Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Effective Leadership Begins with a Strong Foundation


Guest post from Tabitha Laser:

What is leadership?  Since joining the workforce more than 25 years ago, and serving as a leader for numerous organizations, it’s apparent that leadership means very different things to different people.  Simply put, leadership is the art of inspiring, motivating, empowering, supporting, and assuring a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.  Unfortunately, the term is often confused with management, which can be defined as the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.

Why, in our current environment, is there confusion around these two terms and does what makes a strong leader still exist? 

Part of the problem lies with our current misconception around how organizations are led.  A day doesn’t go by where I don’t read or hear the term “led from the top.” This is what I believe to be a ‘deadly practice’ because it creates unhealthy competition, acts as a barrier for growth, and limits an organization’s ability to achieve sustainable success.  Allow me to elaborate on that.

Imagine your organization as a building, where its leaders are at the roof of the building.  Now imagine the workforce, processes, and equipment as the walls, fixtures, and foundation of the organization below, and your customers, market factors, and environment as the external pressures being applied to your building. 

If your building is made of bricks, picture the three little pigs’ scenario. Your organization will be able to survive quite a beating.  If your building, on the other hand, is made of straw, then it’s likely your organization will succumb to the slightest pressure.  

Regardless of your building’s strength, when your leadership forms the roof of the organization, you are creating a situation where they are practically forced to take on more of a “management” role that one of “leadership,” making it extremely difficult for that organization to grow.  In some cases, there has been growth; however, it has been as a result of falsifying data, back-stabbing, and other counterintuitive behaviors. That’s not a sustainable way to grow any business.

So, how can we fix this conundrum?  

First, we need to flip the script, and start requiring leaders to lead from the basement.  Not just from the bottom up, but from the basement.  They need to be the ones who define success, illustrated by the location for the organization and the expectations necessary to achieve success, which form the foundation for the organization.  When organizations are led from the basement, the challenge to build around them to grow is eliminated, and the building is encouraged to innovate, experiment, and expand far beyond the organization’s expectations for success.  Only then leaders will be properly positioned to truly spearhead their organization and provide the inspiration, motivation, empowerment, support, and assurance necessary to sustainably grow without limitations.  In other words, 

“The sky is the limit for a roofless building built on a strong foundation.”

When organizations are led from the basement, management is ultimately unnecessary.  This is a difficult pill for most to swallow, but a necessary step every organization needs to consider if they want to survive and thrive long into the future!


Tabitha Laser is a multi-faceted professional with over 25 years of leadership experience in a wide variety of industries ranging from oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and many more. Her diverse background has provided her with numerous opportunities to work with government agencies and some of the world’s largest companies, including Fortune 500 companies like BP, 3M, and General Mills. 
Her experience and education have fueled her passion to help shape the next generation of leaders, especially millennials, to avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors and lead beyond best.  Tabitha is the author of the book, Organization Culture Killers.  This is the first in a series of leadership books she calls “The Deadly Practices.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

6 Ways to Just Say No to Stress

Guest post from Janelle Bruland:


There is a growing epidemic that is killing us as leaders, and it’s completely curable. Our culture is filled with more anxiety and stress than ever. None of us were built to handle what we are all dealing with on a daily basis. The average knowledge worker today is interrupted every 11 minutes by some form of communication. Many of us wake in the morning and immediately reach for our phones which we strategically placed on our bedside table the night before so that it will be the first thing we see each day. The people in our lives expect an answer to their messages in seconds, and they think we are ignoring them if we take even a few minutes more than that.

The result of all of this is chaos and chaos creates stress. Stress is a killer. It effects our health, causes confusion, and steals our joy. If it goes on long enough it might steal our time here on this planet and that would be even more tragic.

So, what can we do? My guess is that if you are reading this you have probably been overwhelmed recently. In fact, many of you live in a constant overwhelmed state.

I have learned firsthand that living this way is not sustainable. I have a successful business that I started in 1995. In a time of exponential growth and expansion, my husband got in the car and drove away leaving me with three young children to raise. If there was such a thing as a stress meter, I would have been afraid to know what the numbers were at the time. How in the world was I going to continue to lead my company and keep up with my duties at home (and anywhere else, for that matter)?

