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Feedback is a Good Thing

One of the best things you can do professionally is show you are humble enough to grow and improve. No one is perfect, and we should all take the time to reflect, embrace change, and get better at what we do and how we work with others.

Feedback should be used often, so go ahead and ask for it. If it is saved for just an annual review, you’ve missed so many opportunities to learn. Feedback early and often helps us all engage with more purpose and success, and truly keeps us honest. Even a quick touch point here and there can make a world of difference in overall productivity.

Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, don’t forget that it isn’t criticism. It should always be balanced and supportive. Honesty is important, but there’s always something good to reflect on, and there’s always an area of opportunity to address. We’re all succeeding with something, so don’t overlook what’s going well. When you step back and look at the big picture, sometimes just showing up is a win, right? Don’t skip the wins, even if they’re small.

It can be a humbling experience to receive feedback, but the more you ask for it, the easier it is to take. No one wants to hear they’re failing time and time again, so if you’re coaching a team or working with others, give feedback regularly, and be sure to include the high points when you do. More often than not, it should be about the positives you see in performance. Recognize what’s going right, so when you need to address what isn’t, you’re not the bad guy swooping in just to correct the mistakes. Even if you can’t be there in person, send a shout out by text or email, or make a quick phone call to congratulate success. Focus on what’s going well, and you’ll start building a more productive, satisfied, and engaged team that’s eager to meet and exceed their goals, grow as professionals, and be a part of your company for a bigger, grander purpose.

Find a Great Mentor

Everyone is always watching, both in person and online. We’re more plugged in and connected to external forces and influences than ever today, so our actions are always on stage. What we do, say, and even what we don’t do or say, can define what we think is important, because that’s what we show the world. It’s more critical than ever to do the right thing, to truly do good and be good.

When you have a great role model who can show you what good looks like, you can easily emulate success and use what you learn to lead responsibly. Someone to look up to can be incredibly valuable to your growth and development. I encourage you to seek out that mentor. Think about great teachers, coaches, and colleagues you’ve engaged with throughout your life. There are likely lots of people who’ve made an impact on who you are. What did they do that was so influential? What did they say that made a difference to you? Chances are, it was something that helped you think differently, move forward, and make better decisions. Find that best version of you, and a mentor to help you get there.

Don’t ever be drawn in by someone who gets off course, who gets away from what’s truly good. That’s not a valuable mentor. A role model who does the right thing is the one to hold dear in your life. You know deep down what’s right and what’s wrong. Choose your mentor wisely, and be a part of what’s good, kind, positive, and genuine. Be a part of what moves us forward, not what takes us back. Seek out a great mentor to help you get there, because we all have a responsibility to lead with character and integrity.

Have Values and Stick to Them

Each day when we wake up, we can choose to do the right thing. We have to be brave to step away from the crowd and follow what we know deep down is the ethical choice. It’s what will build our credibility and our reputations in the most genuine and productive way. We can be smart, talented, determined, strategic, and successful with short-term wins all over our resumes, but it’s our ability to connect with our values and let them guide our decision-making processes that will define our long-term successes and our potential to truly make a difference.

Let’s talk about the moral compass, a term we hear Dean Sandra J. Peart use in a 2016 article from Fast Company. As an alumnus of the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies, I volunteer at the school often and have the privilege of working with Dean Peart. She’s an incredible inspiration and a true role model when it comes to connecting ethics and leadership. In this article, she shares a quote I’ve grown to love. Peart tells us “You have to know what your values are and ‘where the lines are that I will not cross or the things I will not do.’” She makes a point to ensure we all understand why we should never feel pressured or pushed to do things that don’t align with our own values, especially since we’re so often asked to move quickly and make critical business decisions on the fly.

I love this concept of a moral compass. In a fast-paced world where it can often seem much more efficient to take short cuts to get ahead, we can quickly lose sight of what we really should and shouldn’t do. Getting caught in a spiral of asking for forgiveness rather than permission, or constantly sacrificing what’s right for what’s easy, will generally land us in a much tougher spot than where we began.

Of course, we’ll probably make mistakes along the way, occasionally getting off track from true North. I have, and these mistakes have helped me learn and grow more than all my successes combined. The mistakes are the things we don’t forget, and they help us get back to our moral compass so we can make the right choices going forward. The more we connect with our own values, the more we know ourselves, our strengths, and where we can drive progress with the most positive approach.

