Posts

Blunt honesty is the right approach both in business and at home.

I love working with leaders who are relentless about driving a culture of open, honest and courageous communication around them. These leaders are about high performance and they have zero interest in, or tolerance for, internal drama or politics. They operate at a high level of personal integrity, authenticity and ownership. And they expect and demand the same from people around them.

They make it difficult – if not impossible – for people to get away with doing the things that undermine and weaken the organization: point fingers, adopt a victim mentality, indulge in destructive politics, and “CYA” (cover-your-ass) behaviors that distract from the goals of the organization.

Even if these behaviors are very subtle, they drain energy and waste everyone’s time. Eventually, people begin to feel that they cannot make a difference, and the organization loses focus and cannot achieve the results it seeks. In today’s environment of growing competition and limited resources, what company can afford this?

Any manager can do this – break these undermining patterns, reverse past damage and create a high performance team dynamic – if they are willing to be a courageous leader, role model this behavior, and call his or her people to account for it too. They need to stand for a new code of rigorous honesty, refusing to settle for less than the truth in an environment where people are used to only voicing what they think their leaders want to hear.

No matter which method they use, leaders must make their unconditional commitment to honesty known, and they must convince their people that they mean it. It’s not enough to declare it. They need to demonstrate through action that they are genuinely open to feedback, criticism and input, including about themselves. As one of my clients once admitted: “It takes 10 rights to fix 1 wrong, and 1 wrong to undermine 10 rights.”

This leadership philosophy of open, honest, authentic and courageous communication can be messy, lonely and painful at times. However, time and again, I have seen it lead to significant transformations inside organizations. In fact, clients have repeatedly shared with me that creating a new level of communication at work has even made them a better person in their personal life, changing the way they relate to their children and their spouses. One CEO even told me, “It saved my marriage.”

I am not a marriage counselor, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But one thing I do know is that when organizations have the courage to face the truth every day, a powerful platform of authentic team ownership, commitment and accountability emerges. The team is then equipped and energized to focus on any challenge or opportunity that lies ahead, no matter how unfamiliar, complex, or difficult it may be. In short, the team becomes unstoppable.

Fifty-five is a notable age.

This week I turned 55. I don’t know how 55 should feel or look. But, I don’t feel 55 and people tell me that I don’t look or behave it.

I am sure we’ve all heard the saying “the fifties is the new thirties.” Statistics support this view too. In fact, I recently saw a statistic that in modern countries such as the USA and Canada, the average expectancy of a man has increased in the 20th century from 46 to 74 and women from 48 to 80.

But statistics is one thing and how we feel, look and behave is another. Fifty-five is a notable age. It’s the middle of my life, or as my wife says: “at 50 we have earned the right to stop worrying about what other people think about us or what we should do, and only care about what we feel is right for us to be and do.”

So, 55 is a great opportunity to take stock of where I am in my life journey – what I feel great about, what I don’t, and most important what I want the next 10 years and rest of my life to look like.

I will always have ambitions, aspirations and goals. There are more things I still want to accomplish and get done, more wealth to build and more difference to make. Having said that, my biggest wish is to get up every day for the rest of my life feeling fully satisfied, blessed and validated by who I am and what I have accomplished thus far. I want to feel that I am pursuing my aspirations and goals as an expression of success and abundance, rather than scarcity and deficit.

Many years ago a friend caught me by surprise when he asked me the question: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” And that question has stayed with me ever since.

My answer is: I am young enough to fully express myself every day in everything I do, to fully love the people that are dearest to me with all my heart, to pursue my wildest dreams without doubt or compromise, and to live every day of my life with the optimism, hope and excitement that “the best is yet to come.” It is scary at times to live full out, but I can’t imagine any other way to do it.

How old would YOU be if you didn’t know how old YOU are?     

Is your Leadership Team making a positive or negative difference?

