Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for January, 2013

Everyone has their issues.

One of the things I love about my work is how I consistently have the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their successes and challenges. What I’ve learned is that we all have those things that we’re great at and are proud of and we all have those things that are tough for us and may chip away at our confidence. As human beings we come to the business table not only with our rich business experience and knowledge, but with baggage that may have been picked up long before any of us were old enough to work, or with current emotions generated by the challenges of day-to-day life.

I’ve written before about the importance of confidence, composure, and courage in leadership and I stand by the importance of these attributes. However, I also know from my personal experience and as a listener that these 3 Cs can certainly be affected at different times during our lives. Whether we’re energized by the strength of our family relationships or successes, or we’re dealing with illness or grief or current challenges that bring up old wounds, our emotions certainly can impact our ability to be at our best. The trick is to center on what we have to be grateful for and do our best to connect with the emotions that strengthen our confidence and belief in ourselves. Sometimes this comes naturally and other times it takes a great deal of energy and focus.

I’m writing about this because I think it’s important to each and every one of us to be reminded that no one comes in a perfect package. We all have our joys and strengths, and we all have our issues—some unique to us, some common among us. So when we find ourselves feeling under the weather—when our confidence is shaken—perhaps we’ll remember that it’s about being human, and maybe we’ll give ourselves, and others when they need it, a little slack.

In my experience—5 leadership attributes needed every day on the job.

There are myriad skills and attributes that are crucial to effective and strategic leadership. The following represents what I’ve observed as the top 5 leadership attributes or skills that are called for every day on the job:

The ability to lead versus manage—and understanding the difference. As a manager, you analyze, plan, make decisions and take action—all critical to running an operation or organization. As a leader, you must engage others daily in order to create an environment where people are consistently motivated to take initiative and to do what it takes to be successful.

The ability to engage employees through presence and skilled communication. Every day, employees look to their leaders to demonstrate confidence, composure, and courage, along with thoughtful and skilled communications. Your ability to communicate effectively is aligned with your ability to orchestrate success among your team(s).

The ability to listen. Asking questions of your employees, with a genuine intent to listen, understand, and assess what you hear will offer powerful data to help guide your priorities and coaching initiatives.

The ability to effectively manage change. Based on our current business environment relating to technology, competition, a multi-generational workforce, and complex customer demands, change is inevitable. People sometimes have a really tough time moving through change. A savvy leader understands the importance of creating a sense of urgency, communicating for understanding and buy-in, and leading others through the tough times while ensuring the sustainability of the change. This takes a high level of emotional intelligence and skill.

The ability to drive accountability. Setting standards for employee accountability—whether you’re leading executives or support staff—is sometimes as simple as clarifying expected deliverables, establishing target dates for completion, and promptly and consistently following up when targets are not met. And, as the leader, it’s crucial that you serve as a model and demonstrate your own accountability.

I could go to work this coming week and easily come up with another list of attributes and skills that are crucial every day on the job based on what I observe in the field. Yet, I’m confident these 5 will stay on the list.

What do you think is most important on a day-to-day basis to lead effectively?

Simple 5-step formula for goal setting is powerful, and doable.

Happy New Year everyone! Returning to work and hitting the pavement running after the holidays, vacation time, and a houseful of visiting family I realize that this may be the first time I’ve missed a 2-week blog entry in almost 6 years. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for that long. It’s been a great experience because it’s kept me writing and it’s forced me to encapsulate and document what I continue to learn in my work and life. So, I’m back in the saddle, and here’s what I’ve got for you during this first week of 2013….

The first of the year, for many of us, tends to be a time to validate our accomplishments of the past year. On the contrary, it may be a time to beat ourselves up for what we’ve not accomplished! Either way, it’s sure to offer us a fresh start. In the event you’re entertaining a new or revisited goal, here is a proven and simple five-step formula for Goal Setting:

1. Establish your desire. Begin dumping on paper or in a document, your recurring thoughts about what you want to be, do, or have. Recycled thoughts tend to stress us out and can paralyze us. Dumping your thoughts out serves as brainstorming and generates movement—one idea generating another. For example, you might say, “I can’t keep up the stress of this job, I need to make a change, but I can’t afford to quit!” Then perhaps you can begin exploring by dumping (documenting) your current income and the amount of your monthly expenses. You can play with the idea, however crazy it may seem, to lower your bills by moving into more affordable housing, or giving up some specific luxuries. You might begin noting what you’ve thought of as ideal jobs without considering what they pay. Remember, this is all happening on paper only, like a fantasy. You’re not risking a thing. You’re simply exploring ideas to get a sense of your feelings about their feasibility, so that you can get a sense of your true desires! I strongly recommend a special notebook, document, or folder specifically created for all of your notes relating to your goal.

2. Explore (write about) each goal, dream or strategy fully. For each goal, or sub-goal, ask yourself these helpful questions and “dump” your answers into your designated goals notebook or document. If you’re not a writer, that’s OK. Just jot down phrases or words that best represent your thoughts. Once you accumulate and revisit your notes, you’ll be amazed at the data they’ll provide you about yourself and your quest towards your goal(s).
– How will accomplishing this goal benefit me?
– What can get in the way, or what am I afraid of?
– Who, or what organizations, do I need to contact or associate with?
– What specific skills and knowledge will I need to acquire, if any, to reach this goal?

3. Set specific target dates. Keep in mind that you can set a target date for a major goal, or you can set a target date to simply come to a decision about whether a goal is worth pursuing. Also, remember that commitment comes in all shapes and sizes. If you think sharing your goal and target date with a loved one will increase your commitment, do it! If you think it will have more power to keep it to yourself, do that. Either way, target dates will increase commitment.

4. Identify the necessary (small and doable) steps you’ll take to explore in more detail or to make your goal a reality. Use your answers to the questions in step 2, to create action plans. What call might you make to learn more about an organization, or what person might you contact to learn more about a specific area of interest? Or what small step might you take to help you overcome an obstacle you’re anticipating? Taking steps to explore or reach a goal should not be painful. If you plan a step and it seems too big, or you find yourself stalling, it may be too big for you. Break it down even smaller. If you can’t bring yourself to make a call today, can you get on line and research their contact information before the end of the day today? For every step you plan, it’s important to apply a specific target date.

5. Affirm and visualize. Listen to what you’re saying to yourself and others about your goal. Our thoughts and comments have a huge impact on our ability to succeed. Take a few minutes every day and offset (natural) negative thinking by reciting positive messages – in the first person (I), present tense (I am). One of my favorite affirmations is: “I am attaining my goals easily and effortlessly.” Then picture yourself in the situation you want to be in. Visualize your perfect situation already accomplished and do it daily.

The best way to assure yourself that this formula works is to reflect on something you already set out to do and accomplished. Surely, you established your desire to do it, had a place where you kept your detailed notes, set a target date, and took small, doable interim steps to get there. You believed it, found yourself visualizing your goal regularly, and accomplished it.

If you find yourself revisiting a goal, yet struggling with action, I hope you’ll try this formula and share your successes with us. Wishing you every success with setting and attaining your goals in 2013!