Being on Time Matters

If you’ve read this blog a long time you may know that I attended High School at a Military Academy. The staff there, many of which were military leaders were VERY big on being on time. My first day in the building as I entered another kid was coming out…of the window above me. He was tossed out the window for being late. 

During my four years there lots of kids were expelled for being late. They taught us that being late was bad, very very bad. They also taught us that absolutely no excuse was acceptable. Nope, not even dying. I remember one of the Sargents telling me that if I died then I better have someone prepared to drag my dead body into school on time because there were things he could do to a dead person that weren’t very pleasant. 

I was 14 years old at the time, I can still hear his voice. It made a lasting impression on me and from that day on I knew without a doubt that being on time matters.

For the record, the school is still alive and turning out future leaders but I don’t think they can get away with stuff like that anymore…which apparently is good. Okay, okay, it’s good.

When it comes to time there seems to be two major groups of people. Those who believe being on time matters and those who believe it matters that other people be on time. There are always a few exceptions, some people for instance just don’t think being on time should matter at all. They make no effort to be on time and they don’t worry about sitting around wasting time waiting for someone else to show up to an appointment or meeting. I REALLY try hard to avoid those people, they will never reach their potential in life and they could even prevent me from reaching mine.

So which group are you in? 

The group that expects other people to be on time but refuse to hold themselves to the same standard are very frustrating for me. They are thieves. Yep, thieves, they steal from me one of my most vital assets, time. Every minute spent waiting for them is a minute I can’t get back. I could have used that minute in pursuit of one of my goals. I could have invested it with someone who valued my time far more than the person I’m waiting for. If you don’t want to be a thief then be on time.

People who make other people wait don’t think of it this way but they are being selfish. They could be on time, they simply choose not to be. If you don’t agree that timeliness is a choice then consider how many times you’ve been 5 or 10 minutes late. People who are frequently a few minutes late could easily set their alarms 10 minutes earlier. They could leave the house 10 minutes earlier. They could stop hitting the snooze button. They choose to do none of that, they choose to be late. They choose to let other people wait on them. That’s selfish. 

At it’s core being late is an attitude issue. It shows you value your own comfort and convenience over other people’s. It is disrespectful.

People who highly value being on time send a completely different message to those around them. They send a message that says I value my time AND yours. They show they can be trusted and counted on. They demonstrate that their word means something. People who are always on time show they can manage their lives and that they will do what they say they will. 

No matter how laid back your company and your boss may appear to be they are paying attention to your ability to be on time. They are watching to see if you hit deadlines or let them go whizzing past. They want to know if the precious asset of time matters to you because if it doesn’t then it’s likely other precious resources won’t matter to you either. 

Remember, if a meeting starts at 9:00am and you waltz in at 9:01 then you are late. Always get there early cause if you’re early, it’s impossible to be late. 

Five Choices that Change Everything

People who know more than me about the human body could tell you exactly what it’s made of. The chemical compositions, the percentages of muscle vs fat, (or at least what it should be) and all sorts of other cool stuff. 

But all that “stuff” makes you alive. It does not make your life. 

Your life is made from the choices you make. Every big choice and every small choice determines the quality and even the length of your life. 

If you’re like most people you don’t realize how many choices you make each day. You choose what time to wake up. You choose your attitude, and if you don’t choose your attitude then you choose to allow other people and other things to choose it for you. You choose what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to say, what to listen to. Who to listen to. What to watch on TV. When to go to bed and hundreds of other decisions wedged between those. 

One thing most us seldom think about is the fact that our minds take in everything we see, everything we hear and everything we read. It all influences what we think and those thoughts determine our actions. 

All, yes all, as in every single one, of those choices are influenced by the people you spend the most time with. Your life is basically a compilation of the lives of the five people you’re around the most. 

If you believe that you are influencing them and that they are not influencing you then I’m guessing you may also be excited about an upcoming visit from the Easter Bunny. 

There are some choices in life that only you control and five of those choices are the people you allow to be closest to you. Those are the five choices that can change every other choice you make in life. These are the people considered to be your “inner circle.” 