Any organization is a reflection of its leaders and leadership team (LT). If the leaders build a strong and genuine team dynamic of trust, unity, communication and ownership among themselves, these characteristics will be cascaded through the veins of the organization and internalized in its culture and DNA. If the leaders operate as individual silos, not a team, their people will follow suit. And, if they have trust issues among themselves, harbor resentments or are the source of negativity or victim behaviors, the same issues, sentiments and behaviors will be inculcated throughout their organization.

And, it doesn’t matter what leaders say in public. Even if it’s all the politically correct things, their people will watch their behaviors, pick up on subtle remarks and body language, and line up accordingly.

The LT is always an amplifier of sentiments, conversations and energy in the organization. Leaders’ behavior either amplifies the constructive, productive conversations that make a difference, or it amplifies and fuels the negative ones, which undermine and weaken; they are either the source of the solution or a big part of the problem.

Unfortunately, in so many cases the senior leaders amplify the negative sentiments and conversations. They initiate, express and participate in negative conversations, and they pass down negative and divisive messages to their people. I have heard managers and employees complain about this so many times, and I have seen this dynamic with my own eyes.

For example, I was working inside a large telecom company who acquired a smaller, more entrepreneurial, startup type company. As with most mergers and acquisitions the integration was done on paper but not in the hearts and minds of the people who had to implement it, especially not the people who joined the larger telecom firm from the smaller acquired company. As I walked the halls of the acquired company’s offices and sat in their meetings I could hear the resentments and negative and toxic feelings about the acquirer voiced in almost every conversation. Many of the complaints were legitimate and correct. However, given the negative environment, no one was collaborating to figure out how to fix the issues. And, even the senior leaders from the acquired company who agreed to, and gained from the acquisition, and now sat on the LT of the acquirer were expressing, engaging in, and fueling the negative and unproductive sentiments, behind the scenes.

Even when the LT members are not the originators of negative sentiments and conversations, they have the power to transform these into constructive conversations that address the issues, change things and make a difference. But, in many cases they avoid their responsibility and opportunity to do so. I guess cynicism is easier and more familiar, even if it is undermining and dysfunctional.

It seems that leaders often just don’t realize the positive or negative impact of their behaviors and conversations on their environment. They don’t focus on this topic hence they don’t see it, or take responsibility for its consequences.

If LT members periodically answered the question “Are we making a positive, neutral or negative impact through our behavior?” and perhaps also asked people around them for honest feedback on this, they would be more inclined to adjust their behaviors and conversations, especially if they realized that the cost associated with negative or neutral is dear.

It takes courage to say NO to cynicism, resignation and suffering!

I was speaking to one of my clients a while back and in our conversation as he was talking about his work he described it as: “My job is my 8 hour inconvenience”.

At first I laughed because I wasn’t sure if he meant it seriously or as a joke. It seemed a bit blunt, harsh and sarcastic.

But, then as I reflected more on his sentiment, as well as my thirty-plus years experience working with people in organizations all around the world, I could think of so many examples of people who, even though may never say a statement like that, share similar sentiments.

So many people seem to feel powerless in their job on a daily basis. They feel they can’t really make the difference they can and want to make. And, they feel that the internal silos, bureaucracy and politics hinder their ability to do the right thing for their organization and change or affect the things that are not working around them.

When people stop believing that things can change or they can make the difference they tend to get discouraged and resigned. And, more critical, they stop pursuing certain opportunities and challenges. Instead, they resign themselves to the status quo, and as a result they stop bringing their passion, heart, innovation and ideas to the game. They start going through the motions in many things they do. When they encounter broken or dysfunctional dynamics they stay away from these; they ‘pick their battles’ and overall they orient themselves more around surviving then thriving. “Unfortunately,” most professionals are professional and competent enough in their job to be able to do a good enough job even in this state. So, over time this becomes the norm in most organizations, including the most successful ones.

