Women

Are You Keeping Your Gold Mine of Ideas to Yourself?

gold.jpg

If you have a useful idea and no one knows about it, does it really have any value? Well, I would argue that it doesn’t. If you find yourself holding back, what makes you reluctant to speak up? It usually starts with that fleeting thought that goes through your head.

Let’s take a look at three thoughts that might prevent you from sharing your views, and what you can do about each of them so that others can benefit from the value you bring.

“What I have to say is nothing earth shattering.”

If you fall into this category, take a second to ask yourself what others could gain from your perspective. Recognize that others don’t bring the same experiences you do, and what you see may not be as obvious to others (especially if they’re immersed in the issue/topic).

You may be dismissive when you have truly mastered a skill (i.e., you are unconsciously competent in performing it) or have deep expertise, because you know it like the back of your hand. Don’t underestimate the value you bring. While you may feel like you’re speaking for the sake of it, remember that others may find your comments insightful and relevant.

Whether or not you say anything new or insightful by your own standards, I want to remind you that there is tremendous value in being able to:

  • Summarize: This can help others in the room get refocused on what has been accomplished in the discussion and what still needs attention.

  • Bring people back to the big picture: Helping them connect the dots can refocus on what’s most important to the discussion at hand (especially if it’s been meandering).

  • Help a group see common ground: Noticing the alignment and common goals can help the whole group move forward, particularly when a range of perspectives have been shared.

"My idea is not ready for prime time.”

You may hear this from people who prefer to reflect before they share their ideas with others (often introverts). Unlike extroverts, who typically think and process out loud, introverts often want to be more thoughtful about what they say before they say it. At times this can be misconstrued as holding back ideas that could be of value to others, or perfectionism. If any of this sounds familiar, trust me that you’re not alone.

I would recommend that before you walk into a meeting; anticipate what might come up. What might they ask? What challenges may come up based on who will be present in the room? How would you respond? Taking even five minutes to prepare ahead of time will help you step out there a little sooner than you typically would, and with a stronger sense of conviction and confidence.

“Is this really worth my time and energy to share my views?”

Yes, we all have those moments where we are just ready for a meeting to be over. Of course you wouldn’t dare bring something else up because it may drag your unproductive meeting out even longer (and it’s already been going on long enough)!

Before you mentally disengage and start answering email on your phone, ask yourself what opportunity sits before you in this meeting. Remember that it’s up to you to see these moments as unique opportunities to accomplish something of importance to you and/or your team — whether it’s reinforcing your leadership brand, bringing direction to the group, advancing a relationship, or actually making productive use of an otherwise useless meeting.

I would ask you to identify one thing you need to keep in mind or do so that others can get value from what you uniquely bring. Don’t keep that gold mine of ideas all to yourself. Spread the wealth.

Networking for Results

networking.jpg

When we expanded our business into the Dallas/Fort Worth area, several people commented on how quickly we plugged into the local business community and asked what we did to make it happen. Here are three simple strategies that have worked for us and our clients.

1. Get clear.

Networking can be a full-time job if you let it. So before you dive in, clarify what you want to accomplish personally and professionally. Developing specific goals will help you focus on who and what matter most, make the best use of your time, and make networking less overwhelming.

Let's take the example of Susan, a leader who told me that she really needs to start networking but finds it draining and difficult. Given her busy schedule, she just doesn’t know how to make it happen. I asked her what she was trying to accomplish. Susan explained that she is ready to take on a bigger role at her company, but that she cannot travel extensively. She admitted that her ideal role may be difficult to get at her company, so she will need strong sponsors to make it happen.

In particular, there are two leaders who could strongly influence her career path. Susan needs to make sure that they know who she is and how she is adding value. As a backup plan, Susan needs to build her external network to identify opportunities outside her company. Because we clarified Susan’s goals first, she could quickly develop a list of people she needs to network with internally and externally.

2. Be consistent.

Most people focus on their networks when they need something. They typically view networking as optional vs. core to achieving their goals. If this sounds all too familiar, I would urge you to set aside time each week to strengthen your network. Remember that it doesn’t have to be time- consuming. Even 5-10 minutes per week can go a long way. For example, in less than five minutes, you can send a quick email about an event or article of interest, make an introduction to someone your contact would enjoy meeting, or ask for advice or input.

As you develop your strategies, think about what would be of service to the person with whom you are cultivating a relationship. Whatever your approach, communicate regularly so that you stay top of mind.

3. Show your stuff.

The best way for people to get to know you is by seeing you in action. Volunteer for something that showcases your strengths, fits with your passion, and helps you develop strong relationships with the right people. When you get involved, others will notice how you think and the value that you bring — as long as you follow through on your commitments. Otherwise, you risk damaging relationships instead of advancing them. Again, you don’t have to invest a lot of your time, but be clear about how much time you can give and carve out something manageable.

