Giving

As we approach the close of a month filled with celebrations of great food, fun, loved ones, and time spent reflecting on what we’re thankful for, its important to not only be thankful, but to also embrace the spirt of giving. Whether we donated to a meaningful cause on #givingtuesday or found a way to simply enrich the lives of others, I hope we all made our distinct and impactful contributions.

As leaders in business, it’s important to think about giving daily. Let’s pay it forward and always aim to help others learn, grow, and achieve. Let’s prioritize the education and development process for our teams, and ensure everyone is set up with the tools and resources it takes to succeed. Let’s clearly communicate our support, so we can inspire those around us to do the same. When we give with our hearts and ingrain these actions into our daily lives, the spirit is contagious, and it naturally multiplies the good around us.

Seasonally, its everywhere, but the challenge becomes continuing this illuminating power of giving well beyond what we feel and see today. Taking action and making sure we embrace the spirit of giving in our daily lives is what truly makes a difference in our companies, our communities, and beyond. When we give each day, perhaps just starting with a little more intentional effort on teaching and opening doors for those right around us, we can inspire, support, and help everyone succeed.

Let’s give thanks to those who have invested in us, and think about how we’ll invest in others. Actions speak louder than words, so let’s take a moment to do the right thing and give with our hearts. Let’s give knowledge, give support, or just give a listening ear, and be fully present and intentional every day of the year.

Be a Great Coach

 

Great coaches challenge us. They give us feedback, but don’t beat us down. They artfully find a strategic blend between constant encouragement and ongoing development. They help us embrace more of our true potential. The best coaches are the ones who acknowledge that we’ll stumble (or should I say fumble?) from time to time, but they look at everything as a learning and growing opportunity. They know there’s always something good that can come out of any scenario. They help us navigate through these moments, and make sure we’re reflecting on what’s happening, so we’re prepared for the best possible outcome the next time. They realize we’re not perfect, and they help make us better every day.

Coaching on or off the field is an investment in people, and it takes work. It’s a commitment to who we are and what we believe in, so we have to show what good looks like all the time. When we lead by example, do the right thing, and help our teams get through the weeds, we’re on the right track. If we’ve had experience with great coaches, mentors, or leaders before, it makes translating this approach to our own teams a little easier. I’m very fortunate to be able to say I’ve had some incredible coaches in my life at work, at school, on the court, and beyond.

If you’re committed to being a great coach, you’ll be there for your team members, so they don’t feel lost or out there on their own. The simplest thing to do is to be available to work through anything, to bounce ideas off each other, and to figure it out together. You probably won’t have all the perfect answers for your team, and that’s okay. You’re real and you’re human too, and no matter how long you’ve been in your role, there will be things that come up that you’ve never had to handle or think through before. Don’t sweat it. Be available, be approachable, listen, and be willing to pitch in no matter what.

A great coach makes it known that their team can call on them anytime, and they’ll work through a strategy together. When we stay aligned and think through difficult or complicated scenarios with a unified approach, the magic happens. We share ideas, discuss the tough stuff, and ask each other questions, so we get to the best possible solution as a team. There are no surprises, because we’re communicating regularly and working as a unit. Leadership is truly about great partnership. Coaches who partner with their players, who maybe even get into practice and do the workout with the team, will achieve trust, understanding, and respect. Their players invest in the team and commit every day to being their best because they feel valued, supported, and appreciated. It takes significant effort, but it builds a stronger future. When players know the coach has their back, they’re in. Is your team in?

Be Grateful and Appreciative

Being grateful and appreciative is never overrated. When people go out of their way to do something for you, you cannot say thank you enough. The appreciation we show for each other helps us strengthen and develop the bonds of teamwork that move us forward every day. The more we say thank you for the positives we encounter, the more we see them multiply in effect. That’s when good things really get done. Teams succeed by helping each other out, so show a little love and give thanks for all of that hard work.

Working together to drive progress takes effort, and that usually means supporting each other out quite a bit. There’s very little we can achieve alone in business or in life, so when you see or feel a good deed in your presence, acknowledge it. When you notice your teammates going out of their way for each other, call it out and make it known. Let your entire team see their support is recognized and appreciated all the time. It’s worth it to no end, and they’ll be more likely to continue paying it forward and giving it back.

Believe it or not, the handwritten note never goes out of style either. It may sound like an outdated way to show your gratitude, but it is still by far one of the best ways to say thank you. Since they’re used so rarely today, notes might be even more valuable than ever. Taking the time to put your words of thanks on paper is truly a way to go above and beyond the expected in a world driven by fast-paced digital communication.

So, the next time you want to say thank you, I challenge you to write it down, pass it along, and send some happiness to someone who deserves to know you care and you’ve noticed their good deed. It’s the right thing (or should I say the write thing?) to do.

