The Best of Times

There are not too many people, okay, maybe nobody, who would describe these as the best of times. People all over the world are confined to their homes….or far worse. When you consider the alternative being confined to the comforts of home for a couple of weeks isn’t so bad.

But a lot of how “bad” it is, a lot of how bad anything is, is determined by your choice of attitude. And yes I would tell you that even in these times, even in times worse than these, YOUR attitude remains YOUR choice.

The opportunity to choose your attitude has been described as “the last of the human freedoms.” That freedom can’t be taken from us by any person, any circumstance, any organization, any government, or any illness.

You ALWAYS have the choice of a positive attitude. You ALWAYS have the choice to look on the bright side of any situation. Sometimes you have to look harder, sometimes a lot harder, to find the bright side but it is ALWAYS there. It’s simply a choice.

While it is simply a choice it is not a simple choice. It is a choice that must be consciously made. If you do not intentionally choose a positive attitude then other people and circumstances will choose your attitude for you…and it’s unlikely to be positive.

It’s easy to find things to ruin our attitude. But it’s also pretty easy, when we make the conscious effort, to find things to keep youself in a positive frame of mind. Maybe it’s a grandchild’s giggle on a FaceTime call, maybe it’s the perfect blue sky, heck, maybe it’s even that you have toilet paper.

Whatever it is, if you look I promise you’ll find a bright side. I am certain there are reasons in your life to be optimistic. But is must be an intentional choice. It must be made daily or even multiple times everyday.

I have this mindfulness thing on my AppleWatch that reminds to me to take a breath several times a day. I turned it off almost as soon as Apple added to the watch. I’ve turned it back on now, not because I can’t remember to breathe. I use it as a reminder to look around at all the fantastic things going on around me and in my own life.

I might be stuck at home but I refuse to be stuck in a rut. There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a story and two sides to every situation, the dark side and the bright side. Will you join me in looking for the bright side?

Take a look around and share what you find in the comments section. Sharing your bright side might even help others find their own!

Business as Usual

The current state of the world absolutely does not allow business to be conducted as usual. Perhaps no time in history have businesses, and every person alive for that matter, been faced with so many unknowns.

No one likes unknowns.

In you’re in a leadership position then one of the things you should be doing right now is providing the people you lead with as many “knowns” as possible. Few things will be business as usual so find as many usual things as you possible can and put them in front of your people.

Many readers of this blog are not aware that in addition to writing this blog I also have a full time job. I do a ton of speaking each year. While I also speak outside of my industry the majority of my speaking opportunities are in support of my employer and our customers.

I never write about my “day job.” But the current crisis around the Coronavirus has provided me the opportunity to witness firsthand some truly outstanding leadership. But this week I would say I saw nothing less than brilliant leadership.

Those who know me also know that I am a harsh judge of leaders and leadership. I believe that if you have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you darn well better lead, really really lead. Lately I’ve seen a ton of what can only be described as Authentic Leadership.

In a company-wide meeting this week, conducted for the first time virtually for obvious reasons, the organization’s leadership made the decision to make the meeting as normal as possible.

There was a needed update on preparedness for and steps taken against the virus. But it did not dominate the meeting. It would have been easy, and expected, that the doom and gloom over-taking many organizations would have been the focus, but it was not. The focus was on business as usual.

That was the brilliant part.

It almost didn’t matter what was discussed. What mattered was what wasn’t. The current situation was appropriately covered and then it was on to business. Instead of sucking life out of the organization the leadership team literally pumped life along with enthusiasm into the organization. The calming effect of even a bit of normalcy could almost be felt over the Internet.

Brilliant is the only word I can think of to describe it.

It showed me the absolute importance of leading by example. If you’re in a position of leadership don’t merely tell your people that everything will be okay, show them. Show them by demonstrating as much normalcy in these highly unusual times as you possible can.

Business as usual will be challenging for the foreseeable future but I had a glimpse this week of just how much people are craving even a bit of normalcy. I’ve never written this before but for at least a while one of the best leadership actions you can take is to be so normal that you risk boring your team.

Now, as much as ever in history people need leadership. If you’re a leader who can provide the people you lead with even a bit of stability then you are a leader who was made for these times.

One last thought, I know business as usual will be nearly impossible for many people. You must understand that “nearly impossible” and “impossible” are two very different things. If you can’t keep business “usual” then figure out a way to provide your people a bit of normalcy in their personal lives. Leadership, at least Authentic Leadership isn’t easy and it doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. So don’t assume anything is impossible, just figure it out. That’s what great leaders do!

Your People Are Watching

Leaders lead by example, whether they intend to or not. Their people are always watching them and they will do what the leader does far faster than they will do what the leader says.

That means that if you’re in a leadership position and your words and actions do not match then your people will follow your actions, not your words.

In times of difficulty, and these times are certainly that, it is imperative that you realize that you are the model for the behavior you want and need from your people. Very few people will outperform their leader in a time of crisis.

