Reframing Failure

Its time to re-frame failure. To avoid the word, people have tried to soften it by calling it a setback, major disruption, mistake, error in judgment, etc.  Use whatever word you like, it isn’t the word that is the problem, but how you interpret it, or personalize it. The stories  below are examples of how famous people have turned failure into success.

Thomas Edison: As a young boy, teachers wrote him off as someone who was unable to learn.  He was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive. He found his niche as an inventor, after 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, 1,001 was a winner!

Bill Gates was a Harvard University dropout and co-owner of a failed business called Traf-O-Data. He was passionate about computer programming and built Microsoft, the world’s largest software company. Microsoft went public in 1986, and by 1987 Gates became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

What these individuals have in common is that they didn’t consider themselves as failures. They saw each step as a learning opportunity, that brought them closer to their goal.  They learned from their failures until they succeeded.

Nine out of 10 small businesses  fail. Seasoned entrepreneurs encourage new entrepreneurs to fail often and fast. Why? This mindset helps entrepreneurs learn from failure to improve their service or product. 

Why are we afraid of failure?

We can take failure personally by tying it to our talents and worth because we have been conditioned for success throughout our lives, for example:

  • When we were young, we were encouraged to do well in school and pass each grade. Passing a course or a grade is associated with success in life.
  • In sports, usually only the top three competitors are rewarded for their success.
  • There is competition to get into elite career programs. Getting into an elite program is an indicator of success, status, and the best of the best.
  • We need to compete successfully to get a job.

All of these reinforce success and avoidance of failure.

Studying failure

Columbia University’s Teacher’s College is studying failure through its research centre. The research centre is helping students understand that failure is a normal part of learning that leads to success.  This 2016 study, of 400+ grade 9 and 10 students, found that students thought they needed to have a natural ability to be successful. This thinking is a problem for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics because they would give up and drop out if they struggled in class or failed a test.

The researchers normalized failure by sharing stories about the struggles inventors and scientists faced before they succeeded. As as result of hearing the stories, science grades improved. Marks dropped for students that only learned about success .  The takeaway from this study is that failure is normal when you are learning or doing something new, and it is important to understand, learn where you failed, and do better the next time.

Reframing failure

Make peace with failure and move on.  You might need to feel bad about it in order to make peace with it, but don’t let it drag on, find a way to get the discouragement out of your head. Vent, journal or do what helps you clear you head and gain perspective.  Consider what happened, what you learned, and what you would do differently next time.

Taking action will help you move on. It will also help keep you from rolling it over and over in your mind.  Re-frame it as a learning and growing opportunity.

It’s a bad idea. Knowing when it is a bad idea is important so that you don’t waste time or money on it. Test out the idea, look at it from different angles, read up on it, check if it has been done before, talk to experts, learn from the mistakes of others. Take small steps to get some small wins, build confidence, and move towards your goal. 

Develop a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, a psychologist and author talks about a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.

  • The fixed mindset sees talents and abilities as things we’re born with, so when we fail, it becomes a reflection of who we are. 
  • The growth mindset is where we keep learning.  Dweck’s research found that those with a growth mindset achieve more over the long term.

Continuously Improve.Learn from industry, manufacturing, and health. These sectors have taken the lead to promote a culture of safety by learning from their failures to improve products and outcomes. They’ve re-framed failure as quality improvement.

  • The airline industry is a great example of learning from failure. When an airplane crashes, there is a thorough analysis that goes into identifying and learning what caused the crash and preventing future crashes. This analysis requires openness, patience, curiosity, and a tolerance for ambiguity. It has resulted in improved airline safety worldwide.
  • The car manufacturing industry focuses on quality management and continuous improvement, to make their cars safer.
  • Hospitals review deaths and adverse incidents to improve future outcomes by identifying the root cause and system issues involved.

Plan for roadblocks and barriers. Plan and manage your risk(s) when they arise to overcome roadblocks or barriers.

Celebrate wins .This will motivate you to keep going.

Focus on what you can control. Take action to improve the things you can.

Takeaways

Success and failure are a part of a continuum. The same qualities that causes someone to be successful can cause them to fail.

Industry is leading the way to learn from failure. They are re-framing failures as opportunities to improve safety and outcomes.

We can learn from industry to normalize failure, to use it to improve what we are doing, and see it as a step closer to success.  

What about you? What will most help you get back on track after a failure or setback?

