new growth

Stop Distractions By Going Back to Your Purpose

With all the distractions in today’s world, it’s easy for your focus to blur and boundaries around your time to erode. Devices, apps, and social media comprise the main technological distractions, with open offices and co-workers creating distractions as well. All told, it’s estimated that you are distracted from your work approximately 2 hours per day!

Additionally, you can create your own distractions. You might want to be (overly) helpful to others and be seen as a team player, so before you know it, you go out of your way and spend time on activities that are not about what is important to you/your team. It is also easy to distract yourself from the things you don’t want to do or don’t feel confident about doing. Moreover, simply the day-to-day busy-ness of life and work can pull you away from the important things to what’s urgent.

Go Back to Purpose

To re-orient yourself, go back to purpose. It seems odd that something as general as “purpose” can create more targeted focus. However, the reason you become unfocused is you lose sight of where you’re headed and the reason for all of your activity. And that reason your doing the work you’re doing comes from a larger purpose. Your personal purpose, the company’s purpose, or the purpose of an initiative can put things into perspective and allow you to re-dedicate yourself to focusing on what matters.

To that point, purpose is what you believe in. It’s “why” you do what you do. For example, at work, you might be leading a team to implement a piece of the company’s strategic plan. What’s the purpose of that plan – why is it important to the company and how does that “why” translate to the work done by your team?

Use Purpose to Re-Commit and Re-Focus Others

Simply re-stating the purpose is a great way to re-focus yourself and others. Even if your colleagues or direct reports disagree about the current work tasks, they will most likely agree on what the purpose is. Starting from this area of general agreement, you can then facilitate a meaningful discussion about what the most relevant daily and weekly activities should be. And this allows a re-alignment of focus. In general, go to the general ideals, like purpose, to re-align yourself and others when things get stuck or discombobulated.

Use Your Purpose to Focus Your Attention

Whether personal or work-related, check to see whether your time and energy is aligned to purpose. Look at how you spend your time over the course of a week (longer if you can). Can you see the connection between your purpose(s) and the activities you spend your time on and people you spend your time with? (Don’t expect that 100% of your time is tied to directly to purpose – you’re doing well if there’s a connection between a larger relevant purpose and at least 25% of your time.)

If it’s not evident what is important to you after examining how you spend your time and energy, it’s time to go back to your purpose and rededicate yourself to behaviors and activities that reflect it and further it. The next time you feel your focus waning or the boundaries around your time getting fuzzy, prioritize your weekly focus by aligning it with your purpose.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

employee engagement

Forge a Common Purpose to Unite Factions

Pursuing real change in any system is a challenge. One of the main reasons for the challenge of change is the reality of factions within any group. Because each faction has its different perspectives and different and multiple purposes around any issue or challenge, it’s difficult to hold everyone together under one or even two common purposes. Even in organizations where all employees are (or should be) united under the entity’s purpose, each new initiative uncovers multiple purposes for the various factions or interests involved.

For example, in my years as a HR Director, it was common for the Payroll department and the HR department to be at odds. This might seem strange because both groups have the purpose of creating a great workplace by ensuring employee fairness (in pay and work environment). However, each function comes from a different vantage point regarding those same employees. In carrying out the purpose of fairness to employees, Payroll often emphasizes consistent and accurate processes that designed with little flexibility.

In contrast, HR’s purpose of ensuring fairness to employees often occurs during situations fraught with miscommunication and non-standard situations. For example, it was not uncommon to learn of an issue with an employee’s reported work hours after Payroll had finished processing pay for the period. HR sought to rectify the situation before (of even just after) the pay was sent to the bank. Payroll would be frustrated processing had already occurred. Even if there were processes in place to make adjustments due to errors, the adjustments usually occurred after payday.

You see, Payroll typically had an additional purpose of creating a SYSTEM for numerical accuracy and fairness; HR’s additional purpose were often about FLEXIBILITY to address non-standard situations or miscommunication that occurs with people. Neither was correct or wrong. Each function came from a different perspective while pursuing a similar overall purpose. It illustrates why it’s important to forge a common purpose among factions – groups with different interests and perspectives.

How to forge a common purpose with the different factions you work with in your organization:

  1. Clarify your own purpose(s). List up to 10 purposes that are important to you. (Purposes are your “why” for pursuing a course of action. They are deeply-held beliefs that inspire you.)
  2. If you don’t know, find out the “whys” for the other factions you’re working with. What beliefs and “whys” are driving them.
  3. Look for overlap of purposes among individuals/factions. Focus the overlap to reshape and reframe them, so others understand and resonate with them.
  4. Be prepared to let go of some your purposes – at least for now. Concentrate on common ones.
  5. Get “real” with your common purpose(s) by using them to create or modify a concrete plan with goals, objectives, milestones, and timelines.

