Monday Quick Tip ~ Focus on Mastery

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“They are a Jack of all trades, but master of none.”

This phrase has been used in a derogatory way to describe a person who is scattered and undisciplined.  We all know people who are so sidetracked they can’t get anything done.  Focus eludes them.  They are driven by distraction.

We know others who are overworked and trying to get so much done that they end up getting nothing done of substance because they are skimming the surface.  Mediocrity is their make-up.

We also have people that we lead who are fantastic at what they do.  They have gained experience, studied from others, listened to their mentors, and worked hard to refine their skills. They have reached a level of mastery and are continually growing.  We can easily spot these people because even when they perform at a high level, they are always trying to figure out how to be better.  They are focused on mastery.  It’s a never ending passion.

One thing I’ve noticed about people who are successful is that they have found their niche.  They are doing what no one else is doing.  There is little competition in their field and they have become so good, that any competition that arises has little chance of succeeding.

As leaders we have to figure out who masters are and what skills they have so that we can put them in the right place on the team.  Once they are there, we give them space, freedom and the tools they need to succeed.

Who are the people on your team who have reached a level of mastery?  How can you inspire them this week?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Admit When You Don’t Know it All

Image courtesy of Nujalee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Nujalee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools learn in no other. – Benjamin Franklin

In almost every leadership position we hold there is a honeymoon period that allows us to get settled in and learn the lay of the land.  Very soon reality sets in and we realize there are challenges that are rising to the surface.  Our temptation is to turn on our mental autopilot and try to solve it the way we’ve solved it in the past. But then it doesn’t work.

I’ve discovered that no matter how many years of experience I get under my leadership belt, I run into issues I’ve never faced before.  Every leadership context is different.   An experienced pilot when facing turbulence can’t allow autopilot to take over. Instead, the pilot flies through it.

In the same way,  we can’t afford to go on autopilot thinking that “we’ve seen this before know what to do.”  When I find that attitude creeping in, I know it’s time to check myself.  Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture or don’t know all the facts.

The best leaders admit when they don’t know it all.  They grow with the trials, deepen their experience and sharpen their skill.

Leadership expert Jim Collins, in his famous work on how good companies became great companies, says Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark is one of the greatest CEOs of the twentieth century.  Collins says, “Smith, a man who never entirely erased his own self-doubts, later summed up his tenure by saying simply, ‘I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.’” (http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/the-misguided-mixup.html)

Our experience informs the present to help us figure out what to do.  It begins with the attitude of humility.  Celebrity leaders rise only as high as the moment they think they know it all then they fall.

Leaders who last rise to the challenge and grow through the new experience.

Rick Pitino, championship basketball coach, writes, “The longer I live and the more I experience, the more I believe that humility is the quality essential to sustained success, and a lack of it is the major stumbling block for those who find success for a time, then lose it.” (The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life­)

Could it be time to turn off autopilot and fly the plane?

What challenges are you facing that require a humble attitude and the willingness to learn something new?

Monday Quick Tip ~ The One Who Laughs Lasts

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Laughter is the best medicine

Have you ever been a cranky leader? I have on too many occasions.  I’m currently going through a very busy season that only promises to get busier in the coming weeks.  I find myself with a bad attitude that is in need of some serious adjustment.  Here are some signs that it is time for a break.

  • No fun to be around (even when I’m by myself).
  • Frowning or grimacing most of the time.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Mind racing through the never ending To-Do list.
  • Tired, even after a night’s rest.
  • Paying more attention to the clock than people.
  • Allowing gratitude to be nudged out by expectation or worse, entitlement.

I believe in the biblical proverb that those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed (11:25).  But I also believe that those who refresh others must first refresh themselves. Or, to use Stephen Covey’s admonition: “Sharpen the saw.” Or the airline’s instruction: Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.

We all need time away from the stresses of leadership.  We need time to re-set.  We need to give ourselves the gift of time away.

Time to push the pause button.

Time to do something totally unrelated to our organization.

Time to do something fun that brings the laughter back.

I know what I need to do to bring back the laughter.  How about you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Shake and Stir for Best Results

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A rolling stone gathers no moss. – Publilius Syrus, 1st century writer of Latin maxims

In the organization I lead, we’ve been going through a time of assessment and transition.  My days have been filled with charts and graphs of income and expenditures. In my research, I’ve discovered the health of the organization is not as robust as people in the organization believe. So it became my job to shake things up and (as Peter Drucker says) define reality.

We have all seen the snow globe that looks calm and serene when the snow is settled at the bottom. No disturbances and a clear view.  But that’s not what snow globes are designed for.  The beauty comes in the shaking. Flecks of snow descend, hit beams of light and beauty emerges.

That’s part of what it means to be a leader.  Leaders shake things up to see what beauty appears.

After my report to the leaders about our organization, I expected some disagreement and push back. I got some minor comments.  But the leaders among the group responded by saying, “that was exactly what we needed to hear.  Keep shaking and stirring us.”

There are a couple different interpretations of the rolling stone proverb listed above.  The one I like best says that people are always moving and looking for freshness and creativity.

There is a restless streak in leaders. We are always on the move in our own growth and in our leadership of the people we lead.  To allow moss to grow is to become stagnant.

For best results this week, shake a few things, stir a few others and watch what happens.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Get Lucky by Working Hard

Image courtesy of kibsri/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of kibsri/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diligence is the mother of good fortune.

Very few people are lucky in the purest sense of the word.  It is possible, but extremely rare, that infrequent lottery ticket buyers hit it big. Most of the time we create our own “luck.”

