Stop stating the obvious and start stating your stand!

I was attending a senior Executive team meeting where the topic of the discussion was consolidating the roles and responsibilities of a few key functions in the company in order to drive greater scale, efficiency and cost reduction.

The company was commercially successful. However, it was struggling to keep its historical leading market position in the growing competitive landscape, given its high-cost structure.

There were layoffs a few months earlier and the leader’s projection showed that if they didn’t come up with more efficient and wise ways to do more with less, they would have to do it again.

Needless to say, the stakes were high as the company had to shed some overhead cost and come up with new and more modern and innovative ways of doing what they had done in the same way for many years.

Because of the strategic importance of this decision and the fact that it would affect everyone the CEO wanted his senior leaders to fully align on, and own the way forward, in order to avoid problems in the execution of this drastic change.

The discussion was challenging and awkward. Even though most leaders had clear thoughts and biases about how they wanted the new organizational structure to look, everyone was holding back and conveying their thoughts in a diplomatic and cautious way.

There was a lot of:

Well, the problem is that each of us has strong exposure and contact with our key customers…” or,

The problem is that we all do this today, and we all are good at this…” or,

We need to figure out a way to take the good things from the existing structure without the bad things…”  etc.

People kept highlighting the challenges and dilemmas instead of clearly stating their thoughts about how they believed the new structure should look.

The conversations dragged on for hours. It was ineffective and, to be frank, it was painfully exhausting.

Unfortunately, I see this conversational dynamic in key business conversations and meetings all the time – people state the obvious instead of taking a stand about the way forward.

There are no right or wrong answers and solutions to any business challenges, only possibilities/opportunities, and choices. Things change so quickly these days. There are so many examples of events we were certain would happen that ended up not happening and things we never imagined or anticipated that did happen.

The role of any leadership team is to make – sometimes hard – choices and then be responsible for carrying them out. That is what taking a stand is about.

Real leadership requires courage to take a stand.

Most of the time, leaders have good ideas and thoughts about how to drive the change they want. They simply are afraid that if they clearly state their stand about critical and sensitive topics that impact other people around them their boldness may come back to bite them. The key fears seem to include:

  1. Their idea may not get selected,
  2. Their ideas may get selected and then fail,
  3. They may be viewed as ‘forceful’, ‘self-serving’, ‘political’ or having a personal agenda.
  4. They may be viewed as picking sides or favoring other leaders.

The phrase ‘Career limiting move’ comes to mind…

But, if you want things to move faster, your meetings to be briefer and more productive and your experience of day-to-day business interaction to be much more powerful and satisfying, then be more courageous, clear and assertive about the future you want and stand for.

Just don’t get too attached to your answer, especially if you are part of a team. Someone else’s ideas may be a better fit for what the team needs. Be open to that.

Promote a dialogue where people spend less time on pointing out the problems and dilemmas (which got you into this dialogue in the first place) and spend more time on discussing, taking a stand and making courageous leadership choices regarding solutions and directions that will enable you to create and fulfill your desired future.

Do you love your job?

Early in my career, I was facilitating a manager meeting at a manufacturing plant. There were about 100 people in the session and the managers were going around introducing themselves, one-by-one they stood up and shared a few personal things about themselves.

At the far-right corner of the hall sat a supervisor, from simply observing his demeanor and everyone’s attention on him I could tell that he was one of the factory veterans. At his turn, he stood up and introduced himself using the following words:

My name is Bill. I don’t remember how many years I have been here, but I have 64 months to go!” and he sat down. There was then awkward laughter in the room.

Can you imagine Bill’s mindset as he gets up in the morning and comes to work each day? It seems to me that the definition of his attitude is “Doing Time“.

He probably had a calendar hanging in his locker and every day he would cross off another day until his “release“.

In a different example, I have a client friend that every time he describes his job to me, he refers to it as his “eight-hour inconvenience“. At first, I laughed when I heard his words. However, after hearing them a few times it started to appear quite tragic. I actually started to feel sorry for him.

First of all, no one works eight hours these days. Most of us spend most of our life at work. Second, who wants to come to an ‘eight-hour inconvenience‘. I don’t know about you, but I want my job to be my eight-hour bliss, self-expression, kicking-ass, having fun and making a difference.

Third story… I have a personal friend who every time I ask her how she is doing she gives me the same answer: “The same shit different day…” Painful!

Let’s be real, not everyone loves their job. If you are one of the people who loves their job, consider yourself very lucky and blessed. It’s a privilege.

Some people find their calling and self-expression in their occupation and job. But others don’t. For some people, their job is purely about the salary. They need the job to pay the bills, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Coming to work to pay the bills is a noble and honorable reason to work.

My father in law used to say “No matter what your occupation or job is, any employment honors its employee“.

