Remember when you were young and with your friends or siblings, and it was determined someone had to go first to do a distasteful chore? Someone would call out “1-2-3…” and as fast as possible, the group would yell, “not it!” Usually it was said in unison, in order to get out of doing it, but if it was noticeable that you were the last to say it, you were stuck doing it (usually after whining that you weren’t “ready”).
As adults in families and work groups, there are too many people who also call out “Not it!” when there is something to be done that will help the group. People find “convenient” excuses–er, answers–to somehow stay Teflon to extra work that they were not expecting. Who’s left doing the task? Usually the “pleaser” in the group who tends to get stuck with mopping up after everyone, because they want to be well-liked and not seen as a squeaky wheel–which oftentimes burns this person out.
OR…better yet…the person that “signs up” to do it is the one who wants to be seen as a “go-to” person on the team. Instead of saying “Not it”, this person says “Yes, I’m on it!” and the team smiles, happy that “someone” has volunteered that isn’t them. After a while of taking responsibility of getting things done time after time, this team player is viewed in a positive light, and gets praised for “dependability, trust, accountability, cooperation” and much more. When the chips are down, who gets sought after to come through in the clutch? Yep, you guessed it: the go-to person. And their positive reputation precedes them.
How do you become a go-to person?
- Keep your radar up for the tasks that are falling through the cracks. Find a system for shoring those up, and appoint yourself (or get permission to be) the monitor of the system until it’s running well.
- When you are in a team meeting, and there is silence after the question, “Who will champion this?” be the one who says “got it” instead of “not it” and let the team know by when they can count on you to handle it.
- Get in the habit of closing loops with superb follow-through. With anything delegated to you, communicate broadly to the delegators that you have completed the task–so they no longer wonder if it’s been taken care of.
- Be approachable with your demeanor. No one wants to seek your participation if you scowl when they enter your workspace. Your smile and body language and “How can I help?” mantra will emanate a cooperative spirit from you.
- Never complain. Complaining is a passive-aggressive form of “not-it”: sure, you’ll do it, but not without squawking the whole way. Swallow any annoyances, push through obstacles and find a way to get ‘er done.
Here comes an opportunity to be a servant-leader. Ready?
I train leaders to adopt a servant-leader mindset. If you are an emerging leader or have one on your team, consider signing up for the Tri-Cities’ LeaderLauncher program. Each month features an aspect of leadership with a 2-hour seminar, plus a mastermind group with the LL community two weeks later to turn inspiration into action. www.leader-launcher.com
It’s almost impossible to become a high performer in any profession without a fantastic support team in front of you, beside you and behind you. Just like an organization has a board of directors to guide it, you too can create your own personal board of directors to guide and encourage you.
You need people in front of you. Mentors are those in your industry that have achieved what you want to eventually achieve. You look to them for wise advice, as you ask specific questions about their path to greatness. You can even be “mentored” by authors, influencers, and professionals who you never meet, through reading their books and blogs or listening to their podcasts. Those in front of you light your path and hold out a map for your journey.
You need people beside you. Coaches are people-helpers who encourage you to make progress on your self-appointed goals. They help you get clarity on your vision, and nail down the action steps to get closer to it. They process your decisions and assure that you align your life with your values. You also need peers/colleagues who are also on the journey but on a parallel path toward their own goals. It’s great to have idea-people and those who are continuously improving themselves on your support team because of the contagious positive effect on your morale. This category must also include your network: those with whom you both add value to and receive value from, in the form of opportunities and resources and connections.
You need people behind you. Having your family in your corner is like no other feeling because through thick and thin, they stand with you. It’s a good reminder to not give your family your energy leftovers because of what they mean to you. Friends fall into this category of what I call “relational rebar”, too, as they are FOR you even though they know your quirks and limitations. Friends fill in emotional gaps that family cannot. I could add a third group here and that would be of your mentees, your successors, those into whom you are pouring your wisdom and experience so that they can thrive when you have moved on. It raises your game when you are role-modeling healthy character and best practices to someone else.
