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Can you Adapt?

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The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein 

Can you adapt? That’s a pretty big question! Successful people and companies have proven that they can adapt, in fact, it’s a key to their success. They are willing to accept change and not only are they willing to accept it, they embrace it and use it to improve themselves and their organizations. 

History is riddled with the failures of organizations and people who had the ability and skills required to succeed but who lacked the willingness to adapt. 

Nothing hinders succeeds like the love of traditions. Traditions are great…. right up until the time they hold us back from trying something new. The unwillingness to try new things is a close cousin of unwillingness to try at all. I understand why most people struggle with change. All change, whether it’s chosen or forced, comes with some sense of loss. We may not even realize we are feeling that loss but it’s there and it affects us.

The only thing constant about change is that it never stops. Some change is so small we barely notice it, some is so big that it’s truly life altering. Big change can stop us in our tracks, it kills momentum and can have severe consequences….if…. you cannot adapt.

Since change is constant and often shows up uninvited successful people prepare for it by always, or nearly always, having a “plan B” ready to go. They may be forced to move in a direction they would be prefer not to (like being let go from their job) but that doesn’t mean they have to move without a plan. 

The most successful people frequently run “what if” scenarios in their mind. They plan for the worst case and then work to improve on the worst case. They may look calm but that’s only because they saw “it” coming before anyone else.  

Most everyone claims to want to improve, they forget the fact that nothing improves until something changes. If you can accept change and adapt then you can improve! 

The fact is, you can. The question is, will you? 

 

The Perils of Planning – Part Two

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No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

In part one of this post we laid out the first four steps of an 8-step planning process. Those 4 steps represent a fair amount of effort and thought, more than the average person puts into an entire planning process. 

Despite that effort and thought you STILL don’t have a plan! Those first four steps are only about preparing to plan, they are not the plan. 

In part two of this post we’ll finally get to the actual plan. Before we begin let’s review. Here are the first 4 steps in the process:

  • Develop a realistic picture of the “as is” or your current situation.
  • Paint yourself a picture of the “should be” or your desired situation. 
  • Determine the investment you are willing to make in order to successfully execute your plan. This investment should be thought of in terms of both financial and time.
  • Set short range, medium range and long range goals that will stretch you while remaining realistic and obtainable. 

Ok, let’s continue with the process:

Step five – Develop your timetable. A plan is serious business, it’s not a “someday I’m going to” thing. Someday is not a day of the week. Doing anything in your free time doesn’t happen because your watch doesn’t show free time. There is no free time any more. A plan must include a timetable, the timetable has timelines, dates and deadlines. It includes when you will begin implementing the plan and when the plan will be complete. It includes start and end dates for each and every goal, whether they are short range, medium range or long range. Timetables create the pressure and accountability required to make something happen. A plan without a timetable is a plan doomed to failure.

Step six – Prepare the plan. This is the step where the rubber meets the road. You list, with great, great specificity exactly the steps you will take to achieve each goal within the plan. In this step you determine the who, what, when, and how of your plan. Who will help you, who will mentor you and hold you accountable to stick to the plan when the going gets tough?  What will you do and when will you do it? When will you review your plan and make adjustments if required? Perhaps most important how will you respond to a failure within the plan?  Remember, always remember, a failure in part of the plan does not make the entire plan a failure. No plan survives real life completely intact. 

Step seven – Implement the plan! It’s amazing how many people do a pretty decent job with the planning process and then never actually put the plan into action. No plan has a chance to succeed until it’s implemented. It’s okay to start slow but it’s vital to start. 

Step eight – Follow-up. This step is critical to the success of any plan. Not just follow up at the end of a plan but follow-up during the entire plan. Review and review some more. Tweak and adjust. Keep your plan alive by changing it as required. It’s not a mistake to admit you forgot something, it’s a mistake to ditch the entire plan because of one or two mistakes. Have your mentor or coach help you review your plan, a good mentor will help you keep it real. 

So that’s it, an 8-step process that can lead to success. 

Successful people plan, they know that even when the plan doesn’t work as designed proper planning always pays dividends. If you truly want success then do what successful people do….plan!

The Perils of Planning – Part One

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No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.

People tell me all the time that they don’t plan because plans don’t work. They say “stuff” always comes up that keeps them from executing their plan. People interrupt them, things outside of their control go wrong or someone, likely a boss or customer throws a wrench into the plan. All of those things are the enemy of your plan.

As common as I know those things are they are also the very reason everyone needs a plan.

Success comes from planning!

Someone may achieve some level of success without a plan but it’s the kind of success that is nearly impossible to sustain. It’s short-lived because they are not certain how they achieved it and even less certain about how they will maintain it. 

Here’s a fact about planning: while plans often don’t succeed planning almost always does. The thought process that goes into developing a plan is always useful whether the plan succeeds or not…. if the planning process used was a good one. 

Below is the first half of an proven 8-step planning process that can help you find success, whether the plan succeeds or not.

