Control What You Can

This is likely to be one of the shortest posts I’ve ever written. That’s because it’s about controlling the things in your life that you have control over. Complete control. 

 

There aren’t many of those things. Here are the ones that come to mind.

 

You have complete and total control over your level of professionalism. It doesn’t matter what your colleagues are doing, it doesn’t matter what your clients or customers are doing. It makes no difference what industry you’re in or what position you hold in your organization. Whether you’re in the mail room or the executive office YOU decide the level of professionalism that you will exhibit at ALL times. 

 

We do not get to choose our family but we most certainly get to choose our friends. You have complete control over the people outside of your family that you allow into your life. Since you are basically the compilation of the five people you spend the most time with it is imperative that you choose your friends well. 

 

If you choose to hang around negative people you will be a negative person. If you choose to spend large amounts of your time with people who lack integrity then you will lack integrity. If you believe you can consistently swim against the current of the environment you place yourself in then you are fooling yourself. Control who you allow into your life or the people in your life will control you. 

 

No matter where you live, no matter how you live, and no matter the circumstances and obstacles that have been placed before you, your attitude is and always will be your choice. You have complete and total control over your attitude every waking moment.

 

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. In his fantastic book “Man’s Search for Meaning” he describes the choice of attitude as the last of the human freedoms. His point is this; all other freedoms are perishable, they can be taken from you. The only freedom that can never be taken from you is the choice of a positive attitude. 

 

You may disagree with that but think about it…is your situation really worse than being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp? If Viktor Frankl could control his attitude in that environment then I, and you, can certainly control ours, regardless of how difficult it may be. 

 

There are plenty of other things you have some control over but the key word there is “some.” There isn’t much you have complete control over but if success is your objective then you must control the things you can. 


And yes, I now acknowledge that this post wasn’t that short after all. 


First Person Leadership

If the first person you lead each morning isn’t yourself then you’re likely having challenges leading anyone. 

 

You must lead yourself exceptionally well before you can lead anyone else. 

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means doing what you say you’re going to do. It means controlling your attitude and choosing to do what you must to make certain your attitude is as positive as it can be. 

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means thinking before you speak. It means choosing your words in such a way as to lift people up and not tear them down. It means considering the impact of what you say and the even greater impact of how you say it.  

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means applying rules and policies equally with all of your people. It also means holding yourself 100% accountable to those same rules and policies. 

 

To lead yourself exceptionally well you must manage your emotions. You should avoid using your passion as an excuse for losing emotional control. As a leader you must know that you are the model of successful behavior. When you lose control of your thoughts and words you give license to your people to do the same.

 

To lead yourself exceptionally well you must prioritize those things that are important ahead of the things that are merely urgent. Never sacrifice the long-term growth of your people for the short-term growth of your business. It’s your people who will grow your business for the long haul. 

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means realizing that time is one of your greatest assets. It means not allowing anyone or anything to steal that asset from you. It means you won’t use lack of time as an excuse for poor prioritization skills. Decisions on how you invest your time are principle based and focused on your goals and objectives. Leading yourself exceptionally well means never mistaking being busy for being produced. 

 

As a First Person Leader you can never lose site of the fact that if you’re not leading yourself exceptionally well you can’t lead anyone else well either. Check yourself each morning and make sure that you’re meeting the same standards you expect of others. 


It’s how you earn the right to lead!


Where Self-Respect Comes From

The first thing to know about self-respect is that is doesn’t come from other people…hence the word “self.”

 

Respect is vital to any relationship and that includes the relationship you have with yourself. 

 

Self-respect can be hard to define but it’s really about being the kind of person you are not afraid to show to the world around you. It’s about being the kind of person you, and the people you care about, can be proud of. 

 

Self-respect comes from having a sense of dignity. It comes from maintaining your honor when you’re making life choices and every day decisions about how to live your life. 

 

Self-respect comes from caring more about yourself. To be clear, it is not about caring less for others, it is about caring for yourself too. If you’re not caring for and about yourself eventually you won’t be able to care for others no matter how much you want to. 

 

Self-respect comes from not needing anyone to treat you a certain way. Self-respect comes from appreciating the respect of others but not needing it to validate how you live your life. 

 

Self-respect is vital if you hope to have a positive self-image. Having that positive self-image will influence every other part of your life. Your career, your relationships with other people and most importantly, your own happiness. 

 

Self-respect will give you the courage to walk away from unhealthy relationships and situations. It gives you the courage to speak up for yourself and command the respect of others. 