It doesn’t matter what your specific values are, but it’s important to know them, to understand who you are, and to commit to how you’ll use them in the most impactful and ethical way. I challenge you to write down your top three values, and keep them close by. Honesty? Integrity? Professionalism? It’s up to you. Revisit them daily and test yourself – are you embracing them fully? Do they guide your actions? Do they reflect your strengths?

When we truly start to live by our values and find our moral compass, we won’t have to think about them any longer. They should be an intrinsic part of us, right at the core center of our being. When we’re that connected to who we are, we’ll gain trust, build genuine relationships, find purpose, and make meaningful contributions wherever we go. True leadership shines when we have values and stick to them.

 

Reference:

Moran, G. (2016) How To Be Your Own Leadership Development Coach. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3063476/how-to-be-your-own-leadership-development-coach

Don’t Skip the Why

If you’ve ever tried to navigate through a situation or made a request with just the facts, you’ve probably fallen a little short. You may have wondered why things didn’t go your way. If you’re still scratching your head over this one, you may have missed the why in your message.

In one of my favorite reads, Start with Why, Simon Sinek tells us that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Consumers, colleagues – whomever – need to fully understand the innate value to really buy-in. You can’t just expect agreement or commitment without explaining why.

This can happen so easily when we’re communicating quickly, trying to knock stuff off the never-ending to-do list of life. It’s a go, go, go pace that doesn’t always provide a lot of time to stop, give a quick explanation of why we’re making a request, and move on effectively. But let’s be real for a moment: if we don’t stop and explain why, no one will ever be on board. We’ll spend more time back-tracking and looking for alternative solutions than getting straight to the source.

Think about when you were younger and you may have asked your parents for $10. If you just strolled into the kitchen and said, “Hey, Dad – can I borrow ten bucks?” Would he have forked it over willingly, or asked you to explain what it was for? Probably the latter, right? Well, why should life be any different now?

Whether you’re at work or play, you’ve gotta be able to explain why to make your way toward success, align your team, and drive progress. Why do we need the documents submitted today? Why do we need to change the procedure this week? Lead with a quick explanation of why, and you’ll be more productive, efficient, aligned, and ultimately a stronger team, because you’re all on board and understand the true value. Take time to explain the why to get where you need to go, and you won’t be alone when you arrive.

Keep Your Cool

In college I read the book Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury. In its fantastic simplicity, there are so many solid pieces of advice within these pages, it’s hard to pick just one to focus on today. For now, I’ll start with one of my favorites: Don’t react to emotional outbursts.

When we’re trying so hard to do our best, we can easily get caught in the moment and let our emotions take over. As Fisher and Ury articulate so well, when this happens, we tend to lose control, and in turn, lose some face. Our professionalism is truly at risk when we overreact or come to a discussion and literally lose our cool.

Strong leaders bring a sense of calm to a discussion, and can navigate through the toughest moments by staying even-keeled and open-minded. It’s a true test of strength to see if you can keep your emotions in check when the words and the feelings in the room heat up.

Why is it so easy to get so hot? Well, I like to think of it as we’re all coming to the discussion with the best of intentions. Our emotions stem from our overall goal to do our best, and when we feel we’re failing in that realm or we find our passions being challenged, it’s hard to stay cool.

I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth revisiting: I used to react – hard. It took a long time for me to really get to a point where I learned that sharing our opinions is valuable, but battling it out is not. You don’t have to be right or win to make progress. There’s no room for the figurative boxing gloves in these heated moments. What we need to make room for is open dialogue, learning from each other, and making compromises that help us navigate to a middle ground that achieves a common goal. It sounds so easy, but it really does take practice. You’ll probably make some mistakes as you work through some of the tougher moments in life, but that is just one of the many ways we learn and grow.

If you’re willing to compromise along the way, you’ll get there easily. The trick is to compromise on your objectives, not your values. Make solid decisions, be convicted, and do the right thing. If you react, it triggers an emotional response and invites conflict, not productive compromise. Does compromising mean you’re a pushover? No way. It means you’re a business professional eager to make a group decision that everyone can feel good about, even if the objectives need to shift slightly in the process.

So, the next time the temperature heats up, take a beat and get your emotions in check. Maintain your professionalism, and remember that everyone’s heart is in a good place. If you see emotions rising, don’t react with your own heated remarks. Keep your cool and remember to always contribute positively to see productivity rise.