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Leading with an Attitude of Gratitude

Photo by Debby Hudson, on Unsplash

Canadian Thanksgiving is coming this weekend. The word thanksgiving is a great word, because it is a reminder to take some time to be thankful for what we have, and for those who love and appreciate us. It can be tough though, because it is a habit that needs to be developed through practice.

When I was younger, I didn’t really have an appreciation of Thanksgiving.  My family cooked a turkey, but that was about it.  When I went away to university, I really noticed Thanksgiving for the first time.  I was too far away to go home, and I lived in residence. When my friends would go home for Thanksgiving, it was lonely.  Occasionally a friend would say “hey maybe you can come home with me for Thanksgiving dinner” but wouldn’t follow through.

During those times, I would try to make the best of it.  I took myself out to dinner, hung out with others that were staying around, go to a movie, walk around and enjoy the fall colours, and sometimes I had a pity party.  It was a tough holiday.  

It isn’t easy to be grateful when you don’t feel grateful. Those times are the hardest to dig deep to find some small thing to appreciate.

I made a point to invite those without family or plans to Thanksgiving dinner or any other holiday dinner after I graduated. I know that they were grateful for the offer whether they joined us or not, because they knew that someone was thinking of them.  My children started this practice as well and is something they continue to do.  It is a way for me and for them to help show our appreciation for others, especially those who are lonely.

I am grateful for the lesson that lonely Thanksgiving holidays in school taught me. Holidays and celebrations can be hard on those who are alone.  I know from experience how a small act of kindness can make a difference in someone else’s life and how good it feels to be remembered.  It can also make a big difference in your life and how you see the world.

So, what does gratitude have to do with leadership? When I read various articles about leadership, frequently, a key quality of leadership mindset, is an attitude of gratitude.  There is nothing like a manager who tells you that they appreciate the work you do. Similarly, having family or friends tell you that they appreciate you is special. It makes a difference. Good leaders take the time to appreciate what they have, and those around them regardless of their situation in life. Many give their time and money to build a better world.  

What we reflect to the world, is reflected back to us… 

What are you grateful for?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Seasons of Relationships

I love the above sentiment because it reminds me that we have different seasons in our relationships much the same way as we have seasons in our life. Knowing the season of the relationship may help us understand and cope better when the relationship ends, but it doesn’t necessarily change the way we approach the relationship.

In my previous post, I talked about relationship capital and the importance of nurturing positive relationships  This is an extension of that post.

When I was younger, I felt that relationships, no matter what kind, should last. I hated when they ended, I felt like I failed somehow. Then I saw this poem and it helped me realize that relationships have different jobs. At work it helps to get things done, in my personal life it helps to build a sense of belonging, companionship and well being plus all the other nice things that come along with positive relationships. Positive relationships are good for our mental and physical health-a human connection is built into our DNA.  Enjoy the relationships you have for the time you have them.

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Relationship Capital and Influence

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on unsplash

What is it and how does it work?

I was listening to an interview, and the term relationship capital came up. It was explained as the opportunities that present themselves in the relationship without ulterior motives attached to the relationship, 

and,

It is the network that helps you navigate the corporate culture, understand your shortcomings, and pushes for your success. Ultimately these relationships lead to a goal of some kind, for example wealth, prosperity or success.

For me, relationship capital means building solid relationships that has led to big results. I have worked with my colleague friends on contentious issues and come out with great solutions that make the organization look good.

I remember going into an interview and being asked about how I managed stakeholders and built relationships.  I was floored, not because I couldn’t answer the question, but because someone was asking it. To me it seemed like something you learned when you were growing up-like how do you make friends and keep them? I mentioned simple things like speaking face to face, or by phone, developing personal connections and following up with them after meetings if they didn’t attend, etc. The interviewers found these strategies great, they nodded and seemed to get excited. I realized at that point that building and nurturing relationships was a skill, and maybe some people just don’t have it, or they have poor skills resulting in financial losses, damage to organizational image, or loss of trust.  The road to building good relationship capital requires consistency of effort and character over time.

All of this to say that building relationships and nurturing them in work and in your personal life is not intuitive or natural to some people. There are lots of courses to learn how to build good relationships to prove it.

Do’s and don’ts of building a relationship

Do’s

Stakeholders, clients, family, friends, require us to pay attention to the relationship. Building these relationships takes time and effort and if it is genuine then a strong bond can form. Relationships flourish when they:

  • Involve mutual reciprocity or a mutual willingness to help and support one another
  • Respect the time needed to build trust and the relationship
  • Value integrity

Don’ts

Mistakes that people make in building relationships:

  • Premature asks (asking before there is a relationship)
  • Poor or no follow up
  • Being a champion in a way that does not fit with the organization’s brand ​

What strategies help to build relationship capital?

