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Ieadership

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Why clarity is so important.

Imagine a group of people hiking in the wilderness.  The person guiding the group points and says, “that mountain top is our destination!”  Everyone looks, but because it’s so foggy they can’t see the mountain or its top.  Without the guide, the group might make it to a mountain top, but how could they be sure it’s the right one.  Take that same situation on a clear day.  The guide comes to clearing and points to to the visible mountain.  The team could see the mountain, the mountain top, and they could also see the terrain that comes before the mountain.  They could see the river that they have to cross, the forrest that they have to go through.  They could now mentally prepare for the journey ahead.  And if the guide were to leave for some reason, the group could continue in the direction of the mountain with little supervision.

As a leader, the vision that you set before your team will either help you or hinder you.  Setting a clear vision of what you expect is the first thing you should do before taking on any task, role, project, anything.  Even if you are at the bottom of your organization, setting clear expectations will help you, and those working with you, understand what you are doing.  Even when it comes to goal setting for yourself.  You need to have a clear vision for your year, or your life, depending on how far you are planning out.  Without that picture you are basically just doing busy work, moving around aimlessly.  With a clear vision, your steps will have purpose.

How do you know if you have a clear vision?

1) Is there a clear destination or is the outcome visible? Reaching the mountain top is visible.  Getting 10 new customers is visible.  Doing a better job is not visible.  The outcome needs to be specific enough for everyone to know when you have hit the mark.   People want to see you hit the bullseye, so show them the target and fire.  They will cheer you on.

2) Are people asking a ton of questions?  If your team is asking alot of questions, it’s because they are trying to paint the picture themselves.  They can’t see it with the description that you gave, so they are asking for clarity.  Too much fog.  Help them by painting a clear picture, it will save you the trouble of having to clarify things after time and resources have been spent.

3) Could you leave someone in charge to make decisions for the group?  When someone could take the reins and drive for a bit because they know where you are headed.  When someone could step in while you are out (sick, vacation, other) and still keep your ship headed in the right direction.  This is a true mark of having a clear vision.  

Setting the vision for yourself or your team is like painting a mental picture.  You have to be able to see it and describe it in a way that the next person could do the same.

Look over your goals for 2013.  Are they clear and specific?  Try describing each one outloud and if you can’t picture it in your minds-eye, don’t worry about it, it will come to you… just keep painting.

Vision

Values to Live by

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”

A few years ago I decided that in order to work on my behaviors and habits I had to go a step deeper and figure out what my values were that made me the person that I am.  Franklin Covey talks about this in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People“.  I started by listing out all the things that I loved about the people that were close to me and what I thought people liked about me.  The list was long but I eventually narrowed it down to ten and just last year I brought it down to eight.

Follow me for a second.

My overall goal with this was to be able to add value to those around me.  But I couldn’t do that unless people trusted my opinion, and they can’t trust my opinion if my position on certain things changed all the time.  My opinions (or values) had to be sound and people had to be aware that these are the things that I stood for.

So, eight core values.  Values, that if I focused on these, they would act as my guide on all the controversial issues that I encounter.  When an situation comes up, I could turn to these values and see if the action I’m about to take is aligned with these values.  If they weren’t then I didn’t participate.

My values:

  • Reliability
  • Integrity
  • Love
  • Understanding
  • Balance
  • Unity
  • Goodwill
  • Excellence

Now I’ll go into each of these in more detail in later blog posts but for now, my focus is to share with you how I work on these.

Once you have decided on which values you want to live by, you’ll have to purposefully plan out instances were you could perform these values.  You have to set the stage to take on these tasks.   Its not enough to just say you’ll work on these everyday when “something” comes up.  It doesn’t work that way, believe me I tried that.  What I do is focus on one value a week and then I try to put myself in a situation where this value will be put to the test.

For example, Understanding.  I would search my life to find a place where maybe I’m not understanding someone or something, and I would make it my goal for that week to seek out the understanding that I was looking for.  It could be a sincere talk with someone in whom I had a fight with, or making a call to fully understand the position a client was coming from.  I would journal, question, research, whatever I had to do to satisfy the practice of understanding.

