Taking Better Care of Ourselves in 2013: With the business world demanding more and more of us, how do we become more kind, nurturing, forgiving and supportive of ourselves, so we can be more of who we really want to be? This requires a mindset change to not necessarily do what we like to do all the time, but mindfully choose what will serve us the best. We need to be prepared to sacrifice old habits to make room for new habits that sustain us, a cumulative process that manifests through a series of small steps with recovery plans in place in the event of setbacks, resulting in building our muscles of self-care.
Creating a High Performance and High Relationship Culture: Organizational culture is not truly defined by values and beliefs (what we want them to be), but rather is a result of people’s behaviors when in relationship to execute desired results. In the context of what needs to be accomplished, what are the necessary roles and habits that set up how people work and function together? How do they address proactive recovery and learning? Far too often leaders focus merely on the metrics and action plans, going into gridlock when faced with upsets and difficult decisions. High Performance is a function of Execution + Relationships = Culture.
The Service behind Customer Service: Can you provide too much service? Yes, for if not done within the context of those wanting to be served, you can overstep your bounds. Paying attention to the actual need as opposed to satisfying your need to be needed is the catch, along with first being in service to yourself (and handling imbalances along the way), having clear boundaries, and being truly attuned to caring for others with no expectations in return. True customer service comes as a result of being in a partnership of shared accountability, not just relationship.
If You Survived the Oscars, You Can Survive Anything!: The recent television coverage of the Oscars Award Ceremony included sarcastic humor and an opening skit like a self-fulfilling prophecy predicting the show would be one of the worst recorded – which on many accounts it was. Leadership is not restricted to skills or abilities. It includes a consciousness, an invisible and carefully maintained ability, to bring people together and put positive things out that reflect back magnified, uplifting both the leader and the organization during times of challenge.
Increase Your Altitude through Leadership Consciousness: When we are in the midst of an argument or debate, or any situation that warrants peak performance, we are not in the best place to see through the situation because we are in it. In order to get unstuck from competition and set a clear direction, we need to become bigger than any one individual – go up in altitude and tap into the invisible, a consciousness towards a much bigger calling for the greater good. Participate in your experience and impact on others and yourself, and experience your participation, course correcting as necessary for the best outcome.
How to Be in Command When You are NOT in Control: Being on this planet is about learning, not about changing the rules of the planet. We need to make the best of every situation and learn to walk a very fine line to do whatever we can to in a sense take control even though we maybe do not have it. Once across the line, however, it is best to accept the circumstances, learn from them, consider what to do differently next time, and go to a higher altitude to gain perspective. The end result is building stronger muscles to be purposeful, deliberate, and conscious of our impact on others – here, now, present.
The Stop and Start Dilemma of Being Accountable: Being accountable is a process, not an event, so it is a challenge while in the process to not get distracted or look for an easy way out. Common missteps occur when we get in a hurry to get results, overlooking the difficult consequences on others, or falling into group think supporting one another in the wrong direction. Empower someone to play devil’s advocate. It is very important to take breaks when doing this work to avoid burnout, keeping an eye on the desired outcome at all times to not get bogged down in the tasks.
Balancing Ego with Your Unique Self Expression: It is important to put your business first and not let your individual style or potential limiting beliefs limit success. Whether you are a solopreneur, member of a team in a more conventional organization, or in your personal life working on relationships with others, being clear about your purpose and long term desired outcome helps to overcome limited beliefs, particular when you are in service to others. This isn’t about being right or wrong, but being wary of how beliefs can keep us from accomplishing what we want.
Going beyond Management Books to Do the Right Thing: Mark shares the story of a very successful, $1 billion business that has experienced consecutive years of growth since its founding 25 years ago – after the leaders actually had met at a coffee shop for 20 years beforehand to often talk about their individual failures and help one another! They have organically created the ultimate learning culture, manifested by open dialogue to get everyone aligned and focused for timely decision making, measured risk taking, and ready adoption and adaptation of outside ideas. These leaders value not taking anything for granted, and thus routinely contribute to needs in their local communities.
Influencing Senior Management – How to Avoid the Quicksand: Top leaders are in charge of the consciousness of the organization. Senior management must feel safe with the people they have under their stewardship, for as leaders they are accountable for things they often cannot directly control, on top of being accountable for a future that no one can predict. As a result, senior leaders work to minimize risk to move forward. When presenting a request for action, consider how to make THEM feel safe, have a recovery plan, be mindful of the timing of your request, and avoid rushing to a premature conclusion. What else is on the leaders’ mind that you need to be mindful of?
Influencing within the Squeeze – The Trials and Tribulations of Middle Managers: The toughest position to be within most organizations is the role of middle manager, caught between the often opposing needs and polar opposite positions of senior leaders and the troupes. This group of functional leaders can feel very isolated and left to fend for themselves, unless they turn to the power of interdependency vs. competition with their peers, and avoid a tendency to optimize just their area of responsibility in lieu of working the whole. When you collaborate with others you gain individual influence and power as opposed to lose it
Personal Freedom through Accountability: What would the world look like if we realized it is a choice to enjoy our work and life? The challenge lies in becoming aware of and addressing the triggers that distract us from joy, imprisoning and potentially trapping us. Worry, stress, anger, upset, fear. The story we create (or bring with us), not necessarily the actual reality, of a situation shapes our attitudes and reactions. Personal accountability starts with having a clear intention of what type of experience we want to have and doing the right inner work, in order to live in gratitude and learn from and with who and what surrounds us.