  1. Build trust. People love this idea, but it comes with a catch-it requires action.For example, if you say you will follow up, do so, be accountable and reliable. Be honest and ethical and you will gain respect and build trust.
  2. Communicate. I believe that most problems that arise in relationships are because of miscommunication. Just the other day, I was speaking with a colleague friend, and we agreed to a plan of action. Somehow the message got mangled, and I got a call from her boss asking for more information. If he hadn’t called me, it would have resulted in a lot of unnecessary work with possibly incorrect information. Luckily, I have a great working relationship with both, and it was easily resolved. I can call on any of my colleague friends, because I have developed a relationship with them, and they will help me, and I will do the same for them. These relationships have paved the way for many successful initiatives.
  3. Set boundaries. Let people know what the goals are and what is at stake. Let them know what is and isn’t possible and the rest is negotiable
  4. Let others know if you suspect a problem is coming. Those in charge don’t like surprises about projects if they are accountable-it puts them in the hot seat. If you suspect something might become a huge issue, let others know about it, so that it can be addressed. This also builds up the trust bank, when they know that you are in control of the situation.

Building relationships out of difficult circumstances:

How does it work when clients are difficult or resistant to change? Meet stakeholders/clients who are resistant to change.  This is hard to do because it can feel unpleasant, time consuming, and messy to come to a satisfactory solution.  However, if it is managed well it can be really satisfying!

I have learned is to expect resistance and plan for it with any change. The following has worked for me when I have experienced resistance:

  • Clearly identify the problem, I am trying to solve.
  • Clearly state the goal.
  • Provide foundational information to ensure that everyone has the same basic understanding and context about why this is important.
  • Identify and get agreement on basic principles. These are the basis for how agreement on decisions can proceed. For example, a principle might be, “Safety is important.” When disagreement happens, go back to see how the suggestion aligns with the principles.
  • Identify negotiables and non negotiables to find common ground.
  • Listen to feedback and concerns. This provides valuable information on obstacles to implementing your plan.
  • Explain the decision. People will want to know what the decision is based on, and whether their feedback was considered. Not all feedback can be used, and it needs to be weighed carefully along with the overall goals, principles, etc.  Honest discussions that are respectful work best in this situation.
  • Have a respectful discussion, they should never be personal or aggressive. Rules of engagement may need to be used if discussions are contentious, heated or get out of control. Stop the discussion and remind people about appropriate behaviour and comments. If that doesn’t work, stop the discussion entirely and have it another time.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.

Developing good relationships is a lifelong process that will enrich your personal and professional life.  

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Mind your Mind

You’ve probably seen something like this floating around the internet.

I really like this visual because it is a reminder that our brain really is like a computer. We program and controlit by what we put into our head (thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs).

What comes out of us (our actions) is a result of what we put in (programing).

To get new results, we must, alter our programing.

Delete the negative junk we are putting in our head. Then rewire with new programming.

Do Leaders Feel Like Imposters?

Photo: Kyle Glenn, Unsplash

Did you ever say to yourself that you’re not good enough, that you don’t belong, that you don’t deserve the job, the promotion, the book deal, the seat at the table, etc.?  If you have, you are in good company.

  • Tina Fey:  Actress and author, said the following about imposter syndrome “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!’” Women tend to explain their successes away by ascribing them to things like “luck,” “hard work” or “help from others” rather than the innate ability or intelligence than men often cite.
  • Maya Angelou: The prizewinning author once said, after publishing her 11th book, that every time she wrote another book she’d think to herself: “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody.” 
  • Michelle Obama: The former first lady has spoken and written about how, as a young woman, she used to lie awake at night asking herself: Am I too loud? Too much? Dreaming too big? “Eventually, I just got tired of always worrying what everyone else thought of me,” she said. “So, I decided not to listen.

My friend Google, showed me that many famous people suffer from imposter syndrome, including, Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, Arianna Huffington, Serena Williams, Sheryl Sandberg and Mike Cannon-Brookes, an Australian billionaire and CEO of Atlassian who told his story in this TED talk.

Leaders in every walk of life have experienced the imposter syndrome. How they deal with it is an important lesson in leadership and managing your mindset.

Who is Prone to Imposter Syndrome?