Are you allowing unmotivated people to be a big part of your life? If you are then I can also guarantee you that you have motivational issues. You likely can’t seem to get started on the things you say that you want to accomplish. That’s because your natural motivation is being negatively impacted by unmotivated people close to you. 

If you’re allowing negative people into your inner circle then I can be fairly certain that other people around you see you as a negative person, even if you don’t. Pandemics have been in the news a bit lately but nobody talks about the Pandemic of negativity all around us. Negative attitudes are as contagious as any virus that has ever existed and masks do nothing to stop it. The only way to avoid catching negativity is to stay away from it. 

It is a worthy effort to try and infect a negative person who a strong dose of positivity. Understand the contagion you’re dealing with however and make certain you keep some space between yourself and the person you’re trying to help. 

Invest some serious time right now to consider the people who you are closest to. Are they helping you and supporting your efforts to have a better more meaningful life? Are they a good influence on you or do they overpower your good intentions? Be honest!

If you want a better life you may need to make some tough choices. You may need to say goodbye to some of your friends. Even though some of your friends may mean you no harm they may be harming you with their choices…because you are influenced and impacted by them. 

The number of people you allow into your personal inner circle may also be less then five. If you determine you currently know only 3 people capable of being “builders of you” then 3 people is the perfect number. Don’t let a couple of nattering nabobs of negativity into your inner circle just so you have a circle of 5. 

Surround yourself with as many positive, caring and supportive people as you can find. Make sure the five people closest to you fully match the positive, caring and supportive criteria. The quality of your life depends on it. 

Weak Leaders – Part Five

Strong Authentic Leaders were at one time committed followers. Many of them still are, at least sometimes. 

If you have always struggled to follow someone else then you will most likely always struggle to earn the right to have someone else follow you. Leading someone requires their commitment. Weak leaders have no idea what is required to earn that commitment. Thus the best they can do is create more weak leaders. It is very uncommon for a weak leader to develop someone into a strong leader. 

I could write for days on what causes a lack of commitment but I can sum up it’s result in one word…insubordination. The act of insubordination can take many forms. It could be completely ignoring the requests of the leader. It might be doing the opposite or nearly the opposite, of what is needed for the organization to succeed. Often it is simply talking poorly about the leader behind their back.  

Talking behind a leaders back results in one of the most productivity killing activities an insubordinate follower can undertake. That activity is known as circular communication. Let’s say the leader directs follower number one to perform a particular task. Follower number one thinks it’s a ridiculous request. So follower number one needs to find someone to complain to, we’ll call that person follower number two. 

Follower number two is never chosen at random. They are carefully selected because they must possess one singular quality above all others. They must agree with follower number one that the leader is making a ridiculous request.

It’s also likely that follower number one finds a follower 3, 4, and 5 to complain to as well. Followers 2, 3, 4, and 5 may also tell several other people until finally word gets back to the leader that follower number one thinks the leader is making ridiculous requests. Then the messy circle is complete. 

So now there are multiple people involved, discussing an issue that only two people have the ability to solve. Only the leader and follower number one. By not going directly to the leader follower number one has impacted the productivity, and likely the morale, of many people in the organization. That’s circular communication.

Follower number one may find themselves in a leadership position one day but they will almost certainly be a weak leader.

If you’re in a middle leadership position today and you’re participating in circular communication then you will be seen as a weak leader. Because you probably are. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do not try to communicate to someone through others. They communicate directly with the person who they need to speak with. Indirect, circular communication is a trust killer. When you lose the trust of the people around you then you’ve lost the ability to earn the level of commitment required to lead. 

The five characteristics of weak leaders I have written about in this series are fairly common. The good news is that each of them can be overcome. It requires a weak leader to make a commitment to improve their leadership skills. 

People who convert themselves from weak leaders to strong leaders often do so with the help of a coach or a mentor. It’s tough to do on your because one of the things that make people a weak leader is their inability to see themselves as they really are. 

The eyes and the objectivity of a mentor can make a big difference…if you’re willing to listen to them and act on their recommendations. 

Most weak leaders are satisfied with holding a leadership position. Strong Authentic Leaders made the choice to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Your position of leadership can make a difference for you or you can make a difference with your leadership position. That choice is completely up to you! 

