Successful People Have One Thing in Common

It’s impossible to finish anything that you don’t start. That’s the one thing for certain that all people who have accomplished something have in common…they started. 

Starting may have involved risk. Primarily the risk of failure. Successful people started anyway. Starting may, in fact likely did, mean ending something else. That ending may have felt like a loss. It’s tough to start when it feels like it will result in an immediate loss. Successful people started anyway. 

Less successful people, those who don’t understand that never taking a risk is the riskiest thing they can do, too often use their time to criticize the efforts of the people trying to accomplish something. 

I sometimes wonder if they use their criticism of others to shield themselves from the feeling of loss that comes with knowing they didn’t have the courage to even try. 

Knowing that success can only come from trying and understanding that trying often ends with something less than complete success I encourage people to make failing (at least temporarily) a regular part of their lives. 

I’d much prefer to make an effort that results in failure than to live my days wondering “what if.” Failing gives me another chance to start again, another chance at success. Not even attempting to succeed gives me nothing. It’s the same for every person reading this post. 

What we think of as failure isn’t failure unless we decide to not trying again. What we think of as failure is really a lesson in how not to do something…so long as we try again. 

Every person you think of as successful has attempted something that ended with less than complete success. They could have stopped and accepted failure. But they began again, and again and again until whatever they were attempting ended in complete success. 

I can assure you they had detractors along the way. People who criticized them and their efforts. They ignored the “can’t do” crowd and listened only to people who said “you can do it.” If they couldn’t find “can do” people then they told themselves… “I can do this.”

The quote below from President Theodore Roosevelt expresses these thoughts better than I ever could. One modern day caveat about this quote. I firmly believe that if he were alive today President Roosevelt would adjust his quote to use less inclusive language. Today we know that every human being born is endowed with the potential for greatness. There are circumstances in life that can make it more difficult for some to achieve that greatness. Successful people however make sure that none of those circumstances are of their own making. 

Here’s the quote.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Do not be a timid soul. The only way to achieve success is to try. The goal in life is not to arrive at death’s door safely, it is to accomplish something along the way. 

It is with absolute certainty that I say you can accomplish much if only you’re willing to try. 

Leadership PRIDE

Authentic Leaders take great pride in the results their leadership creates. There is nothing wrong in that because Authentic Leaders also put great PRIDE into their leadership efforts. 

P – Authentic Leaders know that leadership is Personal. It’s about people and they respect their people in a way that demonstrates they care about them. An Authentic Leader knows that their own success is dependent upon the success of their people. They work to help their people accomplish extraordinary things. They don’t see working with their people as an expense, they see developing their people as an investment.

R – Authentic Leaders accept Responsibility for all of their actions and decisions. They do not play the blame game. The results produced by the people they lead are their responsibility. They willingly pass along the recognition that comes with success. They accept more than their fair share of the responsibility for anything that goes wrong. Their people’s individual success means more to them than their own.

I – Authentic Leaders work from the Inside out. Their leadership is powered by their heart and guided by their intelligence and experience. Heart based leadership makes it easy to show that they care because when the heart is involved with leading then caring comes naturally.

D – Authentic Leaders know that leading must happen Daily. There are no “off days” or days when the leader can just let their people fend for themselves. For an Authentic Leader everyday is a leadership day. Everyday is a day to demonstrate integrity and interest in the people they lead. Everyday Authentic Leaders invest the time to truly know the people they lead. They invest the time to understand the goals and priorities of their people and what they can do to help them achieve those goals. 

E – Authentic Leaders know that one of the things they have complete control over is the amount of Effort they put forth to develop their people and help them achieve success. They willingly sacrifice some of their own freedoms and success for the benefit of the people they lead. Authentic Leaders have the ability to motive themselves so the example they set is one that people will want to follow. That example leads people to be committed, to their colleagues, to the organization and to the leader. 

Authentic Leaders don’t work to earn a position that people will have to follow. They put PRIDE into their leadership so people will want to follow. 

Do you put PRIDE into your Leadership?

The Leadership Difference

I’ve met a lot of “leaders” in my lifetime and a few of them actually led. 

If you’re confused by that sentence let me explain. Lots and lots of people hold positions in their organizations that would indicate they are leaders. Many of them have some fancy title that would seem to confirm it. 

Too bad for them that neither a position or title can make them a leader. Even having followers doesn’t actually make someone a leader, at least not an Authentic Leader. People can be coerced into “pretending” to follow. The truth is they are merely complying with orders and directives so they can keep their paychecks coming. 

