Do This to Succeed!

Successful people don’t commit to do more than they know they can do. They manage the events of their day with an eye towards always doing what they say they will do.

They don’t over-promise and under-deliver. In fact, just the opposite is true; they either do exactly what they say they will or they do just a bit more.

It is no coincidence that the most successful people also make the best use of their time. They are incessant planners and plan for everything, they even have a plan to manage the unplanned. They leave an opening in their calendar from time to time because their experience has taught them to expect the unexpected.

Less experienced, and less successful people tend to think that filling every opening in their calendar will somehow push them towards success. What it actually pushes most people towards is failure and disappointment when they realize they will not accomplish everything they had hoped. Less successful people focus so much energy on being busy that the lose sight of how to be productive.

What the most successful people will tell you is that hope is not a plan. They don’t schedule things into their day “hoping” to get them done. They schedule things into their day that their plan tells them they can accomplish.

When you over-commit you set yourself up to disappoint, yourself for sure and maybe someone else as well. Never say you will and then hope you’ll find a way. Instead find a way and then commit with certainty.

One trait almost all successful people have in common is that once they commit then they are totally committed. There is no hoping required because they know they will complete the task, on time and as promised.

If you commit to doing more than you can you often end up doing less than you should. That happens when you’re so over-committed that you don’t know where to begin. Successful people do more, often much more because they seldom waste time worrying how “they will get it all done.”

Here’s the bottom line, less successful people promise, usually with the very best of intentions and often fall short. The most successful people commit and they don’t need the best of intentions because they have a plan.

If success is really what you want then never commit to something that you aren’t truly committed to do.

Invest in Trust!

All leadership is based on trust. If someone doesn’t trust you they simply will not be committed to truly following you. They might comply with you, they may do what you tell them to do, they may even kind of like you but they will not commit to you.

Building trust takes time. When I hear someone say “you must earn the right to lead” what I really think they are saying is “you need to build some trust before anyone will actually follow you.” 

Authentic leaders know that their title or position does little in the way of building trust. People don’t trust titles, they don’t trust positions, and they don’t trust names. People trust people. 

Trust building must be intentional. It must occur everyday. If you’re a leader, or someone in a leadership position then you should be aware that your people are watching you. They want to see if your actions match your words. They want to see if you honor your commitments, and not just to them, if they are going to trust you then they expect you to honor your commitments, period.

Every leader, every person really, has what I call a “credibility bank.” Every time we do what we say we will a small deposit is made into our bank. Every time we fail to do what we say will will a large withdrawal is taken from our bank.

If that doesn’t seem fair get over it. Building trust takes time and real trust doesn’t come easy for most people. The next time you’re tempted to blow off a commitment just remember your credibility bank and maybe the temptation will pass.

If trust building must be intentional as I’ve already said it must, then what and how do you plan to go about it. Seriously, I’m suggesting to you that you don’t just let trust happen, don’t just assume that people trust you. I’m suggesting that you become intentional in building trust. 

Take tons of notes about the commitments you’ve made, block time on your calendar to honor those commitments. Return phone calls, answer emails, if you say you’ll do something then by any and all means possible, do it! 

Virtually everything you say and do sends you to your credibility bank, the only questions is; will you be making a deposit or withdrawal?

Think about that for a while and then get busy adding to your credibility bank! 

Watch What You Write

We have all heard “watch what you say.” I can’t say with certainty but I’d bet my mom was the first person to say it to me. 

We all know that once something is said there is no way to “unsay” it and the effects of one ill timed comment can last a very long time.

So, most of the time anyway, we are careful with the words we choose and the tone in which we say them. Sometimes we are so “careful” that we decide not to “say” words at all, we write them. 

There was a time, ages ago as I recall, where we found some paper and something to write with and we took the time to really write out our thoughts, on paper, and then in one fashion or another, deliver the paper to the intended person.

Oh, the good ol’ days!

I think the time it took to find the paper, find a pen or pencil, address the letter, and mail it saved us a lot grief. That time allowed us to really consider our words, to carefully think about how our words might “sound” to the person reading them. 