However, if you want to stay powerful, centered and present at work and not lose yourself, I recommend you adhere to the following principles:

  1. If you love your job, count your blessings, be happy and make the biggest difference you can.
  2. If you don’t love your job make sure you can genuinely choose your job, own your job or at least accept your job.
  3. If you can’t at lease choose, own or accept your job – leave your job and find another job that you can either love or at least choose, own or accept.
  4. Under any circumstances, do not accept or tolerate suffering.

It takes a certain level of numbness to stay at a job you are suffering in.

It’s like when your immune system is weak, the body is susceptive to disease. When you are deadened, you lose your self-expression, joy, creativity, and power. As a result, you are much more susceptive to become cynical, resigned, negative and a resentful victim.

It takes commitment and courage to not accept and buy into resignation, cynicism and the victim mentality.

There are two types of people that you could surround yourself with:

  • Those who are negative and cynical victims, who frequently complain and blame others
  • Those who are not interested in drama and mischief, and always take ownership and look to learn from their successes and failures.

The former will drain your energy and do everything to drag you down with them. The latter will support you to stay centered, strong and true to your greater self.

I am sure you know who to hang out with….

Are you tolerating toxicity and unproductivity?

In order for a leadership team of any company to truly operate at a high-performance level, the leaders need to have the courage to look at themselves in the mirror, face reality and take stock of what is working and what is not working in their own team dynamic.

The ‘working’ part is easier than the ‘not working’ for obvious reasons. There are always challenges, tensions, and issues between teams and between leaders. At times, teams feel frustrated by the fact that other teams are not listening or providing the support they need. Some leaders feel their counterparts are complacent, arrogant or simply incompetent and not adding value.

A few recent examples I have encountered include:

  1. The Head of Sales feeling a lack of support from Marketing. He felt Marketing was not listening to Sales’ needs, they put on events that are not effective and overall not adding value.
  2. The Head of Manufacturing complaining that Sales keeps selling features that do not exist or promising delivery deadlines that the factory did not agree to and cannot keep.
  3. The Head of Sales being frustration about his Head of Services counterpart not being responsive and supportive because he is too focused on selling new services rather than supporting existing ones.
  4. The Head of an overlay function complaining about the lack of inclusion, collaboration, partnership and mere respect and appreciation of Sales.

I could go on and on, there are so many examples.

Leaders tend to take the critical conversations about their team, personally, so even when everyone knows that something is not working, in most cases leaders avoid addressing the issues in order to avoid the unpleasantness of conflict. When issues are addressed, they are often discussed in a wishy-washy, politically-correct, diplomatic and/or polite way.

If leaders want to elevate their trust and partnership, they have to find a way to engage in an honest and brave conversation to air the grievances, complaints, and frustrations they and their team members have about other teams and managers.

Obviously, it has to be done respectfully and productively. It also has to be done in an honest and direct way. Beating around the bush simply doesn’t resolve anything.

I recently had the opportunity to help a senior leader of a technology company in doing exactly that.

Each leader wrote the key frustrations/complaints that his/her function had about the other teams they interacted with most and depended on most. Then each leader, in turn, communicated what they wrote, and others tried to listen openly without reacting.

By the time everyone had a chance to give and get feedback the space of the room had changed. People seem to be more reflective and less defensive.

No one seemed to be surprised by what others said about them.

Everyone acknowledged that many of the issues and frustrations had been around for a long time.

In addition, everyone acknowledged that these dynamics were stifling teamwork, productivity, and performance.

So, I asked them:

“If everyone knows these negative dynamics are going on and hurting the team, why have you tolerated them for so long?”

A couple of leaders took offense and claimed that they tried to change things but didn’t succeed. However, when we examined their claim a bit deeper, they admitted that they made a few light attempts in the right direction, but without strong enough courage, conviction or persistence.

Why do leaders tolerate any level of toxicity around them?

There was a good dialogue in which leaders acknowledged that they had avoided these tough conversations because – in simple terms – these conversations are hard, messy, scary and risky.

You may think that this specific senior team is particularly wimpy or weak. Trust me, that is not the case. On the contrary, this team has accomplished great things. However, like so many other effective teams, when it comes to addressing the challenging conversations, they shy away from the heat.

After acknowledging their shortfalls, the leaders also acknowledged the negative consequences of their environment – the stress, discouragement, lack of collaboration, lack of fun at work and reduced quality and productivity.

I have a client who when describing his job, he refers to it as “his 8-hour inconvenience.” Can you imagine going to work in that space?

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you focus on the negative consequence associated with not addressing the tough conversation, you may be able to muster the courage to take a stand and say: “Enough Already!”, “No more!”. From that declaration, you can start doing things differently.

It takes courage, but it is extremely empowering!

 

How good is your strategy?