However, keeping up with this “normal” level of existence comes with a price – it requires a certain degree of “numbness”, apathy and resignation. It’s like living with a physical pain and constantly taking painkillers to tolerate it. As we all know painkillers have side effects. And, in our case the pain is feeling I can’t make a difference, the painkillers are becoming resigned and numb, and the side effects are selling out, sometimes giving up and almost always not fully expressing our selves. For the organization the biggest side effect is not getting the best out of its people.

But, the moral of this story is not all bad. Even though I do see too many people at all levels of so many organizations that fit the bill I have described above, I also meet many really brave, committed and powerful leaders, managers and employees in all organizations. People who have taken a bold stand and not buying into the cynicism, resignation, negativism and suffering that surround them. People who have made a decision to always fully express themselves and communicate authentically and effectively at all times. People who will never become victims and always stay true to themselves by making a difference in everything they do.

For me these people are the true heroes of organizations, because it takes a lot of courage to say NO to cynicism, resignation and suffering, and ALWAYS stand for optimism, possibilities and our ability to make a difference.

Photo by: sboneham

Be Careful What You Wish For

Being a leader in business and life means adopting a certain point of view about people, circumstances, opportunities and challenges. It means being oriented around conversations that generate and empower new possibilities and action, rather than cynicism, resignation and excuses about all circumstances. It means always being the champions for “what’s possible” and “how can we make it work” rather than “why we can’t” and “why it won’t work”.

Every point of view or paradigm is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Have you ever noticed that when we have a point of view that something isn’t possible we always gather evidence and proof in our circumstances and environment to support and prove that point of view? And, if we happen to change our mind, even 180 degrees, and adopt a different point of view, we instantly can find new evidence and proof in the exact same environment and circumstances for our new point of view?

We often say “I can’t believe what I see”. But, in fact we don’t believe or disbelieve what we see. We see what we believe or disbelieve. We don’t really see with our eyes, we see with our paradigm or point of view. That’s why two people can participate in the same “physical” circumstance or situation and experience it drastically differently, often contradicting.

In our work and life we are always invested in proving right one point of view or another. Sometime we do it consciously, but more often we do it unconsciously. It’s the nature of being human.

I often interact with people who have a negative or cynical point of view about areas that are important to them in their work or personal life.  They seem to strongly believe that “they can’t have it all” or “they will never fully get what they want” or “things won’t simply workout smoothly and great for them.” And, unintentionally they constantly prove that point of view right. I can see it in their attitude and hear it in their conversations: every time things don’t work out great for them they say or imply “you see, I knew it.” or “you see I told you so.” And, every time something great does happen to them they view it as a “one off” and they are “cautiously optimistic” at best about their fortune.

Most people, including very successful and accomplished people, tend to be more skeptical and even cynical about “having it all.” They often explain their point of view as “being realistic”.

However, there are people who stand for a drastically different point of view. Their genuine life view is that “I can have it all,” “I can have my work and life be extraordinary with no compromise.” And, their life is about validating and proving that point of view right. Every time something significant or insignificant happens to them that is consistent with their point of view they “high five” it and think or say “See, life works.” And every time they don’t get what they want they view it as “temporary” or a “one off,” and they try to learn something worthwhile from it to strengthen their point of view.

One of my clients is the recently appointed CEO of a known brokerage company. He took on a significant change initiative to elevate his company from seventh to one of the top four companies in his market place. In a recent bid for a mega deal his team lost the bid after making it to the final short list of two contestants out of eight. While many of his team members seemed discouraged by the loss, he felt extremely proud and encouraged by the fact that his team made it that far. For him the fact that his team made it to the top two only signified proof that they were in fact on track to achieve their goal.

If you accept the premise that we are constantly proving right our points of view, and therefore our points of view are always self fulfilling prophecies, you have a choice about what point of view you will prove right in your work and life. Contrary to what many people may think there are no “right,” “true,” or “correct” points of view. There are only “empowering” or “disempowering” ones; points of view or paradigms that enable more possibilities, ideas and dreams, and ones that shut down possibilities, ideas and dreams, and explain and justify why these can’t and won’t come true.