This syndrome was first applied to women by two psychologists in a 1978 study.. Since then, it was found to apply to anyone from any walk of life. Anywhere from 9% to 82% of people can experience imposter syndrome

Minority groups may be especially susceptible to it. A 2013 University of Texas study  of ethnic minority college students found that Asian-Americans were more likely than African-Americans or Latino-Americans to experience impostor feelings.

What Does Imposter Syndrome Look Like?

A person with impostor syndrome does not internalize the positive feedback they get. They don’t see it as an accurate reflection of their abilities. Those who don’t feel like imposters, receive positive feedback, feel good about themselves and confident in their abilities.  

Imposter syndrome is:

  • Feeling like a fraud and fearing being discovered,
  • Having difficulty in absorbing personal successes,
  • Feeling like success isn’t deserved, they don’t belong, or are out-of-place.

Feeling like an imposter can lead to a drop in job performance and job satisfaction, as well as increased anxiety and depression.

Valerie Young, expert and author of, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, found the following patterns: in those with imposter syndrome:

  • Perfectionists are prone to imposter feelings because of the high expectations they set for themselves. Small mistakes will make them question their own competence.
  • Experts feel inadequate if they are not fully prepared or knowledgeable before they start a project. They won’t ask questions or speak up in meetings if they don’t know the answer.
  • The natural genius feels like an imposter when they have to put effort into their work.
  • Soloists work on their own and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud.
  • Superstars feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life and may feel stressed or like imposters when they are not accomplishing something.

Managing Impostor Syndrome

Re frame your thoughts

  • Recognize the imposter thoughts and put them in perspective. Ask yourself: Does this thought help or hinder me? Then, take action; either let it go, or take positive action.
  • The way to change your self-talk is to guide your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Replace negative thoughts with positive ones or phrases that break the cycle like, “You got this!”,”Go get ’em”, or ” I can do hard things!”, You are good enough!”
  • Recenter and calm yourself, go for a walk, meditate, do some deep breathing or something that is relaxing. Over time, when you refute the negative chatter in your brain with more accurate and positive thoughts, your brain will become rewired to believe better.

Discuss your feelings

  • Discuss how you feel with a trusted friend, mentor or seek professional help. People who have more experience can reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal and knowing others have experienced it can help make it feel less scary.
  • Most people experience moments of doubt, which is normal. The important part is not to let the doubt control your actions.  Use the information you have to remove imposter doubts more quickly.  Young says. “They can still have an impostor moment, but not an impostor life.”

Write it down!

Your successes

  • A study of over 12,000 journal entries from 238 employees found that capturing small wins helped increase motivation and build self-confidence. Write down your successes, so that you can visit them when you need to. Take time to absorb your successes.

What you are grateful for?

Successful people practice gratitude by writing down the things they are grateful for. Gratitude:

  • releases positive emotions,
  • helps to adopt the wins,
  • improves health,
  • helps to deal with adversity, and
  • builds strong relationships.

Your self-doubts

Writing is a great remedy for impostor syndrome and has a healing effect. Write down your feelings of self-doubt. In fact, participants in a study who wrote about their most traumatic experiences for 15 minutes, four days in a row, experienced better health outcomes for up to four months later.

Writing can help you find meaning in your experiences, provide a different perspective, see the positive side of an experience, and provide lessons for future use.

Takeaways

Imposter syndrome is a mind game. It is a matter of who has control of your mind, is it you, or is it your thoughts?

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The Self-Confident Leader

What is it about self-confidence that is so appealing?  

  • We are drawn to people who believe in themselves.
  • Confident people are simply happy with where they are in life and believe they are capable of reaching their goals.
  • Confident people seem to know what they want, and are not afraid to ask for it, or go after it.
  • They’re typically comfortable in their own skin and well-adjusted.
  • They have a sense of ease which is appealing.
  • They are not afraid to express themselves.
  • Confident people transform the energy in the room.
  • They are authentic, they do not try to be something or someone else.

Think about someone you know who is confident. What is it about that person that says confidence? Then think about someone you know who lacks confidence. What is it different about the two?

The person who comes to my mind that exudes confidence is my husband. Why? 

  • He is confident about his abilities and is comfortable with who he is.
  • He is decisive, takes action, and follows through.
  • He is a positive person and tries to find the positive in all situations.
  • He values integrity and honesty above all things.
  • He isn’t afraid to try new things. He sees it as a challenge and is willing to work to master it.
  • He doesn’t worry about what others think about him.
  • He has a positive energy that transforms the room.

How did he get this way? Part of it is personality,part is hard work and taking calculated risks, facing his fears and building upon his successes.