I was supporting the senior leadership team of a global service provider in taking their game to a new level. As part of my preparation for the work with this firm, I attended a PowerPoint presentation of the global vision, mission, and strategy of this firm.

It was spectacular both visually and in terms of its content. It was simple, clever, it used catchy phrases and it incorporated a few cool visual effects. It was one of the best I have seen (and I have seen many), I was impressed!

Then I started the work with the team, and I cannot begin to tell you how dysfunctional these leaders were. They had significant trust, cohesion and communication issues between each other, which also trickled down to their functions. They had many conflicts, which they avoided dealing with, they did not collaborate well, and they definitely were not aligned on their strategic objectives. Needless to say, the did not live up to their spectacular vision and mission.

There was such dissonance between their impressive strategy presentation and the way they actually behaved.

This senior team is no different from so many other teams I see. Obviously not every senior leadership team is highly dysfunctional. A few are really great, a few are really bad, and most are mediocre or average at best.

This dissonance only emphasizes the premise that any vision, mission or strategy are only as good as people’s relationship with them. By relationship I mean the degree that people genuinely understand, believe in, are committed to and feel a sense of personal ownership and accountability toward them.

Coming up with a spectacular strategy and PowerPoint deck is so easy and common. Transferring the words from the slides to people’s hearts and minds is the most challenging, but exciting tasks leaders have.

Unfortunately, I meet so many senior leaders who seem to be stuck in traditional, old-school thinking. They seem to believe that if they communicate their vision and strategy to their people – in a PowerPoint deck, no less – their people will automatically get it and own it.

But as we all know, nothing is further from the truth. Managers and employees don’t buy into strategies just like that. They have to be enrolled; they have to understand the business rationale and logic – the “why are we doing this?” They want to feel confident and be inspired, not merely taken for granted. And, they want to know that their leaders have what it takes to follow through and lead the strategy to conclusion, no matter how challenging the journey may be.

There is always pressure on senior leaders to provide leadership, not merely hide behind their rank and authority. Leaders need to inspire and bring their personal charisma, courage and stand to the game. Not every leader gets it, is committed to it and/or is capable of it.

Therefore, when answering the question “How good is your strategy?” you must include two dimensions: The content and context of the strategy.

The content means – is there is a clear, precise, robust and well-structured game plan (strategy, objectives, process, structure, etc.) that everyone understands the same way?

In so many organizations this seemingly common sense and simple step is not achieved in a powerful and effective way. Typically, the strategy is too high level, vague or conceptual, and different team members have different ideas, interpretations, agendas and priorities about the direction, methodology, process, and destination.

The context means – is there is a team dynamic (culture, environment, mindset etc.) in which everyone can truly be open, honest, authentic and courageous; an environment in which people feel “in it together”, even if they don’t all report to the same boss, which is the case in any matrix management environment; an environment in which everyone is excited about the game and feels genuine ownership commitment and accountability toward the bigger success?

Addressing the content alone will at best produce a dynamic of unenthusiastic compliance (and often frustrations, fear, and resignation). This will be insufficient for achieving a new, more powerful game. Alternatively, attending to the context alone will also not work because un-channeled enthusiasm will not be productive and effective, therefore it will not sustain as well.

When you examine the strength of your strategy don’t underestimate the value and importance of these two dimensions. A successful strategy relies 30% on its content and 70% on the context inside which it is being executed.

A strong context can compensate for weak content. However, strong content will not compensate for a weak context.

 

Are you open to your possibilities?

If you don’t believe that some future goal is actually achievable or likely to happen, would you still put your heart into it and go after it? I am sure your answer is NO!

People only really wholeheartedly pursue the aspirations that they believe are achievable and doable.

I was trying to convince a client that he can achieve the promotion he wanted to VP in the short time frame he wanted, but he was very skeptical about his odds for success as he could not see any apparent openings for a VP role in the foreseeable future. He kept telling me “There is no way!” This was his outlook and mindset about his chances to succeed. Needless to say, he remained discouraged and he took no action to look or explore any further.

But then, something happened that changed his mind. The company announced a major reorganization and in the shuffle a couple of new leadership roles became available. They were not published as VP roles, however, their scope suggested that they could become so.

The competition for these new roles was fierce. However, these openings shifted my client’s mindset away from “There is no way!”. He saw a new possibility and his mindset shifted to “But, of course!” As his outlook shifted so did his spirit, energy, and behaviors.

He got up the next day dusted off his resume and started sending out emails and setting up meetings to make his request to be considered for the new role known. He ended up getting one of the new leadership roles, with a promise that over the following three months he would be promoted to VP.

There is a lesson in my client’s example for all of us!

