Earning Trust – Part One

Trust is essential for leadership. Whether you’re attempting to lead people who work for you, or across from you or even above you in your organization you must have their trust in order to lead them.

You earn, or not, the level of trust other people place in you. There are some people who have a default mindset that says to trust everyone until they show themselves to be untrustworthy. But most people are more skeptical and don’t trust someone until they have proven themselves trustworthy.

The contradiction there is that the best way to know whether someone is trustworthy is to trust them.

The trust you need to lead, or even to build a strong relationship requires time to build, sometimes a very long time. But you can lose that trust very quickly and you can lose it in several ways. You can lose it by not following through on your commitments. You can lose it by lying. You can lose it by sharing information that was given to you in confidence.

I’m good with those first two…not always so good with that last one. I can’t honestly recall ever sharing something told to me when I was specifically asked not to. When I’ve been told that something was being shared with me in confidence I’ve closely held that information.

It’s when I wasn’t specifically told that something was being shared in confidence that I’ve gotten myself in trouble. I would love to say that’s okay because I wasn’t told not to tell anyone else but it’s not okay. Unless you’re a complete idiot you know, or you should know, what’s appropriate to share and what’s not. You shouldn’t have to be told. Neither should I.

Failing to protect information shared with you in confidence, whether implied or stated, is one of the fastest ways to lose trust. Even if you only tell one other person you’ve broken the trust of the person who originally shared that information with you. If the person you told tells other people then you’re responsible for all those people knowing too. It’s a pretty big screw up.

Benjamin Franklin said “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” You might want to keep that quote in mind if you’re ever tempted to share something that was told to you in confidence.

The good news is that trust can be rebuilt. It isn’t easy but if you’re interested it is possible. In my next post I’ll share several steps you can take to build trust and rebuild trust if you’ve lost it. There won’t be any secrets there, if fact I’ll bet you’ve heard them all before…the question is, are you doing them?

Who Are You?

Are you who you think you are? Are you who other people think you are? Are you basically the compilation of the five people you spend the most time with?

The answer to all of those questions is yes….sort of. I say “sort of” because you’re likely not exactly who you think you are. You’re also almost certainly not who other people think you are although they might be closer to the real you than you want to admit.

You are definitely influenced by the handful of people you spend the majority of your time with. You likely think and act a lot like them. You believe much the same as they do and you’re most comfortable being “real” when you’re with them.

So the better question is are you who you want to be?

Think of the people you know well that you respect and admire the most. These are not people you read about in the news or see in the movies. These are people you actually know. You know their good side and their not so good side. What are the qualities and characteristics they possess that cause you to admire them?

Think hard, invest some time in this. What is it really that sets them apart from the crowd?

How close are you to possessing these same qualities and characteristics. Notice there is no question mark at the end of that sentence. That’s because it’s not a question for you. It’s a question that you should be asking other people. It’s a question that you should be asking, on a regular basis, your coach or mentor.

The reason I’m not suggesting that you ask yourself is that if you’re like most people you won’t be completely honest with yourself. You’ll cut yourself too much slack and provide yourself with excuses you wouldn’t give anyone else. That’s nice to do for yourself but it isn’t helpful if your goal is to better yourself.

Once you have some sincere and honest input from people who know you well then you can decide if the you they see is the you that you want to be. There are a lot of “yous” in that sentence but this post is after all about you.

You’ll likely hear about a few shortcomings but that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect, not even the people you admire the most. You have to decide if the good qualities and characteristics you possess outweigh those shortcomings. If you have a weakness that you think is holding you back then you know what to work on.

I’m okay with being imperfect. I’m okay with not being liked by everyone. I’m okay with not being understood by everyone. I’m even okay with some people thinking I’m downright stupid.

Sometimes I disappoint people, sometimes I disappoint myself. I could make a pretty strong case that if you’re never disappointed with yourself, either with something you’ve said or done, then you’ve set your expectations for yourself way too low.

But that doesn’t make you a bad person and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. And you are everything that comes with that, good and bad. That is who you really are!

The Power of Focus

Somebody a lot smarter than me once said “the man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I don’t recall who said it but it’s absolutely true.

But there is a way that guy can catch both rabbits. He just has to chase them one at a time.