I stand for the point of view that everyone deserves and can build a life that reflects the point of view of “having it all” and “fulfilling all our most precious commitments and dreams.”  So, my own professional and personal life is about proving that point of view right.

What point of view are YOU proving right in YOUR life? 

Photo by: John Liu

Do less. You’ll be able to achieve more!

In my line of work I attend many business meetings, and many of them look like this: people sit around the table with their laptops or iPads open. There are relatively brief moments where everyone is deeply present, listening, paying attention and engaged in the conversation. Most of the time people are sporadically engaged but mostly working on their computers, iPads or smartphones responding to emails and focusing on other work related things.

Most people who work in organizations seem to feel that they have to attend too many meetings and that many, perhaps most of these meetings are too long and not productive. In fact, many times people say that most meetings are a waste of time.

Why is this the case?

I often ask my clients why their meetings are not productive. Many people attribute this to the fact that “people are not engaged and invested in the conversation because they are too distracted by other multi tasking activities.” Many also say that the reason they continue to do emails and work during the meeting is because “the meeting isn’t that productive or relevant to them.” This sounds like a vicious circle and self-perpetuating predicament.

In many cases people also say that “their manager is the biggest offender of doing emails and other work while in meetings, so this sets the mode and standard for less effective meetings.” When I have further asked why people don’t simply close their computers and devices in meetings in order to fully concentrate on the discussions at hand, many said that the reason is “with all the resource constraints they now have to do the work of two people”.

In today’s economy, the challenge of doing more with less is definitely more prevalent in corporations than ever. However, the strategy of “multi-tasking” as a solution is simply the wrong answer.

All this is true in our personal lives too: Have you ever noticed that when a friend or a family member is concentrating on a mobile device or computer while in a conversation with you, these conversations become intermittent, repetitive, unfocused and unproductive?

Our three kids (14, 21 and 25) act like it is normal to text, tweet, instagram and social network while talking to us, their friends, and others. This is the norm today among kids, teenagers and young adults. But, I recently read an article that indicated that the kids of today retain and remember less information because they rely so heavily on the internet. What is clear is that the more parallel demands we place on our brain and focus, the less productive we are, the more stressed we are, and the longer it takes to do the work.

Even though we’ve learned to accept this reality, at time it still causes inter-generational tension because its simply unacceptable for my wife and I to communicate and connect this way. In fact, on a recent carpool trip, it was amusing to see my youngest daughter with her three girlfriends, sitting side by side and texting each other rather than speaking.

At first we tried to impose clear rules around the use of phones and other devices, to make sure our kids balance their social networking with being present at family time and homework; otherwise they would never take their eyes off their phones. We had partial success. But, we didn’t give up. We all pledged to close our phones in all family dinners and social events. This has already made a difference in the quality of our quality time together as a family.

Please don’t understand me wrong, I have nothing against these marvelous devices– in fact, I own many of them, and love using them. But what today’s kids, teenagers, and business managers often fail to see is the cost of their multitasking on the entire spectrum of things that matter to them, from productivity in school and work, to intimacy with family and friends.

If you want to achieve greater, more complex and extraordinary things with higher quality, slow down and focus: you’ll get there much faster.

And as a bonus, you’ll be a happier, healthier person. That’s something you and your family can enjoy, at your leisure.

Agreeing to disagree is always a cop-out!

How many times have you seen the following scenario?

A team meets to discuss issues that are critical to the organization’s future. The conversation goes on and on without resolution, as different people have divergent opinions about the best course of action. When the leader tries to bring it to a conclusion, they are no closer to alignment. They leave the meeting “agreeing to disagree.”

Such meetings are worse than a waste of time: they actually damage the organization, which is then no closer to making the necessary decisions and assuming responsibility for them. People have stayed within their comfort zones at the expense of moving the organization forward in new and dynamic ways.

