Own Your Next Shot

What are you doing to get inspired, to push your boundaries, or tap into that spark that moves you forward? If you’ve ever felt like you just need a little jolt to jump start your own momentum, try something new.

For Christmas last year, my husband gave me a package of tennis lessons. For me. Just me. Not for our kids. Not for himself. For me. Yikes. Now, if you know us, you’re well aware that he’s an avid tennis player (and I’ll boast a little bit – he’s pretty good, too!). My kids also love to pick up anything with a ball, bat, or racquet. It’s a joy to watch them. Yet despite the years and years of my own time playing soccer, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, skiing, and more, these days I’m pretty much just the mini-van driver who gets them to all their games, practices, matches, lessons, and more. I show up with snacks, cheer like a super proud mama, and even jump in as interim coach when the head coach is out of town. Basically, I know my role in this joyous season of life!

I haven’t played competitively since club and intramural sports in college. Sadly, I went down with an ACL tear in a sorority flag football league my junior year (please don’t judge, y’all; we had so much fun!). After that encounter and the 2-year recovery period it took to get back to almost normal, I pretty much called it quits on anything that required contact on a field or a court. Since that moment, something has been missing for me. Growing up, team sports fueled me deep inside. They’re truly ingrained in my DNA, which is pretty much how I fell in love with group fitness as time moved on.

As an adult, I’ve been a true fitness professional, teaching group fitness classes in all my free time for over 15 years. The group effect of working out with others has been a driving force to keep me going. Let’s be honest, though – that means riding stationary bikes, doing yoga on a mat, and getting my heart rate up in about a 40-square foot studio space for 15 years. So, when my husband surprised me with tennis lessons over the holidays, I got excited, and pretty nervous at the same time. Could I do it? Was I ready? Who in the world has time for this? I freaked out a bit. No joke.

I was anxious, scared, and worried. I had a huge fear that people would silently judge me for being an almost 40-something trying to jump into a game I had no business playing. I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough time to make reasonable progress and would probably just flounder through this lesson 5-pack and be ready to call it quits. Thanks, but no thanks on the Christmas gift, honey. I was pretty much petrified on all levels, even though this should have totally been in my wheelhouse. Sports, movement, activity, competition, and teamwork. It was everything that should make sense to me and drive me, but I was scared.

In a funny way, I think my husband knew all of that. He knew I would be nervous, pressed for time to commit, and I would never truly dive into the sport if he didn’t push me toward the court. So, he did it. He presented me with the lesson package on Christmas morning (artfully disguised in an empty jewelry gift box, I might add), and after a month of the paper certificate sitting on my nightstand waiting to be redeemed, he finally made me sign up for those lessons. Why? Because he knew I needed to do something just for me. He knew I needed something that would spark my interest, push me to accomplish something new, and get me out of my comfort zone to the place I used to thrive. He knew all of that was just what I needed – and he was right.

I’m trying not to get hung up on the whole “I told you so” concept, but he deserves all the credit on this one. He was spot-on with what would propel me forward. This was exactly what I needed. I needed fire, I needed something to strive for, and I needed to feel engaged in something just for me again. He saw how motivated I was when my friends convinced me to train for and run my first half marathon last year, and how the energy, commitment, and mental game behind the preparation for that event truly transformed me. He knows me well. So, when the training was over, the race was run, and the winter months set in, he knew I needed more. Dang. He’s always right!

So, here’s the moral of the story: push yourself, and don’t hold back. Try something new. Find what fuels you and do something that will get you into your own fire tunnel. I was lucky to have friends and family who challenged me to take a leap and become a better version of me, and I’m so glad I listened. That said, they won’t always be there to tell you or me exactly what to do, so own your next shot. Groundstroke, volley, overhead, or serve – it doesn’t matter which shot you take – just own it. You get to make the call, and go for it.

But wait: You’re busy. You don’t have time. Your family comes first. You have a full-time job that needs so much focus right now. Trust me – I’m with you. I have that job, that family, and none of the extra time. I’ve heard it all, right in my own head. I’ve said all those things to myself day after day after day and made zero progress at life. So how did I fix it? I pushed through it. I said yes to those tennis lessons and I ignored the chatter. I let myself unleash into something new, something different, something hard. By the way, this tennis thing is hard, but I love it. The fact that I have to work hard at it while I continue to show up and try harder is what keeps me going.