Self-confidence is:

  • an individual’s level of certainty about their ability to handle things.  
  • essential for the leader to influence collaborators, or followers.
  • the leadership trait that was most often identified in a 2002 study.
  • developed at an early age and is influenced by others, experience, our successes and failures, and how they are interpreted in our minds.
  • the level of general self-confidence that we each acquire in childhood remains fairly stable over our lifetime.
  • formed through our successes and failures, how others react to us and what we expect of our future performances. 

Axelrod in her chapter on leadership and self-confidence, discusses the idea of self-leadership to build self-confidence.  Self-leadership involves changing our way of thinking to believe in what we want.  She states:

“…after we fail at a task, most of us automatically berate ourselves, but if we practice self-leadership, we can observe that we failed only because it was a learning experience and assure ourselves that we will succeed next time…positive expectation helps guide our thoughts in a constructive direction and manage our emotions, so it helps builds task-specific self-confidence, which can enhance performance because people who believe they can perform well tend to do better than those who expect to fail…self-leadership may be the leader’s single most important skill, …to shape our internal life story to foster success…”

Leaders

Take Risks: Leaders who are confident tend to have positive expectations and are willing to take risks. The willingness to take risks, along with believing in their own competence helps build success.

Our level of self-confidence also affects our willingness to complete a task when we fear failure. Those with a high level of confidence will adjust their goals to be more manageable and achievable.

Manage their emotions:  A leader who remains emotionally stable, manages his/her anxiety and anger during difficult confrontations, and focuses on constructive language will be more successful. This self-control will put the leader in a positive light. On the other hand, lack of self control can damage trust, commitment, and the leader’s reputation.

Are Authentic: When leaders reach a level of success and seniority, they may have to take a stand about their personal values, beliefs and principles. This may attract criticism and polarize people. When faced with harsh critics, the best advice is to ignore them if your decisions are ethical, and principle based. Don’t let them get in your head, if they do, banish them like you banish your inner critic. 

Takeaways to Build your Self-Confidence

Imaging/rehearsal: Picture the activity in your mind and what a successful outcome looks like. Rehearse what might happen, what might be said and how you might to respond to the scenarios your mind generates. This acts as a rehearsal for the real thing and prepares us for what might happen. Athletes and many who have life coaches or mentors, are coached to use this method to visualize success.

Constructive self-talk: Catch your inner self-talk to identify destructive patterns. Confront and silence the inner critic, boost your confidence, and reduce anxiety. Speak to your inner critic and tell it that it is wrong, it is a liar, you are going to send it for a time out, it is going to a parking lot, etc. A tip someone shared with me was to wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time the inner critic started. Then call out the critic and re frame the thought to a more positive message. Catch it before it changes the message in your head.

Competence: Focus on what you do well; your competence and abilities. Avoid comparing yourself with others. Be proud of what you do well.

Eliminate triggers: Avoid negative thinking or spending time around things or people that can make you feel bad about yourself-anything that leaves you thinking you’re not good enough. Re-frame your thinking-change your mindset.

Bounce back from your mistakes: No one is perfect. Even the most confident people have insecurities, and there’s no one alive who hasn’t made a mistake. Don’t let one wrong turn, or even a few of them, make you think you don’t have what it takes to achieve your goals and reach your success.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you: Nothing is as powerful as people who think you’re great, who believe you can do the impossible, and who have all the confidence in the world in you. Surround yourself with those people and be intentional about maintaining those connections. Stick with the people who lift your perspective and avoid (or at least tune out) those who make you feel bad or doubt yourself.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

Take pride in yourselfSome people think that taking pride in yourself means that you can’t be humble. You can recognize and appreciate who you are and what you’ve accomplished without being arrogant. Sometimes it’s the motivation we need when things get tough.

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Get Organized to Improve Credibility and Reduce Stress

Photo by Serpstat from Pexels

Organizing things is one of my ways of coping with stress and it is how I remain productive.

  • Organization and time management skills are life skills that can be developed and maintained.  In this study, 67% of high school teachers surveyed, viewed having organizational skills as critical to student success. The same principles that prepare for student success can be applied to work and personal success. Realistic time management and organization skills can improve productivity and the quality of your life.
  • On the other hand, disorganization can lead to a negative impression about your abilities, competence, reliability and credibility.