It’s also important for leaders to keep in mind that every person has this area in both their heart and head that NEEDS information. It doesn’t need accurate information, it just needs information. That area will get the information it needs come hell or high water. If it can’t find the information then it will make the information up. That type of information is called rumor.

I have never met a leader who thought that rumors were helpful. So keep this in mind…information, accurate, timely information is the archenemy of rumor. Rumor finds it much harder to exist in a sea of accurate and timely information.

So keep your people informed. You’ll be much better off with your people complaining about the ton of communication then you will be if your people are filling their information areas with fear filled rumors. Even bad and difficult information to hear is better than wrong information.

When times get challenging you simply cannot over communicate. If you’re wondering how much communication is too much I encourage you to risk what you may feel is too much information.

If you’re running a business in these uncharted waters you must remember to not lose focus on what is most important. No matter what you sell or what service you offer you are in the people business. The businesses that best take care of their people, both their employees and their customers will be the businesses that come out of the other side of this in the best shape.

The most important part of your business is people because we are all in the people business.

Now, wash your hands!

Interesting Times

As I write this I’m at our Arizona home which is a couple of miles from many of Major League Baseballs’ Spring Training Ballparks. It’s a Saturday and it would ordinarily be a great day to take in a ballgame. But there are no ballgames to take in.

I guess I’ll watch a NBA game on TV instead. Oh wait, there are no NBA games. There are no hockey games either. There are no games at all.

That’s very interesting.

I did go to Walmart at 7:00am this morning…I was confused at first because it seemed a lot like a Black Friday. The place was packed. What was different from a Black Friday however was that the shelves were mostly empty.

I remember shopping at a surplus store years ago in my hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota. They had a slogan that said “if we don’t have it then you don’t need it.” One of the Walmart employees said a good rule of thumb for these times was that “if you need it then it’s most likely that we don’t have it.” That’s more than interesting.

We certainly do live in interesting times.

“May you always live in interesting times” is an English expression which purports to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically; life is better in “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquility than in “interesting” ones, which are usually times of trouble.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that interesting times can be less trouble than they otherwise might be if we work together to limit the trouble. I had a 40 year old guy say to me “I’m not affected by the virus so what the hell do I care.” Well now he’s out of toilet paper and you would think the world is coming to an end.

We are ALL affected by the challenge facing the world today. We can limit the trouble traveling around the world by ALL sticking together. The best way to keep the world healthy is to keep yourself healthy. There have been about a billion warnings to wash your hands regularly (I now have an hourly reminder on my phone) and to stop touching your face. (Easier said than done)

Pay attention to that advice. In fact, pay attention period. You’re pretty safe if you’re in your twenties but you know what? You are about the most likely age group to pass an illness on to the age groups who most certainly are not safe. So pay attention. Take the same precautions as if the virus is a serious threat to you.

All the experts say this is likely to get worse before it gets better. Together we can limit how much worse. Let’s remember the together part.

So for the next while help other people a little more. If you do choose to go out to dinner then tip a little more. If you’re going to the store then offer to pick something up for a neighbor. Check in on people over the phone more often.

Since it’s likely you’ll be around home more often take advantage of the time to complete those projects you’ve been putting off. And how about this for a crazy idea, put down that stupid Smartphone and talk to people the old fashioned way.

There is a lot of fake information and rumors out there. Remember the ONLY official source of information is CoronaVirus.gov Point your browser there for the latest accurate information on these most interesting of times.

I’m pretty sure that the best way to get through interesting times is to be more interested in others and less interested in ourselves. As Mr. Spock once told Captain Kirk, “The good of the many must outweigh the good of the one.”

It’s only by working together that can we truly flatten the curve.

Is Your Boss an Idiot?

Let me answer that question for you right upfront. NO! Your boss is not an idiot.

That doesn’t mean that you may not have some issues with your boss. You would however do well to know that thinking your boss is an idiot is likely causing a good many of those issues.

Our thoughts tend to drive our behaviors and thinking your boss is an idiot will lead you to interact with them in less than a respectful way. You may also think that your boss doesn’t deserve respect but you’d be mistaken about that too.

Think about this for a minute…for your boss to actually be an idiot that you mean that the people in the organization above your boss are idiots too. I mean clearly, only an idiot would make another idiot a boss. Exactly how many idiots do you think work at your organization?

If your organization is truly full of idiots then why are you working there? Unless….

So get that ugly, limiting thinking out of your head. Just like every other human on the planet your boss has a set of strengths. Someone saw them and put your boss in a position of leadership so that those strengths could be put to use.

Your role should not be to focus on the limitations that your boss has (yep, they have limitations for the very same reasons they have strengths, they are human) but to help them apply their strengths.

Those limitations cause gaps and if you want your work and life to be more enjoyable and meaningful then you should focus on using your own strengths to help fill those gaps.

Anybody can find a weakness in others because everybody has gaps. That most certainly does not make everybody an idiot. If it did then almost all of us would be fighting for a spot at the front of the idiot line.

Your thoughts are no small thing. They determine your actions. If you’re thinking that your boss, or anyone else for that matter is an idiot then you are limiting your ability to learn from them. Whatever shortcomings someone may possess they know something that you don’t. That means you can learn from them.

