Do Your Best…Because You Deserve It

We’ve all likely heard lots about the great resignation or great reshuffle or whatever you want to call it. I hear one of the reasons is that people seem to be searching for something better. Something that will keep them engaged. Someplace where they will matter.

Organizations that do a poor job of keeping their people engaged risk losing them. Or worse, they risk having them stay while remaining disengaged. You can find tons of articles about what companies and organizations should do to keep their people engaged. I don’t disagree with any of them. 

But I have a different idea. It’s pretty old fashioned. Some would say very outdated. More still would say it’s completely unwoke. But I don’t care, even if I’m the last person who thinks this way. 

The idea is that people who accept a paycheck from a company should figure out for themselves how to stay engaged. 

They should realize that accepting that paycheck obligates them to keep themselves engaged. Perhaps they need to accept responsibility for giving their very best effort even on the days they don’t feel like it. 

The very best companies with outstanding leadership are very intentional about working with their people to help them stay engaged and motivated. But most companies aren’t the best and many lack even mediocre leadership. 

If you’re in one of the companies not blessed with outstanding leadership and you’re waiting on your boss or leader to keep you engaged then you’re gonna be waiting a real long time. 

If you’re waiting for your company, boss, or anyone besides yourself to make you happy and feel fulfilled then I have bad news for you…or maybe it’s good news… you must develop the attitude of “If it’s to be then it’s up to me.” 

You have within you the power to keep yourself engaged. You have the absolute ability to motivate yourself. It’s great when you get some help along the way but don’t count on it. Stop looking out for the “stuff” that will keep you motivated and engaged. Start looking within because that’s the only guaranteed source of motivation. 

There would be far less movement of people in the workforce if more people accepted responsibility for their own results. Blaming someone else because you’re a crappy employee or poor team member is a sure sign of galactic irresponsibility. 

It is your responsibility to always give your best effort. It’s your responsibility not only for the company paying you. The fact is YOU deserve the satisfaction that comes with knowing you did your best. No matter what anyone else thinks. 

If you find yourself in a situation where it simply requires more effort than you can give to keep yourself motivated then you need to understand that it’s your responsibility to separate yourself from that situation. As soon as possible. 

If you continuously find yourself in those situations no matter where you’re working then perhaps changing jobs isn’t the change that’s needed. If you can’t determine what needs to change I’d suggest you consider investing in a mirror and looking there. 

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day,  people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular Twitter followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

The Will to Succeed or the Will to Prepare

I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to someone who didn’t want to succeed. Even the most negative people, even people who are certain that they can’t succeed, want to succeed.

But most of them don’t succeed. If they all have the want to succeed then why don’t they? I think it’s because they lack the will to succeed.  So is having the will to succeed the “secret sauce” for success? Nope, it puts you in a better place then just having the want to succeed but not by much. 

I think the true key to ultimate long-term success is the will to prepare. 

Preparing means putting in effort, many times a ton of effort, with no immediate return for those efforts. 

A bunch of years ago after a particularly poor round of golf with my dad he convinced me that I really needed to focus on my short game. He was an excellent golfer and offered to help me with it. So one morning I called I said I had some time around lunch to do a little practice. I said “how about we meet at the practice range for an hour?” 

He replied if all I had was an hour then there was no point. He said 4 hours of practice at least a few times a week would be about right. I told him if I had 4 hours to spare I’d use it to play golf, not practice golf. He replied with some carefully worded comment about that might be why I suck at golf. 

He went on to say that every golfer “wants” to be good, but most aren’t “willing” to make the effort required to earn what they want.

I work with lots and lots of salespeople who want to sell more. Some even have to will to sell more, they make more calls, they see more people and they repeat the same mistakes again and again. They refuse to prepare for a sales call to maximize their opportunity with a prospect.  They decline to learn the art of selling, instead focusing on working more instead of working smarter. 

I see many people who really want to make a difference in the world by leading. But want doesn’t get it done. They struggle because that lack the will to make themselves an effective leader. They won’t invest a minute of their time in actual leadership training, many won’t even read a book a leadership. They don’t prepare to succeed as a leader and therefore they don’t succeed. 

What about you? I can safely say you want to be more successful. You may have the will to be more successful but do you have the will to prepare for success? Abraham Lincoln once said “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” 

He had to want to succeed, the will to succeed and most importantly, the will to prepare to succeed. 

Can the same be said about you?

A Guaranteed Wrong Decision

I was asked years ago to do a Goal Setting workshop for a group of High School Seniors. We were talking about short term goals and I asked how many of the students were planning on attending college in the fall. 