Always Learning

It’s so important to continue to grow, learn, and evolve every single day. There are endless opportunities out there to absorb more information, and it’s up to you to seek it out. Staying current in your industry and beyond is critical to your success, and the success of your organization.

If you dig in and learn, share what you come back with, and help your team members see what else is out there, you’ll probably inspire them to do the same. You’ll begin to see articles passed around, conferences discussed, and podcasts, blogs, and Twitter feeds on the recommendation list. You’ll gain insight from everyone’s different perspectives, and the creativity will start to flow.

When we value learning, whether it’s formal or informal, we open ourselves up to unlimited possibilities. We often stumble upon valuable concepts and new strategies in the process, and find ourselves inspired by what’s fresh, exciting, and potentially game-changing. The momentum we can create through all forms of education is infectious, and one we should take advantage of every day. When you tackle each day with a willingness to grow, your enthusiasm will spread and you’ll see success start to build.

So, stay current, stay relevant, stay informed, and know that the future of whatever you do probably looks different than it does right now. Be brave, be curious, and strive for something better than your best each day.

Leadership First

Have you ever stopped to think about the real difference between management and leadership? It’s funny how so often we have jobs that are titled “Manager” of this or that, and it’s so far from how we should really be approaching our actual roles each day.

Maybe in the sense of process, it’s okay to be a manager. We can literally manage the steps, the details, the deadlines, and the line items on an excel grid that need to be accomplished to complete a task. If your job is transactional in every way, then go ahead – manage away.

If, however, your role is about relationships and working with others, the game changes. If what you do centers around interacting with people (and let’s be honest – most of us work with tons of people every day), then I challenge you to set down your management stick and pick up your leadership hat to transform how you do what you do. You and your team will thank you for it.

Do you ever find yourself just trying to knock things off your to-do list to get them off your back? Do you get to the office each morning (or worse yet, sit on your couch each night) and power through a load of emails that landed in your inbox in an attempt to get ahead for the day, rather than lag behind? In the essence of time, do you fire off one-line responses that, whether you know it or not, might get taken wildly out of context and come across as cold, rude, abrupt, or even angry with just a few short words? Do you ever find yourself justifying that behavior by saying things like, “Oh, please don’t ever take my emails to heart. I’m usually just pressed for time and trying to get back to you quickly.”

Yep. We’ve all done it, and we may start our day out feeling accomplished and on schedule, but who do we harm along the way? When you’re a true leader, relationships should always be your top priority. Before you sit back down at your desk and reply, take a moment to think about your response. You may want to consider the human element in all that you do. It’s not hand-holding or coddling, it’s being thoughtful and professional. Think about the people who work with you, and how your actions will impact their experience, and their future. Do you want your team to see your willingness to help them grow and learn, or to fear they might upset you and always be watching their backs? Do you want your peers to know you’re a team player who is eager to work together, not in opposition, to accomplish a greater goal? Do you want to show how you’re a thoughtful and strategic partner with a vision for the future growth of your company?

Be the good in what you do, and don’t be known as the one who tackles each day as a reactive and impulsive task-master. Think about the people you work with directly and indirectly, put those relationships first, and you’ll see engagement, development, and productivity skyrocket. Be thoughtful and careful with each word you use (written or spoken), because each individual word counts. You don’t have to take a lot of time to be thoughtful, but you do have to choose your approach wisely. Maybe sometimes it actually means picking up the phone (so old-fashioned, I know!), to embrace the human element and engage in conversation. Your spoken word may land very differently than your written word, no matter how many times you’ve put pen to paper and thought you got it right.

Leaders think about people first, not just process. When leaders elevate others, act respectfully, and put effort into their relationships, the processes falls into place and is the natural next step. It might take more effort, and maybe a little more time, but the ROI is unparalleled. Grow your team, your business, and your future by being a leader, not just a manager, no matter what title is written on your business card.

Feedback Isn’t Criticism

It’s important to remember that feedback isn’t criticism, and if we deliver it as only areas of opportunity, we’ll alienate our teams, discourage their productivity, and curb all creativity and energy. When momentum is rolling, we have to encourage progress and simply help our teams make sure they’ve uncovered all the options in their decision-making tree that may be masking the best possible solution.

Here’s another thing about feedback: there’s always something good in there, so don’t overlook it. Your team members need to feel a few wins, so don’t ever hesitate to draw attention to what’s working and why it’s spot on. Feedback is a way to share ideas that spark conversation so you can find a better result by thinking through the tough stuff as an aligned unit. Feedback is always a combination of what’s going well and what we can do to improve. It’s gotta be a little bit of both.