Factors that Lead to Disorganization

Disorganization may be a result of procrastination, attachment to things, or lack of skills. Those who want to develop or improve their organizational skills, may need to change their mindset and their expectations.  Before people make a change, they need to have a reason to change, and this means a mindset shift. Think about trying to lose weight, eat healthy, or have a fitness regime, etc., first you need to be committed to doing it, and then you need to follow through. Unless you accept that it is a process and will take time, you may become discouraged. For some, getting organized may sound good for about a day until your mind goes back to, its too hard, too much work or it takes too long. You may start to feel guilty, give up and end up back at disorganized and overwhelmed.

Disorganization may be due to a mental health condition. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), hoarding and other mental health issues can make it difficult to develop and maintain an organized environment. If this is the case, then it is important to get professional help. Get a diagnosis from a professional in the mental health field and appropriate support like, medication, therapy, coaching, organizing, education, etc.

Ditch the Guilt and Stress

Do only what is comfortable for you to do and manage. Take small steps that you can do consistently over time. Ask for help.

Common Elements

I sifted through information and advice on this topic to find the common elements. The good news is that the basic components of organization and time management are the same for work and for your personal life. They are:

Priorities

  • Prioritize your activities for the day, week and month. Some of them may be able to be automated and some may become habits. According to a study from Duke University, around 45% of our everyday actions are made up of habits.
  • Do the urgent and high importance tasks first. Some things may be urgent but not important, so learn the difference.
  • Write down your bigger goals (life goals). Then break them down into manageable pieces.

Planning:

  • Bigger or more complicated projects requires some thought and preparation. Break large projects into manageable pieces. Delegate whenever possible.
  • Build in a back up plan. Think through “what if” scenarios. This will help avoid being late on projects or not having enough money or other resources.
  • Poor planning will create additional stress and cause you to go back to either refinancing, removing some aspects of the project to complete it or be on budget, or negotiating for more time to complete the project.
  • Ask for someone else to review your plan.

Process:

  • For Work: These are activities that can be automated, like automatic calendar reminders for meetings or appointments, or templates and processes for activities that come up frequently.
  • Personal: Tasks that can be automated or delegated, like organizing your house. For example, having bins for mitts, or hats, a place to put your keys, a grocery list that everyone can write down what is needed, or paying your bills automatically by setting up an account.  
  • Work and Personal: Block off time to do the important things that need some thinking or do-not-disturb time. Some online calendars have features that allow you to show that you do not want to be disturbed. If you are at home and don’t want to be disturbed turn off your phone or put it on do not disturb. This feature will allow only certain calls to come through. Tell those around you that you do not want to be disturbed. Lock your office door.
  • If you have children that need watching ask a friend, neighbor, parent to babysit for a few hours to complete your work.
  • Designate a time to review email. This way you won’t be distracted by incoming emails.
  • Don’t multitask, it is too easy to get distracted.

Making the Change

Making a change is hard, you have to be intentional about the change and fight the stumbling blocks that come up to block your progress, such as procrastination and perfectionism.

Decide what you would like to organize, then:

  • Take a small step-a micro step. According to B.J. Fogg, Director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, and author of “Tiny Habits, The Small Changes that Change Everything,” it means making the change as small as you can. To create a new habit, simplify the behavior, make it a tiny behavior that is easy and fast to do.
  • Apply the change consistently, it means doing the same steps repeatedly (daily) until they become habits.
  • Organizing one area of your life can lead to organizing other areas of your life. This will make you more productive and increase your confidence.

Project Killers

  • Procrastination: If you keep stalling a project then the project isn’t important to you. If you want to hang on to it, start taking micro steps. If it is important, and you keep stalling, someone else should take over.
  • Perfection. Some people will fiddle with a project to make it perfect. It will never be perfect; it should be a quality job and never sloppy.

Takeaways

Some of my favourite organizational tools:

  • For work: I love mind mapping because it helps me see the whole picture, organize components and see relationships all at once. It makes the mess a message.
  • For my personal life: My phone is my organizer. I use notes, voice memos, camera and calendar features to keep me organized, remind me of meetings and on-the-run notes or memos. I use the camera on my phone to take pictures of where I parked (parking level, parking number, landscaping ideas, etc.)

Good organizational skills matter because they:

  • Help you become a problem solver, something that the world is looking for.
  • Help you be more efficient, productive and successful.
  • Help you achieve your goals faster.
  • Help other have more confidence in our abilities.

For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned

Benjamin Franklin

Successful Leadership Problem Solving

Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

Good leaders have a problem solving mindset which makes them so effective, have better control of their lives, and have more success.

Successful problem solving happens when you are clear about what your problem is. Correctly identifying a problem is critical to solving it.

