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Are You Truly Productive?

imageAre you truly productive? That’s a question you may want to ask yourself with some regularity. We… you, me and everybody else has the uncanny ability to trick ourselves into believing that we are incredibly productive when in fact we’re merely busy.

Busy and productive are two entirely different things!

Busy is about doing stuff. Productive is about doing stuff for a purpose. Busy is about looking like your accomplishing something. Productive is about actually accomplishing it. Busy is about wondering what happened to the hours in your day. Productive is about knowing exactly how you used your time.

Busy people hope for a productive day. Productive people plan a productive day.

Their plan is based on their goals and objectives. They determine what they will do and when they will do it based on priorities that come straight out of their goals. They strive to be doing the most productive thing possible at any given time.

Here’s they most amazing thing about highly productive people: they have more free time to do as they please. They earn this free time by not wasting time being busy. They simply get more done than very busy people.

The key is effective goal setting. Once you invest the time required to have meaningful goals in specific areas of your life you’re halfway to being productive. To finish the job you must develop a detailed plan around how you will achieve each goal.

Specificity is vital here. If you allow wiggle room you’ll use it to fall into old, busy looking habits.

Share your goals with someone to whom you truly matter, someone who will hold you accountable to your plan. This is where a coach or mentor can really make a difference. People who have a coach or mentor are generally more productive and more successful. That is not a coincidence. Coaches and mentors make a major difference in the lives of those they work with.

So don’t be so busy you never stop to ask yourself if what you’re doing is actually productive. That little gut check can be the difference between getting something accomplished and wondering why you can’t.

Can You Lead You?

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Before you can lead anyone else you must be able to lead yourself. Before you can lead up you must lead yourself exceptionally well.

Leading “up” simply means extending your influence to those above you in your organization. When you lead up you have much greater impact on your organization than your position might suggest. Your influence comes not from your title or position, it comes from the value that you bring to the entire organization. 

To lead yourself exceptionally well and earn the opportunity to lead up in your organization you must first learn to control your attitude. Your attitude is entirely your choice. If you don’t fully believe that then you have surrendered one of life’s greatest assets to the whims of other people’s moods and “stuff” over which you have no control. 

Yes, your attitude, or your positive attitude, can be one of your greatest assets. Your attitude shapes almost every decision you make. It can either add to or subtract from the ability you have to tackle the tough jobs required to lead up.

While you may not be able to control all the events of your day and you certainly can’t control the attitude of other people, you DO have COMPLETE control over YOUR attitude. 

To lead up you must learn to control your calendar. You must be able to say no to the often unimportant urgent things so you can focus on the truly important value adding activities where you can make a difference for the organization.

You must realize as a person looking to extend their influence that your words matter. As your influence within an organization grows your words will carry more weight. As you work to earn the opportunity to lead up you will need to choose your words with care because your credibility is fragile and the wrong word at the wrong time can damage it. 

If you’re going to lead yourself exceptionally well you must develop the discipline to think BEFORE you talk. Great leaders know that there is no way to “unsay” something that has been said and even worse, there is no way to “unhear” what has been heard. 

Think of it like this: if your words aren’t adding value to a conversation then what are they adding?

To lead yourself exceptionally well you must find balance in your life. You must lead your life according to your core values and goals. Your core values and goals are what allow you to set priorities in all areas of your life. Knowing, truly knowing, your core values and setting goals around them, allows you to make balanced decisions that reflect who you really are.

It will look to other people as if you “walk you talk,” it will look that way because you will be walking your talk. You might be able to fool some people for a while but when attempting to lead up, frauds are discovered pretty quickly. 

To lead yourself and to lead up, know who you are, know what you stand for and work everyday to be true to yourself. 

 

What Exit Interviews Miss

ExitLet’s begin with full disclosure on my part; I’ve never been on either side of an exit interview. I’ve had very few jobs so there has been little opportunity for me to provide my own feedback and I’ve never had anyone who worked for me quit. I have never in my life sat on either side of an exit interview desk.