Challenge yourself to do something for you. It will, without a doubt, make you better at all that you do – at home, at work, at school, and wherever else you’re called to play. I promise you that. Find something that pushes you, something that grows you, something that makes you a stronger version of you. When you do, you’ll find the time you need. You’ll make it work. You may have to set down one thing to pick up another, but you’ll get back to it. It will be there waiting for you when you’re ready. In the meantime, you’ll become your best you, and all the other things that keep you busy, pressured, and tight on time will work themselves out. They’ll fit into each and every week because you’re more driven, more focused, and more passionate about life. You’re more YOU. Go be you. You need this, and I want to see you shine too, on and off the court.

 

Deadlines On The Double

They sound scary. They loom. They hang in the back of our minds and haunt us. Ugh. Deadlines. Let’s be honest, though: deadlines help us set tangible benchmarks to help us get the work done, no matter how heavy they may feel along the way.

In a world of endless hustle and slay each day, there’s a lot to tackle. Work, home, kids, school, volunteering, fitness, health, church, and more. It’s all the things. So. Many. Things.

That’s all they are, though. Just things. We can prioritize and plan all day long, have a killer morning routine, and wake each day before the sun to get started on all those things, but if we’re just tackling the day-to-day stuff and not applying our efforts toward our personal growth and overall big picture, then the really meaningful things won’t get done, will they? Nope. It will be the easy wins that get accomplished, just the small stuff we can power through with our eyes closed, that will rise to the top and checked off the daily to-do list. These little tasks still need to get done, no doubt, but when they take top priority, they will quickly cloud our ability to achieve more, masking the opportunities we have to truly grow. Why? Simply because we keep putting off our really big and meaningful goals for the small stuff.

No more, friends. No more.

So how do we tackle the big things head-on and make sure every moment of time and priceless ounce of effort we expend helps us move in the right direction, toward those bigger things? We create deadlines, internal ones, so we can genuinely make meaningful progress, wherever we’d like to go. We’ve just gotta do it. We have to set those measurable and productive deadlines and commit to them. C’mon – we’ve got this.

Here’s a great example: I’ve spent almost two years now working on a book. I’m really excited about it, and I’m super passionate about the topic. Wait for it…if I were actually working on it, like really writing words every day for two years, I’d probably have a pretty fabulous draft to pitch by now. Confession: to be perfectly honest, I’ve only spent about 6 months on it, and then toyed around editing here and there, picking it up and putting it down for the better part of a year or more. Whomp whomp. Fail.

Do I love this book project? I do. Does it inspire me to the core? Yes! Is it done? Nope. Is it close? Maybe, but not really. Why? Well, there’s no end in sight, and I’ve put zero legitimate expectations on myself to really get it done in a timely fashion. It’s just inching forward at a true snail’s pace – maybe even slower than that. It needs a deadline, on the double!

When I’ve committed to deadlines for myself on other things, I’ve hit them. I’ve crushed them, and I bet you have too. I can hit deadlines when they exist. If I didn’t set this blog post deadline, I’d be putting my passion for writing aside (yet again) for the 101 other workouts, activities, and trips to the grocery store I’d be prioritizing ahead of the stuff I truly love to do. Don’t get me wrong – I love all of these other things too (well, maybe not the grocery shopping one) – but it’s time to prioritize what fuels and drives us on the daily, with deadlines to push toward. Are your wheels turning yet? Do you have a deadline to set? Hmm…I bet you do.

Perfection may be the biggest enemy standing in our way, and we have to let that go. So, if the blog posts are so-so, and the book draft is just a sloppy copy first shot, that’s okay. It’s a start and it’s something. We can all push ourselves faster and harder to get the real work done if we just try, and it will get better. It will happen if we set deadlines, commit to them, and just do the work. We can’t overthink it, or for that matter just keep thinking about it. Our top priorities are only going to become true accomplishments and wins if we set deadlines and run toward the finish lines – hard.

So here we go.

One blog post per month in 2019: check (so far, so good). Deadline set.