Do you have names/faces in each of these three categories of a personal board of directors? If not, where is the seat at your table that needs filling? Ask around for who others recommend that you need to get to know better, as well as nurturing the relationships that have stood with you for years. They’ll take you to the top, and along the way, express your gratitude continuously for how they propped you up when you were down and how they prodded you to take that next hill.
If you might need me to be one of those catalysts on your team, I’d be honored. Let’s talk. Reach out at email@example.com or 509-392-1895.
Leaders can’t get myopic, otherwise known as navel-gazing. When you spend all your time thinking about what is right in front of you in your organization and what the next day will bring, you lose sight of the big picture. While I’m not encouraging you to “chase squirrels” when you are trying to set a culture or firm up your staffing needs or increase your process efficiencies, I am encouraging you to look beyond the day-to-day busywork to how you can expand your influence.
Effective leaders must look through a variety of lenses every week. Remember that before decision-making, look through the “view of 5”, or at least more lenses that you typically would, so that you can see different perspectives that will be impacted by your actions and decisions.
- The Lens of the Team. You might have once been in their shoes. But even if not, you can make the choice to “put on their glasses” and show empathy for the challenges your team is having. Create mechanisms to allow your employees to vent. Get better at approachability and receiving feedback and you’ll get better feedback—and model to the team how they can better receive feedback. Seek to understand what they are feeling before just dismissing or fixing what you think is their problem. Their feelings have a direct impact on their behavior and results, which is ultimately your bottom line. For some, their job with you will be their best job ever, because of how you treated them and grew them. Relish that opportunity!
2. The Lens of Vendors and Clients. You may be making a difference in people’s lives. Listen to those who keep you in business. The customer is NOT always right, however. Oftentimes, their perspective is totally tweaked! But be known for listening, for hearing people out, and then making the best call possible. Tell people when you take their suggestions. Watch what is moving off the shelves and find out why, which will impact your future purchasing decisions. Watch your vendors interacting with your inventory staff to see how the relationship is going and how it can be improved—even 1%!
3. The Lens of the Industry/Peers. Look to be more of a catalyst in the industry. Catalysts have genuine interactions with hundreds of people and are constantly and eagerly meeting new people to add to their contact list. Link up to them through social media or make connections at conferences or go with your core team on a road trip in another area of your state or region.
Search for those who are at the place where you want to be and make an appointment with them. They have learned lessons and have made mistakes that you can benefit from. If you are fairly established in your business, you can turn around and mentor others in other communities who are just getting started, passing on what you have learned just like others have poured into you.
You can also benefit from attending business events and reading leadership/entrepreneurial literature that are unrelated to your specific industry. So many leadership principles apply across all industries, and a bright idea may just spring up while you are there, or during a break when chatting with another growth-oriented attendee. Put yourself in situations where you have to look at your business from a different perspective.
4. The Lens of the Community. You have fans and detractors in your local community. Be nice to all of them! Change their perception by changing their reality when you interact with them. Some have changed their opinion due to good deeds done or educated responses. Find ways to add value and give back to your community; it’s your social responsibility. Be creative in your sponsorships. Take a day to volunteer for a non-profit cause that the employees support. Learn the political landscape of your city, and make relationships that might come in handy in the future. Be at the table when community planning is happening; again, your participation blasts away at any negative perceptions.
5. The Lens of the Future. If you have a growth mindset, your trajectory is always going up. You need to spend more time in the future to envision the future. I’m not talking time travel, but I am talking about taking more quiet time to reflect on the future, read about it, and talk to other futurists about it. Trends come and go, and you must keep your eye on both them, and what might be emerging on the edge of this current trend. You know that opportunities abound to take advantage of, and you can scan the environment like a ninja, watching closely for the right one to jump on, or to modify and align to your current vision. Getting ahead of the next wave puts you in the most relevant position to grow your business. You may take some “first-in” lumps as you figure out the new reality, but your organization will be top of mind for customers in your area and beyond.
Some good advice here can be remembered by the acrostic OODA:
- First you Observe what is going on in the industry and community.
- Then you Orient to what that means to your business’s future.
- Then you and your core team Decide what you are going to do with that information.
- And then you pull the trigger and Act, putting it on your to-do list with a deadline.