This happens because leaders lack one or more of the following attributes: courage, an understanding of their role as leader, and the ability to powerfully manage conversations.

True leaders know how important it is to have an open debate with honest, respectful listening because there is rarely a single right answer to any dilemma or question. They are able to elevate their people to set aside their personal egos, agendas, and preferences to align with the collective wisdom of the group. They instill in their teams a real commitment to the type of conversation that leads to making choices, aligning behind those choices, and taking responsibility together. This requires courage.

There is never a justification to leave a conversation agreeing to disagree. It is always a cop-out. Of course, some topics are complex and may need a number of meetings to gather the necessary input and to digest it as a group. But paralysis by analysis is always an excuse to avoid taking a stand. And, the cost of lack of decisiveness, accountability, and follow-through is cynicism, resignation and stagnation.

Achieving extraordinary results requires the ability to align on goals. Agreeing to disagree precludes that. Organizations that achieve 100 per cent alignment behind a goal that is 80 per cent right have a much greater chance of success than those where people are divided behind a perfect goal. Compromise too often means that some of the people are 100 per cent behind one point of view and others are zero. How motivated are those zero per cent people to work towards the success of a goal they have not endorsed? They are the ones watching and waiting to say: “I told you so.”

Obviously, it is scary to step up to the plate and take full responsibility for a goal or direction that is uncertain, controversial, difficult to achieve, or politically incorrect. Making choices means eliminating alternatives. But when team members do find the courage to make tough choices, they are immediately more powerful. They are able to apply their energy towards proving their choices right rather than wasting energy on proving that others are wrong.

If an entire team is behind one direction – even if it is only 80 per cent correct – if they truly align, commit to a direction, and backstop each other, it is astounding what can happen. Individuals are then free to stake out a much more powerful future – and in my experience, they almost always do.

What has been your experience? 

Are you expecting what you haven’t been promised?

Having hopes, dreams, and expectations is a good thing, for the most part. Sometimes, however, having expectations can be a source of disappointment and frustration.

We have expectations in most areas of our life. At work, we expect our boss and colleagues to treat us a certain way. And we expect that things that are not working well in the work environment will get addressed and fixed in a timely manner.

In our personal relationships, we expect our partners to treat us lovingly, and with respect and generosity. And, we have clear images and standards about what all that should look like. In fact, if you self reflect on this you’ll see that we have a view about how things should be in most areas, most of the time. Sometime we state our expectations, but often they stay unspoken. When our expectations aren’t met, we tend to get upset, disappointed, frustrated and often discouraged. Sometime even resentful, and angry.

But, when we get disappointed or upset about unfulfilled expectations – what percent of the time were these expectations explicitly promised to us by someone?

I have found in my own life and in my work with others that more often than not we get disappointed and upset about things based on expectations that we have, which in reality no one ever explicitly promised us. We often complain about things that we have no legitimate claim to; no one promised us those things. If someone did promise something and they didn’t live up to their promise or deliver, we have the right to complain and there are effective and empowering ways to do it.

Recently, I was coaching two senior executives in one of the leading brokerage firms. They had very different personalities and they were assigned to a lucrative project together, but were not performing as well as they needed to because they had significant trust and communication issues. They had many complaints about each other – about lack of honesty, courtesy, respect, transparency and collaboration. And, most of these were never effectively communicated or addressed.

One of the executives kept complaining about the fact that his colleague was not including him in the project in a transparent way. But, the other swore he was doing his best to do so. When I asked if they have created clear expectations about how to work together, and made specific promises to each other on what they could be counted on for, the frustrated executive said “No” and added “this is basic stuff. My colleague should know how to communicate and how to include me”. As if there is some universal truth about how to work together effectively. Once the executives learned to make specific requests for what they needed from each other, rather than merely expect the other to behave consistent with their standards, things started to work much better.