 

No one, and I mean absolutely no one, can rob you of your self-respect unless you are their accomplice in the crime. Sometimes it requires a major battle to keep from being an unwilling accomplice. You should know it’s a battle worth fighting and it’s a battle you can win. And never, never, never be their willing accomplice. You are way too special for that, you matter way, way too much for that. Do not simply give your self-respect away. 


Self-respect is the cornerstone of a well lived life. Build your foundation of self-respect so strong that no one and nothing can bring you down. Once you’ve done that you can do anything! 


Are you in Control of Your Life?

Think back to last January. Remember the resolutions you made? Maybe you decided to skip the almost always worthless resolutions and you set meaningful goals.

 

What has changed as a result of those resolutions or goals? More to the point, what have YOU changed. What are you doing differently this year?

 

I ask that because nothing in your life will actually change until you do. 

 

If you want change in your life then you should know that true, long-lasting change is more likely to come from what you stop doing. Most people seek change by trying something new but the change doesn’t stick because they failed to stop doing something else. Real change most often happens when you stop doing something that you do everyday, or nearly everyday. 

 

Would you like to have more control over your life? Then don‘t burn the first 15-30 minutes (or longer) of your day on social media. Invest that time instead in planning your day. Social Media might be of benefit to you but planning your day will be a benefit to you. Maybe for you it’s not social media that becomes a time suck. Whatever it is that mindlessly wastes your time you should understand that mindfully planning your day will provide you with more control over your life. 

 

How much have you complained this year? Here’s an even more important question. How much have you complained this year about the things in your life that you have complete control over? 

 

Don’t complain, change. Take control of those controllable parts of your life and make a plan that leads to positive change. Nothing changes by itself. All change comes about as a result of somebody doing something differently. If the change you seek pertains to your life then you must be that somebody. 

 

Here’s one final question for you. Do you want to drive the change that affects your life or do you want your life to be driven by change?


If you want to be in control of your life then take charge of change before it takes charge of you! 

Are You a Manager Who Thinks They are Leading?

If you’re doing it for your business, it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people, it’s leading.

 

You would be hard pressed today to find many people complaining about being “over-led.” You would not however have to look very far to discover groups of people feeling as if they are “over-managed” on a daily basis. It amazes me that after decades of discussion about the difference between managing and leading most organizations today remain over-managed and under-led.

 

Much has been written regarding the differences between managing and leading. Some people, a few of them very knowledgeable in the ways of business, will still tell you there is no difference, that it is all semantics. The number of those people shrink every year. With the Millennial generation now assuming leadership roles it will be shrinking even faster. The good news is that today more people than ever, followers and leaders alike, would say that without a doubt there is a difference and it’s huge.

 

What is the difference? Let’s begin by explaining what leadership is not. It is not about a great personality or striking charisma. While a great personality and a bit of charisma can certainly help a leader’s cause, they are not absolute requirements for a leader. Leadership is also not a replacement for management. Both leadership and management are essential for success and that is even truer in challenging business environments. Finally, leadership is not a set of intangible skills that are hard to describe. Leadership skills are every bit as tangible as those of the most successful managers.

 

In a nutshell you manage stuff and you lead people. Leadership is about people, developing people, coaching people, nurturing people, and helping common people achieve uncommon results. 

 

Managing is about coping with the current situation. Leadership is about defining the future. Good managers use processes and control systems to make certain things “run” as designed. Leaders see things as they are and ask “how can we do better?” Managers follow and encourage others to follow the plan. Leaders develop the plan and that plan closely resembles their vision of the future for the organization. 

 

Managing is about helping good people do well. Leadership is about helping good people become great. Managers “assign” tasks to achieve planned for results. Leaders “delegate” tasks to help their people grow. Managers spend time on their people to ensure the tasks are accomplished. Leaders invest time with their people to enable them to excel and surpass the requirements of the task. Managers organize their people according to the task, in the hope that they succeed. Leaders align their people according to their strengths to ensure that they succeed.

 

Here’s a quick check for you. If you have a person working for you who is struggling and you think to yourself that you’re going to have to spend time on them to “fix” them, then you have a managerial mindset when it comes to your people. If however when thinking of that same person you think to yourself, I want to invest time with that person in order to help them develop, then you have a leadership mindset about your people. 

 

Well-managed people and organizations can survive tough times. Well-led people and organizations can thrive in tough times. Good organizations have people that excel as managers and people that excel as leaders. Great organizations have people that excel as managers and leaders. While the skill set of a manager is different than the skill set of a leader many people indeed possess both. They move seamlessly between mindsets as they grow their business by growing their people. 