Open your mind and look a little closer at your boss. Look for their strengths. Try to see them the way their boss sees them. Look for the good in them. Help them use their strengths by stepping up and filling their gaps. Use your strengths to fill them.

People who struggle to work well with their boss get noticed in a negative way. People who help people use their strengths get noticed in a positive way. If you worry less about who gets “credit” and think more in terms of a team success your own success will increase along with the team.

Think about it.

Encouragement Required

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you have accepted the responsibility of helping the people you lead reach their full potential. That’s an awesome responsibility!

The task of helping others reach their full potential is multi-faceted. You’re a coach, teacher, sometimes a disciplinarian and always a motivator. You demonstrate that you care for the people you lead and you know that caring doesn’t stop at the end of a work day.

You are also an encourager. You’re an encourager when things are going well and when things are not going so well. You look for opportunities to encourage every member of your team because you understand that every member of your team needs encouragement.

The need for encouragement has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the people you lead. Your top performers need encouragement as much as your people who are not currently performing near their potential. It’s a human thing. Everyone needs and responds to encouragement.

A common mistake that many leaders make is assuming that a compliment and encouragement are one and the same. They are not. They are in fact distinctly different.

A compliment is an expression of praise or congratulations. They most often sound like “good job” or “nice hat” or something along those lines. We could do an entire post on how to give a compliment but we’ll do a short version here.

A true compliment has two parts. The first part is the expression of praise. That’s where most people stop. When we stop with the simple expression of praise we can leave the recipient of the compliment wondering why we gave it in the first place. They may question our motives and wonder what we expect in return.

The second part of the compliment leaves no doubt in the mind of the recipient about why they are receiving the praise. The second part is what I call the “evidence.”

For instance, if the compliment includes something about “good job” it should immediately be followed with “the reason I say that is….” If you have no concrete reason for giving the compliment then don’t give it. The second part of the compliment deepens the significance of the praise. It makes the compliment more “real.” A compliment backed up with evidence has staying power for the recipient. It shows the sincerity of the compliment giver and gives the compliment itself much greater impact.

Encouragement is different from a compliment. Encouragement is about you as a leader sharing your courage with others. It’s about supporting their efforts, most often verbally but sometimes by digging in and physically helping them complete a task.

Encouragement is about building the confidence of your people and offering them hope. Sometimes it’s about shining a light on the hope that exists in a seemingly hopeless situation.

People often need encouragement when they have been delegated a new or unfamiliar task. That encouragement can sound something like this: “I asked you to do this because I have complete confidence that you can get it done. You have the brains, experience, and knowledge required to do this well. I have total faith in you, I believe in you, I’m certain you can and will do this well. I’m here for you as you undertake this assignment and I’m excited about what you’re going to accomplish.”

As you can see, that’s very different from a compliment. Compliments and encouragement are both excellent tools commonly used by Authentic Leaders. It’s also a common mistake of new leaders to think compliments are enough to encourage their people. They are not!

Encourage your people early and often. You’ll likely see more growth than you…or they ever thought was possible.

A Plan for Life

Research shows that the average person will spend 40 hours planning a two-week vacation. That is 40 hours more then they invest in planning the rest of their lives.

Goals are the plan for your life.

Most everyone claims to believe that goals are important. Somewhere around 10% of those people actually have goals that are written down. A very small handful of that 10% have a formal plan for how they intend to achieve those goals.

If you’re in that vast majority of people who don’t have a formal goal achieving plan then I have some shocking news for you. YOU are an unproductive person!

If you didn’t do something to intentionally get closer to at least one of your goals today then no matter how busy you may feel you were not productive. That means that if you don’t have formal goals along with a written plan on how you’re going to achieve them then you cannot be productive…not matter how busy you might be.

But having true goals and a plan to achieve them goes way beyond making you productive. True goals gives a purpose to everything you do. When your actions have purpose then your life has passion. If you’ve ever felt as if you’re sleepwalking through life then you NEED true goals. If you not certain why you’re doing what you’re doing then you NEED true goals.

If you want to live a purpose driven life then you NEED true goals. If you want a reason to push yourself to reach your potential then you NEED true goals.

I won’t kid you, developing meaningful goals takes time, likely more time than it would take you to plan your next two-week vacation. It requires serious reflection about what’s most important to you. You’ll need a vision for your life and what you want it to look like in a year, 3 years and 5 years and beyond.

If you don’t currently have true goals and a written plan for how you’re going to achieve them then it’s likely you lack discipline as well. If your goals are meaningful enough and your plan is thorough enough they will drive a new discipline within you. That’s the power of true goals.

President Abraham Lincoln said “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” If you want to wonder what the future holds for you then you don’t need to do a thing. Just keep floating along through life. If however you want to control your future and shape what’s in store for you down the road then you’ll need to get serious about setting true goals.

There isn’t a much better life than a life lived on purpose for a purpose. Purpose comes from knowing where you’re going and having a map to get there.

Do you know your purpose?