Authentic Leaders don’t need compliance and they rarely give “orders.” They work to earn the commitment of their people so their people willingly follow them. Enthusiastically follow them. 

The followers of an Authentic Leader follow them because of what the leader has done for them. They follow because the leader makes a positive difference in the lives of the people they lead. 

I’d go so far as to say if you haven’t made a positive difference in the lives of people you think you are leading then you may be their boss but you are not their leader. If you’re not consistently showing the people you lead that you care about them as human beings then you may be their manager but you are not their leader.

If your words do not match your actions then they cannot trust you. If they cannot trust you then they may comply with your demands but they will never be committed to following you. 

If your people believe that you’re using them to advance your own career then you’ll be unable to earn that commitment no matter how high your position or fancy your title. 

So let me ask you this. Can you specifically say how you’ve made a positive difference in the life of someone you’ve led? Can you say how you demonstrate, on a regular basis that your people matter to you and your organization? Can you say when, exactly, was the last time you told them that they matter as an individual? 

If you can’t answer those questions and do so relatively quickly then you have some work to do. You’ll need to invest some time to improve your leadership skills. You likely have to change your thinking as well. Some of all you may even have to develop a heart for leadership. 

The great news is that all that’s possible. To begin all you need to do is make a decision that you will LeadToday!

How You Doin’?

We’re a little bit past the middle of the year and some of you have already decided whether this is going to be a good year or not so good. For those of you who have struggled thus far let me remind you we’re a little bit past the half-way point. You have plenty of time to turn things around. For those of you who have done well so far let me remind you too, we have a whole lot of this year left. If your year has been good so far then there is no reason it needs to stay that way…you can change it into a great year.

The key to moving from not so good to good is the same as moving from good to great. You must know where you are today in order to know what you need to do to be someplace else tomorrow. 

Many people reading this have not yet invested any time this year to determine exactly where they are and how they got there. Now is the perfect time for some self-reflection. 

What have you been doing that is not working for you? What haven’t you been doing that you should be doing? When was the last time you sat quietly and reviewed your goals for the year and your goals for life? Are you spending time with people who feed you negativity or investing time with people who build you up?

NOW is the perfect time to ask yourself those questions. The opportunity to change direction remains yours to seize. The decision to speed up your progress is yours to make. 

Wherever you are at this point in time it’s vital that you understand that you put yourself there. Your decisions, choices and actions have consequences or benefits. If you’re blaming others or blaming your circumstances then you’ve lost control of your year…maybe even your life. 

The most successful people don’t blame their circumstances. They create circumstances that give them the best chance to succeed. They create those circumstances with thoughtful decisions, good choices and taking appropriate action to follow through on both. 

Self-reflection requires that you be honest with yourself. Sometimes brutally honest. It also requires an understanding that you are the master and creator of your future…if you choose to be. 

Invest some time today to take a mid-year assessment of your current situation and your desired situation. Adjust what you must and be fearless in jettisoning the things, actions and maybe people, who add no value to your life. 

You still have time to make this year exactly what you want it to be. Perhaps even better than you could have imagined. Just remember, if it’s to be it’s up to you to make it so.

Characteristics of Great Followers – Part Two of Two

Most Great Leaders I’ve known were once great followers. Many still are from time to time. The skills and characteristics of great followers are in many respects similar to the characteristics you’ll see in Authentic Leaders. 

In our last post we discussed characteristics possessed by great followers. This post will address 4 additional characteristics vital for genuine Followership. 

Great followers are prepared when they request the time of their leader. They know the information they need and they know the questions they need to ask to discover that information. They anticipate the questions their leader may ask of them and they are prepared to answer them. They don’t merely bring problems to their leader, they also bring possible solutions…if they haven’t already taken the initiative to handle the problems themselves. 

People who follow well don’t say yes when the answer needs to be no. They know when to push back on the leader and when to back off. They share the unvarnished truth with their leader at all times. They aren’t afraid to point out the flaws in a leader’s thinking but they do it in a thoughtful and compassionate way. They will hold their leader accountable for the things they say and do. If that surprises you then you need to know that in the strongest organizations accountability is a two-way street. 

Great followers will be better tomorrow than they are today. They seize every opportunity to learn and train themselves for success. They don’t wait to be “forced” into training. They try new things and you’ll never hear “because we’ve always done it that way” from them. They know what works and why. They know what doesn’t work and why. Great followers know that the minute they stop learning they stop growing. Great followers are always open to trying something new.

You’ll know you’re dealing with a great follower when you see someone who is willing to invest in relationships with almost anyone. They realize the value in different viewpoints and are willing to work with the best idea even if it isn’t theirs. Similar to Authentic Leaders, great followers come from great people. 