We all know that in the last 5-10 years the rate of change has been the fastest ever. There are so many examples in business and society of realities that were considered impossible for a long time, or not considered or imagined at all, that have actually happened. Take the end of Apartheid, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as the advances in flight, the Apple empire, September 11th, and the most recent financial collapse to mention just a few.

In 1895 Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society said:

“Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”

In 1943 Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM said:

“There is a world market for about five computers.”

And Ken Olsen, President of Digital Equipment Corp said:

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer at their home.”

And to top it all, in 1899 Charles H. Duel, Director of the U.S. Patent Office said:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

We really do not know what is possible in the future, including for us personally.

Whenever you want to achieve something and your mindset about it is “There is no way!” all you have to do is shift your mindset to But, of course! and your outlook and behaviors will automatically shift too.

At times, that could be easier said than done. Here are three practical tips for how to proactively shift your mindset and belief in this way:

  1. Don’t confuse facts with beliefs and feelings. When we feel that something is beyond our reach and we feel “it’s never going to happen for us” that is NOT a fact, it’s a belief or feeling. When people describe to me why they will have difficulty to achieve their goals they often say things like: “It is going to be hard” or “It is going to take a long time“. First of all, the actual premise of describing the future as if it is a fact is flawed. There are no facts about the future as it hasn’t happened yet. The more you have awareness and can tell the difference between your beliefs and the facts, you will be able to have more powerful and open thoughts about what could be possible for you.
  2. Start questioning your own and other’s assumptions and truths. We don’t question our own thoughts and assumptions, as well as other people’s statements enough. If we think that something is not doable, we rarely challenge our own thought with “Why not?”, “Who said it isn’t possible?“. We take our own limiting thoughts as well as people’s limiting statements as truth and fact, even when they are NOT. In fact, it’s worse, we start collecting evidence that it isn’t possible. But, once you shift your thought process, you will start collecting evidence that what you want is in fact possible.
  3. Ask for help from the right people. If you want to achieve something that you have never achieved before and you have doubts about your ability to do so, find someone who has achieved that goal and ask them for help, support, guidance, and coaching. Trust me, your paradigm will shift very quickly as they enlighten you with new ways of thinking and viewing your desired outcome and all the obstacles that you think are in your way.

It takes courage to stay awake and aware, not fall into false and limiting assumptions and think independently. It’s easier to conform to common thinking about what is possible and not possible. It’s easier to replicate other people’s benchmarks and use these as your benchmark.

But it is much more exciting, stimulating and empowering to push your thinking beyond the norm and be a pioneer in imagining, staking, pursuing and fulfilling your own life vision and aspirations.

 

Never forget the power and magic of Courage

W.H. Murray, the leader of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition that pioneered the path to the top of Mt. Everest, knew something about courage. He shared his experience in a known quote, which I really love:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

That, the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

Courage is the single most critical ingredient for achieving our dreams, aspirations and other great things.

Yes, knowledge, experience, credentials, skills and a good plan are material too. However, any plan is only as good as your relationship to it. I have seen too many people with a brilliant plan fail because they lacked the courage to take bold action, have faith or stay the course in challenging times.

Courage comes in many forms, expressions and styles. Sometimes, standing for what you believe and fully expressing yourselves with a loud and assertive voice is an act of courage. But, sometimes, remaining thoughtful and calm in the face of turmoil, allowing yourself to be vulnerable or simply listening to other’s with openness and generosity requires courage too.

Being ‘courageous‘ is very different than ‘being fearless‘. The dictionary defines fearless as ‘Lacking fear’. However, if you are courageous it does not mean you lack fear. On the contrary, you need to be most courageous when you are most afraid.

As Nelson Mandela put it:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

If anyone knew something about courage, it was Nelson Mandela.

We all have the natural ability to bring forth courage and live by it every moment and day of our life, no matter what our circumstances are. Unfortunately, we often seem to forget or underestimate just how powerful and magical courage really is, so we don’t fully bet on it.

Early in my career when I was struggling with achieving my sales goals, my mentor at the time gave me some advice that impacted my entire life thereafter. He said, “If you do the right thing for long enough eventually you will get the outcome you want.”

It worked. I became the most productive and successful sales leader in the company. I have experienced this first principle time and time again in multiple areas of my life and the lives of others.

If you are willing to be courageous, take a stand for what you want and then stay the course by living, acting and behaving consistently, sooner or later the circumstances will line up with your stance. As W.H. Murray put it in his quote: ‘Providence will move too‘.

Yes, you need to believe in yourself and your ability; you need to have faith for this to work. If you allow yourself to become cynical, negative or sarcastic, the circumstances will prove you right. You know how the saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for!”

Someone shared with me this gospel of Thomas, which I thought is relevant:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. However, if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Inaction can have grave consequences when it comes to being true to yourself and achieving your dreams and aspirations. In order to become confident and proficient at the practice and discipline of courage, you need to practice on a regular basis.

