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?

Are you Determined to Learn?

If you’re not willing to learn then no one can help you. If however you are determined to learn then no one can stop you. Learning is a choice. The decision to improve your lot in life through education is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I have never met a very successful person who hasn’t at some point in their life made the decision to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year and it shouldn’t stop when you’re handed a degree. It’s never been easier to learn. If you’re a bit careful where you look there is a wealth of great learning opportunities to be found on the internet.

There isn’t anyone alive you can’t learn from. Heck, thanks to that same internet you can even learn from dead people. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

People who you wouldn’t normally hang out with can teach you something. People who look and sound different than you also know things that you don’t. If you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone a bit and take a chance you can learn from them too.

Think for a moment about your typical conversations with people. Are you doing most of the talking? Are you talking mostly about yourself? Are you asking questions about the other person and what’s new with them?

Most people don’t ask enough questions. I suppose that’s because they don’t want to look or sound dumb. Successful people know that a person who asks what may seem to be an ill informed question might sound dumb for a moment. But the person who is too embarrassed to even ask remains ill informed for a long long time.

You’ll never learn a thing by talking to someone. What you can learn from them is limitless if only you’ll listen to them. So ask three people who know you well what you can do to be a better listener. Then DO what they tell you. You don’t have to agree with them, you do however have to follow their advice. At least if you want to be a better listener.

When a person decides that they will never stop learning their potential grows right along with their knowledge bank. But learning begins with the decision to try. If you think you already know enough then you’re really no better off than the person who thinks they know it all.

And this much we all know….no one likes a know it all.

How We Give

How we give is even more important than what we give. We, myself included, too often forget the actual definition of the word give. That definition says that to give means to “freely transfer the possession of something to someone.”

The key word there is “freely.” To me that means to expect nothing in return. Absolutely nothing.

That’s a lot harder to do than it sounds. You may think differently. You may think that you always give without expecting anything in return. But then you don’t send a holiday card to someone next year because they didn’t send you one this year.

Maybe you make a mental note of the value of the graduation gift your son or daughter received from one of your close friends. That determines the approximate value of the gift you’ll give to the kids of that friend.

In cases like that you’re not “freely” giving. You’re making a trade. Your “giving nature” is impacted by what you receive in return.

But maybe you don’t expect anything in return. Except for a bit of recognition or attention for your generous nature. If you expect to be recognized as a giver then you’re expecting something in return.

If you’re expecting something in return it’s not truly giving. Whatever you’ve given it’s certainly not “freely transferred.”

Here’s a little test for you. Do something extra for someone today. Do not let them or anyone else know you did it for them. If you’re like most people, including me, you’ll find the first half of that test far easier to accomplish than the second part. That’s because we have egos and those egos need to be fed. They are hungry little critters.

Give and then forget about it. Give and expect a healthy dose of INGRATITUDE in return. When no one acknowledges your giving then give some more.

If you’re giving solely for the purpose of giving you’ll have no problem with that. If you’re giving with the hope or intent of getting something, anything, in return then you’ll stop giving before long.

I love to think of myself as a giving person but I hate to think of myself as being taken advantage of. It seems to me as if those two thoughts are in conflict with each other.

That conflict prevents me from giving all that I could.

I’ve always heard that people who can forgive and forget have a happy life. I suspect that people who give and forget have an even happier life. So I’m going to try that. I’m guessing it won’t be easy but most things worth doing are not easy to do.

Care to join me?

Managing vs Leading – Part Eight

Managing things is a critical function for any business or organization. It is equally critical for all managers and leaders within any business or organization to understand that they do in fact manage “things” but that the people of that business or organization require leadership.

Some of the things that need managing are capital equipment like copiers and computers. Vehicles, buildings, forklifts, and other similar types of equipment are typical of the type of things that get managed. Part of managing those things is putting them on a depreciation schedule for tax purposes. Each year a business or organization owns those “things” they are worth less. They depreciate in value.

No manager, no matter how bad at managing they may be, can cause the value of a human being as a person to depreciate. They can however cause the productivity and commitment level of that human being to depreciate rather quickly. All they need to do is attempt to manage that person as if they were a “thing” instead of leading them as if they are a person.

We have talked a lot in this series about the difference between managing and leading but here is the bottom line. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re attempting to manage your people as if they are co-equals with your “things” then you are creating the vast majority of the issues that you would describe as “personnel issues.”

Many people in leadership positions would say they have people reporting to them who have poor attitudes. They claim to have people who are often tardy and when they finally show up for work they are disengaged. Leaders in name only complain about low productivity people and people who show no initiative. The list of problems and complaints go on and on.

What these leaders in name only fail to understand is that the root cause of nearly 100% of these problems point directly to them. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re trying to manage your people instead of leading them then YOU are almost certainly the cause of every “people problem” you’re complaining about.

I know that isn’t easy to hear but it is a reality you must come to grips with if you’re ever going to become an Authentic Leader.

The good news is that you don’t need better people. There are no better people in the world than the ones you have now. If you think they need to change then you need to change.

You need to change from a person who merely occupies a position of leadership to an Authentic Leader. You need to treat your people like the emotional human beings they are. You need to tap into their hopes. You need to tap into their dreams. You need to tap into their natural enthusiasm. You need to tap into their goals, their needs and their good ideas.

If you don’t see those things in the people you have in your organization today then I’ll guarantee you that you’re trying to manage them instead of investing the time required to authentically lead them.

The fastest way to change anything is to change how you look at it. Do not look at your people as “human assets” or “Human Resources” or for heavens sake, things. See them as the special human beings that they are. Then treat them that way. Lead them!