That’s focus.

If you can’t say no to many things then you’ll find it impossible to say yes to focus. In most areas of your life what you choose not to do will determine what you are able to do. If you’re trying to do too much you fall victim to what is known as task saturation. If you fall into that trap you end up accomplishing far less than the person focused on one thing at a time.

That’s the big illusion that multi-taskers present to themselves. They believe they can do many things well and that they can do them all at once. But every bit of research shows without a doubt that they are fooling themselves.

One person doing eight things one at a time will do them better and faster than one person trying to do all eight of them at once. That’s the power of focus.

Some people would tell you they can’t focus. That’s not exactly right. What they can’t do is decide. They can’t decide on their priorities. They are like a kid in a candy store…they want it all and they want it right now.

That “kid in the candy store” mentality causes them to accomplish things right at the deadline. They get them done in the nick of time because suddenly they didn’t have to decide what to do next, a deadline made the decision for them. The problem is, things done at the deadline are seldom done as well as those things done with time to spare.

The most successful people possess laser like focus. They invest a bit of time, well actually some serious time, in determining their priorities and then they go after them to the exclusion of all distractions.

Warren Buffett has laser focus and he has a dependable process to keep it that he shares with people who struggle with their own focus.

He’ll ask them to invest some time to write out their top 25 goals. These can be life goals, 10 year goals or goals for the coming month or year. Once they have that list he asks them to review it and select their top 5.

So now they have two lists, let’s call them list one and list two. Buffett asks what the person intends to do with list two. Most say that they will work on them as time permits because while they are not as important as list one they are still important.

That’s when Buffett gives them life altering advice. He tells them list two is actually their “avoid at all cost” list. He says that list should get zero attention until list one is 100% complete. That’s what focus looks like in practice.

I can tell you from personal experience that focusing is easy when compared to developing the lists. If you want success with your own list one you must be willing to sacrifice everything on list two.

Most people are able to do that but are unwilling to do that. Those 20 things on list two prevent them from achieving any of the things on list one. In their case, ALL the rabbits got away.

Some would say if you’re focusing on more than one thing you don’t really have focus. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt and say so long as you’re focusing on one at a time you can maybe have five or six things on your radar.

Any more than that and you might as well be Elmer J. Fudd.

Real Decisions Require Action

Making decisions can be a challenge. Making real decisions is even more challenging. A real decision is one that brings about action. Real action.

Real action causes something to change. It may not change much for you but whatever change is caused by your actions sends a ripple effect to those around you. Hopefully you understand that. It means that your decisions and the actions that result from them don’t only affect you, they affect the people around you as well. Your actions can have a big impact on those closest to you.

If you understand that then you should know the reverse is also true. You will be affected by the decisions and actions of the people around you. The closer those people are to you the bigger the impact.

That’s why it’s so important that your decisions lead to action. It’s not really a decision if nothing different happens because of it. Without action nothing different will happen. For those of you who believe it’s sometimes best to not make a decision you should know that a decision to not decide IS a decision. It’s a decision to allow the decisions and actions of others to control and shape your life.

You can make a decision to “stand pat” or “sit tight” or whatever you want to call it but unless virtually ever other person in the world also does nothing then something is going to change for you.

The change may be small and it may take some time for you to realize the change happened but it will happen. The only question is do you want change to happen to you or because of you? Do you want to control the change in your life or are you willing to allow the change to control you?

You can decide whatever you want but if the decision isn’t followed up by some sort of action then you might as well not have decided at all.

You may be only one decision away from an entirely different life. You may be only one decision away from being able to maintain the life you have. Whichever is the case both require that your decisions include an action step.

The decisions that affect your life are being made ever day. You must decide if you want input into the effects of those decisions or you’re willing to let someone else choose your path.

Happiness requires some control over your life. That control can only come from deciding what you want and then taking action to make it happen. As we head into 2020 I don’t think I’m going to wish anyone a Happy New Year. I think I’ll wish people an Active New Year!

Just Thinking

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Mostly about thinking. Very serendipitously I’ve seen several blog posts about thinking in the last few weeks too.

I think that thinking is good. I wish more people would try it. It really helps when making decisions and I particularly recommend taking a moment or two to think before you speak. It’s amazing what a difference that moment or two can make.