The answers were varied but one stood out. The student said they had not yet decided about attending college in the fall so they were taking a year off school and then they would decided. I replied “so you’ve decided to not attend this fall.” They again said that had not yet decided about college in the fall so they were taking a year to “review their options” and then decide. So I gave the same reply. I added that by not deciding they had decided. They would not be attending college in the fall. 

The young student was frustrated with my answer. They were certain that they had not yet made a decision. But in fact the decision had been made. 

You may be tempted to cut the student a little slack given their age of lack of experience with making big decisions. Except the inability to make decisions has little to do with age or experience. 

It has to do with confidence. It has to do with being okay with failing once in a while. It has to do with the willingness to suffer the consequences of make wrong decisions. It has to do with with having the discipline to try again. And maybe again and again. 

People who can’t make a decision, or more likely, won’t make a decision, fail to understand that not making a decision IS a decision. It’s a decision to not change, to not take action, or it’s a decision to cling to a past mistake because you invested so much time in making the mistake. 

Not making a decision is guaranteed to be a wrong decision. I maintain actually making a decision that turns out to be wrong is often easier to fix than no decision because at least you’re now certain what doesn’t work. 

When you’re making a big decision and you’re not sure what to do then break the big decision into a series of smaller ones and do the next right thing to do. No matter how little that “right thing” is you’ll be creating momentum towards the big decision. You’ll be making progress and progress is always a good thing to make. 

If you think you truly can’t decide between a couple of options then simply flip a coin. I can promise you when that coin is in the air you’ll know exactly how you want it to land. Then, regardless of how the coin actually lands, you’ll know which option to choose. 

That may sound silly but it works amazingly well. But in order to find out for yourself you do have to decide to try it out. 

The Importance of a Mentor

I’ve admittedly been very fortunate to receive an excellent education. Sometimes I took advantage of the excellent opportunities to learn and sometimes I didn’t. I suppose I wasn’t that different than most students; I did better at subjects I liked and not as good at the ones I didn’t. 

My education made it possible for me to make a living. It didn’t really do much to help me make a life. 

Making a life required a whole different level of education. A level that can only come from a mentor. As fortunate as I was to have a formal education, I have been, throughout my life, blessed to have excellent mentors. 

Knowing what I know now, if my younger self had to choose between a formal education or a series of outstanding mentors I’d go with the mentors every time. That’s because working to make a living often doesn’t open a door to making a life. However, working to make a life often opens the door to earning a living. 

You can make resolutions forever and accomplish nothing. You can set squishy goals and mushy plans til the end of time and they will lead to nowhere land. Or…

You can get serious about building the life that was meant for you. The first step in that process is getting yourself a mentor. A good mentor. A mentor who cares about you. A mentor who cares so much that they will be honest with you. Even when it hurts. 

As you begin your search for  mentor here are a few things to keep in mind.

Your mentor should be enthusiastic about being a mentor. They should be passionate about helping others, namely you. The reward they seek should be in seeing you grow and become successful. Don’t attempt to drag someone into a mentoring role, if they aren’t all in from the beginning it’s likely they will never be all in for you. 

A good mentor should help lead you where you want and need to go. They should align with your needs, your desires and your talents. They should not push you to be a clone of themselves. They should be focused on helping you be the best version of yourself. 

A good mentor will push you out of your comfort zone. They know that “comfortable” is the enemy of growth. They will encourage you to try new things, to experiment and even to fail. 

Your mentor will need to know you, maybe even better than you know yourself. That means they will be an excellent listener. They will not allow themselves to be distracted when listening to you and they won’t be afraid of a little silence while they are considering what you’ve said. 

Good mentors provide great feedback. They “tell it like it is.” They may not always provide you with the feedback you were hoping for but that’s actually a sign of a mentor who cares. 

The best mentors I’ve had in my life seldom told me straight out I was wrong. They asked question after question to open my eyes so that I could see I was wrong without being told. Those were the “lessons” that really stuck with me. 

When you’re mentor “shopping” look for a person with those traits and abilities. When you find one ASK them about their willingness to mentor you. Ask if they would be willing to help you grow into the person you’re capable of becoming. 

You may be able to go it alone but you are FAR more likely to reach your full potential if you have a little help along the way. 

Are You a Model of Success?

One of the things that frustrate many people in leadership positions is their people not doing what they are told to do. They don’t follow directions and frequently ignore what the leader says. 

It’s kinda true that many people don’t listen to what their leader says. That’s because they are too busy watching what their leader does. 

Authentic Leaders know that their actions speak louder, much louder, than their words. They know that people will do what their leader does about 1000 times faster than they will do what their leader says. Authentic Leaders know that they are the model for the behavior of their people. Not only are they the model for behavior, they are the model for their attitude as well. 

If you’re in a leadership position then you must be hyper-aware that your people are watching you. Always. They watch to determine if what you say is what you mean. If your actions match your words then they will do what you say. If your words say one thing and your actions another then they typically discard your words and do what you did. 

