Mediocre leadership sucks for the mediocre leader
Simply going through the motions day-after-day can make anyone want to crawl back into bed when the alarm goes off. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: If you are looking for a different experience of leadership, it starts with you.
I had some vanilla days
There were days when I supervised that I simply want just to get by. I’d watch the clock and pray no new fires would start. I wanted to fade into the woodwork.
I had some butterscotch ripple days
There were other days that I was on top of the world and loving what I did. Looking back, it was when I figured out something new, had a positive experience of dealing with staff or gained new insights into my leadership style that I felt high-spirited. When I was acquiring new skills and insights and developing myself were the days when I was high on life. Those days were obviously way more enjoyable.
We tend to hid
The difference is when we are on top of our game, when we are pushing ourselves and excelling is when life is much more satisfying. Too often what we are simply looking for instead, is to get by. We’re hoping no one notices us. We’re hoping to fly under the radar.
Yet, we hate not being noticed
When we do, and we get passed over, neglected or ignored, we are frustrated. We complain that no one encouraged us to apply for the new positions or take the trip to promote the company. It’s crazy isn’t it? We want to hide out unnoticed, and we want to shine all at the same time.
Hiding creates misery
In reality, it is when we camouflage ourselves at our desks hoping no one will notice us, is when we become miserable. Remember the song in Sunday School: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine?” That is the secret to fulfillment in leadership. You find way more delight in leadership and in life when you shine.
The way to love leadership is to shine
Outstanding leadership is when you become your best self. When you are absolutely in love with what you are doing the exasperating and maddening times are way easier to manage. They are not easy. There is some satisfaction in getting through them. It’s because you know they are pushing you to grow and develop even more.
Consider the Olympian
Think of an athlete who is running through drills, challenging themselves with growing new muscles in their body and mind. The competitor must avoid the chocolate cake and go to bed earlier. All of this is not always easy for them, but because they’re passionate and actively engaged in what they’re doing it somehow seems more manageable.
You are in training
When you embrace excellence, you see your common duties and the mundane day-to-day jobs become your classroom. The desire to outshine yourself and endeavor to better than you were the day before, infuses life with a little bit more excitement. Rather than “What will I have to face today?” you’ll awaken with an attitude of “What will I learn today?”
Becoming the master
The best way to consider this is to think about becoming a master. Right now you’re likely an apprentice. An apprentice is learning. They are watching others so that they can gain new skills. A trainee makes a lot of mistakes. However, they take the time to learn from them. As a student, they are continually trying new things because they want to become more and be more skilled.
Move from apprentice to expert
The apprentice watches her master asking questions, learning and accepting guidance. Gradually the apprentice becomes the skilled worker. Over time, they become the one that everybody looks up to. After years of work, they transform into the expert. Eventually, they become the master that others look to for wisdom.
Adding color to life and leadership
The apprentice continually grows and develops which means, no more mediocre. It is the addition of color and flavor. It requires the apprentice to step outside their comfort zone and learn new things. What do you need to do to move from the newbie to the master, from the apprentice to the expert? You need to practice outside of your comfort zone. You need to try new things. You need to learn.
Experts put their time in
Research has shown the experts are made not born. It takes about 10,000 hours, ten years or a decade. But not a decade of doing the same thing over and over and over again. It is 10,000 hours of stretching outside your comfort zone. If you want to become an exceptional leader you must work at learning new skills constantly.
From apprentice to exceptional leadership
If you want to move from a mediocre experience of leadership to an exceptional experience of leadership, you will need to grow your skills. Consider what it is you need to learn to be your best. Find it. Practice. Step outside of the camouflage and shine!
In a recent article from Forbes magazine, women are encouraged to break through the self-made barriers to be themselves and propel themselves forward. A cheer for women everywhere, yet a hard reality to face. Even though we know this, applying these lessons take courage and commitment. Where can women find that?
It's true for most women
I’m often reviewing the recesses of my memory looking for a story to tell my audiences. I want to share how I took the lessons learned in my leadership and life experiences and applied them to developing myself. By telling these stories, I want to motivate and inspire women to grow themselves. Sadly, I have many stories to choose from to share.
There was a time I was thrown under the bus by my peer, attacked verbally by an employee, and used as a scapegoat by my team when they were unhappy with union negotiations. I was looked over by my boss. I was afraid to apply for next level positions. And yes, I neglected my family more times than I care to remember.
