Before you can lead others, before you can lead even one other person, you must be able to lead yourself.
In large part leadership is about helping others succeed. It may sound selfish but you must help yourself succeed before you attempt to help someone else succeed.
It is a good idea to periodically stop and evaluate yourself in a number of areas to see how effectively you’re really leading yourself. (I know I write about this almost incessantly but this is yet another area where a mentor or coach can make a huge difference for you)
One area you may want to evaluate yourself is how well you’re able to control your emotions. Authentic Servant Leaders are generally passionate people but they don’t use their passion as an excuse to lose control of their emotions. We will all lose control of our emotions from time to time (it’s called being human) but great leaders don’t make emotional decisions. They will delay a decision just a bit to let their emotions settle down enough so that their decision is a sound, realistic, thoughtful decision.
Leadership is about people, we manage stuff, budgets, inventories, etc. but we lead people. Authentic Servant Leaders frequently evaluate their success in the area of building relationships with their people. They know that every human interaction leaves an emotional wake, people feel either better or worse. There is no such thing as a “neutral” human interaction so the best leaders consider what they want their emotional wake to be, positive or negative. You can leave people feeling better about themselves and the situation or you can leave them feeling worse. It’s a leadership decision that too many leaders never make, they just interact and whatever happens is just how it is.
How well do you choose your words? Your words matter, little changes in the words you use can make a big difference, in how you feel about yourself and in how others feel about you as a leader. Evaluate from time to time if you could have said something more effectively, more positively, or with more impact. Perhaps you said something that didn’t need to be said at all or perhaps you just couldn’t summon up the courage to say something that really needed to be said.
Leading yourself well requires that you understand the power behind your words. If you’re consistently regretting your choice of words then it’s a good bet that you’re not yet ready to lead others.
Do you have the time to lead? People who lead themselves well are almost hyper-conscious about how they use their time. They use time management tools like block time and prioritized task lists to make sure they are actually productive and not merely busy. They control their calendar, they see the use of time as an investment and they invest it in high return activities.
Authentic Servant Leadership at it’s core is about giving a piece of yourself in service to others. Before you begin to give of yourself make sure that what you’re giving is truly worth receiving.
Your task is to build a better world,’ God said. I answered, ‘How?… this world is such a large, vast place, and there’s nothing I can do.’ But God said, in all His wisdom, ‘just build a better you.’ – Author Unknown
Every person I know seems to want a better world. Pretty much everybody you see on TV talk shows says they want a better world. All the politicians you hear and see are talking about how they have a plan to build a better world.
All the plans seem to have one thing in common… Somebody else has to change or somebody else has to do better. It seems so daunting a task that few people actually attempt to make the world better.
Pretty much everybody you see or hear talking about a better world forgets the easiest place to start… with themselves. It is just like the poem says, “build a better you.”
Befriend people who aren’t like you. Don’t judge them, just try to understand them. Listen, really, really listen to someone who has a point of view very different than your own. Put yourself in their shoes and look at their point of view as if you were going to help them convince someone with your point of view… that your point of view is wrong.
It’s very difficult to learn new things when we invest our time only with people who think like us, act like us, and do the things we do. Expand your horizons by expanding your sphere of influence, have a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t at least once a week.
Learn a foreign language and while you’re at it learn about the country and people who speak it natively. Don’t criticize someone else’s thinking without first understanding the origin of their thoughts. You may discover that the only reason you don’t like someone is because you don’t know them well enough.
Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, don’t offer to help someone who you think needs it… just help whenever and wherever you see help is needed. Don’t aspire to a position or title that people will follow, instead inspire them to follow the PERSON that YOU are.
Never, never, never try to be someone that you’re not. Don’t try to imitate someone else, simply be the best you, the you that you have always been meant to be.
Invest time and energy in building a better you every single say and imagine just how much better the world would be if every other person followed your lead.
If you really want to build a better world… then begin by building a better you!
Thinking is good, there is no doubt about that. Thinking too much however might not be so good. It’s amazing how often “over-thinking” leads to “under-doing.” We think so much about what we should do, or what we’re going to do, that we never actually get around to doing it.
The most successful people know that thinking about doing something will never get it done. As important as thinking is, success in life comes from doing. Good ideas have no chance to become great ideas until somebody does something with them.
Thinking alone never leads to success, it is only when thinking is followed by action that an outcome is produced.
That little bit of insight is not news to anyone. Some of the people reading this will agree with it and start thinking about thinking less and doing more. Then they will think about it some more.
Here are just a couple of ideas to help you “thinkers” to think a little less and do a little more.