  • It sounds so basic, but some problems are not easy to identify, which makes it more difficult to solve them.
  • Sometimes people have a solution, before they understand what the problem is. 
  • Sometimes the problem is so complicated that layers must be peeled away before you can get at the root cause.
  • It is a trap if you think that defining the problem is easy. In all my years as a policy analyst, defining the problem is the most difficult part of policy work because you need to get to the root of the issue. If you can’t identify the problem, you won’t be able to fix it, or move on.  

Problem Solving Steps

The problem-solving process is the same no matter what the problem is:

  1. Identify the problem(s): It may help to talk it out with someone. 
  2. Gather information: interviews/talking with others, research, data, internet reviews, annual reports, other reports, minutes, etc.
  3. Analyze your information: Use the information gathered from step two and begin analyzing and synthesizing the information.This includes identifying options or choices and what to consider before you make your best choice. Often step 2 and 3 go together.
  4. Put together an action plan: What are the steps you need to take to make it happen?
  5. Review what you learned:  Once you have implemented your plan, you may want to review the process, (immediately, so you can document what worked and what didn’t at various intervals, 6 months, 1 year, etc.)

Example:  Having a difficult conversation

The Context

A golf trip is being planned by a group of golfers once travel opens from COVID. Some golfers are concerned that not everyone is immunized or will be before the golf trip. The immunized golfers are hesitant about having non-immunized golfers join them, but are afraid to raise it for fear of offending the non-immunized golfers. They are also afraid that by socializing with the non-immunized golfers, they could potentially infect their close family members once they return home from the trip. (Partners were not invited).

Identify the Problem:

Do I have this difficult conversation about what to do about the immunization issue, or do I let it go?

It may be helpful to talk it out with others to clarify the problem. 

Information Gathering and Analysis:

Identify concerns of the golf group both immunized and non-immunized. 

Identify what is non-negotiable.

Identify logistics of lodging, meals, golfing, local rules and requirements, etc.

Find out what the safety risks and requirements are for the immunized and non-immunized, including risks to family members. Many of the golfers have family members with chronic and respiratory illnesses that could put their health at risk.

What are the requirements if someone gets the virus? What is the impact to the group? If quarantine is necessary, are there other arrangements that need to be made?

What happens if someone is hospitalized with COVID or becomes ill? Would someone have to stay with them until they were better?  How will that situation be managed? Would medical insurance cover them? Will someone from the family be able travel to be with their sick family member? 

All these items need to be thought out and planned for.

Action Plan:

Plan for the difficult conversation. Identify how and when to have the difficult conversation. Plan what to say and how to say it:

The leader of the golf trip started the conversation by admitting to his non-immunized friends that this was going to be a difficult conversation and that he was taking a risk with the friendships by doing so. He indicated that his safety and the safety of his family was the most important thing to him.

He acknowledged that his friends had a right to choose not to be immunized. He also acknowledged that as the leader of the event, he had a right to protect his family and others on the trip. He mentioned that others were concerned about how this would affect them and their families.

The leader laid out all the information he gathered and all the questions that needed to be answered. As they began discussing the issue in a calm and rationale manner, it became clear that the non-immunized golfers had not considered all the “what if’s” and had more to think about. The non-immunized golfers went away to consider the discussion and the potential scenarios.

They had a follow up discussion a week later and the non-immunized golfers decided that vaccination was the best option for them and their families. (They had been thinking about getting vaccinated, and the questions raised made them do their own research and reach this decision-no strong arming was involved).

The discussion ended with a temperature check on the relationships. The leader asked how the non-immunized golfers felt about the issue, discussion and relationship. The response was: “All is good.”

Learnings:

Leaders don’t step away from a difficult conversation but find ways to manage it. This real-life example is relevant because difficult conversations happen in the work environment and in a personal environment.

It was an awkward situation and an uncomfortable discussion that brought out all the issues into the open and “cleared the air”. They were fully discussed so that everyone could move on.

Thoughtful problem solving played a key role.

Having a difficult conversation can be productive, calm, rationale and without drama. 

Fully displays leadership skills and character traits such as communication, integrity, honesty and compassion.

Takeaway

This is an example of excellence in leadership problem solving: All of us will run into messy people problems based on emotions, principles, or politics. Most people want to run away from these kinds of conversations, it is an act of courage to face the problem directly.