The Forbes article
I regularly landed in all three categories listed by the Forbes magazine article, which indicates that:
My determination got me through
When I look back at my journey, it seemed just when I figured one thing out, there was another encounter to face. I came back, repeatedly facing those battles, determined to figure it out leadership. I was determined to figure out how to lead will and live fully.
Your fear is very real
Your encounters with fear of failure, family challenges and the feelings you don’t quite measure up are “normal” and very real. The question is how to overcome them. I will give you the 4 “easy” steps to overcoming barriers and finding confidence. The steps, I dare say, are not so easy. It takes courage, time and a deep desire along with immense support.
4 not so easy, steps to overcoming barriers and finding confidence
Courage is the ability to face your fears and keep moving. It comes from deep within you. It’s like this flame that burns, heating you up and encouraging you forward. The more you notice it and fan it, the strong it gets. Courage gives you the ability to do things even when you feel like not doing them.
It takes time. There is no more truth than that. The development of confidence doesn’t all happen overnight. It is continued focus and effort over time that will make the difference.
Passion is what heats you up. Think of a truly passionate moment with your lover. Now remember a heated argument. Both are passion. That heat is what gets your adrenaline flowing and gives you the stamina to have wild, passionate sex and to fight for what you believe in. Accessing that passion in your work helps to heat you up also and gets your juices flowing so you can dig deep and stay the course.
The only way through life is in relationship with others. We truly don’t do anything alone. My husband has always been the biggest cheerleader in my life and work. I’ve had good friends along the way who have encouraged me and pushed me forward. I would never have made it through my earlier career without two loving babysitters that not only cared for my children but also understood why I dropped them off each morning. They too supported my work.
It's not what happens, it is what you say to yourself about what happened
As the article indicated, these are inner demons. All of my fears, doubts, beliefs and insecurities started in my mind. Did my boss overlook me? Perhaps, but it was what I told myself about it that was far more damaging than what he did or didn’t say.
Overcome your inner voices
The ability to develop confidence and step fully into leading and living starts with getting control over what you say to yourself. Begin with the exercises above.
Take the time to grow your confidence
These exercises will help to grow your confidence. That increased confidences will allow you to lead and live, with purpose and passion and peace in your heart.
Join Kathy October 1, to grow your Confidence & Courage.
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Stop striving for work-life balance. It doesn’t exist. Nor should it. Balance is nothing more than societies way of laying guilt on working women
Cindy was seeing her kids for less than an hour a day
She arrived home and had only a brief time with them before she apologetically tucked them into to bed. Each night, she vowed silently to change things. It was the same promise she’d whispered to herself for months. But work needed her.
Cindy tried to make up for it on weekends
She found herself, however, exhausted and with little patience left. The majority of what she had for energy, focus and compassion were used up in the day-to-day grind at the office. Cindy craved balance. She wanted to divide her time between work and home and not have them interfere with each other. Yet she could never find a way to do that.
Work-Life Balance doesn't work
That is because there isn’t a way. If you, like Cindy, have wondered how to better juggle everything to find more harmony in your days, you are not alone.
Women are tugged at constantly
Working women, especially leaders, feel pulled in all directions. It’s not just work and kids. You also know you need to put some attention to your health and well-being. Likely you have some community groups that you feel a responsibility to. Your marriage, parents, and the renovation projects all scream for their share of your priceless time.
Dividing things equally is impossible
The point is that it is impossible to equally divide your calendar and your energy to each task or area in your life. You can’t spend 1.75 hours with your kids, 8 hours at work and…you get the point. There are weeks that you must work more than 40 hours, in fact, a lot more. Just the same, there are times when your family requires more attention.
How do you find more alignment without the guilt?
The answer has been presented in The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. They call it counter balancing. There are a couple of key things to know about this strategy.
Priories are the things we need to focus on. Everything else needs to be put on the back burner when we are focusing on that priority. This recognizes that we can’t answer the phone, when we are working on a report has been ranked at the top of your list. It also means we shouldn’t be reading emails at the supper table.
Prioritizing goes deeper than that
In our work days, we chase everyone else’s priorities. Often our own meaningful work never gets done. For example, many indicate relationships are key. Yet, we may plan to talk to an employee for days but never get to that conversation.
Prioritizing isn’t about ordering the tasks on our to-do list
It is about looking within and determining why we do our work. It is about looking at the bigger picture and having a vision for how to get there. Another great resource on how to do this is the book Essentialism by Greg McKowen.
