Your life, at least everyday going forward is “to be determined.” The only question is, who will determine it.
It’s a vital question. The answer likely determines both the level of your happiness and success.
Here’s a few questions to help you become more aware of exactly who is determining your future:
Are you waiting for your life to happen? Do you wait for something to happen while successful people are making something happen? Are you waiting for your “big break” while successful people are making themselves a big break? Are you working hard or hardly working? Do you have goals and a plan? Do you go with the flow or create your own current?
One final question … Can you be honest enough with yourself to answer those questions truthfully?
No matter the circumstances surrounding your life, the economy, your education, where you live or where you grew up or your past experience, no matter what, your future will be determined by YOUR actions. Your actions are mostly determined by your attitude. Your attitude is completely your choice and by extension, so are your actions.
Even if a great opportunity does just “happen” along you still must have to courage to reach out and grab it, you must have to courage to take action.
Do you have an attitude of “can’t” or an attitude of “can?” When you hear yourself saying “I can’t” you best ask yourself one final question. Do you really mean “I won’t?” I’d personally bet on the “I won’t” because the fact is, you almost certainly can.
There will always be excuses available to those who are willing to accept them but here’s another fact: the most successful people do not need excuses and they will not accept them when available. They simply outwork the need for excuses.
While hard work is good, hard work with goals and a plan is great. If you don’t have goals, true goals, then you reduce your chances of success ten-fold. The creation of goals leads to the development of the plans required to achieve them. In nearly every instance the lack of a plan leads directly to the lack of success.
If you’re blaming “them” or blaming “they” for your lack of success then think again. Until you accept responsibility for where you are you will never do what needs to be done to get yourself where you want to be. You and only you can put yourself somewhere else. When you accept the excuses available you surrender the awesome power of YOU! You allow other people and other stuff to determine your level of success and often, your level of happiness.
Bob Hope, the great American comedian and actor said: “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” That’s a great quote, I especially like the part where he says “I steered myself there.” You can do that too!
It’s unlikely that you would buy the car of your dreams and then only allow other people to drive it. Why let other people steer the course of your life with their excuses for you?
Step up this week and step out into the light of harsh reality. You may not like where you are but in all likelihood you put yourself there. You are the only person in the world who can put yourself somewhere else.
I’ve used the word success quite a bit in this post but so far I haven’t really defined what true success is. I won’t define it for you because I can’t. Never let anyone but YOU define your success or tell you if you are happy or not. YOUR success and happiness can only be defined by YOU. If others don’t believe you’re successful enough or happy enough that’s their problem not yours.
If you’re happy with “where you are in life” then by all means stay there. If you’re not happy with where you are, then by any and all means possible, get moving in the direction of your dreams.
People need to know that they matter. They need to know that what they do is noticed. They need to know their efforts, whatever they are, are not in vain.
Authentic leaders seldom miss the opportunity to recognize their people. When there is no opportunity to recognize their people then they create one. For authentic leaders recognizing others is not a part time job, it is not something to “fit-in” or something to do in their “free-time.”
Authentic leaders are intentional and strategic with their recognition practices. They use recognition to reward, coach, and motivate their people. They know that true recognition goes deeper than the basic “nice job” and that it requires thoughtfulness and meaning.
Authentic leaders provide authentic recognition. Authentic recognition comes in two parts: the “what” or action being recognized and the “why” or how the “what” has made a difference.
Lazy leaders might toss out a nice job while crossing paths with a team member but an authentic leader will invest the time to make the recognition meaningful and lasting. They are very specific as to “what” was a nice job, why it was noticed and how it made a difference. This requires that an authentic leader put thought into the recognition of others.
Leaders who seldom provide recognition to their people are missing an essential trait of leadership and that is almost certainly being reflected in the commitment level of their followers. Many factors can affect the compensation and benefit levels a leader can offer their people. Still more factors can affect the work environment a leader is able to provide. There are just any number of factors that a leader cannot control. That is why authentic leaders don’t let the controllable become uncontrollable.
Recognizing your people is completely within your control. You can choose daily to affirm their importance or simply let them wonder if they really matter or not.
