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?

Who Will You be Tomorrow?

You are changing. You change everyday. The events you’re involved in today change you. The people you associate with today change who you are tomorrow, big time. 

 

You are always in the process of becoming the person you will eventually be. The question is are you becoming that person intentionally or are you just letting that person develop by default? 

 

I guess the experts call what I’m writing about “Living Intentionally.” Since I’m not an expect I’ll just say that you’re a whole lot better off if you’re the one deciding the direction your life takes. 

 

Deciding the direction of your life does not happen by accident. It comes from making choices and decisions that get you closer to being the person you want to be. Step one is of course determining exactly who it is that you want to be. 

 

That sounds easy until you’re asked about your core values. Most people can’t state their core values off the top of their head. Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person. Core values dictate behavior. They can help you understand the difference between right and wrong. If you’re unaware of your own core values then you kind of jump about from one popular way of thinking and acting to the next one that comes along. 


Some examples of core values include:

 

  • A belief, or lack thereof, in God or an affiliation with a particular religion
  • A belief in being a good steward of resources, both natural and man-made
  • A belief that family is of fundamental importance
  • A belief that honesty is always the best policy and that trust has to be earned
  • A belief in maintaining a healthy work/life balance

Most people pick up these values from their parents or someone else close to them. They might get buried beneath the surface, sometimes deep beneath the surface, but if they are really core values they never completely go away. 

 

The problem is to remain in control of your life you need to keep your core values close at hand. Not in the back of your mind but in the front on your mind where they are readily available to help you with your decision making. 

 

Before every decision you make there is a moment. In that moment, you have the opportunity to pause and think about whether the decision or action you’re about to take is aligned with your core values. A two second pause can be the difference between living in alignment with those values or bouncing from impulse to impulse.

 

Each day is as important as the next in creating the life that you want and deserve. While each day is just a day years later you’ll find that progress was made one small day at a time. One day you’ll realize that how you spent your days is how you spent you life.


To become the person you imagined yourself to be you’ll need to define your life before circumstances do it for you. Knowing your core values takes some serious effort and soul searching but the return on that effort is living your life your way. That’s something that far too few people have the chance to experience. But you can, if you’re willing to make it so! 


How Matters

I like to win! I enjoy success. I also know there are things more important than always winning and always succeeding. 

 

For me, and I know some will call me naive because of this, but for me how you win is just as important as winning itself. Success at the expense of your integrity isn’t really success at all. Now before you ask me to define success let me say that the definition of success is a very personal thing. But no matter your own definition of success if you cheated, lied or stole your way to it then your “success” is nothing to be proud of. 

 

No where in the Bible does it say that money is evil. What it does say is that the love of money is the root of all evil. Loving money, or the success the comes with it, at the expense of anything or anyone cannot be true success.

 

In the hit 1987 movie Wall Street, the character Gordon Gekko made a speech where he said “Greed is Good.” The line became famous but too many people apparently forgot that they were watching a movie. They believed the line as if it were straight out of scripture. 

 

It was frankly a line that many people wanted to believe. It allowed them to balance unethical behavior with the “fact” that greed was good. 

 

Well let’s set the record straight. Greed is not good. Unethical behavior is not good. Trading your integrity for the appearance of success is not good. Winning at all cost is not winning at all. 

 

Winston Churchill once said that “We making a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

 

If you truly want success then don’t try to balance how much of your integrity you’re willing to sacrifice to have it. Instead balance what you get with what you give. Don’t just work to make a living, work to make a life. 

 

I’ll never forget what my 7th grade teacher once told me. His name was Cyril Paul. 7th grade was a while ago for me and I don’t remember many, if any, of my teachers who came before or after him. To say he was an impactful teacher would be an understatement. What he told me was that “what” I did with my life would be of little consequence when compared with “how” I did it. 

 

The fact is that too many times in my life I have forgotten those words. The result has never been anything to make me proud of myself. But I always eventually come home to those words to get myself back in balance. 

 

I’m afraid too many of our world “leaders” either never had those words spoken to them or they have completely forgotten them. 

 

“How” matters. It matters in everything you say and do in your life. 

 

Be a person of integrity. If your leaders are “win at all cost” kind of leaders then lead up and hold them accountable for “how” they achieve their success. Whether they are leaders in your company, your church or your government make sure you hold them to very high standards. 


Always remember “how” matters for you as well so hold yourself to those very high standards too.

Unleash the Power of Your People

I have been around long enough to see buzz-words come and go. Now as it turns out I’ve been around long enough to see some of them that came and went come back again. 

 

One of those words is empowerment. 

 

A couple of decades ago it was said that the Boomer Generation wanted to be empowered to think for themselves and make some decisions. They wanted to feel as if they mattered. They needed to know that their thoughts and opinions carried a little weight….even at their places of employment. 

 

Consultants blanketed companies sharing this wisdom with anyone who would listen. (and pay for it) The business leaders of the day quickly adopted this word as a kind of cure-all for whatever was ailing their organization. 

 

The word hung around for a long time; until people figured out that telling someone they were empowered and actually empowering them were two very different things. 

 

The word faded a bit from prominence but never went away completely. Some organizations were actually successful in empowering their people. For most however it was more of a rallying cry than an actual business strategy. 

 

With all of the “what do Millennials want” research going on the empowerment word is again buzzing about organizations like bees in a flower garden. The research seems to show that one of the key strategies to engage the Millennial generation is to empower them. 

 

So here we go again. Or do we? 

 

My own, albeit somewhat limited, experience with Millennials tells me that they won’t be fooled by mere words. They don’t just want to be empowered, they need to be empowered. They need to matter, they need to make a difference. 

 

If they are not challenged and given the opportunity to grow at the job they have then they will find another place to work. A place that will challenge and empower them. There may not have been plentiful opportunities for Boomers to change jobs 20 years ago but there are tons of opportunities today. If your Millennial employees are not challenged and empowered, for real, they will simply leave.

 

Companies may have been able to get away with talking empowerment in the past but these days they have to actually empower their people. 

 

Empowerment is authorizing a person to think. It is allowing them to take action, control work and make decisions about their job in autonomous, self-directed ways. It is feeling self-empowered to take control of one’s own destiny.

 

If your people have to wait for permission, authority or approval to take action then you may be saying they are empowered but they are not. They absolutely are not. 

 

The reason empowering cultures fail at most organizations is that empowering people comes with a level of risk that most leaders are not willing to accept. I think they figure that because it’s their rear-end on the line that they should be making the decisions. 

 

That’s understandable but it is also a managerial mindset, not a leadership mindset. 

 

Authentic Leaders allow their people to take measured risk. They don’t let their people take crazy chances but they trust the people they hire enough to let them try new things. Even things that they as the leader wouldn’t have tried themselves. 

 

Authentic Leaders let their people think. They know that if everyone is thinking just like them then they aren’t really thinking at all. You must allow and even encourage your people to share their ideas without fear of criticism or consequences. The moment one of your people hesitates to speak up or share an idea is the same moment that empowerment stops. 

 

Authentic Leaders allow their people to make decisions. Even decisions they know are probably wrong. They won’t let them make millions dollar mistakes.  But they know letting them mess up decisions that could cost the company some money can be some of the most cost effective training they will ever receive. 

 

If you’re hiring good people then unleash the power of those people by truly empowering them.  Let them take some risks, let them think and let them make some decisions on their own, even some big decisions from time to time. 


A couple of decades ago companies could get away with talking about empowerment. That won’t work today. If you refuse to empower tomorrow’s leaders today then you put the very life of your organization at risk.