I know people who win big at sweepstakes and to the outside observer they seem to be the luckiest people in the world.  What we don’t see are the many hours spent culling websites and persistently filling out entry forms.

“Luck” is what we are forced to rely on when we don’t do our homework.  Showing up to practice and hone our craft gives opportunities we wouldn’t get otherwise.

In leadership I’ve sometimes been guilty of impatience and hoped luck would bail me out. When hiring new employees, I could have done more to check out their background or spent more time with them to insure a proper fit with the organization.  Instead, I congratulated myself on “filling the position so quickly.” Big mistake.

I’ve been on the other side too.  I’ve accepted employment in which I knew I was not the right fit but hoped my uneasiness would work itself out in the form of luck. Instead, I got an example of what not to do for this blog post.

At the start of a new “work” week, I’m asking myself, “Where do I need to get busy working and quit trying to take shortcuts?”

When we are diligent, it’s amazing how lucky we can be.

Guard Your Heart

heart-of-L-10-linkThis is a guest post from Mark Miller.  Mark’s latest book is, The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow.

Originally Posted on greatleadersserve.org on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

GUARD YOUR HEART!

The Heart of Leadership is built upon a simple premise: unless your heart is right, no one cares about your skills. This may sound harsh, but it’s true. If people don’t trust our heart, they don’t trust us. If they don’t trust us – they won’t follow our leadership.

That’s the idea the book is built upon, and when we demonstrate leadership character, others see it. They see it as leadership character in action. They see it when we…

HUNGER FOR WISDOM

EXPECT THE BEST

ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

RESPOND WITH COURAGE

THINK OTHERS FIRST

But why does this matter? Aren’t we just supposed to get results? If you’ve been leading long, you know you can get results without creating follow-ship. Results can be the byproduct of a very toxic workplace and poor relationships with those you lead. The irony of this approach is two-fold. It is not the way to maximize results. And, it is not sustainable over the long haul.

There is a vast reservoir of untapped potential in most people and in turn, most organizations — potential that goes unused and wasted. It resides in the discretionary efforts of our people. The day of the hired hands is dead. Leaders operating from that perspective are the dinosaurs of our day. As Peter Drucker said, “We are all knowledge workers.” The implications for leaders…

For every pair of hands you hire, you get a free brain.

Our challenge is to create the context and the work environment to mine that potential, to capitalize on that FREE brain. It starts with us. People don’t leave organizations, they leave their supervisor. Are we becoming leaders people want to follow? Or, are we driving talent away from our team?

Yes, we need the skills of leadership. I’ve devoted decades of my life to helping leaders acquire the requisite skills to lead well, but skills alone are not the answer. I’ll go back to where I started this post and to the premise of the book. If your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills. You and I will be dismissed as a leader if all we bring to the table are skills.

Leaders rarely fail for lack of skills. Certainly you can find examples of this, but in my experience, for every leader who fails because she can’t build a team or cast vision, countless others disqualify themselves for issues of the heart. The good news, we can change the condition of our heart. If we couldn’t, I wouldn’t have written the book.

So, what’s my point? I want to encourage you to be vigilant and diligent – give adequate attention to matters of the heart. It is much more important than most leaders think – it is critical. These are not soft issues; these are issues that ultimately determine our impact on the world!

There is an ancient proverb that summarizes why the matters of the heart matter so much – it captures my thoughts as well as I could ever hope to…

ABOVE ALL ELSE, GUARD YOUR HEART. EVERYTHING YOU DO FLOWS FROM IT.

MarkMiller_About_179x240_050813Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow with those who are ready to take the next step. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Read, Lead and Succeed

heart-of-L-4b-linkA Review of The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow,by Mark Miller

Mark Miller’s latest book, The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow is a short, simple yet powerful read.  It continues the story of Blake from one of Mark’s earlier books, Great Leaders Grow.  But you don’t have to have read the previous book to be up to speed with what is happening in this edition.

I found Mark’s tone to be conversational and warm. He’s not preachy and writes as one who is a fellow traveler on the road of leadership growth.  He doesn’t talk down but instead honors his readers by pointing out road signs along the way.

I resonated with one of the central themes of the book that leadership character matters more than leadership skills.  As we grow deeper in character, the necessary skill mastery will come in time.  It is true that we’ve seen too many highly skilled leaders derail themselves by their lack of character.  Miller reminds us not to put the cart before the horse.

Using the well-traveled metaphor of an iceberg, Mark asserts that 90% of leadership happens below the waterline.  Then he goes to work defining the essential elements of those below the waterline traits that we need to lead well.

I liked how the elements were told though a variety of people in different settings.  Too often I’ve found leadership books to be too narrowly focused on marketplace leadership leaving out the arenas of non-profits, education and community groups. The effect was that we are able to see how the concepts are applicable to a myriad of situations.

While the book is simple, it is not simplistic.  The character traits mentioned here will take a lifetime of practice to master.  This is not a bad thing because it reminds us that none of us have arrived as leaders. We’re all still learners among leaders.

The element that meant the most to me was the section on responding with courage.  As leaders, responding with courage is a daily occurrence as we tackle the challenges that come our way.  Mark reminds us that courage takes the actions necessary to correct the situation.

This is one of the best leadership books I’ve read this year.  It is one that I will read again and again so that I can continue to be reminded of its principles and apply them to my leadership.

Read this book and you will discover that it is not a 5 hour energy shot for your leadership skills, but rather a multi-vitamin for your leadership soul.

Enter to win:  I am giving away 10 copies of The Heart of Leadership to my blog readers.  You can enter to win by signing up to follow my blog between now and October 31, 2013. I will choose 10 winners at random. If you are already a follower, you are already entered to win! Good luck!