While you’re thinking you may want to be thinking about your plan of ACTION to help increase your chances of success. Many people don’t start something because they don’t know where, or how, to start. Sometimes getting started is all it takes to build a little momentum towards a successful outcome. So just start!
I’d recommend beginning your plan with the ultimate goal in mind. You don’t have to know every step on your path before you begin. If you know where you’re going (your goal) you will figure out the steps along the way.
Remember, starting small is better than not starting. Before you use “lack of resources,” time, money, help, or whatever, as an excuse not to begin you should know this…lack of resources is seldom the real problem…make sure your real problem isn’t lack of prioritizing. You may not have enough of something to do it all but never let that be an excuse for not doing all that you can. It’s amazing how the resources show up once you begin!
Get some help to get started, a long train often adds a second engine to get started. Find yourself a second engine…maybe a coach or mentor. The most successful people are not afraid to ask for help so ask someone who cares about you to give you a push. Once they get you started don’t forget to ask them to check up on you once in a while. A little accountability can go a long way.
Oh and one more thing…your thoughts are almost always reflected in your attitude so think positive thoughts. Think I CAN and then think I WILL!
Salespeople need to sell, that much is certain. In business nothing much happens until somebody sells something. That’s one reason I have so much respect for professional salespeople, they are the engine that drives much of a company’s success.
Please note that I said I have much respect for PROFESSIONAL salespeople. The hacks out there who will do anything to separate a prospect from their money… not so much.
If you’ve been is sales for any length of time you’ve likely heard the old axiom known as ABC or “Always be closing.” That little sentiment has ruined many sales careers. I have a better one, it not only lengthens sales careers it tends to make them highly profitable as well.
Here’s mine: NBC or NEVER be closing. That’s right, NEVER! In case you’re confused let me repeat that in a more succinct way… NEVER close a sale, never, never, never!
Salespeople who live with a goal of closing a sale, or closing business or closing a deal are looking at the sales process exactly the opposite of how their prospect looks at the buying process.
Limited salespeople believe that when the prospect says yes the deal is done. The prospect believes that when they say yes the deal, and the relationship, is just beginning.
The term “closing” is one of the most negative and limiting words in sales. It says something is over, done with, and it’s time to move on. If you’re purely a transactional salespeople who will never need or want a repeat customer then go ahead and close.
If you’re a sales professional who wants a long-term career in sales, with lots of returning customers and golden referrals then don’t think of “closing” the sale. Think instead of “earning” the customer’s business and opening a new, mutually beneficial relationship. I absolutely want you to ask for the order but only after you’ve earned the right. You earn the right to ask for the order by determining how your product or service can help your prospect and then presenting a solution that makes sense to them.
That change in mindset will change the way you sell. It will change the way your prospect looks at you. It will change your outlook on what you do for a living. You’ll no longer have a sales “job” you’ll have a career in sales.
You’ll no longer simply be chasing the deal, you’ll be searching for solutions that will help your prospects and customers reach their goals. You’ll enjoy what you do for a living far more than your “closing” colleagues.
Oh and one more thing… you’ll sell more and if you’re compensated on your results you’ll earn more money too!
Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness. – Napoleon Hill
There is a myth about leadership that many people in leadership positions believe. John Maxwell calls it the Freedom Myth. The freedom myth says that when an individual achieves a position of leadership they are also “freed” from certain rules and responsibilities that encumber their followers.
When someone in a leadership position says something foolish like “I’m the boss and I’ve earned the right to come and go as I please” then you know they have bought into the freedom myth.
Total freedom is a leadership myth. Here’s a leadership fact: leaders haven’t earned anything but the right to be the example of success that their people need.
Most ordinary people simply don’t know how to succeed. Some people will learn to succeed just by being told what to do but the vast majority of people need someone to show them. Someone who can and will “model” successful behavior. That someone is most often a leader.
Authentic Leaders help ordinary people produce extraordinary results.
Authentic Leaders know that leading is a privilege. They also know that it does not make them privileged. In fact, Authentic Leaders sacrifice freedoms and privileges everyday in the pursuit of true leadership.
They make these sacrifices willingly, they make them to help their people succeed. They sacrifice in order to have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those they would lead.
If you are a leader who somehow believes that their position or title brings with it certain privileges that are not available to their followers then you are a leader who has separated themselves from those same followers.
Your building a wall between yourself and the people who need you to show them how to succeed. The longer you take or accept those privileges the higher the wall becomes. When it gets high enough you’re not leading anymore because your people will refuse to climb the wall.
