Try not. Do or do not. There is no try. ~Yoda
If you are chasing your dreams you need to go for it, not just ‘try’ to reach it. Give it your all. You might exceed your expectations if you focus on doing not on trying.
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Leaders need some flexibility so they can reach their goals. Whether you are leading teams or projects you will have a vision of the results, a plan to get there and the ability to adjust to circumstances that arise along the way. The secret to being successful is having the right amount of flexibility. There is a spectrum from very rigid to very pliant and we all fall along it in different places on each aspect of our lives.
A week ago my college aged son had shoulder surgery and he cannot use his left arm at all for the near future. Many people would sit around, feeling sorry and do nothing because of the limitations. He takes a different approach to it, he is very careful of his injured should but he looks at each situation in terms of what can he do not what can’t he do. This is a great mindset for striking the right balance in flexibility.
As leaders there are things we must hold firm to like our vision, our passion and our integrity. However, we need to be adaptable to new opportunities, new ways to reach our goals, and new resources that can help us move forward. When we create a plan there must be room for change and adjustments. Too often a leader builds a plan and will not deviate from it even when it is doomed to fail. This is blind allegiance and there is no room for that in a leader’s world.
When moving forward towards a dream or vision leaders must be willing to listen and change based on the input of their team. Others will see opportunities or come up with ideas that will move us forward quicker or more efficiently. Allowing that change to take place is critical. What a leader must avoid is giving up all control over the vision. If the leader becomes too pliant then the group can pull the team in a new and different direction which may not meet the original vision. Turning everything over without staying in control of the vision can lead to disaster.
Flexibility allows you to accommodate the needs of your team and adjust for obstacles or challenges. When you are able to adapt your plan to the needs of the team, the team will buy into it because they now have a piece of it. Obstacles and challenges require a change in approach where flexibility will lead to more innovative solutions. Flexibility in methods builds buy-in and creates an environment conducive to innovation.
Here are some questions to ask to maintain your flexibility balance:
Think of a slinky, like the one pictured here. They hold their over all shape yet to move forward they bend, twist and adjust to get to the destination. As a leader that kind of flexibility will help you succeed. Hold true to your vision, passion and integrity while adapting to the needs and ideas of those on your team. Stretch yourself to learn more, do more and go places you never thought possible.
How do you work on your flexibility? Share your best practices in the comments below. I would love to learn new techniques.
This is a time of the year when many of us look back on what we accomplished during the year. Did we achieve our New Year resolutions? Did we move closer to our big life goals? There are a wide variety of similar questions we ask ourselves whenever we reflect on our success. It’s important to reflect on our achievements and understand what we accomplished. However, it’s even more important to look at what our vision and mission really are and how do we get there. This is a great time of the year to identify how we can move forward in our life. We then set the stage for even greater achievement after the first of the year.
To achieve anything we have to first envision what it is we want. These may come in the form of written goals, a clear vision and/or mission statement, a vision board or just a deep sense of what we are called to do. Being clear on the desired endpoint is a critical step in reaching it. How do you know what to do if you aren’t clear on where you are going? This clarity takes time to develop; you must get in touch with your skills, your passion and who you want to be in the world. Establishing that vision of your future world creates a mindset that allows you to start moving towards it with purpose and determination.
Once you know where you are going it’s time to get moving forward. It can be hard to create a vision for the future but it’s even harder to take action to get there. Dreaming is so much easier than getting down into the trenches and working hard to reach your goal. Part of the reason taking action is so hard is because we of goals think in terms of grand accomplishments or big projects. Instead take the time to identify the first simple steps you need to take to reach your goal. This is about what can you do first, then what would come second, then what’s third. Start with the first things to do and the steps required after that will become clear.
You really don’t need a plan of action that details every single thing you must do to reach your goal. In fact, if you spend time creating that detailed of a plan you are closing the door on flexibility and new opportunities. As well, you set yourself up for failure. If you have a highly detailed plan and a detour comes up that is the right thing for you to do it creates a conflict – do I go with my plan or the detour? Many then get stuck or start second guessing their decision. This stops them from moving forward and they end up not reaching their goals.
So look at your goals and ask yourself these questions to get moving forward today:
Moving forward towards your dreams and your goals is a series of small steps that ultimately get you where you want to go. You just have to take the first one to start moving forward. As you move forward your goals will get closer to you and you will find the next steps to take in front of you.
What step will you take today?
If you are stuck and would like help figuring out how to start moving forward contact me for a Jump-Start Coaching Session.
When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.