When you choose affirmation you choose authentic leadership. You choose to build people and you choose to build your organization. Making an intentional effort to recognize your people encourages them to push themselves. They know what they do matters and that the more they do the more it will matter.
Authentic leaders know that there is a direct link between recognizing success and the amount of success available to recognize.
Recognize your people today and they will ensure that there is even more success to recognize tomorrow.
First let me say I’m not sure I should be writing this post; I don’t think it will make either side of this “issue” happy because I have no intentions of taking sides. It is an issue that pops up too often and I’ve been encouraged to write on this subject so I will…. sort of.
Go ahead and call me a weasel but I’m not taking sides because frankly I’m not qualified to say what different levels of organizations should be making. I might be qualified to say what I should be making and perhaps those who work directly for me but that’s about as far as I go.
I will say however that everyone would be better off if they worried less about what other positions in their organization earn and worried more about how to make their own position more valuable.
So I’m not going to write about how much highly paid people are paid. I going to write about the actual costs associated with being highly paid. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will likely not be surprised that I would look at this from a different angle than most.
Let’s begin with a true story from a long time ago. Years and years ago I worked for a small business with around 15 employees. It happened that there was an opening for an office assistant and since she apparently didn’t have a lot to do, the wife of the owner of the company took the position.
She was a wonderfully friendly person. She seemed genuinely interested in people and I think most who knew her would have said she had a caring heart. She was simply a nice person.
One of her tasks to complete twice a month was payroll. She would compile the necessary documents and forward them to an outside payroll company that would take it from there.
One winter the owner and his wife went on a well deserved two-week vacation. That wouldn’t have been much of an issue except that she hadn’t had time to complete her payroll work before they left. When payday came there were no checks and no direct deposits.
That was a problem for many of the 15 employees. Since I was at the time the highest ranking manager around they all came to me to ask where their paycheck was. I ran it down with the payroll company and discovered there were no checks because nothing was sent to them. There was nothing we could do but wait for the owner and his wife to return.
When they returned I immediately shared the “mood” of the team and asked what had happened. The owner’s wife was very defensive and said she didn’t see why “it was a big deal.” She said “surely everyone has a money set aside for just such an occurrence.”
She was absolutely dumbfounded to learn that no, not everyone could afford to miss a paycheck. She truly and sincerely had no idea that there would be people employed by her husband’s company who lived check to check.
It wasn’t that she didn’t care, it was that she didn’t understand.
She just didn’t understand.
Money had become the great separator. She had all the money she needed, they were wealthy by any standards and she couldn’t understand the thinking of those who weren’t. They had been wealthy for so long that she couldn’t remember what it was like to not be wealthy. She assumed that everyone was like her and that their thoughts and abilities were like hers too.
Here’s my point to “highly compensated” leaders: You may not have allowed your income to change you but your income has changed you. The fact that you don’t see the change doesn’t mean that the change has not happened. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about people, it doesn’t mean you think you’re better than anyone else, but know it or not, “things” are different now.
That’s the real cost of executive pay. It’s the separation in thinking between levels of compensation. It really has nothing to do with money at all. It really has nothing to do with executives either. If someone is making $10 million a year and their boss is making $100 million there will be separation. If the boss is a mid level manager making $80,000 a year and their direct reports are making $60,000 a year there will be separation, not as much perhaps but it is still there.
No matter how much money you make or how high you go in an organization you will never be able to afford the high cost of separation from your people. You MUST know what they are thinking and why they are thinking it.
Every leader needs a mentor but the higher you go in an organization the more you need an additional mentor from the ranks. This is a mentor, or maybe a better word would be “touchstone” who you allow and encourage to tell you the truth and to tell you what’s happening in the organization. This person (or hopefully, people) is your bridge to reality. This person ensures that you don’t let your title, position, or income level keep you from knowing what’s really happening around you.
When you let anything come between you and your people you lose the ability to lead. You become so “different” from your people that they can’t understand you and you can’t understand them. When that happens leadership stops.
I don’t have to tell you what happens when leadership stops.
Have you arrived? Have you reached the pinnacle of success in your organization or chosen field? Are you at “the top?”