Nothing is Set in Stone

Change is a good thing. Moving forward, keeping up with a progressive industry, learning about innovative technologies, embracing contemporary communication styles – whatever it is – it is so important to always stay up to speed, or even a few steps ahead. One of the biggest professional mistakes we can make is continuing to do the same thing over and over without trying our best to grow, develop, and evolve. We should constantly challenge how we operate, how we think, and ask ourselves why we do what we do. We need to remain competitive and relevant. When we commit to learning just a little bit more every day, and implementing the highlights strategically, we’ll go places.

Sometimes we have to take what we learn and make tough decisions. Not everyone is going to love them, but deep down we know they’re the right thing to do. In many cases, we just need to be able to articulate why, and then we’re good to go. It’s hard to always get everyone on the same page, but that’s okay because here’s the thing: nothing is set in stone forever. As leaders, we should to help our teams understand that embracing change is critical to our success. We can (and should) always go back and re-evaluate in the future, but it’s important to try to implement what we learn along the way to stay competitive. There might be a process update that rocks everyone’s world, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. If we’re all open to trying new things, constantly evolving, and tweaking the plan as we continue to soak up this information, we’ll make great progress together.

So, the next time you’re working through a daunting change process, remind yourself and your team that you’re committed to constantly making progress for the right reasons, ultimately for their benefit, so this is just a simple moment in time. It won’t last forever, and we will always get through the tough stuff when we work together.

Leading Doesn’t Mean Being the Boss

One of the hardest positions to embrace is being the person who needs to drive change or lead a team when you’re not the boss. That’s where true leaders and team players have their skills put to the ultimate test. It can be pretty tough, and it’s that moment when you might realize that relationships really do matter – a lot.

Managers have it easy: when your boss asks you to do something, you kinda gotta to do it. It’s part of your job and they’re the ones at the end of the day either signing your check or sending you on your way. Everyone wants to please their bosses. Hopefully, said bosses don’t actually approach their teams with a stick and a demand, but truly lead by gaining alignment, trust, and buy-in, but that’s a conversation for another day, and one we’ll certainly spend some time on later.

For now, think about what happens when you’re not the boss. What happens when you’re tasked with implementing a program or a strategy for a group that falls outside of your chain of command? Your leadership skills need to kick in more than ever, and you’ll have to rely on the relationships you’ve built along the way to make it happen.

Your professional reputation precedes you in so many ways, and to align any key group, you’ll need to make sure you’ve stayed true to who you are and built a strong foundation of character, success, and teamwork. They may not trust you because they haven’t had a chance to work with you yet, and that’s okay. It’s your job to earn their trust and make sure it’s abundantly clear that you’re truly in this game for the right reasons – for their reasons, not yours. When you lead with integrity and genuinely believe in what the team is after, it will all come together.

Let’s be honest…deep down, I hope that’s how you operate every day, regardless of any org chart or reporting structure. When you’re a leader, you inspire people, help them succeed, listen to their needs, and embrace their growth and best interests every day. You don’t have to be the boss to make good things happen. Who you should be is the trusted professional who brings a positive outlook, a can-do approach, a willingness to learn, and a sense of partnership. Good things happen when we work with good people; we get it done together. That’s teamwork and true leadership.

Take Ownership

No one wants to be wrong or admit fault, but when you do it graciously, you’ll earn an immense amount of respect. Taking ownership for your mishaps and showing your willingness to grow from these hurdles will elevate you to entirely new places. We all make mistakes, and it’s okay. We’re human and we’re not perfect. Let’s be real and admit them, and then move forward, respecting each other for our efforts and partnership.

We’ve never gained anything from pointing fingers or pushing the blame onto our colleagues. It’s not worth it. Be confident enough to know that you’ll get through it, even if you made a choice that wasn’t your best. I’ve learned so much more from things that didn’t go according to my plan than those that have, and the life lessons have made me stronger and more apt to make better choices in the future. We’re all our own worst critics, so honestly, you’re probably being too hard on yourself by worrying about it when these things happen.

One of the most gracious things you can do with a mistake is ask for feedback on how you can do a better job next time. When you’re comfortable enough to take a hit and get through it, you’ll bounce back stronger than ever, and ready for the challenges ahead. This is leading with integrity, knowing we can get through anything when our best efforts come from good places.