Before you know it all those “people problems” will fade away. You’ll be tempted to think that your people have all changed but what they have become was always there. It’s is you who will have changed.

You’ll have changed from a person who merely occupies a position of leadership to someone who actually leads. You’ll have made a difference in the lives of your people and you’ll never attempt to manage your people again.

This is the final installment of the Managing vs Leading series. I hope you will take it to heart. The world has plenty of insightful and incredibly effective managers. What the world needs is more Authentic Leaders. Many many more.

Can you be one of those who decide to make a difference? You can if you make the decision to Lead Today. I hope you will!

Managing vs Leading – Part Seven

People in leadership positions who attempt to manage their people use their head to get good things done. They expect their people to use their head as well. They are more manager than leader.

People in leadership positions who actually lead use their head and their heart to encourage their people to accomplish great things. They are as concerned with their people’s heart as much as their heads. They are more leader than manager but they are often excellent managers as well. However, they do not manage their people, they lead them.

People in leadership positions who attempt to manage people are so focused on what needs to get done that they forget it is people, real life human beings, who will get that work done. That causes them to often treat their people as something rather than someone.

Leaders lead. The need neither a leadership position or title to do it. Their first priority is the people who will do the work, not the work itself. They invest the time required to understand how their people think and why they think that way. They know their hopes, their challenges and their goals.

They help them in any area they possibly can. They will compassionately confront them when that is what is needed for them to succeed. They coach them. They mentor them. They care for them.

They do not tell them what to do, they show them. They model successful behavior. They hold their people to high standards and hold themselves to even higher standards.

Leaders who lead earn the commitment of their people. That commitment leads to increased productivity and extraordinary results.

People have hearts and it’s those hearts that truly need leadership. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not leading your people then don’t expect them to put their hearts into their work. They may indeed use their heads to do good things but greatness will elude them. It will almost certainly elude you as well.

Managing vs Leading – Part Six

There are several key differences between people who hold leadership positions and people who actually lead. As I’ve said frequently in this series people who hold leadership positions often attempt to manage their people. Leaders, whether they hold a leadership position or not, actually lead people.

Leaders who lead develop a Followership. Leaders who attempt to manage people hope to create subordinates. The difference is huge.

Subordinates comply with the demands, directives and requests of the boss. Sometimes they comply willingly and sometimes not. Sometimes they flat out resist the directives. In worse case scenarios they work against their boss and become a cancer to the entire organization. They frequently draw other team members into their sea of discontent.

At best a person in a position of leadership who attempts to manage their people can expect a mediocre level of performance. The development of their people is stunted and their potential is limited. Over time their people become disengaged. Even otherwise excellent people do not give the effort required for long-term success when they are managed.

When a leader leads they first work to create strong followers. Then they raise the bar to turn those followers into future leaders. People who are led don’t see the requests of their leaders as demands or directives. They do not comply with the requests because compliance isn’t needed. They are committed to the leader and they do whatever it takes to make certain they do not disappoint them.

Their level of work is frequently, almost always in fact, superior to managed people. They work with their leader to ensure all requirements for successful outcomes are met. People who are led instead of managed have a positive impact on the team by displaying both a more positive attitude and impressive work habits.

Leaders who lead help their people grow. Their people develop far faster than managed people. They also have a very good shot at reaching their full potential.

If you’re a person in a position of leadership who is attempting to manage your people you’re not going to like this next sentence. If you’re attempting to manage people then you’re causing an overwhelming percentage of the problems you would describe as personnel issues.

Subordinates will seldom help you grow as an organization because you’re not helping them grow as people. It may look as if leading people is harder than managing them and in fact it is…but only in the short term. In the long term the only way to eliminate personnel issues is to realize that your personnel are people. That is forgotten by far too many managers who occupy leadership positions. When you help your people grow, the rewards, both tangible and intangible far outweigh the extra effort required to truly lead.

People resist feeling managed. They respond to feeling led. Are the people you’re responsible for developing resisting you or responding to you?

The answer to that single question may hold the key to your future success and the success of your organization.

Managing vs Leading – Part Five

Solid management is essential for any organization with a desire for stability. Authentic Leadership is even more essential for any organization hoping to grow.

That’s one of the key differences between managing and leading. You can manage an organization to stay the course. You can hold it steady with basic management principles and hope your competitors are satisfied with only managing their organization too.

But if you want to grow your organization or stay ahead of your competition then you’re going to need to lead the people who make up your organization.

Managing is all about the policies and procedures of today. Leading is about the vision and strategies of tomorrow. Policies and procedures matter. They provide the stability that organizations need to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Without those policies and procedures chaos ensues and productivity stops. That’s why great management is every bit as vital as great leadership.

Leaders are responsible to shape, share and sell their vision to the people they lead. Asking someone to follow you and then not giving them any idea of where they are following you to does not work. A leader’s vision should provide a guidepost for decision making. When faced with a decision ask if whatever you’re deciding will move you in the direction of your vision. If the answer is no then your decision is made.

Leaders also determine the strategies used to achieve the goals required to make the vision a reality. The management team will implement the tactics required to achieve the goals but absent those goals there are no tactics that will result in long-term success. That’s why great leadership is every bit as vital as great management.

Now I need to ask the obvious question. Do the people you are supposed to be leading know where you’re going? Have you shared your vision with them and showed them where they fit in the vision? Do you even have a vision? Does that vision include the people who are responsible for the day-to day success of your organization?

If your answers are anything other than a very strong YES then you may be doing far more managing than leading. If that’s the case you’ve just discovered why your organization is struggling to grow.

Provide at least the same level of leadership as you do management and you’ll quickly notice the difference in your people, their productivity and the strength of your entire organization.