We will be so much more powerful and happier in our lives if:

1)     Every time we are frustrated, disappointed or upset about unfulfilled expectations in any area we would ask our selves: “Are these my expectations OR did someone actually promise these to me?”

2)     If we wanted an expectation to be fulfilled in a certain area, we looked for someone who can promise these and explicitly request what we want.

3)     We stopped complaining, being disappointed or upset about unfulfilled expectations that nobody explicitly promised us.

It can be very energizing to have dreams, hopes and desires as long as we don’t get trapped in the vicious cycle of unfulfilled expectations.

Where in your work and life have you been frustrated, disappointed and upset about unfulfilled expectations that no one ever promised you to fulfill?

Choosing when you think you don’t have a choice…

My wife and I recently learned from a dear friend that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We were shocked and saddened at first by his revelation. But, he expressed such a positive, optimistic and confident, attitude and message about how he will ‘rise above the disease and use his new predicament to become a better person and make a difference around him’ that I was blown away and inspired by his extraordinary spirit and courage.

This got me thinking – in life we often need to choose between things – between this job and that job, between this partner and that partner, between this field or that field. And, at times, depending on the situation and what is at stake, these choices can be hard to make. But, at least we have options to choose from that seem to be in our control.

But what about choice in situations where certain circumstances are laid upon us? What about choice when your wife or husband just left you, you were just fired from your job, you are financially broke, your doctor tells you about a bad medical diagnosis… What choice do we have in these situations?

We don’t always have a choice about our circumstances. However, we ALWAYS have a choice about our attitude and mindset, how we’ll respond and what we will make of them. We choose whether to relate to a ‘bad’ situation as a ‘problem’ OR ‘opportunity’; whether to accept, embrace and own it – I call that “choosing”, OR to become a victim of the situation.  And, that choice gives us tremendous power.

There are so many heroic and inspirational stories about cancer survivors who took their illness as an opportunity to transform their life. Examples of people who turned a bad divorce into a new and much better life, and people who continued to have a positive outlook on life after going through the tragedy of losing loved ones.

I was recently working with a company that was laying off employees. So, I had multiple opportunities to meet these people, many of which worked in that company for many years and were surprised by their misfortune. For some of the people, being let go landed as a heavy blow. They took it personally and found it very hard to see the silver lining in the event. Others, who weren’t any better off financially and who loved the company and their jobs as much as their colleagues took this turn of events as an opportunity. Some were excited about starting their own business. Others were looking forward to finally getting the promotion or title they wanted, in another company. And, for others it was about finding a job closer to home in order to avoid the long commute each day, or travel less in order to be able to spend more time with their family.

The people who continued to feel victimized by the situation struggled with seeing how being fired could present them with a better path in their life. The people who accepted, embraced and owned their circumstance found multiple reasons for why being fired was a blessing in disguise.

By understanding that we always have a choice and doing our best to view all challenges as opportunities, we can get beyond what should and could have been, and focus on creating a better life for ourselves.

What challenges and predicaments have you turned into opportunities?  How did you choose to stay optimistic instead of discouraged?

Are you counting your blessings or focusing on what’s missing?

In the previous blog I talked about how the rat race to achieve more and meet our life objectives often prevents us from being present and living our life in the moment.  

This is a very common modern life dilemma that many ambitious and successful people face: how to set exciting goals in all areas of our life, work hard to realize them (because that is what it takes), and while doing that fully enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

How do we slow down enough while we are going so fast?  

How to grow as many roses as we want AND also stop and smell them on a regular basis?

This has definitely been one of my life learning curves. I am a visionary and an ambitious person. I have big dreams aspirations in all areas of my life: professionally, in business, financially, staying healthy and fit, having an amazing marriage with my wife of 30 years, and deep closeness with my 3 kids and extended family. I want to ‘have it all’ and I want to be present and enjoy my journey as I go through it, not just when I get there “someday”.