Write a book in 2019? Yes. Deadline? Eeek. This is the hard part where it’s time to commit. Deep breath. Yep – let’s do it. My first draft will be done by August 1. Will I hit it? I sure will. We’ve gotta believe it to achieve it, right? If I don’t hit it, it’s not the end of the world, as long as I’ve been pushing forward in the meantime, working as hard as I can to make that deadline. The only way to fail is to not even try, or to not even set a deadline or write any words. Well, y’all – that’s not an option anymore. The deadline is set, and I’m running for it, typing words.

So be honest. Really honest. What are you running for, and what’s your deadline? Let’s commit together. I’m with you 100%. We’ve got this.

Get in the Game

When it’s time to move forward, whether it’s progress toward our company’s strategic plan, or a goal we want to accomplish in our personal lives (or maybe both), sometimes we just have to get in the game and push ourselves and our teams forward. We’ve gotta jump in and be a part of the great conversations going on all around us. They’re right there, every day. Let’s not let these moments pass us by. We want in, right? We have dreams to tackle, and if we want to truly achieve them, we have to work hard and push for them to make them come true.

Sometimes this means we need to give, and then give a little more. Let’s take time to give what speaks to us from the heart, so we can be a part of something bigger than what we see in our immediate surrounding. Other times, it’s okay to receive, to soak in the goodness we need to fuel our energy and be our best selves. We give, we take, we grow. There’s so much more right in front of us. Let’s boldly tackle more, giving a little and taking a little by playing in the game each day.

Be brave. Be courageous. Be you.

It might start with just one step into a new conversation at work or a volunteer activity with a new group – or hey, maybe it’s even a new blog – but it’s a start. Let’s make our way into a larger dialogue and truly get in the game. For me, it’s about helping others grow, learn, succeed, and explode as great leaders who are building something meaningful and progressive. It’s about inspiring and supporting the people who are closest to us. It’s about sharing what we love and being who we truly are in the process. It just takes a little heart, soul, and passion that might feel overwhelming at times, but pushes us to be our best selves, making a difference to those we love most.

Let’s be true and authentic, and let’s try something a little fresh and a little scary. We have to step on the field and courageously get in the game to even start to play. I bet you’ll surprise yourself with how great you truly are at your sport, craft, or calling. Just give it your best shot and soak it all in.

Take Your Time and Enjoy

So often in life we rush. We move quickly to fit as much into our day as possible, and ironically forget to appreciate the precious moments in between all the hustle. I’m such a victim to this harsh reality, and it’s time to slow down.

I realized recently as I was committing to another volunteer project, a half marathon training team with my girlfriends, and a few other things to add to the mix, I’m not taking on too much, but I am forgetting to slow down enough to enjoy the beauty in each individual opportunity. There are so many great things in life to enjoy, and it is possible – but we have to commit to the enjoyment. Whether it is time with family, discussions at work, a book to read, or conversations with friends, it all matters. We can spend quality time in each arena if we’re focused, not frantic.

I’ve been frantic for too long, worrying that I’m not getting it all done to the best of my ability. Well, face it sister – that’s okay. Just be present. Just engage positively. Just do your best in that moment, and it will all work out.

If you’re a type-A planner, organizer, and thinker of things on the horizon like I am, it becomes so easy to lose sight of what’s right here before us. It can be instinctive to focus too much on the finish line rather than on the mile we’re tackling in the moment. Yes, I need to start thinking in running terms if I’m going to make this half marathon thing happen…yikes!

When I look at my sweet little boys and see the joy in their eyes and the love they have for each experience they encounter, I realize how simply we can truly live our lives. We just need to focus on enjoying the bike ride, splashing in the pool, coloring outside the lines, and swinging for the fences with each pitch thrown our way. These guys live each moment with energy, passion, and the will to have simple and wonderful fun. They’re spontaneous, loving, and ready to run at any given moment.

So, let’s find our own ways to run, jump, and play. Let’s breathe in the happiness around us, focus on the now, and the rest will fall into place. We can still plan, think ahead, and take on projects and opportunities to enhance our own growth, as long as we find our balance and capture the joy that comes along with each day, embracing a few more of the moments that are here right now. Let’s just take our time and enjoy.

Some Love To My Fellow Moms

On this Mother’s Day, it only seems fitting to send some love to my fellow ladies who work so hard to truly be amazing moms at home, at work, and wherever we go.