Because networking can feel overwhelming, start by developing one achievable goal. For example, you could carve out ten minutes this week to clarify what you want to achieve through networking. If you already know, invest those ten minutes instead to reach out to someone with whom you want a stronger relationship. Remember to look for opportunities within what is already on your calendar (e.g., meetings, calls, etc.), rather than adding more to-do’s to your list!

Learning the Unwritten Rules

rules.jpg

At a conference, I heard a senior director from Catalyst (a leading organization focused on advancing women) speak about Unwritten Rules: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You. Like the presenter, I wish I could say that doing a good job is enough. It simply isn’t. Although performance matters, understanding and playing by the unwritten rules can have a huge impact on your career advancement.

I want to share three of the strategies or “learning approaches” that Catalyst found in its research to help discover the unwritten rules. The research also reveals the effectiveness of each strategy in career advancement and breaks down the data by gender.

1. Observation

This approach involves taking time to really understand how things work by paying attention to what other successful employees do, how they behave, and who gets promoted. Almost 90 percent of survey respondents said they had learned through observation, and 49 percent would recommend this approach.

Most of us have a lot going on day-to-day, so this strategy may not get the attention it deserves. Take a minute right now to ask yourself how often you take time to simply notice what is going on around you and Connect the Dots. As organizations go through changes, and leaders move up or out, taking time to do this periodically may give you some important insight.

2. Mentoring and Feedback

The second key learning approach centers on regularly seeking guidance and input from others about what it takes to succeed, staying in tune with your own behavior and performance, and using the information to understand what matters most in the organization. Eighty percent said they used this approach, and 32 percent would recommend it to others.

Remember that engaging others in giving you guidance and feedback can also go a long way in creating sponsors, people who have a vested interest in your success and will advocate on your behalf.

3. Trial and Error

This strategy, which some may call “learning from the school of hard knocks,” is all about figuring out what works and doesn’t as you go along.

Although a huge percentage of respondents learned unwritten rules this way — 78 percent to be exact — only 18 percent found this approach helpful.

Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if someone just saved you the trouble and handed you a list of all the unwritten rules? Since that probably won’t happen, think about one small step you can take to put one of the most effective strategies into play for yourself.

Connecting the Dots for Others

dots.jpg

There's one area that I always work on with my clients that they never realize they need to work on. It doesn’t come up in our initial discussions about their coaching goals, but it does affect their ability to truly lead with impact and build a strong leadership brand.

Let me explain. Usually, when I ask leaders about the most critical things they want to accomplish from a business standpoint, they rattle off a list of things. The same thing happens when I ask about their teams. Very few of them can easily articulate the two or three areas of focus that guide everything they do.

For example, I have a client who has the remarkable ability to dive into a completely new area of responsibility, learn what she needs to, and restructure the work to maximize results. On top of that, she empowers and develops her team to step up and sustain the performance. She has done this time and again, and can give me countless examples. Through our work together, she has come to realize that her primary focus is on creating sustainable value while minimizing risk for the business and developing future leaders. This is her beacon that guides everything she does.

By realizing this (i.e., Connecting the Dots for herself), she can now articulate a consistent message about her focus and intent. This provides tremendous value because she can give others a way to interpret what she says and does by constantly framing her actions and decisions in the context of her areas of focus.

Remember that others will draw conclusions about what you say and do using their own filters — and they may take away something different than you intend. Let me give you an example to further explain. I have another client (let’s call her Michelle) who has a strong focus on supporting her team. This means that Michelle invests considerable time coaching her new hires, but she also recognizes the need to get her employees working independently without her day-to-day guidance.

So she was surprised at her new hire’s frustration when she scaled back her one- on-one time with him. Michelle knew that pulling back was the best support she could give him because it would serve him well in the long run. However, her employee didn’t realize what she was doing. He didn’t Connect the Dots in the same way Michelle thought he would. In fact, he had drawn the opposite conclusion. By explaining her primary focus, Michelle helped him understand that she was supporting him and how. He now has a way to interpret her actions and understand her expectations.

Remember that Connecting the Dots for others is not a “once and you’re done” exercise. You have to do it again and again — and you can’t do it unless you have Connected the Dots for yourself. So take advantage of the unique opportunity you have to provide a framework to give others insight into what you think is important, what success looks like, and what will guide your decisions. It will also create a stronger sense of conviction for you — about what you want to accomplish, how you will get there, and what you want to be known for as a leader.

Keep Your Passion Front and Center

passion.jpg

When I served as a panelist for OCA’s Professional Leadership Summit: What’s Passion Got to Do with It?, I didn’t realize how much I would get out of the experience. It forced me to reflect about my own career and how I’ve stayed in tune with what I’m passionate about over the years. I also benefited tremendously from hearing the other panelists’ stories.