 

True success as a leader is only possible when we realize that what makes us a good manager will not make us a great leader. The most successful people have developed themselves in both areas. 

 

What about you?

Words Are a Really Big Deal

When was the last time you thought about the words you use every day? How carefully do you select them? Do you consciously choose terms or phrases that serve you well? Do you even think about the impression your words make on the people you speak them to?

 

Why all these questions about simple words? Because your words do have incredible power, they can build you up, destroy opportunity or maintain the status quo. Your words reinforce your beliefs, and your beliefs create your reality. 

 

And it’s not only about you. Your words can affect how other people see themselves, they can brighten someone’s day or send them into a cave of despair. 

 

In his book, Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins devotes an entire chapter to explaining the way your choice of words affects your emotions, your beliefs and your effectiveness in life. In one section, he examines how certain words impact your emotional intensity. Let’s say for example that a someone has lied to you. You could react by saying that you’re angry or upset.  

 

However, if you used words like furious, livid or enraged, your emotions and behavior would likely be very different. Simply saying you’re angry instead of furious has a big impact on your emotional intensity. It also likely changes the intensity of the other person too.

 

You control the words you use but only if you make a conscious decision to do so. That’s sometimes an issue for me because I find it hard to always stop for a split second to consider my choice of words. I don’t think I’m alone in having that issue. 

 

Remember, it’s up to you to speak in a way that will move you closer to being the person you want to be. It’s up to you to think, even if it is only for that split second, about the words you’re about to speak and the affect they will have on the people you’re speaking with. Speak as if every word you say matters because in many cases every word you speak does matter. 


No one will ever be 100% successful in always choosing exactly the right word at just the right time. That’s no excuse not to try and the more effort you put into it the better off you, and everyone you speak with, will be.

Effective Communication Begins with You

I will occasionally have someone ask me about what to do with a person who won’t listen. My answer is always some variation of “I don’t know, I’ve never met someone who wouldn’t listen.” 

 

Their reaction is most often a combination of surprise, disappointment and frustration. They don’t believe I don’t know people who won’t listen. They are disappointed I can’t help and they are frustrated because they think I’m playing games with them.

 

But the truth is I have never met anyone who wouldn’t listen. I have however met some people who I couldn’t motivate to listen. Their failure to listen is on me, not them. I didn’t say anything worth listening to, at least from their point of view. 

 

You may not be willing to accept responsibility for the other person’s desire to listen and that’s fine…so long as you do not consider yourself to be a leader. But if you think of yourself as a leader then you must lead. That includes engaging people in conversation that they find meaningful. So meaningful that it motivates them to listen. 

 

To motivate others to listen you must first stop talking. Put yourself in their position and think about what is important to them. When you do talk make sure you talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Give them a reason to listen. Find a way to make your point while showing them that there is something for them in your point as well. 

 

Yes, that takes effort, and thought, but I’ll tell you without a doubt that talking without thinking is not real communication. It is certainty not effective communication. 

 

Look at the person you’re speaking with. Notice I didn’t say speaking to…I said speaking with. Great communicators don’t talk at or to people. They speak with them. Ditch your phone, notepad, tablet or whatever else may distract you from truly listening to them. That’s vital because the moment they sense a lack of listening on your part is about the same moment they no longer feel compelled to listen to you. 

 

On a side note, some of you will say taking notes is how you “listen.” There are times when taking notes is necessary but those are few and far between. Few people are exceptional at listening while taking notes. You miss what’s being said while you’re writing down what was said earlier. Make some quick notes after the conversation if need be but don’t kid yourself into believing you’re not missing something while you’re writing.

 

Don’t interrupt someone if you want them to listen to you. Interrupting someone mid-sentence is a sure sign that you’re not really listening. Most people, and yes I mean most, most people listen in order to respond and not to understand what is being said. If you’re interrupting people you’re likely in that “most” group. 

 

Linger on the words of the person speaking until you‘re sure what was said and meant. Only then should you begin speaking again.

 

Have you noticed yet that this post on being a better communicator has a strong focus on listening. Don’t make the incredibly common mistake of thinking communicating is only about talking. If you’re not listening intently to what the other person is saying then you may be in a two-sided monologue but you’re not in a conversation. 

 

The best communicators I know listen far more than they talk. You really get the feeling that when they do talk you had better be paying attention because you don’t want to miss it. 

 

I personally feel comfortable telling someone I’m a good speaker. I can’t honestly always rate myself that well when I take out the word speaker and replace it with communicator. But the fact that I know the difference between speaking and communicating at least gives me a chance to improve. 


As always I remain a work in progress. How about you?