Whether you choose to be a leader or a follower you still need to make a commitment to be the best leader or follower you can be. Whether you decide to lead or follow you still have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. 

We know leaders can make a difference but you need to know YOU can too, even as a follower. The only question is…will you?

Well?

Characteristics of Great Followers – Part One of Two

Much has been written about the characteristics of great leaders. A bunch of it has been written by me but I thought it might be worth the effort to look at leadership from a different perspective. The perspective of followership.

What exactly are the characteristics of someone who is a great follower? Some of you are likely  wondering why anyone would aspire to be a great follower. It seems almost like a given that the goal should be to leave the ranks of followers to assume a role of leadership. 

But that’s not always the case. It is not even close. Many people do not want to be in a position of leadership. They are fulfilled being more of a doer and have no aspirations to lead. 

That’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s absolutely necessary. Let’s face it, they are called “doers” for a reason. They get stuff done. Not that leaders don’t but the heavy lifting, the majority of the things that must be done are done by followers, not leaders. 

Any leader who believes otherwise is a very limited leader. They are not being honest with themselves which will make it very difficult for them to be honest with anyone. 

In reality followers are also leaders. That’s why the first characteristic of a great follower is that they lead themselves exceptionally well. They honor their commitments. They maintain a positive attitude and try hard to always give their best effort. They show respect for others. They highly value time and demonstrate their respect of other people’s time with their punctuality. 

They don’t make extra work for their leader. In fact, they try to take some of the workload off of them. That’s the second characteristic of great followers, they lighten the load of others. They do not do it at the expense of their own workload. They efficiently complete their own work and only then look for ways to help their leader and co-workers finish theirs. 

Great followers possess the characteristic of doing what others won’t. They don’t shy away from the tough jobs or trying something new. You’ll seldom hear a complaint from a great follower when they are asked to do something that others are unwilling to do. They see being asked to tackle a tough job as a compliment and recognition of their abilities. They get the job done, no matter the job they were given to do. 

Authentic Leaders help ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. Great followers can accomplish those extraordinary things with a minimum of leadership. Every leaders needs as many great followers as they can get. They understand that their success is dependent upon the success of their followers. When they have several great followers they can focus more of their attention on the people who need it most. 

In our next post we’ll look at a few more characteristics of great followers. If you’re currently in a “followership” position and aspire to one of leadership then you should know that all great leaders were once great followers. Your best hope of earning a position of leadership is to first develop yourself into the very best follower you can be. 

Everybody Needs to be Somebody

I’ve met people who said they didn’t matter and they claimed to be okay with that. I think they were so afraid that they didn’t matter that they just couldn’t admit how important it was to them that they actually did matter. 

Everyone wants to matter. Everyone needs to matter. We all want to be somebody. We want to be needed. We want to make a difference. And we want others to acknowledge that we make a difference. 

Authentic Leaders invest time daily to make certain that the people they lead know they matter. People who are fortunate enough to be led by an Authentic Leader never have to wonder if they are making a difference. Authentic Leaders communicate with specificity and frequency how each of their people make a difference. 

But here’s the thing…helping other people know that they matter in the world is not only the responsibility of those in leadership positions. We can all do that for each other and we should all be doing that for each other. Seven days a week. 

Think for a moment of the person most important in your life. The singularly most important person. When was the last time you told them that? Straight up. No beating around the bush. No worrying about looking foolish. No concerns about having your motives questioned.

Just flat out told them how much they matter to you. How huge a difference they make in your life. Told them pure and simple?

Tell them now. Tell them right now. Come back and read the rest of this later if you want but stop for now so you can tell that person right this minute. Don’t let another second go by. Tell them now!

I hope you’ve had to come back to this post and are not just continuing to read. If you told someone how much they mean to you then you’ve done a good thing. But don’t stop there. 

Pay attention to those you interact with. Watch for how they matter and tell them as well. Let them know how they are making a difference in your life or the lives of others. They need to hear it and you have the opportunity to be perhaps the first person to tell them in a long time.

Hearing that you matter to someone never gets old. Knowing people see and appreciate your value is priceless.

Be more present so you can notice the value in others. Then tell them what you’ve noticed. This isn’t hard work, if you pay attention you’ll see value in everyone and you’ll make their day, maybe their year, when you tell them what you’ve noticed.

Everybody needs to be somebody. Today, this very day, someone will rise up to become somebody. Will you be the one to help them? If you are it will be one of the best days of YOUR life.