Five Minutes That Can Change Everything

As you lead you need good judgment. You also cannot afford to be judgmental. That’s never more important than when considering the potential of the people on your team.

If you’re like most leaders you’re always watching your team to determine how effective they are in their roles. That’s good leadership. But good leadership is not good enough if your goal is to grow your organization.

Growing an organization requires great leadership and great leadership requires more than simply watching your people. It requires consistent two-way communication.

If you’re not “out there” interacting and talking with your people in an intentional manner then you’re probably missing out on the information that you need to advance from good to great leadership.

When I say “intentional” I mean very very intentional. You must make it a point to invest time each day, every single day, to learn something about someone on your team. Here’s one way to do that:

Every day invest the time to conduct an innerview, no I didn’t mean interview, I really meant innerview. An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An innerview is what you do when you’re interested in keeping them, and building their success. You must see their motivations and lives from the inside to truly understand why they do what they do.

Invest five minutes a day, every single day to innerview at least one member of your team. Ask about them personally, about their goals, their challenges and most importantly, how you can help them get to where they want to be.

Way too many leaders have told me that the “innerview” is a nice thought but that they just can’t afford the time. This is often right after they have told me that their people are their most important asset.

If you want a great organization then you are going to have to be a great leader. Put your time where your mouth is and don’t just say your people are important, show it. Show it by using the innerview to make certain that when you’re making judgements about your people you know exactly who you are judging.

When you use your point of view to judge your people you’re almost certain to be judgmental. When you use your people’s point of view you can leave the “ment” behind and more clearly judge.

It requires just five minutes a day but it’s five minutes that can change everything about how you evaluate and lead your people.

5 Cents

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain

Nobody can be right all the time but the best leaders are indeed right far more often than not. They are right more often than not because they best leaders have good judgment. The simple definition of judgment is: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought or the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought.

Both of those definitions have the term “careful thought” in common. A decision based on careless thought is rarely a good decision and never as good of a decision as it could have been. 

A ball and a bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 

Research says that 79% of the people who just answered that question instinctively, without careful thought answered that question wrong. 

Great leaders think and they think carefully before making a decision. They consider the consequences of their decision and the consequences of those consequences. Like a chess master they think several steps ahead of most people.

Great leaders think bigger.

Most importantly they know what they don’t know. They don’t assume much if anything. They verify their facts, they have people who they can bounce ideas off of, they count on those people to tell them the truth, not just what they want to hear.

The best leaders know that they can find out about the things they don’t know. They also know that their real problems come from “knowing” things that just aren’t true.

I think most people actually have the potential to have good judgment, they appear to lack good judgment because their decisions are instinctive rather than informed. They sometimes seem to think that a quick decision is better than a delayed decision. Great leaders know that a delayed right decision will beat a quick wrong decision every single time. Every single time.

I know I’m likely to get hundreds of tweets and responses saying I should go back to school and study math because they believe the answer to my earlier question is indeed 10 cents. 

I thought about telling you why 10 cents is wrong but I’m not going to. Instead I’ll tell you this, if you’re willing to pay attention, really pay attention, then all the information you need to make good decisions and show good judgment is readily available to you. 

You only need to pay real attention, you must linger on the words on the person you’re speaking with until you truly understand what they mean. You must read every word in a sentence because words matter, if you don’t your brain will play tricks on you and make you think that $1.05 is really $1.00. 

Your judgment improves when you think bigger, listen intently and observe with both your eyes and your mind wide open. You have good judgement, the question is will you develop the skills you need to make use of it. 

When you do, you’ll know without a doubt that the ball costs a mere 5 cents.

Live Your Own Life

I am what I am and that’s all that I am.Popeye the Sailor

Are you living your own life or are you living the life that other people or some other person, expects you to live?

It’s a big question. If you’re living your life the way you want to live it then you have the opportunity to truly succeed. If you’re living the life of a poser, trying to be something or someone your really not, then despite what you may gain in life you’ll likely have trouble thinking of yourself as a true success.

Popeye had it figured out. He lived his life, his way, and that was that. If that wasn’t “good enough” for someone then they didn’t need to be part of his life. He was perfectly fine with that. No person’s opinion of him mattered more than his own.

That is a pretty healthy way to live.

Now, a few caveats. Living your life your way doesn’t mean you get to ignore all societal norms or the laws of the land. It doesn’t mean you aren’t required to share the planet with all it’s other inhabitants and it doesn’t mean you don’t have to use the resources of the planet responsibly.

Living your life your way just means that you don’t have to “adjust” your core values to meet the expectations of others. It means that you don’t have to look a certain way or believe anything that you don’t want to believe.

It means that you get to be you. It also means you get to have everything that comes with being whoever you want to be. Of course it also may mean that you don’t get to have some things that you might be able to have if you were different than you are. But hey, we all make choices.