Today, we can zip off an email in literally seconds. We type out the first thought that comes to mind and let ‘er rip! Email, and even worse, text messages, have become a “damn the torpedoes, full stream ahead” kind of communication. We write what’s on our mind, exactly what’s on our mind because we can. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be honest in our electronic communications, what I am saying is that they should be written exactly as if you were going to read it to the person face-to-face. That thought alone would slow a lot of us down.

We need to realize that even our writing has a “tone” and that “tone” is very often misunderstood by the person reading our message. It would also help if we accepted FULL responsibility for our message and didn’t lay blame on the other person for misunderstanding us. 

Push yourself to be a better communicator. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how will they interpret my message? Use many of the same verbal communication “rules” you use today. Don’t always say the first thing that comes to mind and don’t say it when you’re angry. 

If you think it would be a bad idea to say it out loud then you should also realize that it is actually even worse to put it in writing. People might only hear you say something once but they can read your words over and over and over. 

Which brings me to my final point. Don’t be a chicken writer! Don’t use email, and for heavens sake, don’t use text messages for difficult conversations. Deliver tough news in person where the other person can feel your empathy. 

Parts of you, the real authentic you, often has a hard time escaping your writing. No matter how good your writing skills are they will never be as good at delivering your message as you will be in person. 

No Relationship, No Leadership

Have you ever heard the saying “It’s lonely at the top?” It’s been said so often that some people in leadership positions actually believe that it should be lonely at the top. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth is this: if you’re a leader and you’re feeling lonely, you’re most certainly doing something wrong. I hate saying that so strongly but that is a fact.

You should absolutely not be lonely, you should be the most sought out person in your organization. Maybe not the most popular because authentic leadership is anything but a popularity contest, but your people should be seeking you out regularly with questions and ideas. 

If you don’t have regular, daily conversations with the people you lead it could well be that you’re lacking real relationships with them. When a relationship isn’t present it becomes very hard for a leader to demonstrate that they care for and value the people they lead.

If your people get so much as a hint that you don’t care about them as people your opportunity to truly lead them will be lost. 

Authentic leaders make building real relationships with their people one of their top priorities. They are intentional about it. They will literally schedule time into their day to “relationship build.” They get out their office and seek out the people they lead. Authentic leaders know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead. Authentic leaders invest time with their people to ensure their people’s success. Authentic leaders celebrate the success of their people as much, or more, than their own. 

If you’re a leader you should know that your people value a relationship with you as much as they value recognition, promotions and often, even pay.

That relationship doesn’t have to extend outside of the work environment but it does need to be robust enough for them to know, without a doubt, that they are valued for what they do and who they are.

A leader’s relationship with their people needs to be “real.” As a leader, you need to know something about the people you lead. You can’t lead someone effectively until you know something about them. You can’t demonstrate that you care about them unless you can first demonstrate that you actually know them…. as a person. 

Some of the people who read this will think to themselves “I don’t have time for this relationship crap” and to you I would say this: 

If you don’t have the time to build real relationships with your people then maybe, just maybe, you don’t have time to lead.

Let’s Be Honest

Can I be honest with you for a moment? 

Don’t you just love it when somebody says that to you? It may just be my perception but salespeople seem to say that kind of often. It’s as if they are asking for permission to tell you the truth, if only for a moment, and then they will go back to being lying scoundrels. 

Another one of my favorites is “is it okay to be honest with you?” That what would seem to indicate that lying is normal and being truthful is unexpected. 

I don’t know about you but I expect the truth from people, in any situation, 100% of the time. Even when I don’t like it. Even when it hurts. 

I expect it, but I don’t give it.

Neither do you, at least not all the time. The average person lies 7 times a day. I’d guess little stuff mostly, you know the kind of little white lies we tell to “protect” someone we care about. 

The problem is lying can become habit forming. The “little” white lies get a little bigger as time goes by. Pretty soon we can lose perspective on what exactly the truth is and then, well then, we have big trouble.

Many people are quoted as having been the first to say “honesty is the best policy.” I suppose it was first said so long ago that no one is certain who said it first but I’d say that through the years someone has even lied about that.

I don’t necessarily know if the truth will set you free but I do know that the truth will always find a way to be set free. With that in mind it seems the best policy would be to always tell the truth, even when it seems as if it would be useful to tell a lie.

Don’t ask for permission to be honest, not for a moment, not for a lifetime. Just be honest. 