You wake each morning, ready to tackle the day ahead, powering through your routine to make sure you’re ready for work before getting kiddos dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and lunches packed. If you’re one of the lucky ones, maybe you got to sneak in an hour to exercise first, but sometimes that’s a rare feat. You lather on their sunscreen and get them out the door, and if you’re anything like me, on more than one occasion you’ve probably left the house with mismatched earrings or mascara on only one eye because someone stole your attention while you hurriedly tried to get it all done. No worries – you’re a mom; it’s okay, and you’re doing your best. Don’t forget to pack the napkins you volunteered to bring for the class party.

Your days are likely filled with meetings, deadlines, proposals, reports, trainings, and more at the office. Your mind is racing as you’re trying to do your best to be the top-notch professional you know you can be. Your heart skips a beat when you look down at your phone and see the school calling, knowing in that instant your next call is not going to be the webinar you’re scheduled to lead, but instead a ring to the pediatrician because someone has a fever. Thankfully, today isn’t that day – it’s just a skinned knee and they’re letting you know everything is okay and not to worry. Back to work, but you’ve been there before. In that moment, you pause briefly and worry that your kids don’t get enough hugs, snuggles, and trips to the library or the park, but you know they love you and you love them right back even more. Every day you’re showing them what it means to work hard, be dedicated, stay strong, never give up, and do your best. The moment passes, and then you jump on that webinar with a little pang of guilt, but you know you’re doing the right thing.

You pick the kids up in the evening, probably after their after-school program as the last few moms are pulling into the parking lot right alongside you. You share a brief conversation with these gals, as they’ve quickly become some of your best friends. They get you. You get them. You have just a moment to connect and catch up, likely about the upcoming class trip to the zoo that you’ve both booked a vacation day to attend so you can chaperone and be there for your kids. As you walk down the hall together, you enter the classroom, so excited to hug your kiddos. The little ones embrace you – hard, eager to see your smiling face and show you their latest creation from art class. The older ones might be sad to leave their friends at the end of the day, but you know you’ll get some good conversations out of them right before you close the last page of tonight’s bedtime story. They have so much to share and you want to learn it all.

You drive home and tackle dinner, a load of laundry, a dishwasher to unload, some outside play in the backyard, and then it’s baths, stories, and sleep. You might fall asleep on the pillow right next to them. You try to rally after those final hugs of the night to spend some quality time doing something for yourself, or simply to have a few moments with your husband or a significant other. Sometimes you can pull those eyelids back open to make it happen. You might even sneak in a few pages of the book you’re trying to read, or the latest episode of your show that you DVR’d last week. Or was it the week before? How many weeks are you behind on this season? It doesn’t really matter. Life is moving fast, you’re exhausted, but it’s love and you’ve tried your best all day, every day.

You head to bed knowing you’ve given your day 110%. Your family, your colleagues, your company, your friends – every person and every project got your best effort. You mom like a champ, work like a champ, and know that when you follow your heart and do the right thing, it always works out. Your life is full and no matter what comes up, you’ve got this. You’re a mom and you’re amazing. Yes, you stumble and fall along the way, but with heart and passion you get right back up and dust off the scrapes and bruises just like you tell your kids to do.

So, today – no matter how the day unfolds – be thankful for the crazy in our lives, the love in our hearts, and enjoy both a moment for yourself and a moment with the ones who have made you so happy (and equally as tired), knowing that you’re showing your family the love, heart, and the commitment it takes to do the right thing.

Learn By Teaching

 

That particular Sunday in February was different than most Sundays. I wasn’t a student anymore, in fact I hadn’t been one for a long time, yet I found myself stepping onto a very familiar campus wearing a completely different pair of shoes. Gathering with former classmates in a building where we’ve all spent countless hours doing group work, crafting papers, discussing theories and models of leadership, and studying for endless exams, we met again – many years later. A little older, a little wiser, and a lot more experienced, we opened the big, heavy, wooden doors to a building we practically lived in as undergraduates. This time, however, we were alongside classmates who spanned nearly 25 years of graduating classes from our alma mater, The Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. We reunited to walk these familiar halls in new shoes and with a renewed purpose: to teach our real-life lessons learned to students who were eager to leap into their careers with the right set of tools in their toolbox of professional skills.