Eleanor Roosevelt, another brave and inspiring leader, gave very practical and powerful advice on this. She recommended:

“Do one thing every day that scares you!”

Courage inspires, enables, pushes and reminds us to pursue our dreams and never give up. And, when we remain true to our self, we are always the happiest.

Are you having courageous conversations?

I’d like to share three true stories with you…

True Story One:

In a very large global financial service organization there was a strategic conflict between one of the lines of business and the regions, who were selling its products. The regions felt they were different. They knew their territory and customers best, so they wanted to control the sales process. But the business unit believed their products were meant to be sold through a consistent global program, which only they could do. Needless to say, this caused a lot of conflicts, tensions, and stress among the senior leaders. It was causing even more anxiety at the middle managers level as they felt stuck between a rock and a hard place, feeling political pressure to pick sides between the senior leaders they reported to. And, most of all this conflict was hurting business productivity and results.

Everyone acknowledged that this was a big problem, but the CEO didn’t seem to get it. He kept claiming that things were clear, while at the same time telling both sides what they wanted to hear.

At first, the senior leaders tried to bring the issue up at the senior leadership team meetings. However, the CEO refused to engage, so, it didn’t take long before the leaders simply stopped trying to bring it up. They continued to discuss the topic in the ‘around the cooler’ gossipy back channel conversations.

This continued on for a long time… Why?

True Story Two:

A large global technology company acquired another large competitor and was in the midst of integrating the new company. At the most senior leadership level, there were challenges as the existing and new leaders didn’t see eye to eye about important strategic decisions.

The senior leaders held several meetings to get aligned on key strategies and priorities. However, these meetings didn’t go well, and the leaders remained divided, cynical and not on the same page. The lack of alignment at the top affected the performance of the entire organization. Engineering and Product blamed Sales for the problems and Sales blamed everyone else.

Everyone was frustrated about what was going on, including the CEO, the senior leaders, the middle managers, and the employees, but, no one stood up and screamed: “Enough Already!!!” Why?

True Story Three:

An almost fatal accident on the factory floor uncovered significant safety issues that were a result of people cutting corners and not complying with the safety protocols.

The CEO launched an investigation which revealed that the issues that led to the accident were caused by the fact that at the end of the quarter management was driving production so hard in order to meet quarterly quotas that managers prioritized volume and speed over safety. Everyone knew that closing the line would hurt production quotas, so supervisors turned a blind eye to safety compromises.

The investigation also disclosed that the workers knew that this was going on; they understood the risks and consequences of an accident. In fact, many workers discussed these problems among themselves…

But they didn’t bring it up to their supervisors… Why?

Almost every day I meet executives, leaders, managers, and employees who are extremely bright, smart, and knowledgeable. Many describe to me with great insight, confidence and passion the issues, problems, barriers and also opportunities their organization faces. In fact, I often hear about the root causes of many of the issues, and what needs to be done.

However, when I ask these leaders and managers: “So, what have you done about it?” or “Have you brought it up to your superiors?“, they often turn white and acknowledge in an embarrassed kind-of-a-way that they have not.

When I ask “Why?”, they begin struggling, squirming and stuttering, they usually finally admit that they weren’t brave enough!

So my question to you, when you’re faced with challenging situations – are you having courageous conversations?

 

Take One Little Step…

One little step stands between being courageous or being a coward. Literally!

The difference between being courageous and being a coward is – Action.

If you are committed to an outcome or direction that is beyond your comfort level and you take action toward it, you are courageous. If you don’t – you are a coward.

If you are committed to an outcome of direction that is beyond your comfort level most likely you will be afraid; you will have anxiety and/or nervousness about your ability to succeed. You will have moments of doubt, second-guessing yourself and even moments in which you will regret having committed to the direction. You will definitely be tempted to buy-in to excuses such as “It’s the wrong time”, “The risks are too high” and the variety of “I am not good enough” justifications. The fear and anxiety aspects are the same whether you are courageous or a coward.

In fact, the essence of courage is to acknowledge and embrace your fear and then go forward in the face of it. To not be stopped by fear. If you didn’t have the fear, you wouldn’t need to be courageous. Fearless people don’t need courage. However, what makes the difference is how you behave when you are afraid; do you take action to fulfill your commitment or not.

I was coaching a manager who unexpectedly lost his job after dedicating 25 years of his life to the company. He needed to work and earn an income, but he believed he was too old and unqualified to find a new job. He was discouraged, and this led to overwhelming hopelessness and desperation, that paralyzed him.

He made some attempts to reach out to people in his network seeking employment opportunities, but after these weren’t fruitful, he stopped trying. In fact, he stopped other things too, like going to the gym and eating well.

When I met him, he wasn’t in good physical and mental shape. However, he was in good enough shape to sincerely want to change.