My wife Na’ama has made a huge difference in keeping our focus and awareness on our accomplishments and how blessed we are, in all areas. The conversation of gratitude has become an integrated part of our family life because Na’ama has been a relentless champion for this. She constantly reminds each of us, especially when we face adversity, how lucky and blessed we are in our life. She always helps us shift our focus from what’s missing, wrong, and not working to what IS working and what we feel grateful for.

Several years ago we started a practice of ending each day with ten minutes of writing down (journaling) the answers to the question: “What are four things I accomplished today? and “What are four things I feel blessed and I am grateful for today?” Even if we had a bad day, or felt that we didn’t accomplish anything we still answered these questions.

What I learned from this process was that I had an abundance of things to claim as accomplishments, and an abundance of things that I feel blessed and grateful for. In fact I had many more than 4 each day. And, the more I focused on accomplishments the easier it became to find them and the more fortunate, empowered and energized I felt. Standing in that space enabled me to accomplish even more.

Our writing practice compelled us to have more conversations on a regular basis about what we are accomplishing and what we feel blessed and grateful for. The ‘counting our blessing’ conversation became a daily affair, and as time passed it infected our kids and close friends as well.

As Fr. D’sousa wrote – the events, obstacles and ups-and-downs of our life should not keep us from living our life to its fullest, now. On the contrary – our day-to-day journey, no matter how good or bad, contains in it an abundance of small, medium and large victories, accomplishments and things to feel blessed about.

Living courageously means highlighting these accomplishments, embracing our fortunes and allowing ourselves to be inspired by our own life every minute and day.

If the ideas and practices that I shared in this blog resonate with you I encourage to try them on and share what you learned from that.

If you feel that you are great at living the moment – please share what you do to live in that space.

Courageous Living: When Ignorance Is Not Bliss

This is the final blog in my three-week series on blissful ignorance and awareness. Over the last two weeks, I have discussed the ways in which ignorance of certain information can be both empowering and disempowering (Is Ignorance Bliss? & Blissfully Ignorant or Blissfully Aware?). This week, I will discuss the areas of our life in which we definitely want to be aware—and how to ensure we stay awake and aware in these important areas.

While there’s a lot we don’t need to know in order to be happy, even information that we are better off not knowing, there are a few areas of our lives in which awareness always trumps ignorance. These are the fundamental aspects of our lives—the people and things that are most important to us and that can either make or break our bliss. For many of us, these may include, but are not limited to, our:

  • Health
  • Finances
  • Career
  • Marriage
  • Family

There may be other areas of our life that also belong on the list—perhaps our close friends, a philanthropic cause, or some other endeavor that gives our life purpose and that is included in our vision of a happy, successful life.

For each of these areas, there are certain questions we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis:

  1. According to my definition of success and happiness, what is my vision for how this area of my life would look if it was working perfectly for me?In other words, what’s my desired end state? In order to know if we’re on track to achieve our vision of a blissful life, we need to know what we are working toward—an end state with which to compare the actual state of things. If our marriage was working exactly as we wanted it, what would that look like? If we had exactly the career we wanted, what would we be doing right now or working toward? How would we be feeling every day at work? If our finances were completely on track with our vision for our family’s future, what would our financial situation look like?
  2. Am I blissfully aware in this area of my life? Or am I blissfully ignorant, thinking if there doesn’t seem to be a problem, then everything is OK?Awareness is an active state of mind where we gather and consider all the necessary information so that we know what is working well and what isn’t. So when it comes to our health, we are having regular checkups and taking preventative measures against potential health problems based on our age, personal history, and family history. We are having regular conversations with our accountant or money manager so that we have all the facts about our financial well-being. We are paying attention to our spouse and having conversations about the state of our relationship, rather than just assuming he/she is happy because we are not arguing or fighting. The same goes for our children. Just because they’re not complaining doesn’t mean they feel an intimate connection with us. If we are blissfully aware, we are actively seeking out areas of our life in which we may be ignorant. This is never about perfection, and we can never be sure to have the ultimate awareness in every area. But, when we take the life commitment to be aware, stay aware, and even grow our awareness in all the areas that are most important to us, the commitment itself and the living of it is very empowering. For many it becomes life changing.
  3. What’s the current shape of this area of my life?If we are truly aware, rather than unintentionally ignorant, we have the information we need to accurately evaluate each area of our life and how it compares to our vision, or ideal, we want to achieve. Once we know what is and isn’t working well, we can start to take action. What could be improved? What could I do differently? What steps should I be taking in order to be happy and on track for achieving my vision?