Every year I am honored to return to the school to facilitate a workshop for current students on how to deliver a great elevator pitch. It’s part of a larger program called the Jepson EDGE Institute, and it’s run by a group of dedicated alumni who develop workshops to help students prep most effectively for interviews, networking, internships, and more. Each time I facilitate a workshop within this bigger, grander program, I love to see those ah-ha moments where the theory and practice comes together for a new generation of aspiring professionals. A side bonus: I learn so much about my own strengths, opportunities, and more.

I return to this program annually for many reasons, but mainly because I truly love to teach. I love to educate and inspire hungry learners by sharing real stories that tie to real experiences, in this case it’s how to put your professional best foot forward. Partnering with former classmates, engaging in meaningful dialogues, answering thought-provoking questions, and helping young students sort through our advice so they can make their own career choices is truly my kind of fun and quite honestly, pure delight. I love seeing the sparks in the students’ eyes when the bigger picture starts to take shape – the shape of their own professional futures.

The secondary benefit, however, is that I always seem to learn a little bit more about myself. Each time I facilitate a workshop of any format or topic, I engage in feedback and self-reflection that helps me grow personally and professionally as well. I watch myself on film, just like any athlete preps for a big game, listening to my own inflection, tone, and observing my presence in the room. I pay close attention to how I answer questions from the audience too. Am I cutting right to the chase, or am I asking meaningful and intriguing follow-up questions to spark more dialogue? When it’s the latter, I know I’ve made progress as a presenter, leader, and advocate for professional growth and development.

I never skip the feedback or self-reflection process, always writing detailed notes and jotting down key phrases that came out of the discussions. I try my best to capture these crucial thoughts, so I can incorporate them the next time I give the workshop or presentation, and I save my notes for every upcoming session. I always, always, always actively craft a plan to make the next presentation even stronger. I take those observations and tidbits of feedback into my future prepping and planning process to push myself toward continual improvement, so I can ultimately deliver the best possible product to the learners.

Honestly, I am a continual work in progress when it comes to this stuff, or anything else for that matter. I’m not perfect, that’s for sure. No one is. We should always be learning, never stale, and certainly never done with our own development or continuing education plans. If we ever feel like we’ve arrived at our absolute peak, we clearly still have work to do. It’s humbling to continually learn from what works, what doesn’t, and to always try to get better, especially when it comes to teaching and training. If we’re truly in this game to help shape the next generation of impactful professionals, then we should work on our own content and delivery to make that happen, no matter what field we’re in. Its focusing on things like staying current on key topics in our industries, while making sure our personal experiences drive the essence of where we’re headed. When I teach, reflect, and challenge myself to step out of my own comfort zone, the learning takes even greater shape for me. Most importantly, it sets the stage for what I can deliver even more effectively the next time to support others in the process.

So, here’s a look at the guest blog I wrote about my most recent experience with this great teaching, training, and learning program, and what it meant to me to be a part of something way bigger than any one presenter or alumni volunteer could ever deliver alone.

It’s truly a group effort, and a powerful, team-based experience that takes endless dedication from so many individuals to pull off. It’s an honor to work with such talented peers, faculty, and staff to be able to collectively give back to these eager and aspiring students. What I learn about myself each time is simply a little bonus, but something that speaks directly to me when we engage as a cross-functional unit in this program. Maybe it’s because I’ll always be a student and true lover of learning at heart, regardless of what shoes I wear today and what path they walk along the way.

Be you. Enjoy you. Take time for you.

As I sit here and tell you it’s time to relax and unplug, I must admit that blogging, writing, and drafting my next article is my way to unwind. I may not be fully unplugged in this age of digital scripting, but doing what I love is so rewarding. Everyone needs to find their way to peacefully settle into that happy place, and this is mine. Putting pen to paper (or keystroke to laptop as it goes these days), is such a rewarding activity. It’s the process of just letting thoughts creatively stream onto each page in however they decide to take shape that always gets me. It doesn’t matter where I am, but if I have a moment to articulate some ideas and just be me, it’s exactly the happy place where I belong.

