Do You Have Gaps?

The only honest answer to that question is yes. If you’re a leader who believes they don’t have any gaps in their skills or abilities then you are likely a leader who has been blinded by their success.

Even the most successful, authentic, and committed leaders have skill gaps. They have gaps not because they are poor leaders but because they are human. All humans have gaps of one type or another, I’m guessing it’s just part of being alive.

Authentic Servant Leaders deal with their gaps in one of two ways, they either grow themselves to fill their own gaps or they hire people who can fill the gaps for them. Most likely, they do some of both. They realize that they can’t excel at everything and they also realize that not everything that needs to be done needs to be done by them.

Step one for filling your gaps is acknowledging that you have some. 

This is going to require honesty and the courage to admit to some shortcomings. You will never fill a gap that you can’t admit to having so admit where you’re weak and deal with it. If you’ve decided to fill your own gap then take a class, read a book, talk with your mentor or someone who doesn’t have that particular gap. Whatever you do, do it now! Procrastination is the worst possible way to deal with any gap.

If you’re going to hire someone to fill your gap then once they are hired you need to allow them to actually fill it. Let them do their job. Micro-managing something that you couldn’t manage to begin with is totally unproductive and will quickly destroy the morale of the “gap-filler” you just hired. If you’ve summoned up the courage to acknowledge your gap and you’ve hired a qualified individual to fill it then dig a bit deeper for even more courage to let them do their job. 

Mentor if you must, (and yes, you must) but don’t mettle in details that you don’t truly understand. Remember why you hired the person in the first place!

The acknowledgement of gaps and the process of filling them is a constant of leadership. As a leader you can never stop growing, you can never stop learning and you absolutely can’t afford to think for even a moment that you’ve learned all you need to know. 

Great leaders never get where they are going because once they get someplace they know that they aren’t there anymore. Great leaders know that few things of consequence stay the same for even a second, almost everything is always changing. That’s why true leadership isn’t a destination, its a journey. (Just an aside here, principles and core values DO NOT change, regardless of the circumstances a leader may find themselves in) 

The very second you start to think you’re “good enough” you’re not good enough anymore. So don’t think in terms of good, focus on better, always better, and as your abilities and knowledge grow your gaps will shrink. 

Now, do you have gaps?

Happy Holidays

There really isn’t a post this Christmas Eve, just a couple of suggestions.

Hold close those who matter because tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Be smart and put the Smartphone away, pay attention to people the old fashioned way, face-to-face. Show the people who matter to you just how much they matter, that will be better than the best store bought gift you could ever buy.

The second suggestion is a little harder. Many of us have people we “need” to call. An estranged family member or a friend with whom we had a falling out. Maybe it’s just someone that you inexplicably lost contact with. 

Summon all the courage that you can and call them. You don’t need to know what you’re going to say (although that might make it easier) because the words somehow just come. The hardest part of that call is just making it and no matter how it goes there is a chance “things” will be better because you made it. If that’s the case it may just turn out to be the best present you’ve ever given….yourself.

If things are not better…. well, what do you have to lose?

Give the gift of a gracious you this holiday season, then make the gift last all year long.

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope this time of year is as special as you deserve it to be!

Eight Percent

Eight percent! That’s the percentage of people who make New Year’s resolutions that will keep them. 25% of people will keep them less than a week. 

I never recommend making resolutions in the first place, I am far more partial to setting actual goals. Goals are much more concrete but you must remember that if you’re setting true goals then you’ll need to invest some time to develop a plan for achieving them too.

But if you insist on making New Years resolutions at least give yourself a chance to keep them. 

Here’s how:

Make it simple. Many people make a long list of resolutions and when they fail at one the momentum, and motivation, to keep the others goes away. Make your resolutions small and easy to keep…. a little progress is better than no progress at all. 

For instance, don’t resolve to lose 25 pounds, resolve to leave a few bites on your plate at the end of your meals. Losing weight requires a life style change and those kind of changes seldom come from a simple decision or resolution. Leaving behind your lifelong membership in the clean plate club however can be much easier.

Be specific. This principle comes from the most effective goal setters. The more specific you are when stating your resolution the more likely you are to keep it. Specificity leads to an emotional attachment to your resolution and makes it easier to invest in…and keep.

Rather than say you’re going to “be a better person in 2016” state in very specific terms what behavior you will change or eliminate to make that happen. Don’t forget the simple part… a resolution to be more positive is too general to succeed and it’s also likely complicated. 