Some leaders see their position as an opportunity to better their OWN life. Authentic Leaders, especially Authentic Servant Leaders see their position as an opportunity to better the lives of OTHERS.
When you buy into the Freedom Myth you develop a mindset of “I’ve arrived, I’m it! Serve me!” When you disavow the concept that your position somehow makes you better or more valuable than your people then your mindset can be one of “I may have arrived but I’m not it, you are and I’m just here to help.”
Are you willing to sacrifice in order to make a difference in the lives of those you lead? Like everything else in life it is a choice…. will you make it?
I’m tempted to make this post very short and say to quit your job the moment it begins to feel like work….but I know that not everyone is blessed with a job that they love.
When to quit your job is a big, difficult decision for many people. It should be, it’s a life altering decision. Younger people tend to quit their job too soon, they jump ship before they realize that what they don’t like about their job may be themselves. They get to their new place of employment and there they are; and many of their problems came with them. Older people sometimes stay too long, they “hang on” and overstay their usefulness instead of moving on to somewhere else where they might make a real difference.
Of course one of the biggest differences between younger and older employees is this: for younger people work is something they do; for older people work is some place they go. Younger employees work is “portable” but older employees work is located at a place filled with familiarity and that can be tough to leave.
So, when should you quit your job? My recommendation is to leave your job when it stops providing you the opportunity and environment where you can be happy. Now I want you to read that last sentence very carefully. It says stops providing you “the opportunity and environment” to be happy.
Do not expect your job or company to make you happy. It is not a requirement for your employer to make you happy. Companies that want to retain employees will however provide an environment where happiness and fulfillment are possible.
But your happiness is your responsibility. It is also your choice. When you allow others, your boss, your company or whatever, to determine your level of happiness then you give up a pretty important choice.
Successful people accept responsibility for all aspects of their life, including their happiness.
Companies that provide that opportunity and environment have several things in common, here are a few of them:
They have trusted leadership. It’s tough to be happy when you’re looking over your shoulder.
They provide opportunities for advancement. Now once again let me point out that word “opportunity.” Opportunity does not mean a constant string of raises and promotions, it merely means the possibility for both exist when you EARN them.
They provide the opportunity for self-development. Companies are either developing their employees or they are using them. If you’re feeling used it will be nearly impossible to be truly happy. However, if your company offers you educational opportunities and you decline to accept them then you’re not being used. You’re just cheating yourself out of self-development that could lead to greater success.
Success to me is about much more than making a living, it’s about making a life. To make a life I believe that you must make a difference.
If the place that you work does not allow you to make a difference then find some place that does. You of course do not have to make a life at the same place that you make a living. I might even encourage you to have more than one “place” in your life.
One more thing… if you do choose to stay at your job then you MUST do the job to the absolute best of your ability whether you like it or not. Failing to do so isn’t a whole lot different than stealing. If you accept the compensation then accept the work as well.
People crave recognition. They crave recognition almost as much as they crave air to breath or water to drink. In fact people NEED recognition to carry them through the difficult times that all humans will eventually face.
Needing recognition is not a weakness, it is just a part of life.
I know lots of people who say they don’t need recognition. They are “self-fulfilled.” Well they may need a bit less recognition than other people but they are kidding themselves if they don’t think they need any recognition from anyone ever.
Humans have this thing known as an ego. If you have a pulse then you have an ego. It’s not bad to have an ego so long as you keep it under control but it is a problem when we fail to recognize that everyone else has an ego too.
What many people forget is that an ego sometimes needs to be fed in order to stay healthy. One of a leader’s primary responsibilities is to feed the ego of their people. Just like with a real human diet, small consistent “feedings” are far more healthy than binge feeding once in a great while and then starving for nourishment in between.
Those small consistent feedings are called compliments, feedback, and coaching. If you’re a leader who starves your people of ego food then you are missing a big piece of leading.
None of this is new for experienced leaders; they know their people need recognition and feedback. The mistake they make is believing they can provide that recognition and feedback when “they have an extra moment” or in their “free time.”
Look at your calendar, go ahead, look right now. Exactly when is that “extra moment” or “free time” on your calendar?
Most leaders don’t have extra time or free time in their day. That means the time required to provide recognition and feedback must be baked into their schedule. It must be planned and intentional. It needs to be more than “once in a while” because a “while” can be a very long time when you’re a busy leader.
If you really desire to grow your people then you need to give them the recognition they NEED in order to grow. When was the last time you purposely stopped what you were doing to give well deserved recognition or feedback. If you don’t know the date and time then I would submit to you that it’s been too long.
Your team’s collective ego is hungry… feed them!