It’s been said that “the top” can be a lonely place. I suppose that’s true… for people who are leaders solely by position or title. But for an authentic leader it’s anything but lonely at the top.
Individuals who are leaders by title or position only are often “lonely at the top” because their lack of true leadership skills makes it very difficult for them to connect with their people. They become victims of their own “ivory tower syndrome” and are isolated from their people and the real world of what’s going on in their company or organization.
They wear their “loneliness” as a badge of honor and the price that must be paid to lead. There is really no good way to say this so I’ll just put it out here: they are poor leaders. They are so bad that I almost hate to describe them as leaders at all, but technically, even if by title or position alone they are indeed leaders.
They have no idea what they are missing. They miss the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of their people. They miss the opportunity to build future leaders. They miss the opportunity to leave a legacy and extend their leadership past their physical presence in the organization.
They miss all that and so much more. All because they buy into the Destination Myth. They believe that simply because they are now a leader they no longer have a requirement to learn or grow. They think that they no longer need to sharpen their communication skills or human relations skills.
What they fail to realize is that the moment they stop pushing themselves, the moment they begin to believe they are “set” and have nothing left to learn they begin to fail.
They may even have a strong desire to pass on what they know to others which is an outstanding leadership trait. Believing they know it all however makes it very difficult for their people to learn from them.
Authentic leaders on the other hand know that the most effective leaders and the most successful people in general learn something new everyday. They know that learning is a lifelong process and they also know that they will never know it all. They will never be “set”.
Authentic leaders know that every person on the planet knows something that they don’t and therefore they are open to learning from anyone. Authentic leaders have the courage to expose their “gaps” to their followers and to ask for help from anyone.
Authentic leaders are never lonely at the top because they bring so many people there with them. They bring their supporters and those that they support. They bring those who can help them and those who need their help. They never separate the “top” from the “bottom” and they fully realize that their position or title alone does not elevate their character above that of anyone else in the organization.
Above all, authentic leaders know that they require trust of their people to truly lead and that trust is built by being “with” the people they would lead. Without that trust there can be no real following and this much is certain: A leader without followers is indeed lonely at the top.
I wrote a few weeks ago about what I call “Whispered Thoughts,” those quiet little hallway conversations that are intended to be private but seldom are. They do great damage to an organization and the people involved, both the whisperer and the whispered to.
Triangular Communication is even worse. People often whisper their thoughts as a way of venting, they often mean no harm even though they can cause great harm. Triangular Communication is strategic, it is at best misguided and at worst intentionally destructive.
Here’s one example of what Triangular Communication looks like in the workplace. Let’s say “the boss” tells me to do something and I think it’s wrong, stupid, or I just don’t want to do it. I want the boss to know but I don’t have the courage to say it directly. So I decide, yes, it’s a conscious choice, to triangularly communicate.
I find “a pal,” who I can share my opinion with. I have to choose this person very carefully, they must have one outstanding quality, there can be no compromise on this particular quality. They must absolutely agree with me.
The last thing I need is for this person to agree with is “the boss” and stop my negative momentum. I need this person to reinforce my thoughts and opinions about whatever it is I think is stupid or wrong.
I also need this person to tell someone else what I think. It would close the triangular communication sooner if they told the boss directly but it doesn’t really matter who they tell. Eventually they will tell someone who will tell the boss and my triangular communication will be complete. Maybe it’s someone who they told that will tell someone who will tell the boss but it’s all the same, the message got back to the boss and that’s what I needed.
If that last sentence is hard to follow then good, because that’s how I intended it to be. Triangular Communication takes what should be a straight-forward conversation and turns it inside out and upside down. Look at the mess this just caused, I polluted at least one person’s attitude; they almost certainly polluted others and it just goes on and on. Triangular Communication just possibly might be the greatest productivity killer in any business or organization today.
Triangular Communication might start more rumors in organizations and businesses than any other thing we could say or do. That’s because as my “message” is passed from one person to another it changes. It goes from “the boss doesn’t think I sharpen my axe often enough” to “the boss is an axe murderer” in a few brief exchanges.
No matter how many people became involved in my triangle only two people could resolve the issue, that would be me and “the boss.”