Step one – Determine the “As-Is” or current situation. Before you can get to where you want to go you must know where you are. Many plans fail in this very first step because people don’t always take a realistic look at where they are at. They sugar-coat their issues, they believe they are farther along the path to their goals then they really are. Sometimes they have convinced themselves they are working hard enough to succeed when they are barely working at all. You MUST be brutally honest with yourself in this step, if you fail to develop an accurate picture of where you’re currently at you’ll find it very difficult to chart a course to ultimate success.

Step two – Determine the “Should-Be” or desired situation. This is a highly personal step, in this step you determine what success means to you. Many plans fail because people chase somebody else’s dream. When the inevitable bumps in the road show up we give up because we don’t want the dream in the first place. Don’t determine “a” desired situation, determine “your” desired situation. 

Step three – Determine the investment that you’re willing to make to achieve your goals. The common mistake people make in this step is thinking of investment solely in terms of money. The money is the easy part when compared to the physical and mental part. I can’t tell you how many dollars I’ve spent on fitness club memberships; writing the check was the easy part. I seldom was willing to invest the time required to use the club. When you think of your investment you must ask yourself if you’re willing to invest the time and effort required to succeed. DON’T FORGET, if you’re going to start doing something new you’ll likely have to stop doing something you’ve been doing. What are you willing to give up to get something else?

Step four – Set goals. Set short-term goals, perhaps as short as a day or a couple of weeks but no longer than a few months. Set medium-range goals, somewhere between 3 months and a year. Set long-range goals, from a year to 5 or 10 years. Some of the goals may be “slam dunk” goals but some should be stretch goals. Push yourself, if you easily achieve your goals it’s likely your not pushing yourself to your full potential. That said, do not set unrealistic goals, they demotivate you and can cause you to give up on your entire plan. 

That’s it for this post, we’ll look at the final 4 steps of the planning process in out next post. Those steps are the difference between a plan that could work and a plan that will work! 

 

Is Anyone Responsible?

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I read with amazement (but not surprise) recently the story of a young woman in Atlanta who had blown through the $90.000 inheritance that her Grandparents had left her for college. She had spent it on “stuff” like clothes and shoes and a European vacation. 

The story was about her calling into a radio talk show to complain about, among others things, that her parents should have taught her how to budget. She didn’t have money for her college tuition and she was blaming her parents. 

She also complained that they were “lying” when they said they couldn’t afford to replenish her college fund; she said they had a retirement account and they could have used that. She said the whole thing was her parents fault and not hers. Her “friends” all agreed with her.

She thought she had terrible parents but that fact that her parents were letting her suffer the consequences of her actions told me she had parents who cared about her.

She also had zero responsibility for her own actions and decisions. No matter what happened to her, it was not her responsibility. Just like a ton of other people these days.

How about the school administrator who makes a racist remark and then in all seriousness says it wasn’t her, “the devil was in the house” and he made her do it. 

When a kid beats up a teacher in school we blame the kid’s “home life” or the environment where they live. We say they can’t be held responsible. 

When bad or stupid things happen we blame something called “the media,” or social media, or the Internet or most recently, a flag. We ask how could “everyone” have missed the “signs” that this person had “issues?” Why didn’t anyone get them help? 

But we seldom assign responsibility to a person.

Is personal responsibility a thing of the past?

It appears so and that is a very bad thing. I’m sorry (well not really) if this offends anybody but we’re not helping the kid who comes in last place by giving them a trophy for trying. In the real world not everyone wins. In the real world the people who perform better get better results. In the real world people who know their actions have actual consequences make better choices.

The most successful people learn from their failures. Hiding failure from people by relieving them of their responsibility does not teach them a thing. Parents who solve all of their kids problems for them will have kids who always have problems that need solving. 

Years ago when Charles Manson killed a bunch of people and wrote “Helter Skelter” on a wall we didn’t blame The Beatles because they had a song of the same name. We blamed the PERSON who did the crime. He was called a criminal, not a troubled individual who was “victimized” by a bad upbringing. We said HE was responsible, not his environment, not his parents, not is friends and certainly not the radio stations that played the song. 

Today, The Beatles would be vilified and Charlie would be getting “help.”  

There is far less accountability and personal responsibility in the world today and it’s not making the world a better place. 

It’s also not making people better. 

 

Do Your People Know How to Succeed?

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say flat out that people are not born with the knowledge of how to succeed. 

Someone needs to SHOW them. Most (warning: very general statement coming) managers just tell people how to succeed and hope they figure it out. Leaders show them how to succeed and coach them so there is little doubt that they will figure it out.

Leaders know that their people will do what they see being done far faster than they will ever do what they are told. You can tell people what to do but they will do what they actually see their leader doing.  That’s why it so vital that a leader’s words match their actions. 