Leaders swing the odds in their favor by being well-informed and well-connected. Get your best sense of the situation, listen to your intuition and instincts, and then act decisively to make greater impact.
Effective leaders know that they are dangerous when blinded by their own point of view all the time. Don’t get stuck in HERE, when there is so much impact you can do over THERE. And, speaking of vision, my new book is out and it’s specifically written to leaders who want to craft, cast, and carry a compelling vision for their team or organization. Order a copy of Leading with Super-Vision today.
If you are reading this blog, there’s a good chance you are an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur (within a company). With that often comes a desire for adventure. You probably embrace change, take more risks than the average person, and leap into action without having full certainty on the destination. And that’s a strength because leaders typically have more regrets about missed opportunities than failed enterprises. You know at your core that moving from good to great is never done. You are only as great as your next action. And, building a business or team requires near-constant progress.
As you think about leadership, you might experience a little feeling of overwhelm if you think about all things that need to be on your radar to be a great leader. You can’t work on everything at once, and it’s most important to ground yourself and business on the core capabilities that lead to success before adding in thoughts about cool things you might try. One strategist says that a good ratio for how a leader focuses his/her time is 70% on the Core, 20% on what’s Next, and 10% on the New. So, when you start to “squirrel” for too long on what could be, give that a time limit and be sure to assure quality on managing current priorities first.
But please…allow yourself time to dream and explore new opportunities! There’s a good chance you have some visionary blood in you, and you have the knack for rising above the day-to-day and reading between the lines, seeing what everyone else doesn’t see. By doing that on a regular basis, you just may position yourself to seize opportunities when they become available, while others hesitate.
In fact, to blast away at complacency, sometimes you may just need to shake things up. Great leaders don’t make their product better; they innovate the factory. Intentionally disrupt the status quo (“business as usual”) to awaken new possibilities that lead to new doors opening. Turn over rocks, crack open oysters, break off padlocks. Don’t allow your team to get in such a rut that it becomes the new normal. They get a little off-balance in the yellow zone (green being smooth-sailing, and red being shutdown), but new ideas may present themselves in that position of uncertainty, and everyone gets a shot of adrenaline for the heightened awareness to the new strategy. Ursula Burns defines it as fearlessness: “Seeing an opportunity, even though things are not broken.”
Where do new opportunities present themselves? Often, it’s in your own community. When you participate in local chambers of commerce or networking groups, or when you decide to volunteer for a cause by yourself or with your whole staff, you will meet people who might invite you to the table where some infant idea could be springing to life—and you will be on the front lines of it. Stay curious. When you network, seek to be interested not interesting. The more effectively that people collaborate with each other, the more tangible impacts on innovation outcomes.
Another place to see around the corner is at industry conferences and trade magazines. Pay attention to the edges of what other leaders are attempting, with marginal success, and transfer it to your situation and how you could adapt that idea to your business. Join (or form) a Mastermind group of industry professionals who are always taking their business to the next level. They will push you to think bigger and take first steps that you wouldn’t take alone. Share a solution to a need that you are getting passionate about exploring with them and allow them to peer-coach you to mold the idea into something workable. Leaders that just stay in their offices miss out on opportunities. Social interaction where colleagues meet and learn about each other’s work issues and challenges is a necessary prerequisite to creating innovation.
If nothing else, sit down weekly and brainstorm a top ten list about how to make one area of your business 1% better. Don’t edit your thoughts; just write them down. Re-read them. Which one gets your juices flowing? Which one presents an opportunity to quickly grow that area of your business? Now activate the idea! Don’t make the mistake of going it alone. Throw it in front of your core team to flesh out how to make it a reality. When they lean into the idea, listen for implementation wisdom.
Another fun way to develop your opportunity mindset is to work on the leadership skill of contextual thinking, which is how well you link specific events/tasks/actions into a wider perspective/pattern. I got an Idea Pad from the Accidental Creative organization, and you start using it by putting an opportunity in the middle. On each side, you put one word that relates to it. Then you start combining every possible pair of those four words, mashing them together (no matter how weird) until a new idea forms. This type of “forced connections” is a common way that interesting ideas get sparked. One company posts pictures of people, machinery, food, and nature to see what comes together.