Even in complex situations with many factions, you can forge common purpose and use that purpose to create a plan to move forward.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Re-Inspire and Engage Your Team with These Simple Tips

inspire engage teamIt’s easy to lose focus on the fact that your team’s work is part of a strategic plan to accomplish the company’s big picture vision and mission. You can get so caught up your own focus and tasks that you assume everyone else is automatically aware of how their work connects to the company vision and mission. Consequently, your team and its work becomes mundane, reactive and uninspired. This kind of atmosphere can lead to higher turnover and lower productivity and engagement.

This disconnect between vision/mission and daily work happens in part because you forget that leading others requires you to continually make the connection between their work and the company’s vision, purpose, and mission. Also, you might be making assumptions that others can read your mind and that they know why they’ve been asked to complete various tasks. People are not mind readers. This is why you must be transparent, explicit, and quite frankly, redundant. After all, it’s said that people don’t really “get” something until they’ve heard it 7 times.

When you don’t share the vision and overall outcome with your team for a project or individual assignment, you’ll likely experience less cooperation between team members because they will focus only on their piece. Your team doesn’t volunteer their perspectives or participate in problem solving because they can only see as far the tip of their current task — they don’t see the bigger picture or the final aspiration. When your team is this myopic, they can become defensive when mistakes happen and look for someone else to blame. After all, they did what they were assigned.

Daily work happens routinely and re-actively; direct reports are uninspired; and your team dreads meetings because they are boring. Even one-on-ones become simple updates with little discussion or input from your employees.

How To Use Vision to Re-Inspire and Engage Your Team

To inspire your team and to increase their engagement in their work, use these tips to re-connect daily work to the big picture vision and mission:

  1. Communicate the vision and mission regularly. At the start of a project, during meetings, or when processing through mistakes or failures, make a brief introductory statement to remind everyone involved why you’re working on what you’re working on and what overall end results you’re headed for. Embrace any chance you get to remind your team of the big picture for why your company exists.
  2. Connect the dots from general vision to daily work. When assigning work to your team, describe the general outcome desired and why this outcome impacts the world, your customers, the team, etc. Then describe how the team’s work is meant to contribute to moving the company in that direction. Doing this provides your opportunity to discuss which aspects of the work are critical along with the timing of the work to reach milestones.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Converting an Abstract Vision Statement Into Concrete Reality

vision-achieve-goals-high-performanceI once worked for an organization where, even with an inspiring mission, its inability to convert its vision for the future into concrete reality made going working lackluster and frustrating. The employees had no clear direction for how to bring the vision (and consequently its mission) to life despite knowing their work was important.

Your company might have an aspirational 10-year vision statement. But are you really using it to propel your company forward? Do you have the courage of your convictions to turn that inspiring but abstract collection of words into concrete reality?

Many leaders stumble when it comes to turning any idea into tangible results, and it’s no different with a vision statement. It does take thoughtful intention and attention to bring an idea into physical form. Here are some ways you can do just that:

1. Chunk it down.

Your grand vision might be a 10-year projection, which makes it seem too large and too remote. Make this distant dream easily digestible and immediately relevant to employees by focusing on what you want to do in only the next 2-3 years. Thus, create a shorter-term vision for your current company goals (which tend to go out 18-36 months). By aligning the stepping stones of your overall vision with company goals meant to measure progress toward the vision, you start to connect the dots that allow employees to see how the longer-term vision is becoming reality incrementally.

2. Talk about the vision in all employee gatherings.

Give weight to the long-term vision by referring to it frequently. Whether there are 2 or 2000 employees gathered together, use the company’s long-term vision to remind employees why the topic at hand is relevant or important. This works in weekly meetings, project launches, employee performance review sessions, milestone achievement celebrations, employee recognition gatherings, etc. Referencing the vision when discussing, planning, or reflecting on what has been done helps others to see how the vision influenced and continues to influence decisions, conversations, and physical outcomes.

3. Tell stories.

Tap into our innate love of stories to illustrate ideals, concepts, or principles related to the vision. The stories you use can be timeless parables, “legends” from your company, or actual experiences that have happened to you or other noteworthy individuals and companies. You will find you often can convey an idea better with a story than with a mound of data.