It Always Works Out

When you’re working with others, you’re going to have differing opinions. It’s human nature, and it’s totally normal, so it’s incredibly important to be able to work through those moments in a productive way.

Let’s be honest – little is tougher or more frustrating than having to partner with someone who always insists on getting their way. Sometimes you’ve gotta be the bigger person. Lead by example, and show how easy it can be to step back, look at all the various perspectives, and help find a solution that lands somewhere in the middle; somewhere where the outcome may shift slightly, but the product is still a win. There’s always a way to compromise and drive progress, even if your expectations change a bit along the way.

I used to react – hard. I wore my emotions right out there on my sleeve and if I wasn’t happy about something, you’d know it. Honestly, it wasn’t pretty, and it certainly didn’t do me any professional favors. It took a long time – and a lot of mistakes – to realize that my toughest, most frustrating, difficult moments really weren’t that bad at all, and everything would always work out.

I think it was another Yoga moment when I truly embraced the concept of letting go. Carrying around stress and worrying too much about navigating toward my personal perfect ending in each situation was eating me alive in life. When I finally got to that place where I could take a step back, embrace the bigger picture, and realize the outcome will always be fine, even if it wasn’t what I expected, life got infinitely more productive.

Digging our heels in just creates drama, and the last thing you want to be is the person who brings the drama. Seriously – don’t bring the drama! It’s so not worth it. You’ll have a much greater impact as the person who avoids it, or more importantly, helps find the solution to minimize it. When you take a positive attitude and an outlook of optimism to the conversation, you’ll find a way. It always works out, even if it looks a little different at the finish line. Take your guard down, be approachable, and be helpful. With an open mind, you’ll find a way to do the right thing, even in your toughest moments. It always works out.

Make Time for Yourself

For the longest time, I found myself worrying that I just never had enough time for me. I even put off starting this blog for years because I just had too much going on in life. Working, being a mom, teaching fitness classes, and trying to keep my house and family from a perpetual state of chaos took every last ounce of energy I had in a day. Sound familiar? Plus, I’m a sleeper, and when my head hits the pillow at night, I’m out. When I start to doze, there’s no turning back, and my productivity level is pretty much non-existent. I can’t stay up like my night-owl husband who can just plow through until 1:00 a.m. night after night. Nope. I gotta rest when the sun goes down.

So what did I do instead? I’ve finally started to get up at 5:00 a.m. for a little me time to create some healthy habits. My trainer is going to kill me when he reads this, because I refuse to get up and actually work out at 5:00 a.m., but I will write…and maybe squeeze in a few push ups too! My healthy habit is writing, and it’s becoming more and more powerful each day.

But let’s be honest – it’s not about me – it’s about you. Make time for yourself, and good things will happen. It doesn’t have to be writing, it can be anything. It’s whatever you need, when you can squeeze it in. Oh, and a little coffee helps along the way, especially first thing in the morning.

When you make time for yourself, you’ll start to feel more productive and accomplished. It’s really only about 45 minutes that I spend writing in the morning, but it is so satisfying to have those early moments just for me. It’s quiet, uninterrupted time to focus and deliver tangible results. I spent too many years talking about how I wanted to write and thinking that I never had time, so I finally did what I needed to do and made time. I can’t take too much credit, as it isn’t really a novel idea (writer pun intended…yes, I’m also a fitness instructor, so I’m a little cheesy too!). I’ve spoken to several people, including great authors I admire so much, who do this every day. Some get up before the sun rises, before their families hit the ground running, and they make it happen.

So here I am at 5:38 a.m., well into this post, and I think it’s coming together. Surprisingly, the words come to me early in the morning. When my alarm went off today, I didn’t even have to search for something to write. As my eyes popped open I thought about how I was starting to get excited to write again, and it came to me – write about creating some time for yourself.

So here’s a moment of truth: I try to have a plan, lining up my posts in advance and with a list of topics and tweets I’m excited to tackle, but sometimes you just have to roll in the direction of where your brain wants to go. Carve out that moment for you, every day, even if it is brief. So, stop hitting snooze, pour that coffee, and find that moment just for you. You’ve earned it, and the more you do it, the more you’ll grow to appreciate how important it is to cultivate your natural talents, your strengths, and what you love to do.