My conditions for helping him included him going back to exercising at least four times a week and returning to eating well. These were small familiar actions that he could easily take on. I could see a noticeable difference in his energy and outlook within a few days.

We then made a list of contacts and leads and devised a plan whereby he would contact at least one person every day and then call me to share his progress. Within, a week he lined up two job interviews. Needless to say, this boosted his morale significantly. After four weeks he landed a new job.

If you adopt the mantra of “Progress, not perfection” it will empower you to take action.

You can get yourself unstuck from anything by taking small steps of action. Don’t try to take on too much at once, otherwise, you are likely to fall short, get discouraged and fall back into a bad place. Start with small steps of action in the right direction. I know it may not seem enough, but I promise you that small steps will eventually lead to bigger steps. Progress evokes more progress.

The good news is that we all have everything that we need to be courageous and take action. We may convince ourselves and others of all the reasons why we cannot take a small action forward. However, even if our reasons are legitimate, they are never the true cause of not taking action.

Taking action doesn’t guarantee the outcomes you want. However, if you go full out and fall short you will probably feel much better about yourself and your chances to succeed next time than if you fail because you didn’t try much in the first place.

One of my early professional mentors once told me:

You either have the results you want, or you have the story why not.”

This mindset has stayed with me ever since.

There are two types of players in life: those who are brave and take action, and those who avoid action.

Which of these do you want to be?

 

Can you tolerate things getting worse before they get better?

Consider this rare and true example: A sales team of a technology company was struggling to achieve its objectives. Team members worked long hours, including weekends and holidays to meet their numbers, everyone felt overworked and stressed and needless to say “work-life balance” was a big issue. 

The General Manager of that organization, who was a bold, demanding and strategic leader, came out with an edict to transform his team’s predicament: “No one was allowed to work past 8pm on weekdays or at any time on the weekend.” He made it clear that everyone was still expected to deliver their numbers, and that offenders of his new instructions would suffer the consequence. At first, people were shocked. Many were skeptical. However, after firing the first person who violated his new policy people started to take notice.

In the first month, the team missed its numbers by 20%. Everyone expected the General Manager to cancel his “unrealistic” policy, but he didn’t. In the second month, the results were still around 10% below and only in month three did the team hit its numbers for the first time in a long time. What happened following the third month was quite extraordinary. Not only did the team start to consistently meet its number, but it actually often exceeded its numbers. In addition, something changed in the overall atmosphere within the team. The overall energy, commitment, and dialogue of the team shifted to be much more productive and powerful, and more oriented around how to do more with less.

Unfortunately, this example is indeed rare. Most leaders can’t tolerate even the slightest temporary dip in performance. They panic at the first sign of a dip, and they often react in negative ways that set the team back and send a message that they don’t have the courage and faith to stay the course.

This is especially true in publicly traded companies and the common justification for not taking risk is that it would negatively affect the stock performance.

Case in point, the senior leadership team of a technology company that had acquired a couple of companies and whilst in the process of fully integrating and leveraging its new assets it was struggling to achieve its sales results. After the first missed quarter people blamed it on the integration, so they didn’t make significant adjustments to the strategy. However, when their shortfall repeated itself next two quarters people started to get frustrated and discouraged. Some of the senior leaders urged the CEO to adjust the strategy and make bolder changes in order to plant the seeds for breaking out of the negative vicious circle. However, the CEO didn’t feel comfortable rocking the boat, so things continued to chug along. Eventually, the CEO did listen and make some changes, but he lost a lot of time and the goodwill of his people, stakeholders, and investors.

If you are a status quo leader driving a status quo agenda, you don’t have to worry about doing bold things. However, if you want to take on a bold objective or initiative there is a high likelihood that things will get worse before they get better. It’s not a slogan. If you can’t tolerate the rollercoaster ride, don’t get on the train.

But, without this courage, you will keep retreating backward instead of pushing forward to overcome your courage and resilience barrier.

The good news, however, is that if you do stay the course and reach the other side, things will get even better than they were before you started.

 

Make 2019 the best year ever!

I love new beginnings. Starting a new year, chapter or phase brings with it new possibilities and hope.

Whether you want to improve your financial situation, increase your health or fitness, find true love or find your dream job, at the start of a new cycle we often feel that we have another chance to realize our goals—including those we tried but didn’t achieve before. I find this space of possibility and opportunity extremely empowering and exciting.

However, in order to truly experience a fresh start, you have to first understand and accept the fact that new possibilities and hope exist in your own heart and mind, not in the real world. In fact, your ability to realize a fresh start depends on how you think and speak. The only person who can give you a fresh start and a new beginning is you.

