about each of these, but then decided to keep them private. What’s important is that each of these leaders saw something in me and believed in me. This increased my confidence and helped me to believe in myself. What are you doing for your people that will let them know you are their biggest fan?