Weak Leaders – Part Four

Weak Leaders lack humility. They mistakenly believe that their title or position makes them a leader. They all too often also believe it makes them a better person than someone without that title or position. 

That causes all kind of behaviors that negatively impact their ability to lead. It makes it very challenging for them to share credit or provide recognition to their people. They take credit for the good work of their people. That’s bad enough but as we talked about in an earlier post, they also heap blame upon their people when something goes wrong. That combination is an absolute morale killer. 

Weak Leaders believe a leadership position provides them with certain privileges that others are not entitled to. Scheduling flexibility, work attire, special parking places, more lenient policies, and a host of other perks. 

What weak leaders don’t understand is that those “privileges” build a wall between themselves and their people. That wall makes it very difficult to develop the relationships required to truly lead. It causes a lack of trust and even open hostility. It’s creates an “us vs them” culture which hamstrings every initiative the leader may attempt, whether it’s a worthwhile initiative or not.

One of the biggest challenges to bringing down those walls is that they are seldom seen from the weak leaders side of the wall. But on the followers side they are noticeable for miles. 

Strong Authentic Leaders don’t have to concern themselves with bringing down walls because they don’t allow them to be erected in the first place. They work tirelessly to connect, often one-on-one with as many members of their team as possible. They don’t see leadership as providing them with privileges, they see leading others as a privilege to be earned.

Strong Authentic Leaders not only give recognition to their people they thank them for their efforts. They realize something weak leaders often don’t…that thanking people doesn’t make you look weak, it helps make you an Authentic Leader. 

Weak Leaders have little or no communication with the majority of their followers. Most of the information they receive about what’s happening in their organization is heavily filtered by those closest to the top of the organization. This further separates them from the people they lead.  It results in an even more detrimental culture within the organization. 

Strong Authentic Leaders communicate with all levels of the organization on a near daily basis. They connect with people directly to show their interest in them. They let them know that their role in the organization matters. They know it’s not possible to over communicate or care to much. 

If you believe your leadership position provides you with privileges that others don’t deserve you may want to think again. The privileges you’re so fond of are limiting your opportunities to be an Authentic Leader.  They are also strengthening that wall between you and your people. Walls are good for many things, building the relationships required for leading is not one of them. 

Weak Leaders – Part Three

I think it’s safe to say that most, likely all, successful people accept full responsibility for their actions and decisions. So then do Strong Authentic Leaders. 

Weak leaders tend to play the blame game. They look for someone else to dump responsibility on when things go wrong. Or they make excuses. My favorite is the combo responsibility dump/excuse of miscommunication. The leader communicated well, the person on the receiving end wasn’t bright enough to understand. 

That “combo” covers both bases. The leader has no responsibility for the mistake and the blame is firmly shifted away from the leader, except it really isn’t. 

Just a side note here…Authentic Leaders accept 100% responsibility for all communication. They know it is their responsibility to make certain the other person completely understood what was said. 

Not accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions leads to an entire set of consequences, whether you’re a leader or not. 

The first, and I think the most serious, is an exaggerated sense of self. If you believe your excuses it makes it difficult to build relationships with others. You are seen as less trustworthy. You likely become more critical of other people. Your feelings of infallibility increases your expectations of others. You become unrealistic, intolerant, and demanding. 

Your attitude becomes a repellent to other people making it nearly impossible to lead. You may not realize it at first and weak leaders may never realize it, but you’re not fun to be around. All because you can’t, or won’t, accept responsibility for your actions and decisions. 

The most common reason for not accepting responsibility is a sense of insecurity. People, especially weak leaders think admitting to a mistake or a poor decision makes them look weak. In reality, having the courage to admit mistakes gives the appearance of strength to a leader’s followers. 

Strong Authentic Leaders see accepting responsibility as a measure of their self-worth. Their strength and self-confidence allows them to do something weak leaders can’t do…learn from their mistakes. 

Ask yourself when was the last time you may have fallen short as a leader by placing blame for your actions on someone else. Ask yourself why you did that. Be honest with yourself. That’s the first step in growing your self-confidence to a level where you’re comfortable owning your actions and decisions. 