4. Walk Your Talk.

Not much to elaborate on here. Based on the vision (and corresponding goals), start bringing that vision to life by acting on it. Use it to structure how you spend your time and attention. When employees see you altering your actions and attention based on the vision, they see you mean it and are more likely to do so themselves.

5. End interactions with a call to action.

Ask employees to take specific, vision-related action before ending any interaction. You might think that employees should be able to figure this out on their own. Some can. But don’t leave it to chance. Overtly ask employees for what you want them to do next to move the vision forward. And even better – hold them accountable to do so.

Nothing happens just because you think it. That goes for your vision statement, too. To bring your abstract vision to life, you must drop a bread crumb trail from the abstract to the physical for your employees to know how to breathe life into it.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman shows business leaders how to increase productivity and retention with their employees focused on the daily tactical work, so they can focus on the strategic work required to move their businesses forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Shift Your Leadership from Park to High Gear

shift leadership into high gearLeadership is the process of inspiring others to achieve what you have in mind. And it will be one of the most challenging things you set out to do. You may have found out soon enough that you can’t do everything to achieve your business goals alone. It may be even more surprising that your employees aren’t mind readers. Consequently, they often do things in ways you never anticipated . . . or not at all.

Like a finely-tuned machine, the component parts of your company must work together in a highly-coordinated and high-functioning manner. You can use the following touchstones to coordinate and maintain your “machine”, and you will shift your leadership from park to high gear:

1. Formulate and Convey Your Vision

Leaders create a compelling vision of the future to create mutual understanding and to enlist the enthusiasm of others to join in the bringing of that vision into reality. Create a detailed picture in your mind of where you want your company to look like in the foreseeable future. Then, share that vision, or at least relevant aspects of it, with employees in almost every interaction. This serves to describe the finish line you’re heading to and ties what employees are doing now to where the company is going.

2. Practice Humility

Truly powerful leaders know their capabilities and are comfortable in their own skin. Hold on to your confidence but set your ego aside and acknowledge that others have talents and capabilities that you don’t. Take yourself out of the center and out of the role of “doer” and see yourself as the conductor of a very capable orchestra.

3. Put Strengths in the Limelight

Great leaders know that strengths will move your goals forward, not weaknesses.That’s why it’s important to know which strengths you need in each position in your company, so you can hire employees who have them. Then harness and highlight those strengths through coordinated effort to move the needle on your company goals.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did this ourselves.'”  — Lao Tzu

4. Make Performance Discussions the Norm

Dynamic leaders know that high performance doesn’t happen if things are left to chug along on autopilot. It’s important to continually channel people’s focus and efforts on the right activities and to the standards required. Focus these discussions on key performance indicators and high-value activities for employees. Meeting regularly keeps you abreast of how they are doing. It also allows you to assist with removing obstacles and gives you an idea of training employees need. Additionally, you can more timely celebrate “wins” with each employee.

[bctt tweet=”Dynamic leaders know that high performance doesn’t happen if things are left to chug along on autopilot.” username=”@FirebrandCoach”]

5. Access the Wisdom of the Team

Leadership is about bringing employees together to access all available wisdom and using it to the company’s advantage. In small and large companies alike, employees depend on each other to get their work done. The beauty is that each has a different perspective and can see things the others can’t. Create regular opportunities for work groups or teams to come together to share what’s working and what’s not working. This will also allow them to provide advice and support to keep things moving forward in the right direction.

Your employees need your attention and guidance. Your leadership will shift into high gear when you learn that it’s less about you “doing” and more about you “allowing” others to do.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

 

This post was inspired by a conversation with colleague, Clay Neves.

Clay Neves Personal Sales Dynamics - Sales Leadership

Clay Neves brings 35 years of sales management experience to solve your specific sales challenges, with several Inc.500/5000 awards for sales growth. He designed, implemented and managed successful campaigns for Fortune 500 companies like Pacific Bell, Sprint, AT&T, Citibank, Showtime, and others. He has worked with thousands of business owners throughout the United States and Canada to grow their businesses, through seminars, workshops, and one on one coaching. He served as Executive Director of the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce and was awarded the Book of Good Deeds Award from the Murray Exchange Club for his community service.

Clay lives in West Jordan with his wife JaNae. They have two children, Janessa and Jordan. He enjoys playing his guitar, singing, writing poetry, solving puzzles, history, reading, and hiking the many canyon trails along the Wasatch front. He’s an award winning competitive speaker.