Now, a special note for you “leaders” out there, especially those of you at the top of your organization. If your people are afraid to be honest with you then YOU have a big problem. If they feel that they must always tell you what you want to hear then you have a leadership issue in your organization and the issue is likely with you.

YOU must make certain your people feel safe when telling you the truth. You must provide a culture where honesty is rewarded and recognized. 

The moment one of your people feel criticized, punished or worse, humiliated for telling you the truth YOU are toast as an effective leader. You’ll never get the insights you need to truly lead. 

Honesty begins with ourselves. Do you allow your people to be honest with you? Really?

Remember, if you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with anyone. 

One Reason People Fail

I’ve spent the last few days in Calgary, Alberta, working with the great team from Oakcreek Golf and Turf. Calgary is a wonderful city in Western Canada that every year hosts an event known as the Calgary Stampede. Without going into great detail let’s just say that the Stampede is the mother of all rodeos.

It attracts visitors from all over the world. Young and old, they come to see not just the rodeo and the incredible Chuckwagon races but also to experience the “event” and the unique hospitality of the great people of Calgary.

I’ve been to three stampedes and even though I know little about horses and rodeos there is always much to marvel at. This year, however, was even more marvelous then before.

The city of Calgary very recently suffered devastating floods. During my visit the magnitude of the flooding was still very, very apparent. Just two weeks before my visit and the start of the 10 day Stampede event the stampede grounds were under water. Not a little water, a lot of water. Some of the water lines on nearby trees were nearly 6 feet high.

It would have been apparent to any average person that in it’s 101st year the tradition of the Calgary Stampede could not continue.

Clearly, the people of Calgary are anything but average. Led by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who appears to be more public servant than politician, the people went to work preparing their city and the historic stampede grounds for the impending influx of visitors. While it will take years and millions of dollars to repair all the damage caused by the flood, the stampede grounds looked exactly as they had in past years.

It was impossible and yet there I was, sitting and standing exactly where I was a year ago as if nothing had happened.

Someone forgot to tell the Calgarians and their personable mayor that it was impossible. I heard stories about the effort it took to accomplish what they did. I heard about the hours and hours of work, and the lack of sleep required to accomplish what they did. Calgary has a philosophy of being “stronger together” and the strength they showed was nothing less than Herculean.

What’s happening in Calgary this week is testimony to the power of persistence and perseverance. It is testimony to the fact that ordinary people become extraordinary when they refuse to accept the fact that something “can’t” be done.

One reason why people fail is that they too quickly buy into the concept of “can’t” and they quit. Many people quit when success is right around the corner. If they could have just pushed themselves a little further success would have been theirs.

Most people, yes most, are capable of accomplishing much more than they ever thought possible. They just need to tell themselves nothing is truly impossible until every last person on earth agrees that it is.

Or, they could just act like they are from Calgary and decide they won’t be stopped come hell or high water!

A Leadership Test

If you have been given a leadership position or some fancy title that would indicate to others that you are in a leadership role then good for you. That position or that title buys you a little time to earn the right to lead. It does not make you a leader! 

Your title or position, and the authority that comes with it may enable you to force people to comply. It will do nothing to help you earn their commitment. 

Here’s a quick little leadership test for you. One question, it will tell you a lot about whether or not you’re truly leading. Just answer the question, no hemming and no hawing, just answer.

Ready? Here you go: Do your people comply or do they commit?

Maybe you’re not really sure so here’s a good way to tell. 

If your people stop doing what you need them to do when you’re not around they are complying. If they do everything you need them to do, exactly as if you were there, they are committed. 

Authentic leaders earn the commitment of their people by showing their commitment to them first. They show their commitment in many ways but foremost is by demonstrating that they care about them. They demonstrate it everyday. Everyday!

They are intentional in showing they care, they literally schedule caring time into their day. They don’t leave it to chance and they never leave their people wondering about it. 

Now, for those of you who are thinking you just don’t have the time to show you care every single day let me ask you this: what work related activity do you do everyday? 

Is it just one thing or is it several? Is it, or are they, more important than your people? 

I would submit to you then when you start making “stuff” more important than people your days as an authentic leader become numbered. 

Don’t let that happen, get intentional in showing you care, earn the respect and trust of your people and truly truly lead!