Now it might not be the boss at the top of the triangle, it could be a co-worker, spouse, family member, almost anyone. All that is required is the “you” in the triangle to lack the courage to speak directly to the person at the top of it. It also helps if you just don’t give a rip about the collateral damage you cause while communicating in such a childish manner.
If you can’t muster the courage to speak up then find the courage to keep quiet. You and everyone around you will be better off for your effort, no matter which one you choose.
When what you do and what you say don’t match which one is the truth? Which one is the real you? How are people supposed to know? Do you even know?
Is there a professional you and a personal you? A public you and a private you? Why are there two of you?
I think we become two when we forget our Core Values, or worse, when we don’t know what they are to begin with. Just to be clear, Core Values are those values we hold which from the foundation of who we truly are. These are the values that are so primary and so important that even in a constantly changing world we still abide by them. These values determine how we work, how we interact with people and even which people we allow into our lives. They are the principles we use, or more likely, should be using everyday to determine how we live our lives.
They also determine who we truly are. Truly!
It is far easier to talk about our Core Values than it is to put them on display. That’s why too often we appear to present two sides of truth: what we say are our values and what our values appear to be to others.
Most people who see the two sides of your “truth” will just wonder which one is real. That “wonder” can cause doubt and doubt for a leader can be deadly. When your people don’t know which is real, what you say or what you do, they lose faith in your integrity and you lose the opportunity to lead.
Authentic leaders live what they say. They know there is no stronger credibility than Core Values in action. Like my mom always said, “seeing is believing.” Once again this is where a mentor comes in handy, they care enough about you to call you on your two sides of truth. They won’t judge which one is right but they will cause you to choose between them.
Living our values is not easy, even our Core Values. No one is perfect and at times we will all slip. Core values, may not be at the top of our mind at all times but under pressure and duress they must be there.
As you decide to lead today, ask yourself which side of truth you will present today, the one you believe or the one you say you believe. The closer they are to one and the same, the closer you are to being an authentic leader.
Authentic leaders are very unique people. Perhaps that’s why we see so few of them in everyday life. They set themselves apart not only by what they say but by what they do. They simply do things differently than people who merely hold a leadership position or have an impressive sounding title.
There are a few minimum requirements or qualities that a person must possess to qualify as an authentic leader. The actual qualities of authentic leaders can be debated forever but there are some that are absolute. Integrity and caring are two of the big ones. Judgment, or as I prefer to call it, Judgcernment, is another. Judgcernment is the ability to make a correct decision using both good judgment and discernment.
That ability is key to effective authentic leadership. Yet many leaders have that ability and still fail in their leadership responsibilities. I believe that’s because they lack one other essential quality of leadership: Courage.
They just don’t have the nerve to pull the trigger on big decisions. They have all the facts, they know what’s right, they have correctly judged and weighed all the possibilities and still they can’t bring themselves to say yes or no.
Courage in a leader inspires their followers to commit rather than merely comply. Followers see the inner battle their leader fights to do what’s right and they commit to do what’s right as well, growing themselves, their leader and their organization.
Leaders with courage don’t just work to smooth things over, they commit to making them right. This is perhaps the hardest part of big decision making; if the decision causes change for anyone it will make someone unhappy. It might even be unfair, but courageous leaders know that the right thing to do isn’t always the fair thing to do and they do it anyway. If you believe that everyone must love you in order for them to respect you then you may be a wonderful friend but you’re likely not an authentic leader.
Courageous leaders are willing to risk being wrong sometimes in order to be right most of the time. They know that decisions move the organization forward. They know that a lack of a decision is in fact a decision; it’s a decision to do nothing and that’s a decision that is almost always wrong and at times catastrophic.
Courageous leaders make a positive difference in whatever organization they serve. They can come from any level of an organization and they need no tittle or position to effectively influence those around them. They inspire people and organizations to greatness and their leadership far outlasts them.
If you’re wondering if you have the courage to be an authentic leader then remember this: courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is facing your fear and moving forward anyway. Dale Carnegie always said that the only place fear really existed was in our mind. Remove fear from your thoughts today and you’ll find the courage you already possess tomorrow.