Finally, when you’re providing feedback, it’s important to share it in person – always. Never deliver it in an email. Ever. Unless you’re just gushing about a fantastic accomplishment and you want to take a moment to recognize success (which we should all definitely be doing), make sure feedback is given in person. Engage in dialogue. Talk about what’s working and what we can continue to improve upon together. Ask each other questions and show you’re coachable too. Recognize facial expressions, body language, and have a productive conversation about needs, goals, changes, and next steps.

When feedback becomes part of your regular routine and it takes a helpful and positive angle, you’ll see your teams start to crave it, not fear it. The more you embrace it yourself, the more apt your teams will be to engage positively and ask for feedback. If we all open ourselves up to being humble, honest, and eager to learn, we’ll be setting up for long-term success and growing the next generation of strong and positive leaders in our fields.

Be Professional

No matter what you do, professionalism counts – big time.

Business professionals should uphold a sense of conduct that is unparalleled. Your position or title doesn’t matter when it comes to character. Your heart, your soul, and the strength to follow your gut and be good are what count. Maintaining that high standard of quality, however, takes more than just effort. It takes a strong sense of self to truly be your best. It takes a willingness to be humble, yet fearless. Fearless when it comes to doing the right thing, that is.

When you mentor or lead a team, or you’re simply someone who is highly regarded in your company, field, or industry, you should feel an intense sense of obligation to lead by example and do the right thing. Doing things well while doing good things is the best possible treasure you can pass along.

What you’ll find is your reputation will precede you – always. If you’re a person who does the right thing and still performs at exceptional levels, you should be incredibly proud of yourself. I’m giving you a virtual pat on the back right now for all you do. You should never feel the pressure to operate otherwise. It’s just not worth it, and it will eventually impede your ability to move forward, learn, grow, and help your organization reach its true potential.

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. Engage with a mentor who can help you navigate toward professional growth and development in a way that lets your powerful sense of character shine. This is the person who will challenge you and push you toward a higher standard of excellence while recognizing your wins – big or small – along the way. Your mentor will help you learn from his or her successes and mistakes, ultimately transforming who you are by encouraging you to reach past your comfort zone. This is the person who will leave a lasting impact on your professional development and your life.

The strength you already have in order to be a true professional (or to be a mentor who helps someone get there) is in you; everyone has the potential to find that inner glow. When you do, hold on tight, and embrace your commitment to being honest, genuine, positive, and true in the utmost professional way. It’s quite possibly the most valuable thing you can do.

Invest in People

When we’re learning about areas where we have great passion, we feel accomplished, fulfilled, and ultimately part of something bigger. We start to feel like we have more to contribute and give back. It gives us greater meaning, especially when we feel like we’re staying on top of our industry and relevant regarding challenges that face our local and global markets. Being current in what we do is a key factor to moving our companies forward. Essentially, the more people we can engage in what’s real and important today, the more people we’ll have to bring us into a future of productivity and relevance. When we support our teams and provide this type of learning opportunity, good things start to happen.

One of the best investments we can make is in our people. If we’re going to distribute our time effectively at work, it’s important to allocate as much of it as possible to developing a fantastic team. Depending on what we do, great people with the ideal skill set can be hard to find, so once you’ve got them, put some love into helping them grow, learn, and reach the next level on their professional path to success. Chances are, someone helped you do the same, so learn from that experience and do the right thing: develop great people, just like you.

When your team members know you’re putting in the extra effort to support their growth, they’ll be more connected and engaged. They’ll pay it forward as mentors to their peers and new hires, deliver impeccable customer service, invest their efforts back into a company you both believe in, and be your best team players – all because they feel valued and supported. Those are some of the very best feelings you can ever give someone.

I’m a huge proponent of continuing education and professional development. I’ve learned so much by attending conferences, reading books and articles, and going to trainings – it’s all key to driving success. Some of the most important things I’ve learned, however, came from being mentored by truly incredible leaders. People who have invested in me have left a huge mark on my professional development, and I’ve never forgotten their efforts. They’ve made a difference in my life, so now I do my best to make a difference in the lives of other eager and growing professionals.

One of the scariest things about developing people is worrying about what will happen if they leave. If we invest immense time, effort, and money into a team member who gains vast knowledge and skills and then moves on to a competitor or another company, haven’t we wasted our time? No. Not at all. Don’t worry about it. We’ve done the right thing by putting our people first. Our goal should always be to train, improve, and grow our team members in a way that fosters success and fulfillment. If they leave, then that’s okay. You might even pat yourself on the back and call it an accomplishment. It’s not easy to develop people, but if you do, and you do it well, you’ll be the one everyone wants to work with because they know they’ll be able to succeed and improve under your wing. Call it a good problem to have, and you’ll be okay.