Contact Clay at clay@personalsalesdynamics.com or at 801-792-7929 for a STAR (Standards/Training & Tools/Accountability/Rewards) worksheet.

4 Leadership Focal Points to Guide the Way

focus, clarityI haven’t met a leader yet whose day is not full of information, fast-paced action and distractions.  At any given moment, you are bombarded with input from multiple directions. To appear “in control” and competent, you feel you have no other choice than to react to the situation demanding you immediate attention.  Now!  Yet, when you reflect on your day, you don’t seem to have gotten anything done.   You are exhausted.  How can this be?

The problem is failing to focus on what’s important.

Here are four tips for keeping your leadership eyes focused in the right direction:

1. Focus on making a difference with your employees.

Employees admire leaders who have a positive impact on others.  It shows that you understand that you are not the center of the universe and that you are here to serve others.  So, maximize the impact of you have on others by shedding your Superman cape.  Instead of you taking responsibility to react and solve the problem or provide an answer, coach those around you to think through possible answers or responses to the issue.  It not only shows your employees that you care enough to take the time to include them in the solution, but it builds capacity in those around you and relieves you of shouldering all responsibility.

2. Focus on being credible.

According to Kouzes and Posner, the one characteristic employees look for in their leaders is credibility.  You don’t have to be perfect, but to build and keep credibility, you must demonstrate competence, meaning you can cogently converse about what’s going on in your organization and industry and deliver on what you say.  You must be forward-looking to help your organization adapt to changing market conditions.  You must be transparent and honest, so others will believe what you say over time. Finally, you must be inspiring, meaning that you can communicate to others how they are part of something bigger than themselves and can achieve great things.

3. Focus on a common vision.

Crafting a vision for your organization takes work.  The REAL work starts when you start making that vision a reality. Communicating the vision in ways others can relate to and support takes constant effort and stewardship.  Keeping the vision in focus for others is a daily task that leaders must do.  You must “walk the talk” and live the vision by being an example and use that vision to constantly frame the work done in your organization — everything from how a receptionist greets visitors to the principles used to make big decisions about products and services.

4. Focus on learning.

Be open to looking at things in new ways.  Be curious as you approach new technologies or even problems. Ask questions.  Always seek to improve yourself by getting feedback on how you’re doing.  And view the workplace as one, big scrimmage field where people can take chances, practice and fail, and learn from their mistakes.

So, at the end of the day, ask yourself:
• Did I make a positive difference with at least one employee today?
• Was I credible?
• Did I further our mission and vision?
• Did I learn something new today?

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: : http://www.bethstrathman.com.

Leader as Thinker

neuron thinkingIt’s the end of the day, and you’re beat.  You’ve been “on the go” since 7 a.m. and you’re ready to call it a day.  Most of your days seem to go this way. Do you make time to think rather than react all day?

When I ask my clients when they do their strategic thinking, I get predictable responses – everything from a look of “you’ve got to be kidding” to a question like, “Really?  It’s OK to spend my time doing that?”  I take the responses as a symptom of American culture that preaches “to be busy” equals “to be productive”.

But the higher up the corporate food chain you go, the less time you should spend on “being busy” and the more time you can and should spend on thinking.  Insufficient time spent thinking about your business can lessen the quality of the decisions you make about it.

In the Western world, the basis of good solid thinking goes back 2500 years to Socrates in Ancient Greece.  His method involved asking deep questions and probing for answers before accepting an idea of as worthy of belief.   Fast forward to our experiences today, where we spend hours on activities that are quick, immediate, and/or passively mindless, like texting, watching TV, spending time online updating our status, or engaging in various other forms of pure entertainment.  No wonder we find it hard to believe that we ought to spend time engaging our minds in a deep, intellectual pursuit.

“Thinking time” doesn’t have to be spent alone in a locked office working on your company or department’s strategic plan (although that could be very productive).  It can be time you spend walking around a competitor’s retail store, observing how they operate.  It can be lunch in a nearby park, observing the comings and goings of local flora, fauna, and people, which may lead to serendipitous connections later on.  You can walk around your own corporate office, retail store, or manufacturing facility to observe what’s going on.

Would you rather think in tandem with others?  Invite someone out to have a beverage and conversation.  You can even spend your commute time thinking.  Whatever will afford you time for meaningful introspection and reflection is the type of thinking activity that will be beneficial.

The point is that your “thinking time” will provide you with information when you need it later on.  From observations, come connections, and the more connections you make, the better prepared your mind is to draw upon seemingly unrelated information and events that might just provide you with that next brilliant insight.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.