No one can take your self-respect unless you’re their accomplice. Other people can think what they want of you but they can’t make you think less or more of yourself … unless you let them. So don’t allow other people to judge you; ignore the haters and naysayers and live the life that you choose for yourself.

Now, here’s the part of the post that’s meant as much for me as it is for anyone else. You might not like the second part of the post as much as the first.

If you’re not going to let other people judge you and you’re going to live your life as YOU see fit then you must stop judging other people and stop trying to get other people to live their life the way you think they should.

You’ll be better off in most every way if you stop judging people and start trying to understand them instead.

The moment you judge someone your judgement about them becomes clouded. You’re using your life experiences and your life values to determine how they should look, act, and behave. But they ain’t you. It’s highly unlikely that they view life through the same lens that you do. It’s their experiences, background, issues, hopes and goals that make them who they are. And they ain’t you!

So stop thinking they should be, or worse, that they need to be. You will find it far easier to accept who you are when you learn to accept others as they are.

Just accept it!

Authentic Leadership Doesn’t Pigeon Hole People

Authentic Leadership is a balancing act. 

An authentic leader must understand the strengths and weaknesses of their people. They must make judgments about their people and make certain that they are giving their people the best chance to succeed. 

It’s a balancing act because authentic leaders can’t afford to be judgmental while making the judgments required to help their people succeed. Authentic leaders know better than to apply their own life’s circumstances and values to the situations and decisions of their people. Authentic leaders accept most everything at face value. 

Authentic leaders know that judging a person does more to define themselves than it does the person they judge. They also know that every person is in someway unique and gifted. Authentic leaders invest the time to discover what those gifts are and find a way to put them to use.

Authentic leaders are realists and they are fair. There will always be a person or persons who a leader “prefers” working with but that preference shouldn’t mean “extra” benefits or opportunities for that “preferred” person. Rules and policies apply equally or they don’t really apply at all.

Most of all, a leader should never pigeon hole their people.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term “pigeon hole” it means to decide that someone or something belongs to a particular type or group, especially without knowing much about them.

This is where authentic leaders really separate themselves from the more common leader: They know their people. They know what motivates them, they know their challenges and goals. They see their people as PEOPLE and not merely a resource to be allocated. 

They invest the time everyday, yes everyday, to understand them as people. They work to understand their environment, backgrounds, past successes and failures. They can make judgments without being judgmental because they know where their people are coming from. 

If you’re a leader who believes (accurately) that your own success is dependent upon the success of your people then don’t judge what you don’t know. If you’re a leader who believes that your organization’s greatest asset is it’s people then invest your time with your greatest asset. 

People want to matter and when they know that they matter to you then and only then will you have the opportunity to truly lead.

You Have No Right to Judge

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No matter where we are in life, no matter our station in life, no matter where we live or where we were born, you and I have this much in common: We have no right to judge anyone else.

There’s a story, which I’m told is a true story, about a man who gets on a subway early one morning in New York City with three kids. There’s no mom in sight and dad appears as though he couldn’t care less what the kids were up to.

As the dad sits on the subway, the kids basically terrorize the other passengers. They run up and down the aisle, knocking people’s newspapers from their hands and spilling their coffee in all directions. All this as the dad sits there staring into space.

After a short time one of the passengers has had enough, and finally shouts at the dad. He yells that the dad should get his kids under control, and asks what’s wrong with him. (If I had been on the subway I might not have been that shouting passenger but I sure wouldn’t have had a problem with what they was saying)

The dad awakens from his stupor and begins to apologize profusely. He tells the passenger that he and his kids are just on their way home from the hospital, where the kids mother and his wife passed away earlier that morning.

Wow!

So, what do you think of the dad now? How many of you were just like me? How many of you judged the man, to be a poor father or an irresponsible father? I did! I’ll bet if you’re honest about it, many of you did too.

Here’s the worst part, I’ve heard or told that story dozens of times, and I still judge. Even though I know how the story ends, I still judge. I say well maybe that father has an excuse but that doesn’t excuse everyone else that takes their kids to a public place and just turns them loose. Don’t you just hate that when people let their kids interrupt your day and disrupt what you’re doing?

I judge with little or no evidence on which to evaluate the person, I judge by applying my beliefs and values to the person I’m judging. My built in bias says if they don’t share those beliefs then there is something “off” about them. I’ll bet there are a ton of people reading this post that are just like me.

It’s taken me many years and it’s still a BIG work in progress but here’s what I know for sure. When I judge someone I almost always get it wrong. When I seek to understand someone, I almost always get it right. Here’s something else that’s almost always true; when I understand, there is no longer a need to judge.

This week let’s first seek to understand. Let’s talk and think in terms of the other person’s interest. Let’s value their differences, let’s see what we might learn from them.

You just might be surprised at how “un” different people are when you really get to know them.

So no judging, let’s leave that to the people in the robes!