Lean way out
Counterbalancing recognizes we can’t always walk along a path that is straight. There is no state of being completely balanced. We are constantly in motion. The approach is to sway back and forth. We will need to lean heavily into work some days. Other times life will draw us strongly into it.
Let yourself lean
When you allow yourself to lean in or out fully you will find more enjoyment and meaning in what you are doing. Imagine being on a beautiful Caribbean holiday, and checking email. That sucks, right? Now image being on that same beach completely shut off from work and simply soaking up the sun. You would find a more gratifying experience.
Stop feeling guilty
The same is true in projects at work. If you are feeling guilty about missing supper, you aren’t completely focused on the task at hand. Therefore you won’t be doing your best work and it’s going to take longer.
It takes a bit of getting used to
Keller and Papasan acknowledge it can be bumpy. When we put our focused attention on a priority, it means we are going to lean away from other things.
When you put time and attention towards these priorities, naturally it’s going to take the focus away from other things. This will put things out of balance, which is okay if done so for the right amount of time.
Engage in Counterbalancing
The key is for the right amount of time. Leaning way out isn’t bad. In addition to a particular work project, perhaps your health and your family are also priorities. If you stay at the office until 6 pm, it’s not the end of the world. Counterbalancing the long day is when you head to the gym after. You further counterbalance when you immerse yourself in reading to your child at bedtime, fully present to him and the story…cell phone in a totally different room.
Think of counterbalancing as your umbrella
Tightrope walkers carry something the to counterbalance them. They have a weight that pulls them back the other way. Your weight is your other priorities. It might be your health or family. By identifying it as a priority and then giving fully there too, you will find more of the sway back and forth, just as anyone who appears truly balanced is doing.
When you are out of balance, ask yourself two questions:
1) Am I currently focusing on my priorities or someone else’s?
If you are focusing on someone else’s, can you stop? Yes, you have a job to do. But are you doing someone else’s work because they didn’t do it? Are you chasing stats that you have sent already? Are you solving a problem that staff can solve themselves? Are you having a conversation that, if left alone for a couple of hours might become a non-issue? If so, step back, pivot and move towards your priorities.
2) What can I do that will counterbalance the effort, time and energy put in here, to pull me back towards my other key priorities in life?
We each have an internal bucket that only has so much within it. Everything continually dips out of that bucket. Conversations drain us. Work exhausted us. Chasing appointments, kids activities and a mile long to-do list depletes our reserves. What puts back into your bucket? It might be a massage, reading a book, having coffee with a friend or quality time with your family. Do something to put back into your bucket.
Counterbalancing can save your life
Getting really good as swaying back and forth will be the trick to being able to "do it all". But you must not get stuck on one side for too long. Know all of your priorities. Ensure that you acknowledge your umbrella there to support you.
Rather than the freaking out...I'm gonna lose it soon awkward dance you do, you will find the more controlled and comfortable sway back and forth. And while it may look to the naked eye that you are in balance, you will know you just got really good at counterbalancing.
Take a moment to write down your top 3 priorities in life and your top 3 priorities at work. Put the list of priorities somewhere that you can see them often. When you are out of balance, look to them to get back on track.
Developing solid habits will have you move from frazzled & frantic to focused & flourishing. Habits are the magic trick. They are the secret elixir and habits are the golden ticket. Success in any career or facet of life comes as a result of doing a few things routinely every day. Leadership is no exception.
1) Wake early
Early risers know that when they take the time for themselves in the morning, they are more grounded and relaxed as they start their day. It does mean you have to go to bed early and get a solid 7+ hours of sleep.
What to do when you wake early? Do things for yourself that you complain you never have time for. Meditate, journal, simply sit quietly and have your coffee.
How I do it
I wake at 5 am and do the following each morning: weigh myself, drink a large glass of water, shower, do yoga, meditate, read scripture, journal, read, review my goals and eat breakfast. Even on weekends. I may get up an hour later, but that’s it. All of the things I longed to have time for in the past are now done before half the rest of the world even wakes up.
2) Eat breakfast
You have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But here, is maybe what you didn’t know about breakfast. Willpower is the ability to stay focused on something or avoid other things. Strong willpower requires fuel. The fuel comes from what you eat and gets turned into the stuff inside you that helps your brain to be focused and clear. That clarity is what you really need in leadership. So, eat your breakfast.
How I do it
I have for years eaten oatmeal every morning. I’ve switched it up recently to an oatmeal pancake (oatmeal, an egg and cinnamon with a tiny bit of water). High in protein, the oatmeal fuels my body to be able to maintain stellar focus to work on what is important.