If you struggle with accepting responsibility then start paying attention to a leader you respect. You’ll likely see them do it on a regular basis. If you want to move from the weak side of leadership to the strong side do what they do. 

You may not see a difference in yourself right away but you’ll see a difference in how people respond to you. They may even start acting as if you’re a leader! 

Weak Leaders – Part Two

Strong Authentic Leaders make decisions. Perhaps surprisingly, so do weak leaders. What separates the two is that strong leaders act an those decisions almost immediately while weaker leaders hesitate…if they act at all.

There are lots of reason they hesitate. The biggest is fear of failure. They somehow get it in their heads that trying and failing is worse than not trying at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. All successful people fail, at least temporarily. The fact that they tried allows them to try again. Again and again, until the failure is behind them.

Not trying at all means that failure, and make no mistake, not trying is a HUGE failure, it means that the failure will always be with you. Never to be left behind. 

The first step in an action plan is often the hardest. Strong Authentic Leaders know that heavy trains often require an extra engine to get started. That’s why they aren’t afraid to ask for a little help to get going. It’s amazing the momentum that can be created with a single step. Unfortunately, weak leaders too often don’t take that step.

Weak leaders often use patience as an excuse for not starting. They are waiting for “just the right time” to begin, perhaps not realizing what they are doing is actually procrastinating. Patience is the acceptance that things can happen in a different order than you had imagined. Procrastination is waiting for the sake of waiting. Patience can provide benefits, procrastination simply kills opportunities for success. Strong Authentic Leaders know the difference. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do the hard jobs first. They know that there are only three options available when facing any challenge, they can delay, dodge or do. Strong leaders do. Weak Leaders do too but they do the easy things first hoping somehow that the hard things will either go away, be handled miraculously by someone else or that no one will notice they were never done at all. 

Weak Leaders are slow to start because they see risk in every opportunity. Strong Authentic Leaders are always moving forward because they see opportunity in every risk. Risk is a requirement for progress. Risk is a part of success. Strong Authentic Leaders are willing to take a risk, a well calculated, considered risk, in order to have a chance to lead. 

If you’re in a leadership position and find yourself hesitating then you need to ask yourself why. Are you risk adverse? Fearing failure? A wee bit too lazy to tackle the challenges of leadership? Or afraid of appearing weak by asking for help?

Well none of those are valid reasons for hesitating, they are excuses. The kind of excuses Strong Authentic Leaders do not make. So instead of making excuses start making decisions and taking action to make things happen. It won’t take long before you wonder why you weren’t doing that all along.

Weak Leaders – Part One

One of the most common characteristics of weak leaders is complaining about a lack of resources. Weak leaders frequently complain about a lack of resources no matter how many resources they have. That tends to make me think it’s more of an excuse rather than an actual issue. 

But even if they truly have a shortage of resources I still see it as more of an excuse than anything else. 

Weak leaders complain about too small a budget. They complain about too few people to get the job done. They complain about lack of time. 

The thing is, those complaints typically don’t limit a weak leader’s ability to complete a job or assignment, they prevent them from even starting. Strong Authentic Leaders do not allow the fact that they can’t do everything they would like to do prevent them from doing everything they can do. 

Authentic leaders who face limited resources prioritize what must get done. They separate the “nice to do” from the “must do” activities and then they develop a plan to get the “must do” things done. No excuses, no delays, no worries, no problem and no complaints.

I was on a call recently where in a 10 minute period of time someone in a leadership position complained at least a dozen times about what they couldn’t do because of a lack of resources. I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked them to please tell us what, if anything, they could do. 

They seem rather stumped. 

If you’re a leader who faces limited resources you simply must stop focusing on what you can’t do. Turn your attention to the things you can do. You must realize that there is a huge difference between no resources and limited resources. If you have people on your team, if you have dollars remaining in your budget then use those along with the 1440 minutes you definitely do have each day to accomplish as much as you possibly can. 

I realize you may not have the budget, people or time to do all that’s expected but you absolutely do have everything you need to do all that you can.

So do that!