As you process an opportunity, reflect on this quote from Napoleon Hill “Hidden within every disadvantage or obstacle lies an equally powerful opportunity” and take the advice of the Cambridge Leadership Group, who say to ask seven questions to identify opportunities worthy of people’s attention:
- If this issue were resolved, would the problem stay solved in the long run?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Who can I bounce ideas off?
- What the risks or stakes?
- What are the directly observable data versus our assumptions and interpretations?
- How am I reasoning through this?
- What are the biggest questions here?
“Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed thinking.” –William Arthur Ward
You inspire people by going for what’s possible. Then you look beyond that for what still might be possible! Effective leaders are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to expand their limits and their influence.
Listen to my interviews with local CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and non-profit executives by subscribing to my podcast The Tri-Cities Influencer, available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher. Like the TCI Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TCInfluencer/
Budgets are tight. So is your limited time to get things done. But your professional development is vital to your long-term success, even if it isn’t seen as urgent on your to-do list.
Hit the go-button on registering for growth opportunities because:
- You get to hear from experts on relevant topics. Presenters have prepared their best material to deliver practical suggestions that you can apply right away to your life and leadership. Some of these experts might end up becoming informal mentors for you.
- You learn new skills. People of influence are continuous learners. Adding more tools to your toolbelt makes you more valuable to your organization and to any other future opportunities down the road. (For what to do with new learnings, click here.)
- You model the importance of professional development to the team around you. Maybe your enthusiasm to grow will rub off on others, and they might join you–making it easier to sustain the momentum when you return to work. (For what to do with new learnings, click here.)
- You meet new interesting people and grow your network. Fellow learners around you have great ideas, too, if you engage them in conversation at the breaks. Schedule a coffee chat or phone call with them post-conference for more follow-up idea-sharing or loose accountability to implement what you both learned.
- You get out of the office! A chance of pace and a change of place often leads to a change of perspective–which opens up your creative mind. A great idea for your organization might be a transferable concept spun off from something you’ve heard. Do something fun before or after the conference to recharge your batteries before returning to work.
- You become aware of resources to extend your learning. Whether it’s a tool at a trade show booth or a book from one of the speakers, buy something to take with you that will continue your professional growth in an area that peaks your interest.
Now that you are convinced to sign up, keep your ears open for local seminars and workshops, or target your industry’s big annual (or regional) conference. Just think about how enriched you will be on the other side of that experience! Keep in touch with me for the seminars that Growing Forward offers, and the nuggets of growth featured on my social media, by following me on Linkedin.
No one is in charge of your career path except you. There are too many variables, and you are too unique for anyone to script a cookie-cutter path for you to follow. However, you CAN identify a target position and brainstorm an often-changing route to get there—just remember to keep it flexible, alert for doors to open along the way. You can:
- Identify people who are doing what you think you want to be doing in the future, and set up an informal chat with them. Prepare questions to ask them that provide a panoramic view of their world in that position.
- Hire a coach who can help you discover your personal mission and vision statement so that you are clear on who you are and what you want. A coach has assessments you can take and questions you can answer to get more clarity on your present and future.
- Broaden your network. It takes a little “work” to expand your “net” around people who are connectors and information-brokers. Imagine having a dozen of these opportunity-observers keeping their eyes out for what’s best for you.
- Read current periodicals/blogs on success and personal growth. You will see trends emerging that match up with your interests, and hear from those creating the future, in both traditional and non-traditional ways.
- Expand your skillset. Pursue one of your interests for professional development in an area that appears to be an emerging need with your colleagues. Get a certification or attend a seminar or get mentored.
- Take a risk. Say YES to an opportunity that is on the same trajectory as the career path you are mapping. It may be out of your comfort zone, but stretching leads to growth–and people just may take note of your initiative.
These are just a few suggestions to being intentional about designing a career path that utilizes your strengths and leaves you fulfilled at the end of the day. You are destined to Grow Forward! And if you want to schedule a free 45-minute coaching session to start becoming the best version of you, let’s do it! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org