Each morning I wake up early and set aside an hour of time to write. Whether I’m working on my blog, my book, or a new article, I’m crafting away making just a snippet of progress each day. Taking a brief moment for myself when the house is quiet and the sun hasn’t quite risen yet, is just the spark I need to get focused and feel like I’ve had a little time to breathe. It’s so incredibly important to find this time for you, whether it’s morning or night, or somewhere in between.

Truthfully, though, this wasn’t always the case. I had to proactively change my routine and a piece of my lifestyle to find this precious time.

If you run at a lightning-fast pace, focusing relentlessly on working, parenting, staying healthy, volunteering, or anything of the sort, you may have found yourself in a place like where I was a few years ago. I was hitting the snooze button multiple times each morning, rolling out of bed in a daze to power through an action-packed work day, shuttling my family around town for various sporting events and stops at preschool, and then going to sleep each night purely exhausted (inevitably jumping out of bed a few times to take care of the kiddos) before waking up to do it all over again the next day. They were all rewarding and wonderful experiences, but before I knew it, years had passed, and I hadn’t stopped. Not once.

I bet many of you know exactly how this feels. It isn’t about struggles or problems or comparing varying degrees of chaos in our diverse lives; it’s just about time. If only there were more hours in the day, right? You’re incredibly grateful for every blessing in your life, but that feeling of sand in your eyes as you try to muscle through each day never seems to fully disappear, no matter what you do and what you face each day.

Taking time to stop, unwind, and do your thing – whatever it may be – is so important. My things are pretty simple: reading, writing, or sneaking in a good workout. I can feel such a difference in myself after I’ve taken that much-needed moment to unplug, and I bet you do too. When we take this leap into a just a few minutes of down-time, the results are remarkable. We’re rested, refreshed, personally satisfied, and in turn more productive at work and more engaged at home.

The key: be strategic about making time regularly and stay disciplined about how you use it. Find it and don’t let go. For me, I choose to sacrifice an hour of sleep each morning, but it’s an energizing hour. The first few days of finding this time were exciting. It was new, and while giving every ounce of energy I had to others, it was finally for me. Then, suddenly, it got exhausting and overwhelming as the reality of waking up early every single day set in, but I kept going. Before I knew it, it was a rhythm – a habit I couldn’t miss. I once tried to let myself sleep in for just a week, and all I could think about was how much I missed my hour of writing time. By the third day I was back up before the sun, returning to my moment once again. I just had to do it. It sounds crazy, but it’s my version of relaxation, and it is a big part of me now. How will you find that part of you?

So, as I sit here blogging away and taking my moment to unwind, I hope it sparks a little fire for you to do the same, finding your thing and embracing it. Be you. Enjoy you. Take time for you, even if it’s just a quiet pause for a cup of coffee and a few sun salutations in the morning, or a moment to read a few pages of a good book before you hit the pillow at night. It might not be every day, and that’s very real. Life happens. It might not be for a long or extended period of time either, especially if you propel through life at a similar pace, but you’ll be thankful you did take a moment for you when you wake up in the morning ready to embrace the true rewards we find in each day of our lives, however challenging or crazy they may be. We all feel it, we all need it, and we’re all better at tackling our own unique reality when we can have even just a moment to ourselves.

Encourage Strengths to Shine

Most people don’t live in a world of perfect clarity. We don’t always have a yes or no answer, or a vivid picture of exactly where to go next. Everyone has a story, a reason, a background, a unique path that’s defined where they are today. There’s gray – lots of gray. Understanding where people are coming from and what they may be feeling in their own experience is so important when it comes to working effectively with others.

We have to be okay with the fact that very few things are going to be purely clear-cut, with razor-sharp definition. We have to listen, engage, and make an effort to grasp the human element of each individual’s past, present, and future. Particularly when we’re navigating toward change and aiming to bring a team along with us, we’re going to find ourselves playing in undefined space quite a bit. It’s how we handle the process of working through it with our teams that can make all the difference and positively drive us toward the desired result.

When we raise the expectations at work, ask our teams to do something new, or simply just change part of the day-to-day game, we’re likely going to encounter elements of resistance, or at the very least, emerging or intense feelings. When we do, it’s time to listen. It’s time to support our teams as a unit with a common goal but know that everyone might need to take their own path to arrive at the finish line. Being supportive, understanding, and willing to work with them in a way that reflects their strengths and inner drive is key.