They know that while they may misinterpret your words they can clearly see what you’ve done. Doing what you do is “safer.” What you do likely helped put you into a position they would like to be in one day. It only makes sense that they would follow the example you set for them. 

You confuse them when you get frustrated because they did what you did. You may not realize that you’re leading by example but you most certainly are. Whether you intend to or not. 

Whatever behavior you “model” for your people is the behavior your people will give you. 

It works the same with the attitude your people display. If you demonstrate a negative attitude to your people then don’t be surprised when your people demonstrate one to you. If you’re leading a group of people with a negative attitudes the source of that attitude most likely looks back at you from the mirror every morning. 

Most people in leadership positions don’t like it, or agree with it, when I say that. They believe they are the sunshine in everyone’s day. Let me encourage you to look at yourself again. Maybe hit record on your smartphone and “listen” to yourself for a few hours. You may be surprised at how negative you sound…if you listen with an open mind. 

As a leader, do you cultivate an atmosphere where negative attitudes go to die or do you allow an atmosphere where negative attitudes can thrive? 

Authentic leaders know that when it comes to behavior and attitudes they will most likely get what they give. That’s why they work to consistently model an attitude of success and the behavior that goes along with it. 

Do Your People Have Reasons or Just Make Excuses?

Successful people have reasons why they made a mistake or something went wrong. Less successful people make excuses.

When someone shows up late to a meeting or an event they have two choices, they can make an excuse or provide a reason. Let’s say you have an employee who is late for work. A less engaged employee might say, “The traffic was terrible and that’s why I was late.” At first glance that may appear to be a reason but it’s really just an excuse. 

An excuse makes a victim of the employee who was late and I’d be willing to bet that wasn’t the first time that employee was late and it certainly won’t be the last. An excuse has the undercurrent of “it’s not my fault, it’s not my responsibility and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again. 

The excuse says that if you as their leader try to hold them responsible for being on time it is YOU who are being unreasonable. YOU need to adjust your thinking and YOU need to be more flexible and understanding. After all, they can do nothing to control the traffic and blaming them is almost being abusive. 

It’s amazing to me how often that “shifting of responsibility” works. Many managers back off at that point and allow the tardiness to continue. Authentic Leaders know that if they do not hold their people accountable they are failing in one of the primary responsibilities of leadership. That is the responsibility of establishing accountability!

When the more engaged employee arrives late they provide a reason for being late. They may say, “The traffic was terrible and I failed to allow for that possibility. As a result I did not leave early enough and I was late. I will not make that mistake again.” 

Providing a reason for being late includes an acceptance of responsibility.  It includes a commitment to do whatever is required to be on time going forward. 

As a leader it is important that you understand the difference between an excuse and a reason. An excuse means nothing is likely to change. A reason means responsibility has been accepted and improvement will at least be attempted. 

Determining if you’ve been given an excuse or a reason requires that you listen intently to your people. You must focus on what’s being said and often, on how it’s being said. Failure to listen, truly listen, is the most common cause of poor coaching on the part of a leader. 

You can not help your people grow by accepting weak excuses. Excuses erase accountability and lead only to more excuses. Help your people understand the difference between an excuse and a reason. You’ll then be helping them be more successful for your organization and for themselves. 

Take Charge of Your Life

Almost everyone I talk to says they would like “things” to improve in 2022. When asked to be more specific many of the people say, “you know, just things in general.”

Well, generally speaking “things” don’t improve until somebody improves them. I guess that’s where the “somebody ought to do something” phrase comes from.

People want improvement and they want somebody else to give it to them.

That would be nice if it worked that way and I suppose every once in a while it does. But waiting for “somebody” to do “something” to make your life “better” is kinda like waiting to win the lottery when you haven’t even purchased a ticket.

If you want to be sure of improvement this year then you need to realize that if it’s going to happen then YOU need to take responsibility for making it happen. Don’t wait on anything or anyone. Don’t hope for something good to happen, make something good happen.

Make a plan for self-improvement and then implement the plan. It can be professional improvement or improvement in your personal life. Maybe both. Be aware that some improvement will require that you start doing something that you may not particularly like doing. Other improvement will require that you perhaps stop doing something you like.

Oftentimes what we stop doing has more positive impact on our lives than what we start doing.

There are many things in your life that you don’t control but if you really want a better life then you must control the things you can…and they are many too. The most successful people accept responsibility for their lives.

They accept responsibility for what they do and what they didn’t do that they should have.

Change will happen in the New Year, the question is, will change happen to you or because of you? Will you be in control of your life in 2022 or allow “somebody” else to determine your life’s trajectory?

It’s a simple choice but it’s a choice that only you can make.