I thought that even if I focused on one of these for one week a year, that was better than just waiting for something to happen and to hope I would remember to act accordingly.  So at any given week, you could count on me working on one of these, trying to build my character one value at a time.

“If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up.  What he needs is education to turn him around.”  – Jim Rohn.

What do you stand for?

 

Project 52

It’s the new year and people are kicking off their resolutions to better themselves for 2012.  I too am one of the many that loves goals and seeing myself improve from year to year.  I’ve tried many methods of goal keeping from 7 habits to GTD to just plan and simple “just do it”.  All work for a time, but with the change in pace that my life takes from day-to-day to minute-to-minute, I found that you just need to find something that works for you now.  If you find that something isn’t working properly then it is perfectly ok to change it.  I’m trying something new with this.

Project 52 is my way of pacing myself with one goal, while working on my other projects.  This is my spin of the “project 365″s out there that are done on a daily basis.  Kudos to those that have taken on that task and are able to complete it.

The goal is to have more lunch/dinner dates with friends and family.

Working from home full time for the past year, I feel like I’ve turned into a hermit.  Communicating through the magic box and only coming out of my “cave” to get food or supplies.  And I think that I’ve neglected the personal aspect of the simple conversation.  A disappearing art form since the invention of the smartphone.  I see people communicating all the time, but not a lot of connecting.

I have other goals for this year, as I really am a goal freak, but this is one that I was a little embarrassed to put out there since it feels like everyone is so social and going out all the time to interesting places and doing interesting things.  You know the feeling, or maybe you don’t because you’re the one posting all the pictures.  Either way, you can’t step out of your comfort zone if you still feel comfortable after you take the step.   So this is me taking a step, not because I’m afraid of people, but because I’m asking for people to connect.

With that said… Let’s do lunch.

Getting back on course

A ship is off course 95% of the time it’s at sea.

Then you might ask, how the heck does it ever get to it’s destination?  The answer is simple: it constantly makes corrections to get back on track.  At first thought you might think that a ship travels from point A to point B via straight line, but that is so far from the case.  There are outside forces that push and pull the ship in directions that the captain didn’t intend for it to go.  Forces such as wind and currents, not to mention the storms and hurricanes that could knock a ship off course.  A smart captain will account for these trials at sea and make sure that once the storm has passed, he is again checking his charts to make sure that he gets back on course.  You could picture a ship traveling not in a straight line but in a zig-zag pattern to it’s destination and just like a ship, this is how most of us professionals travel to our destinations, or goals.

Rarely do we ever plot a course for our goals and it’s carried out exactly like we planned.  Those of you with little children know that planning on doing something is tough when you have certain variables vying for your attention.  But if this principle is understood then we don’t need to beat ourselves up over not being on course 100% of the time.  I hold myself to very high standards as I’m sure you do too, and I normal beat myself up when my plans don’t go the way I want, but I quickly realize that’s just me getting off course and I need to understand where I’m at and get back on track.

We normally view these zig-zags as negatives as if we are going backwards when actually we are just a little off course and we just need a little bit of adjustments to get back on track.  I recently had a “zig” in a project as a series of events prevented me from getting some easy work done.  If it wasn’t one thing it was another and it seemed that I couldn’t find the time to get this work done.  (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this.)  It wasn’t something urgent but it was something that I had planned for and kept getting push back.  Just when I was about to get started, something (or someone) would call for my attention and I’d have to get up and tend to that issue.  This work wasn’t like a meeting or anything where I would normally block off time but it just so happened that when I decided to work on it, I got interrupted.  I wanted my ship to go in one direction and the tide wanted to take me in another.  Once I realized this, I was able to get back on course by slicing up the work into smaller tasks, scheduling a chunk of time to get it done and getting this monkey off my back.  A small task turned into a huge ordeal just because of the life that was happening around me. The first thing you have to do is realize you are off track, then the rest is up to you on how to get back back.

