My son turns eleven today. We are all set to celebrate as we always do – our kids love the traditions that come with birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, college football, and too many other events to mention. The house is decorated exactly the same for every birthday. I’m told they love it that way. There will be a special dinner, as always.
All this tradition and consistency got me thinking. My children certainly love new things and surprises: new adventures, trips to unknown places, crazy experiences. And still, for a handful of personal milestones, they seem to want- to need- something familiar and dependable. Certainly, that is to be expected. New experiences bring excitement, anticipation of something unknown, and the possibility of “total awesomeness” (which, I have to imagine, is what the kids are saying nowadays.) Those traditions, the patterns sought out by their own brains, bring them a sense of stability, safety, and comfort. See my recent innovation webinar for more on this. Read More…
I remember growing up in the days when having a substitute teacher for the day meant watching a movie instead of moving forward with the planned content for the day. At the time, it left me with nearly the same feeling as a coveted snow day.
In the business world, stepping in as an interim leader can sometimes feel like you’re the substitute teacher, left to mind the store until a “real” leader steps in. I feel for substitute teachers and anyone stepping into a leadership role temporarily as they often feel somewhat powerless to act in the fear that they may break something.
Interim leadership roles can certainly come with their challenges, but these situations can also provide unforeseen opportunities that you otherwise may have missed.
How can I communicate better with my team? How can I run a better meeting? How do I make sure my people are “present”?
Try saying “Amen” at the beginning of the meeting, not the end.
We’ve all been there. As people finally straggle into a meeting it inevitably begins to look like the beginning of some prayer session. Heads are bowed, the attendees looking down at their hands, reverently silent. At first, it looks like church – then we see the furrowed brows – and the telltale thumbs and fingers flying. Texts fly into cyberspace and pages on social media are frenetically swept aside.
Everyone is in the room, but many are not “present.”
My nephew attended Basic Training with the U.S. Army. The day he walked into the processing center, the drill instructors confiscated and safely secured his cell phone. They offered no Internet or email access. Sounds a bit anachronistic, doesn’t it?
In a word: No.
The U.S. Army still realizes the power of other forms of communication, including the hand-written letter or note. It might be time for the business world to remember what the Army has never forgotten.
Consider this. My nephew worked long and difficult hours, associating with other soldiers who just weeks previously had been strangers from diverse backgrounds around the United States. The goal of the Army is to instill discipline and knowledge to their new recruits, yes, but it is about something much more important. It is about creating a primary group of human beings who work to understand each other and grow as a community that is mutually supportive and ready to assist in even the most dangerous situations. If the business community was this focused on creation of a primary group, how different might things be?
As the war for talent rages across the land with no end in sight and as competition in the market continues to bubble over at a fervent pace, many business leaders are finding that they must cast an ever widening net to succeed in securing the right people. Data from the updated Global Workforce Analyticsstudy in June of 2017 on telecommuting found that people spend approximately 50-60% of their time away from their desks anyway and the many task are more conducive to solitude than collaboration.Read More…
We often talk about organizational change like inertia. We assume that the plans we put into motion will continue in motion unless they’re otherwise affected by some outside force.
But the truth is, organizational change is more akin to entropy. Even without the influence of outside forces, our processes tend to move toward disorder unless they’re continually and actively managed.
Change is a constant, unrelenting force that we as leaders must navigate every day. So how do we make sure we’re positioning ourselves and our teams to operate in such conditions?
Since 9-11, there have been 156 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, according to data from newamerica.org. And though our country is safer today due to enhanced security measures, new threats arise every day.
Rapidly evolving technology only underscores this critical need to stay ahead of the curve. Gartner estimates cyber security spending will top $113 billion by 2020, and that number will continue to climb.
But, ‘staying ahead of the curve’ is a big challenge when dealing with safety and security in an unpredictable environment. And few people understand this better than Mike O’Neil, a 22- year veteran of the New York City Police Department and the first Commanding Officer of the NYPD Counterterrorism Division.
Back in my college days at Purdue University, my friends and I were winding down a fairly mundane night of painting the town red. We decided to cap things off with a trip to Taco Bell. Rather than peacefully wait for his burrito, my quite inebriated friend decided to pick a fight with some fellow diners.
This already might seem like a bad idea, but it gets worse: His targets were three offensive linemen from the Purdue football team. It’s important to note this exchange happened during the Drew Brees era at Purdue, so these guys were absolute beasts—all surpassing 6 feet and 300 pounds. Although the only outcome I could see involved a trip to the hospital, my overconfident friend kept trying to take a swing at these powerhouses.
Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. We managed to get our burritos and escape unscathed. My friend clearly had a bad case of hubris, along with an overestimation of my ability to take “the smaller guy.” What I couldn’t foresee was how this near-death experience would serve as an important reference point as I developed my leadership skills.
I stopped dieting for weight loss purposes 15 years ago. My brain finally understood what I knew all along; diets deplete willpower, make you fat, unhealthy and unhappy.
Instead of dieting, I’ve been doing the obvious — eat what I want, when I want it, in a balanced way. The results are as expected; better health and consistent weight for over a decade. No restrictions, no stress.
There are a lot of things in life that work the same way. Intellectually we understand a wide range of facts and theories; however, it can take decades before we can truly put that knowledge into practice. Why is that? I think there are many reasons. But one powerful reason is our ability to rationalize everything. We convince ourselves that it can’t be that easy.
But, it is.
Business practices are the same; there is a ton of common sense and wisdom around us but we choose to make things complicated, potentially out of fear. After all, it can’t be that easy, right?
No offense to your MBA, but you learned everything you need to know about being an executive in kindergarten. Business schools provide the strategies necessary to run companies, but true leadership comes down to understanding people.
Think back to your first day of kindergarten. Unless you were a wildly outgoing 5-year-old, you probably felt shy and scared. What if I don’t make any friends? What if the schoolwork is hard? What if I miss my mom? These anxieties aren’t all that different from those experienced by business leaders (aside from the mom part). The fix is the same as it was back then: Be brave. Walk into the room, do your best, and work to build new connections.
I’ve worked with numerous intelligent, capable executives who have years of relevant experience. They often suffer from insecurities that we all face at some point in our lives. One of the more common issues is imposter syndrome, which causes otherwise qualified leaders to struggle with the fear of being “found out.” This can cause people to question their every action and isolate themselves from colleagues.
Leaders who struggle with feelings of inadequacy are reluctant to confide in their peers. They stuff their feelings and eventually end up living in a lonely leadership fishbowl. Given that solitary leaders are less effective than their more sociable peers, their fears of falling short often come true.
Sharing your uncertainties is unbelievably liberating; it also humanizes you and lets your team know you care. Escape the leadership fishbowl by embracing your vulnerability.