If you think as you look around (I don’t normally recommend multi-tasking but in this case I’ll make an exception) you’ll realize that pretty much everything you see began as a thought. Someone thought about making the device you’re reading this on. If someone printed it out for you to read that was very thoughtful of them. Everything begins with a thought.

So thinking is good. But is it always good? I think not!

Our thoughts lead the way for us. If our thoughts are positive our life tends to be positive. If our thoughts are negative our lives tend to be as well. Henry Ford once thought “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” That was a great thought but it only became great when he said it out loud.

You see as good as your thoughts might be thinking alone is not enough to succeed. Thoughts can begin the process of success but action finishes it.

Mountains of failure are built on the foundation of good thoughts, or as some people might call them, good intentions. But those good thoughts all have one thing in common…a lack of commitment to take proper action to bring them to fruition.

Every person reading this has had great thoughts that they never followed up on. Those great thoughts could have become something special if only….

If only they had been acted upon.

So keep thinking but don’t just think. Take action. Massive, directed, intentional, unstoppable daily action. It may lead to nothing. It may lead to learning what to do differently next time. But it may lead to something incredible that makes a difference for you, for those close to you or maybe the world.

What do you think about that?

Do Your Best

“Do your best.” I’ve received that advice so many times and for so long that I can’t remember when I first heard it or who I heard it from.

It’s not bad advice as far as it goes, it just doesn’t go far enough. If I were to advise you to “do your best” I would also advise you to have someone in your life to tell you if you’ve really done your best.

That’s because most people, myself included, often tell themselves they have put forth their best effort when they haven’t. They make compromises, they make excuses, they even flat-out lie to themselves.

If anyone is going to consistently do their best then they need someone in their life to hold them accountable. They need someone in their life to warn them away from compromises, excuses and telling themselves they did their best when they really could have done more.

That person is most likely a mentor. It could be a close friend, a family member, a co-worker or maybe even someone you pay, like a certified coach perhaps. Whoever it is you must trust that this person has your best interests in mind. They must be confident enough to be truthful with you and you must be confident enough to listen to them.

Sometimes your best effort won’t be good enough to accomplish what you want. Do your best anyway and do it again next time and the time after that too.

You deserve your best effort and you must be honest with yourself to get it. It also helps if you have someone close by to verify your honesty. When you do your best you may not always win but you will always be a winner.

You may find this hard to believe but in my experience the ultimate outcome matters less over time. The sting of defeat lessens over time but the disappointment in yourself for giving less than your best effort can actually grow with time. Don’t do that to yourself, always do your best and if that’s not good enough for someone else then that’s their problem, not yours.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

The great Dale Carnegie said that “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “horse sense” in today’s terms it would most closely be associated with “common sense.” Which of course isn’t actually all that common.

Dale Carnegie believed in the power of enthusiasm. He saw it in action during thousands of sessions of his Human Relations, Public Speaking, Sales and Leadership courses. I saw it in hundreds of those same courses. I see it all the time today as well.

People who are very enthusiastic about whatever it is they are doing simply do it better, in every way, than less enthusiastic people.

You, and every other human on the planet, can spot an enthusiastic person a mile away. You can also feel them, hear them, and maybe even be contaminated by them. You, and every other human on the planet can also spot an unenthusiastic person a mile away. And you most certainly can be contamination by them.

If you’re in a leadership position then it is vital to understand that you lead by example, whether you intend to or not. Your people are watching and they are watching to see if you do the same things you tell them to do. They are also watching to see if you do it enthusiastically.

Are you enthusiastically walking your talk. Merely going through the motions won’t get it done. As a leader you are the “model” for the actions you want from your people. But not only is it important “what” you do, it’s also very important “how” you do it.

You know that your more enthusiastic people are more productive and better team members. What you may not always realize is that they often model their enthusiasm level after yours.

Dale Carnegie also said to “act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.” There will be days when your enthusiasm level isn’t what it needs to be. On those days follow Mr. Carnegie’s wise advice and act enthusiastic. Sooner or later your natural enthusiasm will take over and your “acting” will be replaced by the real thing.

Your enthusiasm is contagious, make sure you have enough so that everyone who comes near you catches a bit of yours.