You as a leader are the model of success for your people. You can and should not expect them to do things to succeed that you’re not doing. If punctuality is important to the success of your people then YOU must be punctual. If a positive attitude is important to the success of your people (and it certainly is) then you must project a positive attitude. 

Leadership comes with a lot of responsibility. If you are going to have the audacity to label yourself a leader, or even accept the label of leader, then you must look, act, and sound like a leader. 

You must BE a leader! 

You must model the behavior that you expect from your people. 

That’s a whole lots of “musts” but that’s what true leadership is about. Authentic Servant Leaders accept the sacrifices that come with each of those “musts.” 

You’re success as a leader is completely dependent upon the success of your people. They may not know how to succeed but you do. Model success, model it consistently and match your actions with your words. That’s what true leadership is all about! 

 

  

When to Stop Investing in People

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I frequently speak with groups on the topic of leadership. Sometimes the groups are just too large to have a real two-way conversation but once in a while they are small enough to allow for a real dialogue to take place. Those are my favorite presentations.

Last week was one of those smaller interactions. One of the questions I received was as serious, challenging and complicated as a question can get. 

The question came during a segment in which I was speaking about the difference between a management mindset and the mindset of a leader. A management mindset thinks “I have a person working for me who isn’t getting the job done. I better spend some time on them.” A leadership mindset thinks, “I have a person working with me who isn’t getting the job done, I better invest some time with them.”

Leaders see people as an investment, not an expense.

Let’s be clear on this, leadership is about people. We don’t lead companies, we don’t lead budgets, we don’t lead buildings or inventories, we manage them. We lead people!

People don’t want to be managed, they want leadership. You’ll hear people complain every single day about being micro-managed but you’ve probably never heard a person say the word, micro-led. 

Leaders invest their time, experience, knowledge and even a piece of themselves in the development of their people. The success of their people is as important to them as their own success. If their people fail they take at least partial ownership in that failure.

But…

There does come a time when a leader has done all that they can do and still one of their people is just not progressing. Investing in people is much more complicated than any other investment, there is much more at stake. But just like any other investment that doesn’t work out, at some point in time you just have to cut your losses. 

The question I was asked was, “When is it time to stop investing in a person and let them go?”

THAT is one big question. I hate failing at anything, I hate failing with people development even more. I’m supposed to be good at it, I’m supposed to help people perform better. When I don’t then I’ve failed. So the decision to stop investing is a big one… but it’s not a hard one.

Here’s how I answered the question.

I stop investing when the good of the one begins to outweigh the good of the many. Simply stated, when the time required to help just one person grow begins to negatively impact and limit the amount of time I can invest with the rest of the team, I have to stop investing in the “one.”

This is particularly true when there seems to be little or no return on that investment. No leader can sacrifice the “many” for the “one.” 

Letting someone go, demoting them or reassigning them is a terrible decision to have to make, but leaders make that decision. Leaders do not let their ego get in the way, they admit, that for whatever reason, this is “one” they just can’t help develop. 

Leaders do what needs to be done, that’s one way, one very big way, that you can tell they are a leader.

 

When You Know It All

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A while back I was meeting with a representative of a company that helped learning organizations measure the effectiveness of their training. We got off track a bit and were discussing various certifications and I mentioned a certification for marketing executives that I had initially earned several years before. I told him that there was a lot of education and testing involved in earning and maintaining that very challenging certification. 

He stated that he wouldn’t need anything like that because he already knew all he needed to know to succeed in his career. I was polite and finished out the meeting but I knew in that moment I would not be using this person or their organization. 

If he already knew everything then it meant that he had nothing left to learn. It may have even become impossible for him to learn. I couldn’t help but wonder how this know it all would ever learn enough about my organization to actually help us. I figured if we used him we would be getting some cookie cutter measuring system that was a “one size fits all” deal. That was not what I was looking for… at all.

Talking with him reminded me of the story about the United Sates Patient Office closing in 1899 because “everything that could be invented, already was.” The office never actually closed but there were “know it alls” at the time who recommended that it should.

Truly successful people will never be a know it all. They know they can’t know it all and they know that they don’t have to. They also know what they don’t know. 

Truly successful people learn something new every day. They are always looking for the newest idea. The best idea doesn’t have to be their idea, they will use and benefit from good ideas no matter where they come from.   

The most successful people are in constant learning mode, they are as far from a know it all as you can get. 

The biggest problem with being a know it all, other than annoying everyone around you, is that once you believe you know it all you see no use in trying to learn anything new. Much like the patient office, you have learned all there is to learn. You’re done!

When you’re done learning you’re done period. Whatever success you’ve had will begin to wane. If you’re not pushing your limits to learn, if you’re not trying new things, if you’re not taking risks then you may be playing life to safe… or you may think you already know everything you need to know. 

Either way, you’re likely seriously limiting your potential. 

You can’t possibly know it all, the good news is, you don’t have to. The great news is you can learn something new this very day. Keep your knowledge base fresh and your success will always be fresh too! 

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