Here are some things I use when I want to get back on track:

  • Do a Mind sweep – listing all the things that have your attention right now.  Fix the window, call Mom, Schedule a meeting with client…  Dump all of that onto a list and don’t stop until you have everything written down.  After you have that list written out, you usually find it’s not as impossible as you made it out to be.
  • Journal/ Talk to someone – similar to the mind sweep, this is a way to get your issues out in the open to give it a face or make it tangible.  When you verbalize something, it has to make sense otherwise you’d just be rambling.  But in your quest to make sense, the solution to your problem usually is right in front of you.
  • Buy a book – Sometimes reading helps me gain insights to what I need to do and some reading in that field will help stir up ideas or thoughts on adjustments that could be made to my current plan of action.
  • Take a trip – seems counter productive when you are planning on going somewhere else, but taking a side trip, or a pit stop might be just what the doctor ordered.  Enjoy your tangent off course and chalk it up to living in the moment.  Let everyone know (including yourself) that when we get back, it’s time to work.
  • Clean my desk – Something easy that could be done at anytime.  A clean workspace tends to help ideas flow better.  An uncluttered desk leads to an uncluttered brain.

Let me know what you do to get back on track.

Mind sweeping

Sometime life gets so complicated and so overwhelming that it’s hard to see which way is up.  You have responsibilities with the kids, with the family, with work, with 101 other things.  Here is a quick tip that I use anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Take out a pad and paper or any word processing program and start writing down everything that has your attention and why.  Start with the biggest thing on your mind and work down.  It doesn’t have to be a task that you have to accomplish, it could just be a feeling or a person you are dealing with, just put it down so that it covers the thought that is in your mind.  And be sure to write down “why” this thing has your attention.  Continue to list things until everything that is on your mind is written down.  Once you are done with everything that concerns you, ask yourself “is that it?”. Put down anything else that comes to mind.

The purpose of a mind sweep is to give you a tangible list of things to tackle.  I usually do this when I’m worrying about things or when I feel, “there are just too many things going on”.  I usually find out after writing there are just a few things going on that I’ve blown out of proportion.  Or after I’ve written the list, I find that there are things that are outside my control so why worry about them in the first place.

This list is a way to mentally check-in with yourself to see how you are doing and make sure you are on track.  Now that you have a list, you could plan, prioritize, and take action on those things and make your worries disappear.

The opposite of fear is not courage, it’s action.

7 reasons why you should start your business today.

Here are 7 reasons why NOW is the best time to start a business.

Costs are low

With the economy still struggling to get on it’s feet, prices for goods and services have never been lower.  Deals are running rampant as company’s try to get your patronage by whatever means necessary, even if that means dropping price.  This could be especially good if you have strong negotiation skills.

Talent is out there

Unemployment is still high so you have a huge talent pool to choose from if looking for the right person.  It’s an employers market out there and people looking for jobs are desperate right now.  You should be able to find the perfect candidate for your position in no time.

Internet is free

This has been a big one for along time and will continue to be big one for years to come.  Just 20 yrs ago if you wanted to be a real company you had to open up a physical shop.  Now you could have a website and look professional for little to nothing.  I know of some businesses that their only customer channel is through a Facebook fan page and those are free.

Leveled playing field

With the cost of professional equipment down, and people getting there starts on YouTube, its anyone’s game right now.  There is no excuse for you not to be in the field that you want to be in.  Kids are getting there start just by playing around in the field that is now accessible to them.

Global market

Aside from the internet, foreign markets are looking to put there foot on US soil. Partnering with companies could be a great way to get started.  China has manufacturing companies that are looking for business to sell their products here in the US.  They are just waiting to see who will contact them.

Communication

With technology bringing people together at a rate as never before, there is no excuse for not getting in touch with partners, customers or anyone.  Texting, email, Social Networking sites and the old but true, phone call.  All could be done by your smart phone and done right now.

The structure is in turmoil

Don’t wait until the dust settles to find out what you want to do, otherwise you will be reacting to those around you.  The large companies of today were small ones that took action when things were in chaos and when the dust settled they came out victors over the battlefield.

Creating Presense

“If your presence doesn’t make an impact, then your absence won’t matter”

 

 

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