For example, I have a friend who has had his share of challenging circumstances. Every time I ask him how he is doing he says something to the effect of “Same day, different shit!“. Pretty much every time I talk with my friend about new possibilities and try to help him change his predicament, he is quick to push back and explain to me how things just can’t be different given his circumstances. I haven’t given up on him yet, but I am definitely less inclined to engage in these conversations any longer.

I often encounter people who say they are open-minded but when others try to enroll them in new possibilities, they are quick to push back and provide all the reasons for why these new ideas won’t work. When I point this out, they explain that their point of view is simply pragmatic and realistic. But most people around them experience them as skeptical, cynical, closed-minded or often simply negative.

Sometimes in order to create a fresh start you need to let go of old perceptions about yourself, the world, and/or people around you – especially the perceptions that have constrained your ability to improve yourself and your circumstances. Sometimes you need to forgive others or even harder – yourself – for past mistakes, shortfalls and disappointments that you are still holding on to, or holding a grudge about. And, sometimes you simply need to change your point of view, interpretation or conclusion about past events from disempowering to empowering.

And, if you are thinking to yourself: “I am open-minded, but I can’t see where I could improve” my advice to you is – ask someone who knows you well, loves you and who will tell you the truth to give you feedback. Listen to them and receive their input with openness.

In order to create 2019 as a great year, start by explicitly and boldly declaring what you want to, and what you will achieve in the new year. The notion of striving and working toward a future state that you are looking forward to and are excited about today is a very empowering platform.

Use whatever framework works best for you to capture your objectives. Here is one option that you may find helpful. Use the following questions as steps to create your 2019:

  • What are the key areas of my life that I would like to move forward in 2019? By areas I mean life categories that would help you organize your thoughts. Potential areas could include Finances, Career, Job, Health, Family, and Love etc.
  • In each of the key areas – what are the specific objectives I will achieve? In each area, you will most likely have a few objectives. For examples your objectives could look like: (1) Double my income, (2) Find true love, (3) Deepen my intimacy with my family, and (4) Get healthy and fit.
  • In each objective – what are the specific projects I will take on to fulfill my objective? For some objectives, there could be one project. For others, the objective will become the project. However, for the more complex objectives, you may need a few parallel projects. For example: If you have a commitment to get healthy and fit, you may have a few projects: (1) Register to the gym and go 3 times each week, (2) see a nutritionist and start eating based on a health plan, and (3) Get rid of all my old clothes and buy new ones. Make sure the projects have clear end results, milestones, and execution plan.

After you have mapped these three levels of areas, objectives and projects summarize all your actions for the next 90, 60 and 30 days and make sure you review them every week or two.

New Year’s Resolutions have a bad reputation mainly because we say them out loud, but we don’t follow up and follow through on them. If you want 2019 to be different, share your objectives and projects with one or more of your closest friends, family members, and/or professional associates and ask them to hold you to account for your 90, 60 and 30-day action plan. Schedule follow-up conversations with them to review progress and adhere to these, even if you are behind.

You have a choice whether to make 2019 the best year ever or merely another year filled with compromised desires and cynical explanations.

I wish for all of us that 2019 will be our best year ever!

 

Complete 2018 in a meaningful way

Completing a chapter effectively can be a meaningful and powerful endeavor if you approach it with a deliberate and conscious mindset. Unfortunately, most people tend to focus more on starting a project and executing it, and when it reaches its end, they just move to the next one. We tend to underestimate the power and value of completing things effectively, not merely finishing or ending them.

The dictionary defines ‘Finishing‘ as ‘Bringing a task or activity to an end. It defines ‘Completing‘ as ‘Making something whole or perfect’.

You don’t have to do anything for something to end. It is the nature of any cycle. Things begin, go through their evolution and end. A year, a project or a lifetime, it’s all the same principle. But, in order to feel complete at the end of your year, with all the good things and bad things that happened, you need to apply deliberate and mindful focus and awareness.

How do you complete things?

If you review the year’s events without the distinction of completion in mind, you are likely to focus on the cold facts of what actually happened. You will ask yourself questions such as: “What did I do?”, “What didn’t I do?” and “What results did I achieve?”. Most likely your sense of satisfaction would be determined by the number of outcomes you achieved. If you achieved most of your goals, you would most likely feel good. If not, you would feel bad.

In contrast, if you look at 2018 through the lens of completion you will push your thinking and reflection beyond merely the facts of what happened to a deeper level. You will still account for the facts of what happened, however, you will be compelled to own what happened and what didn’t happen in a more meaningful way.

You will ask yourself questions such as “What did I accomplish?”, “What did I learn?”, “Where and how did I grow?” and “How am I better, stronger and more prepared for the future?”. This type of taking stock will deepen your connection with your higher purpose and vision and it will make you feel more satisfied and complete.

