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When Resources are Too Few

One of the biggest “problems” I hear about from people in businesses big and small is that they have too few resources to accomplish what they want.

That statement either directly follows or precedes a word I pretty much despise. That word is “can’t.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “we can’t” or “I can’t,” the word itself becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. 

Lack of resources may be a true statement but so what. It doesn’t mean you can’t, it just means you need to find a different way. Lack of resources has become the easy way out, the easy way to explain away a lack of initiative or creativity. 

Now, some people reading this are already getting mad. To you I would say stop looking for reasons why you can’t and start looking for ways that you can. If you have to get mad then don’t get mad at me for telling you the truth, get mad at yourself for not accepting it.

You indeed may not be able to accomplish every single thing you would like but never use that as an excuse for not accomplishing every single thing that you can. 

A lack of resources can make it harder to begin; when we don’t know how to get past a roadblock 3 miles down the road it can make it harder to take that first step. Take the first step anyway. The first step builds the momentum that can carry you past obstacles that you thought were impossible to pass. But you must take that first step for it to happen.

Make certain that “lack of resources” isn’t actually “lack of priorities” in disguise. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s likely that your ultimate success won’t be either. Do what you can do today and worry about what you can’t do tomorrow.

Priorities come from goals and objectives. If you don’t have goals, solid, realistic, written goals, then it’s likely you’ll find it nearly impossible to prioritize. So set goals. Develop a plan to reach those goals. Most importantly, implement the plan. 

When you as a leader hear “we don’t have enough…. your reply should be “enough for what.” Every person and every organization has enough to do something, that something may not be everything you want it to be but it will get you closer to it. 

Remember, more often than not limited progress comes from a lack of creativity and initiative, not a lack of resources. Do everything you can with everything you’ve got and you may just surprise yourself. 

But your success won’t be a surprise to me.

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Who Really Won the Election

As the United States celebrates it’s Thanksgiving holiday this weekend all Americans have much to be thankful for. Starting with the results of the recent election. 

It doesn’t matter who got the most votes, it doesn’t matter who won the electoral college. The real winner of the election is the American people… they won because they had a choice. They won because they are free to support the winner or protest against him. There are a whole lot of places where that is just not the case.

That’s a privilege that should never be taken for granted. 

We Americans tend to take a lot for granted so here’s an idea on one of the biggest “taking” weekends of the year.

While you’re out chasing the good deals on Black Friday and helping out the American economy, keep a little cash in your pocket to give to those who can only imagine the freedom and prosperity we regularly enjoy.

Give a little back! Most Americans have so much that sometimes we forget how little it can take to make a really big difference. 

Be thankful for all you have as we begin this holiday season and do what you can to provide someone else with something to be thankful for as well. You’ll be glad you did, that much I can guarantee!

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Managing Stuff, Leading People

Generally speaking, people get promoted because they did something good. Salespeople get promoted to Sales Manager because they were good at selling. A marketing associate gets promoted to Marketing Manager because they had proven themselves to be good marketers. An engineer might get promoted to manager because they designed stuff that worked well and was marketable.

All three of those individuals were promoted to leadership positions and none of them were promoted because they were skilled leaders. Now, they may be good leaders…or they may not, only time will tell.

Here’s a reality of leadership: the vast majority of people are promoted into leadership positions without having demonstrated even a slight ability to actually lead. Many are promoted into leadership positions because they have demonstrated some ability to manage but leading and managing are two entirely different things.

You manage stuff like budgets, inventories and buildings but you lead people. The skill sets are different and more importantly the mindsets are different, in fact, they are completely different. Some people can master both skill sets but that’s less common than many people think.

The biggest mistake a person newly promoted to a leadership position can make is to believe that just because they were good at selling, or marketing or even because they were good at managing, is that they are automatically good at leading.

The saddest thing is that even people who have occupied leadership positions for years still sometimes believe that.

Your position or title doesn’t make you a leader. Even being a good manager doesn’t make you a leader. Running a business, effectively managing every detail, and making money at it, doesn’t make you a leader.

Only leading makes you a leader.

Leading requires that you fully understand the value of people. Leading requires that you understand the unique ability of every individual you would lead. Leading requires that you actually care for those individuals.

This is kind of an aside but here’s one way to determine if you’re talking to a manager or a leader: When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important. That “feeling” makes all the difference in the world.