Be proud when you invest in someone who moves on. Yes, you’ll want them to stay and give back, and quite honestly, most of them will. When people feel supported, they’re in, and its likely for the long haul (or at least for a significant amount of time to make it worth your effort). Your commitment to their development is all they need to stay. But when they don’t, it’s okay. Don’t ever take it personally. You’ve still done the right thing, and you’ve helped them get recognized as a professional with valuable talent. That’s a win, and something to be extremely proud of. You’re a leader. You’re a mentor. You invest in your team. You do remarkable things to support remarkable people. That’s a win no matter how you shake it.

Search For What We Can Do

Change is scary, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Too often, we let the familiar stand in the way of our potential progress. What we’ve always done can feel like an idyllic and picturesque comfort zone, but the familiar doesn’t always take us where we need to go to grow our business, our team, or ourselves.

Every day we face choices at work, at home, at school – wherever we are. Sometimes, we’re stoked. There are some killer options out there, and we’re ready to pick one and move forward. The team is aligned and it’s time to roll.

Other times, the choices are tougher ones. When we’re faced with complex decisions, I challenge you to search for what we can do, not what can’t get done. It’s so easy to stay where we are, but we want to make progress, right? Doing the same thing over and over and over will eventually make us all extinct, so it’s always time to evolve.

Yes, change can be frightening, but we can move forward, and we will get through it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way, it’s that it always works out. We just need to dig in and find a way to muscle through the tough stuff together. We can look at the big picture with our teams and find an answer we haven’t thought of yet to make the path to change a little easier to navigate.

There’s always a way, and there’s always a place to find middle ground on the route to success. When faced with a decision, maybe try not to say “no” right away, but instead ask questions to help drive an outcome that is possible, even if the terrain to get there looks a little different than anticipated. We can find a solution if we dissect the process a bit and come up with an answer together. The outcome may shift slightly, but we will always get there (or somewhere!), and we will do our best to make something work out.

Sometimes we must step back, look at the big picture, and take it all in so we can develop a strategy to tackle what’s scary, new, and different. It’s our job to bring possibility to the discussion, and sometimes we need to cut through the weeds to get there, but it’ll work out, and it probably takes a team to accomplish it. In the book Together is Better, Simon Sinek tells us that “Failure we can do alone. Success always takes help.” So, the next time you’re faced with a challenging choice, let’s figure out how we can help. Let’s tackle it together, ask the tough questions, and overcome the scary factor that can blind us from the possibilities ahead. It’s time to search for what we can do, not what can’t get done.

Integrity

Integrity is an interesting concept because we all have our own interpretation of what’s right and wrong. Depending on what our personal values tell us, which may stem from our upbringing, our influences at home, our environment, or many other external factors, we may have varying perspectives about what we should and shouldn’t do. Deep down, however, we all have a strong understanding of good and bad. Instinctively, we sense fear, danger, hostility, and all the things that sound our internal sirens and warn us that something’s just not right.

There are also black and white rules in our society, like stopping at a stop sign when we’re driving and never stealing things that don’t belong to us. These are things we’ve all learned are the right things to do. There are external factors that teach us right from wrong, and we accept them, whether we choose to obey them or not.

Integrity, defined by Merriam-Webster as the firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, is our interpretation of how we consistently bring the rules of society and our natural instincts together. It’s how we display our judgment and decision-making process to the world. When we operate with integrity, we select what we feel is the right thing to do, and let it shine. We embrace and display the moral and ethical code of values that define each of us.

It all starts at a young age. As my son prepares for his first day of Kindergarten today, I can only hope that the choices he makes will reflect how we have helped him interpret right from wrong by being kind, sharing, using his manners, and making good choices. His ability to choose wisely can be compromised so quickly when outside pressures and influences rise, simply because he’s still learning. His filter for right and wrong is brand new. He’ll make mistakes (we all do, even with years of experience), but if he can acknowledge them, course correct, and develop a decision-making process that isn’t influenced by peers, media, or outside sources, then we’ve done a pretty good job to help him shape his future. But that takes time, and it certainly won’t be perfect.

As adults, we should already be there, or at least pretty close. We’ve had the time it takes to understand consequences and develop strong values. We know what we should and shouldn’t do because we’ve learned from endless experiences. At this stage, it’s about choice. It’s about how we define what we’re going to do and how we react to our external environment at every moment. Do we let it steer us off course, or are we prepared to make our own choices based on what we truly know deep down is right and wrong?

Whether you’re starting Kindergarten today, or you’re well beyond your elementary school years (probably the latter!), what will you choose? Each day is a new moment. You can start now by choosing to do the right thing.