So resolve to smile more, make a conscious choice to smile often because it’s tough to be negative with a smile on your face.  Decide this very moment how many times a day you’re going to smile and then set an alarm in your smartphone to remind yourself. Every time that alarm goes off think of something that makes you smile. You’ll be surprised at how it can improve your attitude.

Share your resolution. Tell people who care about you that you made a resolution and ask them to help you keep it. Successful people are not afraid to ask for help, if you’re serious about your resolution then you’ll almost certainly need some help to keep it. 

Try and try again. Most people give up their resolution the first time they fail to keep it. If you fail to keep your resolution on a Monday then make it anew on Tuesday. If it was worth making once then it’s worth making again. If it’s a self-improvement resolution you’re better off keeping it half the time throughout the year than you are keeping it all the time for the first few days of the year. 

Eight percent is a relatively small percentage but being part of it can make a big difference for you in the new year. It’s never easy to succeed but if it’s truly worth it to you then you’ll do more than make a resolution, you’ll keep it too. 

Did Curiosity Kill the Cat?

As the saying goes… curiosity killed the cat. I don’t actually think that’s true. The cat might be dead but I’d say it was more likely bad planning than curiosity that did the kitty in.

I’d say that because one of the most common characteristics of successful people is curiosity. Their need to know how something works, their need to understand why it works that way, and their need to know if there is a better way for it to work pushes them to try new things. 

Successful people are seldom willing to merely accept the status quo. 

They take risks. Not wild risks but well thought out, well measured and well considered risks. Their curiosity, or need to know, drives them to expose the “as is” to the possibilities of the “could be.” They know that without a doubt good enough never really is good enough. 

Successful people develop a plan that allows them to minimize the downside of risk taking. They understand the potential for failure and they are willing to accept that risk. What they won’t accept is the failure that comes from not trying, or the failure that comes from a lack of curiosity. 

Successful people know that never taking a risk is the riskiest move they can make. 

When you ask a truly successful person “why do you do it that way?” you will never hear, “because we have always done it that way.”  They know exactly why they do what they do and why something is done a certain way because their curiosity has motivated them to learn.

I’d bet a bunch a money that if curiosity really did kill the cat that the cat thought learning something new was worth the risk and hey, at least the cat died knowing. 😊

So what about you? Are you the type of cat that needs to know? Will you allow curiosity to fuel your success? 

I, and you, need to know….


Compassionate Conflict Resolution

You can meditate 4000 years, but if avoidance is at the root of it, you won’t be free. ~ Papaji

People often ask me where my ideas for blog topics come from. I tell them that I just write about “stuff” I read, see in the news, and hear and see around me. Sometimes however a blog post is just me talking to myself and letting other people “listen” in… this is one of those blog posts. 

I do not like conflict! I am not however a conflict avoider. That pretty much puts me where I need to be to successfully deal with workplace and life conflict. I’d rather not deal with conflicts but I will if I have to and knowing what I know about Authentic Leadership if I intend to audaciously continue to attempt to help others improve their own leadership skills I most certainly have to. 

I have to because conflict engagement and resolution are key leadership skills. Leaders who avoid conflict at any cost simply don’t understand that the costs are very real. 

By the way, just an aside here… if you’re thinking to yourself right now that you actually like conflict then I have some bad news for you. Liking conflict almost always means that you aren’t very good at resolving it. 

Avoiding conflict often causes resentment and misunderstanding, – emotions that when left alone, have a tendency to fester. Nothing is heard the way the conflict avoider intends it to be heard. The conflict avoider says one thing but the other person doesn’t understand the emotions it was said with so they hear something else. That leads to distrust. An environment of distrust frequently influences turnover and productivity which then negatively impact profitability. The issues that cause conflicts rarely go away or solve themselves. They usually just get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. They also get more and more expensive.

People being people means there will always be a need for conflict resolution. Conflict comes from differences of opinions, ideas, and perceptions that are exchanged every day. Every Day! That’s a whole lot of opportunity for conflicts to arise. 

So, you’ll either learn to deal with conflict in a constructive way or you will fail as a leader. It’s just that simple.

When handled correctly conflicts actually strengthen an organization. The communication and trust that comes from effective conflict resolution builds trusting relationships between a leader and their people. 

It’s the handling correctly part that causes so many people to avoid conflict. They just don’t know where to begin. 

A great place to begin is with the other person’s interests. Why do they think the way they think? What are their motives? What are their objectives? Put yourself in their shoes and if you do it sincerely you’ll have a much better understanding of their emotions and it’s that understanding that will help you control your own emotions.