  • This method of problem solving is a time-tested process that works no matter what the problem is.  
  • Sometimes as a leader you have to do the hard thing. Do it as compassionately as you can.
  • This also serves as an example of how to have a difficult conversation, whether in your work life or in your personal life.
  • Every decision you make has a consequence, be ready for the consequences.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Quote Master

Leaders Speak Differently – Speak Like a Leader

Leaders command a presence

Leaders command a presence when they walk into a room. Is it the title they hold? Maybe? There are some people who command a room and don’t have a title.  Leaders hold themselves differently, they speak differently, and they act differently.

What makes someone sound like a leader?

A key part of being seen as a leader, is to sound like a leader.

Leaders:

Pay attention to subtle differences in language and choose their words carefully. They are tuned into using emotionally intelligent language to encourage conversations, rather than shut them down. This type of language exudes leadership because it is positive, empowering and solution oriented.

Use emotionally intelligent language. Instead of “why did you do that?” they say, “tell me what happened.” they replace “no, but…” with “yes, and…” And “we can’t …” with “what if…”

Decide what goal and emotion to tap into. This will determine word choices. Let’s say you want to motivate, your choice of words may focus on emotions that evoke ambition and pride. Here is an example of Bill Gates and his style of leadership. He knew his team would be facing long, hard days ahead to improve and produce products. He chose his words carefully to inspire specific emotional reactions among team members. He said, “The reason you’re here is because you’re amazing.”  Simple words that evoked ambition and pride.

Connect emotionally. Leaders inspire others, by connecting emotionally with them to make them feel valued, collaborative, and trusted partners in achieving goals.  Examples of classic leaders with the ability to tap into emotions that inspire, include Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his speech “I have a dream” or, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” These speeches have stood the test of time because of how they connected their objectives with the hearts of ordinary people. They made ordinary people feel a part of a bigger dream.

Are precise in their communications. They get to the point and resist the temptation to give too much detail. They keep their key message to 10 words or less, otherwise it isn’t ready to share.  This means, knowing the communication goal and deciding what actions the audience needs to take. 

Are strategic. They give the “why” behind their expectations. They link the project or work back to the bigger goals of the organization. They provide the context for better understanding and outcomes. For example, leaders will say, “here’s the situation,” “here’s the plan.” People want to know what’s going on, and how their work fits into an overall objective and strategy. If they aren’t told, they will fill in the gaps of their understanding with conjecture. So, emotionally intelligent leaders don’t leave gaps, they give the reason behind decisions.

Speak to encourage; look for solutions and innovate.  Negative, critical or complaining speech will hurt efforts to be an effective leader and will hurt the leader’s personal brand and reputation.  

Use the rule of threes. This is used to convince people of something, break down the message into three points: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Why? Because it makes it sound more compelling, more convincing, and more credible. This can be applied to email, presentations, meetings. Also, three is an easy number of points to remember.

Tell stories. Why? Because stories give facts meaning. When leaders tell stories, they invite the listener to join the journey and where the story takes them.  

 Emotionally Intelligent language tips:

Do

SayInstead of
Let’s figure out how to fix thisYou need to fix this
What do you think we should do?What are you going to do?
What is the best way to resolve this?Who’s responsible for this?
Have you tried this approach?You’re doing it wrong
Help me understand your thinking“I wouldn’t do that
We need to do betterThat’s not good enough
How can I helpDo you need help?
Why don’t we try…I don’t think you should
Well done! Thank youIt’s about time

Don’t

Use weasel words or phrases: “To the best of my knowledge; I could be wrong; If I recall correctly; As far as I know; This may not be a good idea, but; Maybe; sort of; kind of; somewhat; um; and, uh.” These words do not make you look or sound confident or prepared.  Women use these words or phrases more than men. They are filler and not precise communication. If you need time to think about what you are going to say next, then take a pause. Use these words and you will lose your audience. They will become focused on the words and stop listening to what you are saying.

Use jargon or obscure references. You will lose your audience.

Go into detail. Keep the information at a basic level for decision makers to understand and make a decision without too much detail.

Takeaways

Whether you work in an organization, are a community leader, or a parent, people are watching you all the time. They are evaluating you as a leader. How do you speak?  Can others understand you?  Are you a positive communicator or a negative one?  Do your words invite or deter?

You can learn to be a better communicator through practice. Watch what you say and how you say it. Emotionally intelligent language can be learned.  Be aware of the impact of your words.  

The leadership mindset is what helps you get what you want out of life. Leadership is a work in progress. It is complex and considers the whole person;  their character, body language, attitude, speech, writing and so on. Leadership and communication are areas of constant learning and growth. No one gets it right all the time, the goal is to keep learning, improving and moving towards your goal.

If you just communicate, you can get by. But if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles.

Jim Rohn