Our bodies crave movement, yet we sit most of the day. Get in the habit of going for a walk at lunch or when you get home. You might add a trip to the gym 3 times a week. Schedule it in your daytimer. You could also make exercise a regular part of your morning routine, seeing as you are going to get up earlier anyhow!
How I do it
One of the biggest changes for my confidence as a leader happened when I started lifting weights. Strengthening my body helped me to stand up taller and stronger and gave me an inner feeling that shows up on my presentation. I do 20 minutes of my mini trampoline several times a week as well as regular walking, yoga and yes, weights.
4) Take breaks
Habitually taking breaks lets your body, mind and soul relax. Leaders are “on” all the time. Being able to shut off for a few minutes several times a day helps to counterbalance the magnitude of stress leaders are faced with. Go for a walk around the block, step out back and simply watch the birds. Relax.
How I do it
Each morning, even as I work from home now, I have a break at about 10:30 and eat my yogurt. When I am writing, I use the Pomodoro technique and write for 20 minutes, take a 3-minute break and then do two more sets of 20 minutes. On the breaks, I stretch, look at something other than a computer screen and have a glass of water.
5) Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude allows us to move our vibrational energy into positivity rather than the negative cesspool we spend much of our days. Appreciate what has gone well. Recognize things that worked or that helped you out.
How I do it
Each morning when I journal, I write down a list of what I am grateful for. I try to emotionally connect to that feeling when I write it down. It has meaning for me, and my body responds positively when I re-engage those feel-good emotions.
6) Write down goals
Knowing what you are working on, at work and personally are critical to achieving great things. Yet, many people have no idea what specifically they are focusing on. Writing down your goals, in a place that you can connect to each and every day helps keep them alive and you focused on them.
How I do it
I went through a process in December/January to help me clearly identify what I wanted to be working on this year. I look at those goals every morning. Once a month I write down how I have progressed on that goal. For example, one of my goals was to have 10 women register for Women with Grit this fall. In the summer, I recorded the behind the scenes work I was doing to get ready to open registration this month.
7) Focus on Priorities
Rather than trying to manage time, successful women know they need to manage the important things. In order to do that, you have to know what is important. That starts with knowing your goals as well as having a clear sense of what is standard day-to-day work. From there, getting clear on the top priorities for the day will help you decide what to do and when to do it.
How I do it
Each morning I write down the 3 things I MUST get done that day. I focus on those three things before I do anything else. Most days, those 3 things are done before 11 am. This also requires I have goals, I review my goals and I keep them up front and center, so I know what my 3 priorities are each day.
8) Ritualize pauses
Pauses are those tiny moments that most of us forget to takes throughout our day. By ritualizing them, you can increase their frequency. Take a deep breath before you get out of your car in the morning, after hanging up the phone or when you return from going to the bathroom (you are taking bathroom breaks right??)
How I do it
I make a habit of taking a deep breath when I notice I'm getting wound up. Whenever I am switching from one activity (writing) to another (social media posting) I stop and take a breath and a stretch. It's not a break, simply a pause.
9) Note daily lessons
Each of us is provided with lessons on a regular basis. When we notice them, we learn from them. When we don’t, we get the same lesson again, maybe this time with a little more vigour. Instead of a gentle reminder to eat healthily, we end up at the hospital. Forgetting something once, and not learning from it causes a big mess. Noticing lessons requires you to consciously look at situations, consider what you have learned from them and then apply the lesson learned to change it for the better in the future.
How I do it
In my daily journaling, I note lessons I learned the previous day. I may realize that answering the phone in the middle of my power writing time threw me off and so the lesson is to ignore the phone. It will heighten my will power the next time the phone rings rather than habitually answering it. Noting daily lessons helps me to develop success habits rather than mediocre habits.
10) Count successes (not failures)
We have been programmed to notice lack and scarcity rather than abundance. We notice what we didn’t get done on our to-do lists rather than celebrating what we did. Begin to notice the successes you’ve had. Note the success when staff who was about to pop their head in the door stepped back and kept moving as a result of boundaries you set yesterday.
How I do it
As I fall asleep most nights, I make a note of all the things I was able to do and accomplish and what worked well. I’ve also at times journaled this in the evening. Noting what I accomplished reminds me of progress on goals rather than only focus on achievement.
Adding any or all of these habits will drastically change your success and your happiness levels! What one habit will you work to establish in the next month?
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.