Most people don’t think this way. They don’t have this kind of orientation or these kinds of practices. Instead, they just react to things in life. They don’t regularly ask themselves these questions, often because they don’t want to know. It’s easier to just go with the flow than to have tough conversations with our spouses and our children, or to be honest with ourselves about the challenging steps we need to take in order to have the careers we want.

Being aware ultimately leads to the happy lives we envision for ourselves, but it doesn’t always feel so blissful in the moment. It takes courageous thinking to be honest with ourselves about what we really want. It takes courage to own up to the way it’s going. And it takes courageous living to make it happen.

Building a Team of Warriors Starts with YOU

If you find yourself leading a group of people who are locked into that negative, cynical, victim mentality, how do you shift it? How can you not only avoid becoming mired in the negativity, but actually change it? In other words, how do you help your team transition from Worriers to Warriors?

The attitude and mindset of any organization or team, no matter how large or small, is always a reflection of its leader’s mindset and attitude. If the leader is a Worrier, the team will follow suit. If the leader is a Warrior, he/she will naturally create the same environment for his/her team.

In order to transform a negative environment, you must lead by example. In other words, start with yourself.

Transformation always begins with honesty. Honesty allows for awareness. And awareness allows for ownership. Ownership means understanding, accepting, and taking responsibility for what’s not working. In the absence of ownership, leaders tend to resist and to be defensive and in denial about their issues. When people own and accept their issues, they are able to engage others in conversations about change in a much more authentic, direct, and courageous way.

So, as a leader, start with your own authentic reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my attitude most of the time?
  • How do I react to issues, challenges, and bad news?
  • What conversations do I engage in when things don’t work or go wrong?
  • Overall, do I behave like a Warrior or a Worrier?

Leaders often have blind spots about their own attitudes and behavior, especially when it is of the Worrier variety. You may want to reach out to a few trusted colleagues, peers, superiors, and/or subordinates and ask them to give you candid feedback. Just remember: People will only tell you what they feel you are willing to hear. Even if you say all the right things, if people sense you are not open to receiving honest feedback, they will adjust their input accordingly. Make sure you are sincere about your quest to gain awareness and ownership of your issues before approaching others.

Many leaders tell their people that “feedback is a gift” but then react badly when they are on the receiving end. So people just roll their eyes, keep to themselves, and avoid authentic conversations.

It’s much easier, safer, and more comfortable to behave like a Worrier. You always have someone or something else to blame. You can also avoid taking responsibility and therefore certain risks in addressing the issues. Being a Worrier doesn’t require courage, but you pay a price for that comfort – usually in terms of lost collaboration, trust, effectiveness, quality of work, morale and company pride, and even financial success.

Most leaders sincerely want to create a Warrior environment for their teams, but many seem to be stuck in their old habits and reactions. When leaders start confronting and internalizing the “costs” associated with a Worrier environment, they are usually more willing to change.

Being a Warrior requires courage and even the willingness to change. But for those who want to feel alive and make a difference, it is an exciting existence.

Being a Warrior is like any other skill. To develop a Warrior mindset, you must commit to this way of being and regularly exercise those muscles. There are certain attitudes and practices that enable you to live and operate in the Warrior space.

In my next couple of blogs I’ll talk more about what these are. Stay tuned and see you next week.