Look for solutions, not more conflict. Never forget that even complex problems can have a relatively simple solution when emotions are set aside. Simple doesn’t mean easy but at least simple is doable. 

When dealing with conflict I need to keep three principles from Dale Carnegie’s great book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in mind.

The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. If a leader allows an attempt at conflict resolution to turn into an argument then the leader has messed up. They need to reconvene the attempt when emotions have settled down a bit.

Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. Most people will strive to meet the expectations of others. If you go into an attempt at conflict resolution looking for a fight then you are likely to get one. If you are expecting the other person to also seek a positive resolution then they very likely will.

Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct. Never make a problem bigger than it is. As a leader if you’re trying to influence someone out of a bad idea or a poor practice then make the mistake or idea seem easy to fix. Share examples of your own past mistakes and how your changed your thinking to change the outcome. Encourage them to do the same.

Always show compassion for the other person’s feelings, thoughts and ideas. They may appear totally wrong to you but to the other person they are absolutely right.

If you’re in a leadership position and you practice conflict avoidance then you may have the position but you’re not leading. The next time you have the opportunity to resolve conflict look at it as an opportunity for growth. Work to resolve the issue in a way that demonstrates respect, value, and security for every person involved. 

Conflict doesn’t have to cost, it can be a tremendous opportunity to grow your people while growing your own leadership skills. All it takes it a decision to try.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

I love this time of year… the holidays as they are called, for me, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. I love everything about the holidays, the Christmas music, the decorations, the social gatherings, heck, I even like the crowded stores. I’m not such a fan of the day after Christmas when we return the clothes that I bought my wife which of course didn’t fit. Even that however has become something of a tradition since it’s pretty much an annual event.

It makes no difference which holiday you celebrate this time of year, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Three Kings Day, this might be the most wonderful time of the year… or maybe not so much.

For some it may even be the most difficult time of the year.

Perhaps someone is reminded of a family member recently passed. Maybe it’s an estranged family member or friend and their holiday thoughts turn to “if only.” It’s possible that for someone who has outlived most or all of their family members that this is the loneliest time of the year. None of us can know for certain what another person is going through so it’s best not to assume that everyone shares your excitement for this time of year.

If you truly love this time of year it can be hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t, but the reality is that for many people “the holidays” bring with them a deep level of dread and even depression. 

Don’t be surprised by or insensitive to those who may find this time of year to be the most difficult time of the year. Your “today” has been shaped from the experience of all your “yesterdays” and someone else’s yesterday could have been very different than yours.

Take care to not assume your joy is shared by everyone. For some their heart is so filled with sorrow and regrets that there is little room left for “the holiday spirit.” That said, tactfully share your joy with those who may not experience their own this holiday season. Be extra kind to everyone, your sincere caring and understanding kindness may just be the gift they desperately need during this special time of year.

Start now and who knows, it’s possible that by the end of the year your extra thoughtfulness will have become a habit that continues throughout the New Year. I’m willing to try if you are…are you with me on this one? 

When It’s Time to Decide

Every decision that needs to be made will be made. No exceptions!

If you’re responsible to make a decision and you fail to make it somebody or something will make it for you. If you think “waiting” to make a decision is a good idea you must realize that “waiting” is the same as making a decision to not make a decision. That is almost always the wrong decision to make. 

You can fix a poor decision once it’s made because you maintain some control over the decision. Failure to decide causes you to lose much of the control you may have had over a poor decision.

The only way I know of to learn to make decisions is to make them. You’ll certainly make some bad ones along the way but even those will teach you how to make better ones next time.

You must learn to make decisions because if you’re a person in a leadership position and you do not have the ability to make decisions then you will not lead, you will be led. You will be led by the unkindest leader of all, time and circumstance.

Time and circumstance will make the decision for you. That’s why you must understand that not making a decision is a decision. Deadlines will go whooshing past while you stand there pondering your next decision. The decision will, for all practical purposes have been made. Time will have made it for you. 

Once that happens your circumstances will be decided for you instead of by you. You will either drive the decision-making process or you will be driven by it. 

The time to decide is the moment, the very moment, when you have all the facts and information necessary to make an informed decision. At that point any delay is simply procrastination and procrastination is like poison to effective decision-making.

Occasionally time will force you to make a decision without all the facts you would like to have. In those cases you’ll need to rely on your past experience, the advice of other knowledgeable people, history and often, your instincts. Just remember, use all the information and facts you DO have even if you don’t have all the information you wish you had. 

Successful people decide, to lead effectively you must make the decision to decide in every instance where decision is required. It might not be easy but it is leadership!