Leading requires that you have the vision required to see the consequences of the consequences of the consequences of every decision you make. It can sometimes seem as if a good leader can see into the future but the truth is, they don’t see the future, they create it.

Let’s be clear, I am not minimizing the importance of good management in any organization. Good management is essential to the stability of every kind of business but management does just that, it keeps things as they are, stable. 

Leadership is not about stability, it is about growth. Leadership is about change for the better. While managers can fall into the trap of believing that strong management can improve a business, leaders know that nothing improves without something changing and they drive that change.

Many more businesses fail due to lack of leadership than fail due to poor management. Think about it, do you really think that businesses like Montgomery Wards, Blockbuster Video, Circuit City, Howard Johnson’s and Borders Books, (to name just a few) suddenly lost the ability to manage their business? 

They didn’t lack sound management, they lacked the vision that a true leader brings to an organization. They lacked the ability to rally their people to a cause. Their people couldn’t commit to the leadership because they couldn’t find any leadership.

I could write forever on the differences between managing and leading but for now I’ll just say this: the first step to understanding the difference between managing and leading is to understand that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. The difference is not just semantics, the differences are real, concrete and definable. 

Once you understand that basic fact then and only then to you have a chance to truly lead.

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How to Grow Yourself

Generally speaking I like people. My challenge is that I like some people more than others. 

The people I like most are the ones who are most like me. They think like me, they have the same interests and hobbies as me and they even sort of look like and talk like me. 

But I also have this almost insatiable need to learn and to grow, to be challenged and to push myself. As much as I love being around people who are just like me I don’t learn that much from them. They seldom challenge my thinking and they rarely cause me to change my opinion. 

So I force myself to talk with people who I disagree with. I read the darnedest stuff written by people who are clearly off the wall with their thinking. I listen to people who are obviously wrong.

Except sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the people who I disagree with are right. Once in a while that off the wall “junk” is invaluable in helping me see another point of view, and sometimes it’s me who is wrong. (Just to be clear, that doesn’t happen often but sometimes…)

I’d never know any of that if I just hung around people who were just like me. 

My friends and family, who I truly cherish, provide me with a stable, supportive, and caring environment which I and every other human on the planet absolutely needs. But our “group think” does little to help any of us grow.

It’s the people who wouldn’t be my first choice to spend lots of time with, the people who come from different and varying backgrounds, even the people who I outright dislike that frequently help me grow the most. 

IF I’m willing to listen and IF I’m willing to change. 

Those two “if’s” are often the biggest challenge most of us face on the journey to reach our full potential. If you’re willing to listen, to consider that you could be wrong, to believe it’s possible that someone has a better way of doing something, then you have a chance to truly grow. 

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this.

 
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I’m Coming for You

(This is first ever guest post on the LeadToday blog. The writer is incredibly well-known and has been around literally forever. This writer has touched the lives of every single human being who has ever lived. They have truly seen it all. Everything this writer does makes a difference, whether or not the difference is a positive one or not is often determined by you. I am really honored they they have agreed to write for my blog; I think it’s about time they were allowed the opportunity to speak their mind.)

You have two choices where I’m concerned; you can invite me in or I’ll simply bust down your door and let myself in but one way or another I’m coming into your life. Many people have tried to stop me but I’ve never been stopped, I cannot be stopped, I will never be stopped.

Before I go any further I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Change. While we may have never been formally introduced I’ve been present your entire life. I’ve been your best friend and your worst enemy but in either case it was you who decided which one would I be.

Every good thing that’s ever happened to you happened because of me. I suppose I’ve had a hand in some bad parts of your life too but you let me do it.

The truth is I’m not good or bad, I just am. It’s what YOU do with me that will determine the positive or negative impact I have on your life.

I always try to do what I’m told. But if I’m not given direction I just do my own thing, once in a while it works out but I must admit that’s not very often. Given the fact that I follow direction so well I’m always surprised when you don’t give me any. If I were you I’d be the boss of me, that much is absolutely certain.

I take great offense when you tell people that you hate me. Why would you possibly hate me? Every improvement you’ve ever made was made with my help. Every new thing you’ve ever tried you tried because of me. You should love me. 

You most certainly shouldn’t blame me when you don’t make a plan for how to use me to your benefit. Yes, I said use me for your benefit. I’m perfectly willing to let that happen, I even want that to happen.