Sometimes challenges like these turn out to be a blessing because it forces us to figure out how to change things. I did just that. My heart was broken but there was no time to grieve. I had to get to work on a solution. I didn’t always do it perfectly, but I did discover transformational systems and practices that not only allowed me to survive, but to thrive in the most stressful time of my life.

I would like to share a few of them with you:

1. Write a list of things you are going to say no to. That’s right. Not a to-do list, but a not-going-to-do list. For example, I say no to the opportunities that come up that I am not completely passionate about.  When we choose to participate in something, we should be excited to be involved, not doing it out of guilt or obligation. I also say no to things that are not aligned with my core values and priorities.  To stay true to our values, our words, behavior, and actions must be in line with our beliefs. I decline requests that are not in my wheelhouse. Often, we are asked to do things that truly belong on someone else’s “to do” list. Be sure to pass on those, or delegate them to a more appropriate person.

I have learned to avoid those things that drain me of energy as often as I can.  Our time should be spent on activities that we enjoy and give us energy, not deplete it. And finally, I say no to relationships that are unhealthy. We will never be our best if we are constantly having to lift ourselves up from interactions with unsupportive or negative people. Eliminate these relationships.

2. Cut back on technology. I know. Easy to say. Hard to do. We are all afraid we might miss something, right? But it will be there when you come back to it. It’s not going anywhere. This is a tough one, but doable. At first you will literally have a physical reaction to leaving your cell phone behind or turning it off. But keep doing it and eventually you will experience the freedom that it brings to be unhooked and you will want to do it more often.

3.Train the people in your circle about how and when you will be responding. If you have just walked into the gym and get a call that you know is not a life or death matter, let it go to voice mail and don’t feel guilty.  Schedule a time in your day for phone calls and email. Pretty soon, people will know that you are not ignoring them. Do this one thing and you will begin to live a proactive life instead of a reactive one.

4.Take care of your health. We are no good to anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves first. Commit to self-care. Fuel your body with healthy food. Find an hour a day to walk or go to the gym. Most of us are too sedentary. We work at desk jobs. Get moving. Schedule it and then don’t let anything keep you from it.
Exercise release endorphins that give us euphoria and joy. Endorphins are stress killers!

5.  Be grateful. Most of us live better than 90 percent of the world. Our complaints are usually, as one person said, “First world problems.” You will drive to work today in a decent car. You most likely live in a safe and warm place. Remind yourself often about how good you have it. If something needs to be changed, change it. One practice I use is to write down three things I am grateful for every day. This activity shifts my mindset.

6.  Go to sleep. If you do all these de-stressing activities you will find that you also start doing perhaps the most important thing to help relieve stress and clear your mind: sleep. Most of do not get enough sleep and, when we do, we don’t sleep well. Sleep is vital to winning the war on stress and having the life we always dreamed of.

These 6 practices were life changing for me. Incorporate them and enjoy the positive effects when you just say no to stress.


Janelle Bruland is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and high-performance coach
who inspires others to live impactful and successful lives. She is Founder and CEO of Management Services Northwest, a company she started in her living room in 1995 and has grown into an industry leading company, named one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies by Inc. magazine. The CPO of Microsoft, Mike Simms, describes her as a true pioneer in her field. Janelle is also the Co-Founder of Legacy Leader, a leadership development company that teaches business professionals how to build a legacy, transform their leadership, and love their life. She is the author of The Success Lie: 5 Simple Truths to Overcome Overwhelm and Achieve Peace of Mind.



Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Does Your Email Inbox Dictate Your Day — And Should It?


Guest post from Dianna Booher:

A reporter for Newsday called recently for a comment about his story on executive stress and the connection to email. As I shared stats from my organization’s recent survey, the reporter passed along comments from a CEO he’d just interviewed: “Email interrupts me all day long. I can’t focus on my core work. It’s 1:30. I have a project in front of me right now that should take me an hour and a half to finish. But because of the email distractions, it’ll take the rest of the afternoon to get it done.”

Do you feel this executive’s pain – the frustration of disruptions in focusing on your core work? The bad news: You’re not alone. The good news: There are simple solutions (not easy solutions, but simple ones).