W. Clement Stone
Have you identified what you want to do with your life? As 2013 draws to a close it is the time to be looking ahead to what you will accomplish in 2014. Determine what you want to do over the next year and start creating an action plan to make it happen. Now is the ideal time to get the ball rolling so that as the calendar turns to 2014 you will already be moving forward in the direction you have chosen.
If you, or someone you know, would like help in developing a clear mission and a strategy to achieve it, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When working with your team do you give them direction or directives? There is a marked difference between these two that will show up in the results of your team. Understanding that difference and knowing how to move towards direction will help you be more successful as a leader.
If you are giving directives you have taken on the role of dictator. This is where you tell people what they need to do to accomplish the team goals and objectives. Dictators take away creativity and initiative from their followers. People learn to blindly go where they are told to go. They will do just what they are told and nothing more. Engagement will drop to all-time lows, the team stagnates, and creativity stops. This is a path to obsolescence.
When you give directions to your team you are enabling them to find the best way forward. This creates an environment that fosters creativity, confidence and high engagement. People are excited to work for a boss who believes they can reach the goals without being micro-managed. In team meetings more and better ideas will be brought to the table resulting in new and more innovative solutions. The team will be more collaborative and will work together to get things done because they all know where they are going.
A benefit of setting direction for the team and letting them achieve the goals independently is that you will have more time to get your own work done. When you dictate every step each person takes, you are doing their job along with yours. There will not be enough hours in the day to get it all done. Free up your time by letting others solve their own problems.
To make this work you must:
Moving towards a leadership style that focuses on setting direction for the team as opposed to dictating actions will create an environment of creativity and growth. Your team will be more productive, more effective and they will grow beyond their current roles. There may be some who never manage to act independently so they may need a different role or they may need to move elsewhere. As a leader part of your job is to nurture new leaders. This is a great way to start identifying the future leaders.
Recently I’ve been asked several times about building relationships with clients as a project manager. I am a big believer that having a strong relationship with the client helps you manage the project more effectively. The trick to this is the relationship needs to be professional not personal. This is not about becoming best friends, it’s about business so be professional. The idea also applies to internal customers, bosses, peers or co-workers not just clients.
The question I keep hearing is how do you keep it professional? Too often people assume that building a relationship means something more personal than it needs to be. Here are my top three suggestions for having a professional relationship:
The idea is to become a valued business asset to your client. This means someone they can count on to help them reach their business goals. When you are working towards their goals as well as your own, you gain respect and build a great working relationship.
If you are giving what they want while sacrificing your profits and goals you can be seen as weak. Caving to every whim and request for them it raises the question of what you do for other clients. Where else are you giving in and when will that interfere with the clients goals? Also, sometimes the client’s requests are actually detrimental to their goals and they need you to tell them that is the case.
If you become too friendly it can get in the way of the tough decisions. No one likes to point out a friend’s mistake or say no to a friend. In business you must be able to say no and to keep people focused on the end goal. This is much harder to do with friends than it is with colleagues.
Building a good, professional working relationship with a client (or boss or co-worker) makes it easier to have a conversation about what is working and what isn’t working. When you know that you have the person’s respect you can safely point out concerns and get them addressed. Using the three strategies above makes it simpler to look at issues as business and get them resolved without the drama personal relationships can bring to the table. Once you have that professional relationship you can tackle tough problems in a mutually beneficial way. It takes respect and trust to make it work. Build both and you will be a better manager of projects and people.
Career development is a series of phases. The first step is to learn to manage you. This means learning to take control of your time, make good decisions and improve your communication skills. The next phase is where you start to move into managing others. In this phase you will start to take responsibility for building effective teams and managing multiple priorities for you and your team. Then you move into leading others. This is where you start to move beyond just managing tasks and responsibilities to setting a vision for others to follow. As you advance towards this phase it is important to take the time to develop your leadership skills.
Peter Drucker says it best “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Yet you don’t completely drop managing as you start leading. You still have to be in control of your behavior and you may still need to direct the actions of others. Becoming a leader doesn’t mean you stop managing it means you add new responsibilities to your plate.
Too often managing is treated as an ugly behavior that adds little value to people or organizations. This is maligning a much needed function in business. All activities have quality levels that must be maintained and customer demand to meet. Someone must keep an eye on the details of getting things done on time and on budget. This is the role of a manager. The title for this person maybe supervisor, project manager, manager, director or some other option. Yet the role is critical to the success of the organization.