But I’ve seen the results of many exit interviews and virtually every single one of them had the same thing in common; they said, if the words of the departing employee, why they were leaving.

Most companies do not know the reasons why employees stay or the actual reasons why they leave. They sort of attempt to figure out the later with an exit interview but exit interviews almost never differentiate between factors that make the new job attractive to the departing employee, and the reasons why the employee was prompted to consider leaving his or her current job in the first place.

For example, many employees report “better compensation” as one of their main reasons for leaving. Research revealed that these same employees were not, in fact, originally unhappy with their compensation. Instead, other reasons caused them to consider leaving their current job, such as lack of advancement opportunities or a feeling of being taken for granted.

Because of this situation, information from exit interviews often fail to reveal the actual causes of a company’s key employees.

The job market continues to pick up around the U.S. and companies can lose employees even when the employee isn’t looking to change jobs. If you’re not yet aware of this then consider this post a wake-up call – you’re best employees either are or soon will be recruited by other companies.

Most of your key employees will turn down recruiters right up until the one time that they don’t. What causes the change that makes someone act on a recruiter’s call at a particular point in time? That’s what you had better be searching for in your next exit interview.

Something changed, something in their work situation deteriorated to the point that they were vulnerable to an offer from another company. If you don’t know what deteriorated then you will not be able to fix it. If you do not fix it then it will happen again. When it happens again you will lose another key employee.

It’s a pretty darn good time to be looking for work, it’s so good that your employees can find another job when they are not even looking for one. It’s a terrible time to have issues in your organization that would give your best employees a reason to leave because they now have ample opportunity to leave.

The answers you need to keep your top performers can come from asking the right questions in an exit interview. Instead of asking only “why are you leaving?” perhaps try asking “what could have made you stay?”

You may not like the answers but if use the information to build a stronger organization you most certainly will like the end result.

Does Deceit Show Poor Judgment?

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I go back and forth on the most important characteristic for leadership. Sometimes I know it is good judgment. Other times I’m just as certain it’s integrity.

I understand that both are vital but if one of them must be first then which one is it?

Someone recently asked me a question that causes me to think that one of those characteristics, or rather, the lack of one of those characteristics, proves the other is missing too.

The question was this: Which causes the failure of more leaders, mistakes of judgment or the deceptiveness of the leader?

I can certainly think of many leadership failures caused by poor judgment. Those judgment errors have resulted in interminable calamities, both for the leader and their organizations. But if we’re talking about just the pure number of leadership failures then you would have to say more are caused, perhaps far more, by the leader’s deceptiveness.

When you actually stop to think about it most of the deceptions and lies put forth by a failed leader where to cover up some other episode of poor judgment. The problem is the deception most often is worse than the original poor judgment.

If the leader would have just stepped up and admitted to the poor judgment they likely, or at least possibly, could have survived the situation. The original poor judgment, when compounded with the attempt to deceive will almost certainly lead to the downfall of the leader.

That being the case it seems clear to me that lack of integrity causes more leadership failures. It also likely causes more problems for the organization of the deceptive leader.

But then again, if the leader had great judgment they might not have any reason to deceive.

This seems a bit like the “chicken or the egg” question. So what say you?

The Limiting Nature of Goals

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I am a big believer in the power of effective goal setting. I’m an even bigger believer in the power of effective goal achieving.

Research has shown that people with true goals and a specific plan for how to achieve their goals are far more likely to achieve success in life, however it is that they define success. They just “do” better in most every area of their lives.

Just to be clear, dreams are great but they are not the same as goals. Goals are written out, with a plan and a timeline for achieving them. If you’re going to write out your goals and NOT make a specific plan for how to achieve them…. well, there’s really no reason to write them out, they are more of a dream than a goal.

Goals, as helpful as they are however do not guarantee success. They can actually even limit our success. Within the past two weeks I’ve had a couple of high performing salespeople tell me they were way ahead of their plan. They were going to make their year “easy.”

