How Are You Showing Up Every Day?

We can all agree that leadership of self is the biggest leadership challenge we face. In business, in relationships, as parents, as mentors – we can really give out some seriously good advice, can’t we?

Let me ask you this: Do you follow the advice you are giving to others?

Scale of 1-10?

Let’s be real here, a 10 is unattainable. Not one of us is perfect in this regard. Yet as leaders, we need to be able to confidently perform at 8 or 9. If not, our credibility will be questioned by our teams, by our friends, and perhaps worst of all, by our families.

Would you hire an unhealthy fitness coach? Give your all for a boss who is lazy? Engage in meetings where the leader cuts people off?

Universal Advice

There is some advice that can apply to all of us, and I will share a “get-started” list here. Think about the advice you give in these areas, and how you apply them each day:

  • Bring your best: Legendary NCAA Hoops coach John Wooden said, “Give me 100 percent. You can’t make up for a poor effort today by giving 110 percent tomorrow. You don’t have 110 percent. You only have 100 percent, and that’s what I want from you right now.” Do you think Wooden also brought his best every day? Guessing for him it was a 9.8 out of 10. He led UCLA to 10 national championships including seven straight, an overall record of 620-147, and three undefeated seasons. He brought his best, and so those young men gave him their best.

  • Treat people with kindness: Dr. Wayne Dyer was an internationally celebrated thought leader in the personal and spiritual development space, whose 40+ books earned him 21 New York Times bestsellers. I love his quote, “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” Dr. Dyer, who passed in 2015, was the epitome of kindness and therefore earned a large following of people trying to navigate what they perceived as a cruel world. Imagine what the world would look like if we could improve the kindness quotient by just a few percent. If we expect kindness in our organizations, we absolutely must lead by example here.

  • Care about the people you serve and who buy your service/end product: If you as the leader, don’t care about your people and the person buying the product or service, you will struggle to get buy-in. When was the last time you connected with people that weren’t your direct reports? How well do you listen to your people and make them feel heard? Or, interviewed the customers buying your product or service? Think about what you could do personally to connect with someone in your customer base after sales or transactions to add more value and deepen the connection. Kōnosuke Matsushita, Founder of Panasonic said “After-sales service is more important than assistance before sales. It is through such service that one gets permanent customers.” Another area to lead by example.

  • Do the right thing: Here is a filter I use. It’s pretty simple. Is it legal, moral, and ethical, and how would it play out on the front page of a newspaper? And, is it good for the customer, the employees, and the company? Insert your proper stakeholders. Then you move on to evaluate costs, ROI, etc. And sometimes you do it if it’s right, even if the ROI isn’t there. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Imagine a world where more people and businesses do what is right. Sure, it’s a subjective concept, but I think we all know when we are flirting with the gray areas and moving into the wrong territory! It’s called inner-dialogue negotiation and rationalization and can be dangerous. Scale of 1-10?

  • Own and share in the successes and the failures: I’ll be a bit of a contrarian here. The old-school advice is to own the fails and deflect the successes. And, I operated this way for a good number of years into my leadership experience. I think this advice is flawed for a couple of reasons. First, it is less than authentic. To jump on the grenade now and then for your people is one thing, but the reality is we win together and we lose together. I want my team to take ownership of their successes and the challenges they face, viewing them as lessons learned rather than failures to be mourned. Therefore, I need to model that as well. Never take all the credit for the wins, and never levy the blame (the buck stops with you and with me as the top leader), but we share the wins and losses.

  • Prioritize time and energy to what matters most: You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, where 20 percent of your activity produces 80 percent of your results. Therefore, as leaders, we need to make sure we are focusing our time and energy on that most important 20 percent. At Merrill, we called these “Critical Few Objectives.” Leaders at every level of the organization were expected to focus on core activities around recruiting, developing people, and profitability. If we spread ourselves too thin, the things that move the needle the most don’t get the attention they deserve. Stephen Covey put it this way, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” Ouch! If we aren’t doing a great job with this, how can we expect it from our people?

  • Be the CALM in the storm through the drama: There is a time for empathy, for emotion, and even for getting fired up sometimes leaders! However, if we are able to keep calm through crisis and drama we will be better prepared and equipped to navigate the waters. I’ve led through substantial challenges, and my ability to keep a cool head allowed for much better decision-making than others who were in panic mode and overly stressed. It starts with breathing, slowing down, and staying CALM – there will be an entire blog on this, for now, here is the acronym: Collect information from all angles, Assess what you have learned, Lay out the plan, and Make progress through action.

Be the Change You Want to See

Think about the culture we can develop in our organizations, in our homes as we improve in modeling these behaviors.

There are quite a few things I’m not great at, and delegate, but I am highly skilled in building great cultures within offices and companies. I do this by hiring great people and modeling the behavior I like to see throughout the organization.

As a business coach these days, I don’t spend my time merely giving advice, and I hope you, as a leader, don’t either. Collaboration is king. In my coaching business, I am both advisor and a guide to help clients unlock answers within. I’ve been doing this for a long time. It is always more rewarding to ask a series of questions to have people arrive at great answers and solutions themselves, versus simply giving away the answers. Why? Because as a guide I am teaching people how to think differently to arrive at solutions, which is a skill that will last a lifetime.

Each day, I reflect on the advice I give and ask myself, “How am I doing in this area?” My goal is not to criticize myself, but to improve a little each day.

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