I can’t promise you a better life, I can just promise you the opportunity to have one. It all depends on what you do with me when I’m hanging around. 

I knew a guy a while back, his name was Winston. He said I was always good so long as I was heading in the right direction. I guess I’d agree with that but I wish he would have added that it’s you, not me who determines my direction in your life.

When I say “I’m coming FOR you I mean just that. Let me work FOR you, if you don’t, you just might find me working against you.

 
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Proactive Leadership

The Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA franchise in Minnesota has had numerous head coaches through the years. I think (I hope) all of them had the goal of leading their team to an NBA Championship. I also assume all of them knew a whole lot more about basketball than I do. 

Too many of them however knew far less about leadership. One such coach who shall remain nameless was a basketball genius. He knew exactly what his players needed to do to succeed. He understood the strategies of opposing coaches and the game plans they developed. He was a master at the X’s and O’s of the game.

What he wasn’t able to do was get his players to commit to his style of play. Actually he couldn’t get his players to commit to much of anything.

He was a very reactive coach. 

He would see a player make a mistake in practice but being a strident conflict avoider he didn’t point it out. Not surprisingly the player would make the same mistake in a game and the coach would be doing a slow burn but still he kept quiet.

Here’s the trouble with that slow burn deal; eventually the slow burn turns explosive. So it was with this particular coach; after seeing the same mistake again and again he exploded in a rage that was almost frightening. 

His reaction had the exact opposite effect of what he needed. Not only did it not correct the mistake, he lost the trust and confidence of the player he verbally destroyed and most of the other players on the team as well.

Once his players didn’t trust him it became impossible for them to commit to him as a leader. 

Reactive leaders seldom seem to fair very well, proactive leaders on the other hand often do very very well. 

Proactive leaders do not do the slow burn. They compassionately and quickly confront problems and mistakes before there is a danger of an explosion. They understand that conflict is a necessity of leadership. They don’t shy away from pointing out mistakes and offering suggestions in order to “keep the peace.” 

Proactive leaders would prefer to celebrate a noisy disheveled success rather than mourn a quiet and orderly failure. 

To lead effectively you must be willing to risk upsetting a few people for a short time. The alternative is to upset a whole lotta people for a very long time. One scenario has the chance of leading to eventual success, the other is a pretty darn direct path to failure.

Conflict avoidance doesn’t work, it never works. I don’t often recommend using the word never but in this case I’ll even repeat it. 

Conflict avoidance never works. 

The best time to coach your people is in the moment a coaching opportunity presents itself. If you’re truly a leader you’ll be prepared for that moment and you’ll be proactive in preventing the identical opportunity from presenting itself a second, or third, or fourth time.

Proactive leaders get in front of problems and mistakes before the problems get in front of them. After all, it’s called “leading” for a reason.

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Where Success Comes From

Success comes from commitment. 100% commitment. 

Yoda said it best, there is no try, there is do or do not but there is no try. Committed people don’t try, they do. When they fail they take stock of the causes of the failure, learn what they can, make a new, better plan and try again. 

I’ve often heard that relationships are a 50-50 deal. If you do your part and the other person does their part then it should all work out. That might sound good but when was the last time anything worked out when someone give it a 50% effort. 50% effort doesn’t get it done, it doesn’t get anything done.

Successful relationships require a 100-100 commitment. When both sides of a relationship are 100% committed to it’s success then you have a real chance at success.

It’s like that in every part of life, business, sports, achieving goals, your own health, whatever the case may be anything less than a 100% commitment makes you vulnerable to failure. 

Success comes from commitment, a commitment to do. The best of intentions and the best thought out plans mean nothing without a commitment to take action.

Commitment is not easy so don’t be afraid to ask for help to stay committed. Find someone who cares enough about you to hold you accountable for those things you’ve committed to do… or not to do. Ask them to help you stay on course. This is where a coach or mentor can really help. 

Share your commitments broadly, let lots people know about your commitments. Yes, that adds pressure but the pressure of accountability is one of the keys to success in any area of your life.

One of my favorite analogies for commitment is the breakfast analogy…. If you had bacon and eggs for breakfast this morning than two creatures made that possible. A chicken was interested in your breakfast but a pig was committed to it.

People interested in something are often deterred, people committed to something seldom are. 

Are you merely interested in your success or are you committed to it?