Leading and managing don’t have to be mutually exclusive and probably shouldn’t be treated separately. Leaders need to set the direction and the vision for what people will be doing. Part of that includes setting expectations for what success looks like for the team. These are guidelines the managers and people can use to determine what needs to be done and when. Leaders who ignore the importance of those parameters will leave their team struggling to meet the leader’s vision.
Managing people without paying attention to the needs of the team is a dictatorship. To successfully manage it is important to take the time to understand the people on the team, what motivates them, enable them to see the purpose of what they are doing and help them achieve their goals. This will drive engagement, improve quality and productivity, all things good managers want to achieve. These are a result of leading the team more than just managing results.
Take the time to pay attention to the people and the business results improve. If leaders focus solely on making the people happy it can lead to a decline in business results. When you have more than one person working on something there will be complexity and complications that must be dealt with to ensure productivity. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a function of human nature. The trick is to balance an engaging and inspiring workplace with one that produces to customer expectations. This means businesses need managers and leaders, and in particular people who can wear both hats at the same time.
How do you balance the goals of the organization with the needs of the people? Do you find it difficult to lead people and manage results?
There are times when it seems like nothing is going your way. How do you react to it? Do you become a victim of circumstance or do you become a survivor who makes it through? Often it is easy to quit when things get tough or it seems like you can’t win.
Keep in mind that you may be closer to a break through that will get you to your goals. Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If he had quit instead of persisting who know what the electric light bulb would have looked like or even when it would have come into existence. When you have a goal you must keep going no matter how hard it seems right now.
For some great pointers on how to develop the skill of never giving up are found in this post by LaRae Quy: http://www.laraequy.com/blog/personal-leadership/the-number-one-skill-in-life-is-not-giving-up/. As she states most often we give up because we are afraid of failing. This is a fear we develop over time and can become a major roadblock to success.
As shown in these examples if we are willing to keep going, persist in our efforts to reach our goals we can have great success. We have to get out of our own way. The title of John Maxwell’s new book says it best: “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.” The question to ask yourself is: are you learning when you aren’t winning?
If you take the time to learn when things go wrong or when it gets tough you can get past the obstacles and keep moving forward. If you quit when it gets tough instead of persisting you will be like the miner on the bottom of the picture here. You turn back right before you reach the pay-off. True leaders will always find a way to keep going no matter how difficult it seems. They show the way forward for their teams as well.
Keep going, persist, learn and do something new to move yourself forward. The rewards will be amazing when you reach your goals?
What is your favorite thing to do that keeps you going when it gets tough?
Picture from http://www.lightweightfunny.com
When you look at your long-term goals how do you plan to meet them? Are you one of those folks who have a detailed step-by-step plan to get where you want to go? Are you someone who sets your vision and then figures it will all fall in place as it was meant to be? Or are you somewhere in between? Leaders need to have a balanced approach to making their vision come to life.
Personally, I am somewhere in the middle. I like to have some idea of how I’m going to achieve my goals and yet I like to leave some wiggle room for the unexpected detours that always seem to come along. This gives me flexibility to adapt to new situations and opportunities. I’ve done a lot of adapting over the years and some of the best experiences where unplanned.
I know some great people who have everything planned out and it’s great, until the unexpected happens. When things don’t go according to plan they fall apart, it can show up as anger, panic or complete withdrawal depending on the person. This can be a very rigid approach to life.
As well there are other fantastic folks I know who just go with the flow. They ride along with a general idea of what they want and where they are going but they let things happen. At times these people struggle because life isn’t going in the direction they envisioned. They become confused and sad at the direction their life is taking. This approach can lead people to become perpetual victims.
The approaches to reaching your goals that are at both extreme lead to additional stress as well as dissatisfaction with life and what you’re doing. Neither is healthy in the long run. Life is about finding balance in what you are doing. As a friend recently said he found that balance meant doing less of some things instead of trying to fit more stuff into his life.
If you are more rigid in your approach to life goals cultivate some flexibility and adaptability to the things that life throws your way. You never know, you may find a new path that is exciting and interesting. Sometimes really interesting and fulfilling opportunities appear in unexpected ways and places. If you focus too closely on one path only you will miss these chances. Who knows what might be out there.
If you are more likely to go with the flow cultivate proactivity. Start identifying steps you can take to reach your goals. It’s not necessary to plan every step in detail, look for 3 to 5 things you can do in the near future that would move you forward. Write them down and go do them. You may be surprised by the doors that open in response to your initiative.
Creating the future you want means knowing where you want to go, taking the initiative to get the journey started and being flexible enough to seize new opportunities that arise along the way. This is a balance approach to taking control of your life. Leaders need to develop a vision, get things moving and adjust to circumstances along the way.