Your experience of success and failure are based on interpretations, not facts. You can feel victorious and successful even when you didn’t meet your goals. And, you can feel disappointed and unfulfilled when you did meet your goals. The feeling of success or failure is often determined by the notion of completion.

Completing the past and feeling that you have learned and gained the most out of it will enable you to put things in a more powerful perspective. It will help you put the past behind you, and this will leave you feeling freer, stronger and more empowered and excited to focus on the future from a clean slate.

However, if you leave things incomplete, past incompletions could haunt you and cloud your thoughts, plans, and aspirations for the future. You could become more hesitant to take on new things because of past failures and/or you could take on things with a sense of vengeance and need to prove something, which could rob you of enjoying the journey. In both cases, you would be reacting to your past and that won’t be effective or satisfying.

The good news is that you can bring completion to your past at any moment, no matter how good or bad things were. You just need to take stock, draw empowering conclusions from past events and then declare the past complete. It requires taking a stand and it takes courage. But it is easy and fun!

How to complete 2018 in a practical and meaningful way:

As you end 2018, reflect on your year. First, make the list of the facts – what happened, what you did and didn’t do and accomplish. It’s useful to start there. But don’t end there.

Ask yourself:

  1. What did I accomplish?
  2. What did I learn?
  3. Where and how did I grow and improve in the areas I care about?
  4. How did I forward my bigger personal and professional vision and purpose?
  5. What am I most grateful for?
  6. Whom do I want to recognize and thank? (Make sure you tell them.)

Once you declare 2018 complete, you will feel a sense of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. In that space, you can powerfully start creating your next year to be your best year ever.

In conclusion, on a personal note  – Thank you for following my blogs during 2018. I hope at least some of them were useful to you. I will be taking some time off myself and will post my next blog in the week of January 7th, 2019.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday Season and Happy New Year!

 

Are you investing in building your team?

If you were the manager of an NBA basketball team, or any professional sports team, with the best stars in the league, would there be any dilemma or doubt in your mind about the need for a coach?

Would you think: “We don’t need to spend time on team strategies and team dynamics, they take away from individual players’ shooting practice or their chance to rest between games?

And, if you were winning the playoffs, would you then feel that “We don’t need a coach because we are doing so well“?

The answer is No, No and No! No sports manager in his/her right mind would think this way. And, by the way, it is the same with any Olympic athlete or world-class musician and probably in many other disciplines.

So why do so many CEOs and leaders don’t get it?! Why do so many leaders avoid investing in building their teams?

You could say: “Well, in the NBA the goal, prize and what is at stake are so clear” and “Well, basketball is a team effort“.

But, isn’t it exactly the same in business?

I was working with a large global technology company that was going through tremendous growth and change after acquiring a few companies in a very short period of time. A very ambitious undertaking under any circumstance.

With such a bold undertaking they expected that things would get worse before they got better. But the ‘get worse‘ phase was taking too long. Their performance wasn’t where they wanted it to be and it wasn’t improving fast enough. Needless to say, the downward trend was undermining internal and external morale and confidence.

The senior leaders were especially frustrated because they felt that a big reason for why things were not improving faster was that the level of alignment, trust and communication within the senior team itself was not strong. This was undermining the level of alignment and collaboration within the teams under them and hindering their ability to collaborate and fix problems.

However, the CEO felt that taking the senior leaders out of the field for a meeting was not a good investment of time. In fact, he felt that every minute away from being with customers or selling was a waste of time. He also felt that there was no point talking about anything other than how to make the sales numbers for the current week, month and quarter because if they didn’t make their very short-term numbers, they won’t have a future to talk about. Lastly, he felt that the one-hour conference call he had with his leaders every Friday, was sufficient for them to coordinate things and stay on the same page. Most of the heavy lifting he did in one-on-one calls with each of his senior leaders.

While his rational had logic, following it dragged the company further down. He was speaking with all his leaders, but they were not speaking among themselves. After a few quarters, during which the company did not meet its targets, the CEO was only then willing to change his mind. He agreed – at first reluctantly – to spend a day with his senior leaders.

To make a long story short, when the senior team started to spend quality time together, their trust, unity, alignment, courage and communication grew exponentially. They were able to discuss and address the real challenges and opportunities and make decisions that they all owned. It didn’t take long before company results started to turn around too.

I have seen this type of turnaround many times before!

When team members are in it together, they can accomplish extraordinary things. Nothing is too big for them. They are bigger than any circumstance, challenge, or opportunity. However, when team members are siloed and divided, they will be smaller than their circumstances and they will not overcome even basic challenges and opportunities. In fact, things would most likely get worse around them, just like the example above.

If you want to take your game to the next level, you need to think strategically and that often means going slower and smarter in order to go faster. To do that you must make sure that your senior team is 100% aligned, committed and in it together.

Like any NBA championship team, you need to invest the time to build and coach your team.