When we actively work with our teams and embrace this spirit of empathy, we’ll likely find that we can produce something much greater than any of us could ever do on our own. When we allow natural talents to shine as we forge a path toward progress, the outcomes become stronger than ever. We just have to play to the strengths of our individual team members, so they can stay actively present and engaged. This is where we allow for, within reason, freedom within a framework to achieve the desired results. If we let reflections of our unique beings emerge in the process of reaching the end goal, we’ll get there together. We’ll very likely have team members who are more committed to the process and supportive of the final results, too.

As we learn from Tom Rath in the Strengths Finder 2.0, people are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs when they are given the chance to utilize their strengths at work. That’s a big number, and one that we need to be aware of when aiming to truly drive genuine growth and progress. So, the next time we’re challenged with achieving a team goal, let’s think about the best way to arrive at the finish line. Let’s think about the human element that ensues along the way, and the power our teams have to be more productive and aligned when they’re free to let their natural talents emerge. It may not be a path of clearly black and white. There may be a little gray, but the final product will be brighter, shinier, and emit more clarity than ever.

Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0. New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2007.

Leaders Are Learners First

Ironically, the best leaders don’t think of themselves as leaders; we’re just a member of the team. We’re one of the bunch, and we work as a cohesive unit with our colleagues, peers, partners, clients – whomever we interact with on a regular basis.

The best leaders also know that we will never truly reach our peak or feel like we’ve arrived, because we should all be engrossed in a lifelong process of learning. There’s always more information to soak up, ways to improve, and innovative ideas that are untouched and ready to embrace. Whether its books and articles to read, podcasts to listen to, or social media feeds and blogs to follow, learning is everywhere. In our technology-based world, there’s so much knowledge right at our fingertips, and we should be taking advantage of every opportunity to embrace it.

We will best support our organizations and our teams for future growth if we’re taking advantage of all types of learning, truly engaging in where we’re headed and layering it on top of where we’ve been. So, let’s dive in and be ready to breathe new life into all that we do, and then share it as we go. It’s that dynamic combination of passionate experience combined with an insatiable thirst for more information that will ultimately propel our teams forward to be the game-changers, so let’s play. Let’s play hard and have fun with it. It’s our own responsibility to act so we can be a key part in where we’re headed together.

Let’s be learners first. Let’s truly be in love with learning, growing, developing, and understanding more today than we did yesterday. Let’s ask questions, get feedback, find out something new, and be fully in the learning game. It’s so worth it and it’s so refreshing. So, let’s think about what we want to learn, and get on it! Time is on our side, and it’s never too late to begin.

Set Realistic Expectations

In the game we call life, it’s important to make sure we’re always working toward progress while also creating realistic expectations. Setting ourselves up to be true to our word and able to achieve what we say we will is what starts to build trust, alignment, agreement, and understanding. The moment we say we’re going to do something or make a far-fetched reality come true and we find we cannot get there, we’re likely going to let someone down. That’s a place we can easily avoid with a positive approach and the right communication.

I always come back to the idea of searching for what we can do, not what can’t get done, because it keeps us grounded while also allowing us to achieve what we may not have thought possible prior to a second look. It’s simply the strategy of saying yes, but setting realistic expectations around when it can get done, how it can get done, and maybe even re-evaluating the outcome to define a slightly different finished product.

What does this mean? It means looking for the possibility, but not over-committing. It’s finding a way to see things from a new angle and making something positive work without letting everyone down. When we partner together with our teams, collectively work through tough scenarios, and truly embrace the possibilities instead of the roadblocks, we can get there.

If we’re setting clear expectations from the start and not over-committing ourselves, we’re on the right track, and even setting ourselves up to exceed expectations. That might mean empowering our teammates to take on more responsibilities, or phasing our way into new plans and projects, but with the right people, clear communication, and realistic expectations set from the start, we can make it work.

The funny thing is, it always works out. I use that phrase all the time when seemingly impossible stuff hits us. If we step back, evaluate the bigger picture, think clearly, work together, and define realistic expectations with a dash of patience along the way, we can always get pretty remarkable things done.