Thriving through Life’s Ups and Downs: How do we manage our expectations through the ups, not just the downs, to not set ourselves up to not lose a positive focus during the inevitable cycles in life? One way is to reframe the downs not as crashes, but like the seasons of the year. When a tree loses its leaves this is a temporary period, one necessary for the tree to rest through winter and thrive again come spring. Living through to and preparing for the next season can benefit from journaling, active prayer, reading for personal growth, creative endeavors, exercise, and getting organized in anticipation of the upswing. Relax, surrender and forego control.
Not Doing to Get Things Done: With vacations underway for many people and summer winding down, it often remains a challenge to really relax and replenish in this ever-connected, often oversubscribed lifestyles. A real vacation can allow us to reduce the distracting minutia of our lives and focus instead on more purposeful things, in particular our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves. Consider intentionally scheduling daily vacation time to reflect, revisit your priorities, recognize what serves you best, redirect and reenergize – so you can then serve others even better.
Stretching through Rapid Team Results (Part 1): While we may feel good and have a greater sense of camaraderie by attending team building events, seldom do the experiences dramatically effect team performance back at work. Execution in the form of changing habits and creating new links between people is where the magic lies to produce measurable and sustainable results. Athletic teams and theatrical performing troupes rehearse how individuals work together for the shared vision picture of success, practicing supporting one another in particular for when breakdowns occur, which they will. Rapid team results are dependent upon this coordination and shared ownership, as Mark discusses in the context of change at a large hospital in California.
Stretching through Rapid Team Results (Part 2): Every person develops habits to get the assignments they have been given done. In absence of in-the-field or on-the-factory-floor coordination, however, teams often turn to the norm of crisis management. Despite well-intended hard work, it is easy to fall into blaming one another for mistakes and choosing isolation within silos. Leaders in particular must adopt new habits of execution which in turn will shift how everyone interacts. Mark shares the case of a nuclear plant turnaround and a regulatory agency’s shift to enable support of an international crisis, simultaneous with an organizational culture change. Tangible business results are enabled from new execution habits, ownership of shared priorities, and relationships fortified by interaction agreements.
Breaking through Resistance for Breakthrough Goals: Whenever we create a stretch goal, whether personally or within our teams at work, there will always be resistance that shows up. In fact, the bigger the goal, the bigger the resistance. This is not bad nor good, but can become a trap as we may more identify with overcoming the resistance, which may or may not even be real, than stay focused on the goal. The best thing to do is acknowledge the resistance and keep moving step by step towards your goal. Keep your momentum. Once you arrive, voila, many times the resistance was never really there to start with.
Travel Light – Get Rid of Old Baggage: Anchors to our past, in particular goals we never accomplished or opportunities we passed by, keep us from being truly creative to address problems and see new options and choices here and now – TODAY. Anything that works well today will eventually become obsolete. It is just a matter of time. This does not mean that what is old is bad or wrong, but just no longer relevant particularly in a fast-changing, global world. Reflecting upon our success list and honoring lessons learned points us to the future and enables choosing to do things vs. falling prey to the force of habit.
Avoid the Activity Spin and Be Outcome Driven: How often we get caught up in processes, procedures, meetings and task lists, losing track of the experience of progress and falling instead into struggle, stress and burnout. Not to mention non-value added steps or unnecessary, out-of-balance pursuit of perfection. As an ongoing, daily practice we should get and stay clear on our desired outcome, not necessarily a metric-driven goal. Focus on the complete picture of physical and mental orientation towards a goal and how it affects everyone around us. For example, being purely focused on profit in absence of total financial success certainly spurs activity, but not necessarily sustainable, positive results.
Three Most Deadly Trends Facing Leaders: A business leader’s success depends entirely on his or her ability to get results. But getting those results has become more and more difficult in today’s more global environment of shrinking resources, expanding roles, virtual teams, and escalating pressure to deliver ever higher quality results in less time. The fundamentals of accountable leadership enable leaders and teams to identify and address the most deadly trends they face leaders today, trends such as silo thinking and bounded solutions at the root of these dilemmas.
Preparing for 2014 by Reviewing Successes in 2013: This is a two-step process, starting with reflection to “find the successes” like some great treasure hunt at times, since we are often so mired in deficit thinking, let alone distracted or disheartened by the externalities and pressures of organizations, families, our high expectations and so on. The key is to acknowledge our vision and what really did happen, how relationships may have changed, learn without judgment, and then step two, set a vision on what to do next round. Be ready to be surprised about the progress you really have made, and how the best results often come out of conflict and adversity once we allow time to shift our perspective and learn.
Positioning Yourself for 2014: A place from which to set the most impactful course for 2014 is actually at its end. What would you want to claim and tell the story about in January, 2015? What would you say were your accomplishments and what did you learn? How to you feel? The problem with conventional forward thinking (left to right) is we can get stuck in our habitual sensitivities around risk, resources, “tried that before, but …” Instead, think right to left, as if you have already accomplished and moved to a new state, so that you are not limited or restricted by the past. How would you do what you intend to do differently then? Positivity will pervade!
Copyright The Larsen Group: Architects of Change 2008