They would be able to coast thorough their selling season and still make their year. The heart of their selling season hadn’t actually started yet and they were thinking coast mode already. That’s not good.

Maybe their goals were set too low in the first place, maybe they happened upon an expected sales windfall, maybe they just worked their butt off early in their year. But how they got so far ahead of their plan is irrelevant, their goal has become a limiter of their success.

Sometimes when we reach a goal we give ourselves the mistaken idea that we are somehow done, complete, finished, mission accomplished.

I’m all for taking a breath and relaxing a bit upon the achievement of a hard earned goal. But don’t just quit, don’t stop working, don’t stop improving. Set some new goals.

Your goals, true goals anyway, should be alive, they should grow and change with the circumstances of your life. My long-range goals are different than they were just a couple of years ago and even short-term goals should be adjusted if your situation warrants it.

Goals are intended to push us forward, to inspire and encourage us. Never let an achieved goal prevent you from achieving even more. Successful people continue trying to be even more successful, they continue to challenge themselves with ever more difficult goals.

The achievement of one goal should be the first step in the setting of another. Keep goals in front of you and and you’ll keep your success there too!

The Attitude of Success

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Very few things, perhaps nothing, will have more impact on your opportunity for success than your attitude.

There are many many things in life we cannot control. So many people that we cannot control either. Sometimes it just seems as if we have no control over life at all. But that is absolutely untrue. We have complete control over one of life’s greatest assets…. our attitude.

While we cannot control the events or people in our life we have total control over how we react to them. Total control. You have total, complete control over you attitude. It’s your choice and your choice alone. The only way you can lose that choice is to give it away.

Less successful people regularly give the choice of their attitude to the whims of events and the chances of life. They have, I’m sorry to say, a victim mentality that makes failure palatable. They have, to a large extent, not only given up control of their attitude, they have given up control of their life.

You see, the only real way to control your life is to control your attitude.

The most successful people make a choice to control their attitude regardless of the circumstances that effect their day. They CHOOSE positive no matter how strong the winds of negativity blow. They ignore the nattering nabobs of negativism and keep themselves shielded with positivity.

The most successful people choose to control their attitude in order to maintain control of their life. They are not blindly optimistic, they simply see opportunities where less successful people see only obstacles.

The most successful people almost all have one other thing in common: when they did fail they decided to try again. Less successful people often decided to not try at all. The difference between trying again and not trying at all is most often attitude.

You will seldom see a successful person with a negative attitude and you will seldom see a person with little success who has a positive attitude. Here’s what less successful people fail to understand: poor attitude isn’t caused by failure, failure is often caused by poor attitude.

Attitude is a choice, choose positive and choose control. Choose positive and choose success.

Why Key Employees Leave

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Every company has their key employees. The reasons they are “key” vary greatly but most every company knows who they are. They want them to stay and they frequently take actions to ensure that they do stay. They may compensate them better, increase their benefits, allow them greater flexibility and even let them bend a few rules. (Not recommended)

The company believes they are doing everything they can to protect and keep their vital people but they forget one thing…

Nothing and no one is more motivating or demotivating then a key employee’s immediate supervisor.

If the person your key employee works for is impossible to work for then the key employee won’t work for them. They will find a way to leave. More money is a short term fix, they may accept it but they will continue to look for a way out. The younger or more talented they are the more likely they are to leave.

There is nothing you can do to keep them if their immediate supervisor is a terrible leader. It’s often said that people don’t quit a company, they quit their manager. It’s often said because it’s very often true.

Your key people may prefer to stay but if they can’t escape the clutches of a poor leader their preference to stay will take a back seat to their need to prosper. Talented employees will find it difficult to prosper under the guidance of poor leadership. Sometimes it’s so difficult that they leave despite liking the work and their co-workers.

When you’re considering your options for keeping your high-value employees don’t forget to look one level above them and make sure that they are reporting to someone who can and will help them grow.

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