My organization, Booher Research Institute, recently commissioned a survey of email habits and productivity from the Social Research Lab at the University of Northern Colorado. Here’s what a representative sampling of knowledge workers across multiple industries reported about their email habits:
  • 42 percent spend 3 hours or more per day reading and writing email
  • 55 percent check their email either hourly or multiple times per hour
  • 31 percent spend more than 20 minutes per day searching for information or files to include in responding to emails

Conclusion: If your inbox feels like an email monster, you’re not fighting it alone. Here are five proven strategies to getting through your inbox faster so you can focus on your core work and the important emails.

Declutter
If you’ve ever tried to move your belongings into a closet or garage previously used by someone else, you understand this principle: Get rid of the items that served someone else’s purpose before you reload that space. You’ll typically sort the previous owner’s junk into piles: garbage, donate, sell.

Look at your email box the same way: Over the years, you may have let it become a collection of junk serving everyone’s purposes but yours. And your own purposes may have changed over time as your role has changed. Cutting your email clutter can be the easiest way to carve away a big chunk of wasted time.

In the earlier mentioned University of Northern Colorado (UNC) survey, a whopping 69 percent of the participants identified clutter as their biggest email problem.
Once you set your mind to the idea, decluttering goes quickly. Let’s get even more specific about how.…

Ask Team Members to Stop Hitting “REPLY ALL” and Stop Doing So Yourself
Instead, of using “REPLY ALL,” send congratulatory comments directly to the person who deserves kudos. Offer thanks directly to the person who helped you. Turn down an invitation only to the appropriate person. Why clog up seventeen other inboxes, only to have all seventeen recipients echo back?

A good rule of thumb on the REPLY ALL feature: Is your response helpful to all on the distribution list?  If not, fly solo. Granted, changing the culture can be difficult. But aim to set the example.

Cull Your Distribution Lists
Chances are great that you get copied on many emails you don’t need. Their usefulness to you has long since passed. But you’ve found it quicker just to delete those periodic emails than to take yourself off the distribution list permanently.

In fact, according to the UNC survey, knowledge workers report that fully 35 percent of the emails they receive are either irrelevant  (22 percent) or redundant (13 percent). (Irrelevant emails refer to those about topics that do not apply to you. Redundant emails are those with the same information sent by multiple people.)

That “quick and easy” decision is understandable when you’re dealing with just one email. But over time, that decision amounts to thousands of distractions.

You also may be surprised to discover that culling your distribution lists for emails you send may increase engagement with the interested parties on important projects. As with meetings, the larger the group, the lower the individual participation. When emailing for input, the same principle applies: When you copy a large list, people feel anonymous, and fewer feel it’s necessary to respond. If you need their input, cut the list and you’ll increase response.

Stop Responding on CCs Sent for Promotion or Pressure
Hidden agendas. Backhanded compliments. CYA attempts. Whatever the label, you recognize these tactics when you see them. When you respond to such CC emails about projects and issues not directly involving you, this encourages the sender to keep up the self-promotion and the pressure tactics on colleagues.

If you’re ever tempted to write such an email yourself, by all means, do so. Just don’t send it. This strategy in particular may demand a new mindset and a major emotional adjustment. An email cannot be both a productivity tool and a weapon. While it may motivate some, it will demoralize others.

Turn Off Email Alerts or Disable Automatic Retrieval
In the UNC survey, 55 percent of the participants said they keep their email open either always (37 percent) or most of the time (18 percent). That’s a major distraction from your work – unless your primary job is to read and respond to email!

Instead, handle emails only two or three times a day: ideally in the early morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day. Responding every time an email pops into your box breaks your concentration, wasting minutes and energy with each interruption. Productivity studies show there’s no such thing as multitasking – just rapid attention-switching. That in itself creates stress, increases the chance for error, and reduces overall efficiency.

How you handle email can often determine the trajectory of your career—whether you piddle away your time or focus on your core work. Master your emails—make them faster, fewer, better —and you’ll stand out as a leader who communicates clearly and delivers real results.

Dianna Booher’s latest books include Faster, Fewer, Better Emails; Communicate Like a Leader; What MORE Can I Say?; and Creating Personal Presence. She’s the bestselling author of 48 books, published in 61 foreign editions. Dianna helps organizations communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. For more information, please visit www.BooherResearch.com