So, I have three tips I’d like to share to help you keep your passion front and center:

1. Set aside time to re-energize and reflect.

As I have analyzed my career path, I realized that every three to four years I have taken some kind of big break—a leave of absence or sabbatical—to help me get perspective and clarity about what’s next for me. During that time, rather than obsessing about my career, I always focused on doing what I really enjoy (e.g., hiking, biking, international travel, etc.), to infuse positive energy into my life and give me the perspective I need to move forward.

I recognize that not everyone can take big chunks of time off. So, the next best thing is to make sure that you set aside time on a regular basis to reenergize and reflect. If you haven’t read it already, there’s a great HBR article, Manage Your Energy Not Your Time, that will help you determine how to recharge on a day-to-day basis.

As for reflection time, even as little as fifteen to twenty minutes, periodically, can really help. I know that one size does not fit all, so figure out how often you should set aside time to stay in tune with your passion and priorities. When you do take the time, ask yourself the following questions:

What do I enjoy most about what I do? What do I like the least? What am I tolerating (i.e., what is weighing me down)? What one step can I take to get more out of what I’m doing today? What one step can I take to move towards more of what I want?

I know that there are so many questions you could ask yourself, but these will get you started.

2. Surround yourself with the right people.

Energy, both positive and negative, is contagious. Surrounding yourself with people who can give you the support you need (whatever “support” looks like for you) and who get excited about the possibilities for you, can make a huge difference. Naysayers certainly have their value (e.g., they can help you think through potential risks) but they can also zap your energy, especially when you are trying to make a big, difficult change.

So take a look at who you interact with regularly or go to for advice, and think about the type of energy you get from each of them. You may realize that you need to make some shifts.

3. Make sure others understand your passion and skills.

Finally, always keep the pulse on what you are known for—your personal brand. If you don’t know what it is today, you don’t really know whether it’s hurting or helping you. So, clarify what your brand is and what you want it to be.

Remember that when that perfect opportunity comes along, you want the key influencers and decision makers to think of you. If there is a big disconnect between what that perfect job entails, and what others consider your skills and passion, you probably won’t get the job. So, set aside even five minutes each week to ensure that the right people understand the value you bring. I present on this topic all the time, so trust me when I say that you can do it tastefully and in a way that serves you and your company.

Let me end this article with a Call to Action. Determine one step you’ll take to keep your passion front and center. Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

Look for the Opportunities Right in Front of You

front.jpg

I can’t tell you how often I hear people complain that they don’t have time to focus on something important to them. There can be several reasons they don’t dedicate the time or make the effort. For some, fear holds them back. For others, the sense of urgency isn’t there. But in many cases, people simply do not see the opportunities in front of them to make progress on what they want.

So, I work with my clients to develop ways to achieve their goals without adding layers of work—which is key to getting the ball rolling. Below are three simple steps you can take. Think about each of these in the context of what you really want to accomplish.

1. Review what is already on your calendar.

To get started, look 1-2 weeks out on your schedule to see who you have meetings or calls with. You may find that you will be in front of important people with whom you want to cultivate stronger relationships or get visibility. By looking at your schedule ahead of time and in the context of your goals, you can begin to set the stage for making progress on what you’d like to accomplish.

2. Think about how you can make the most of that time.

Next, think about how you can make the most of the opportunity whether it’s a meeting, phone call, or something else. For example, I have a client who has a strong internal network but wants to expand her external network. With her work and travel schedule, she doesn’t have much time to participate in networking events. She’d been struggling to make time for quite a while.

When we looked at her calendar, she noticed that she had a two-day meeting coming up. It was part of a prominent leadership program for which she had been selected and it included leaders from other organizations. So, we worked together to establish 1-2 goals for this meeting. She identified two individuals she wanted to cultivate relationships with and developed concrete actions steps to do just that. Ultimately, she got more out of the program and made progress on her networking goal without adding any time to her schedule.

3. Set up a structure to help you.

Finally, make this process a habit for yourself. If the thought of looking out a week or two in advance sounds overwhelming, you can still make the most of any single opportunity sitting in front of you.

Before each meeting or call you attend, take a couple of minutes to ask yourself:

  • How do I want to show up (i.e., what impression do I want to leave? How can I reinforce my brand?)?

  • In this forum, how can I also make progress on one of my goals or priorities?

  • What one action will I take in this meeting or call?

My clients can attest that this really works! So, set aside time to strategically look at your calendar and set goals for your upcoming meetings and calls. As a first step, pick just one meeting in the next week to try this approach. If you’re really adventurous, block 15-20 minutes on your calendar each week to strategize about the following week’s meetings. You will show up with much more intention and may be surprised at the results you get.

Do You Know What Really Differentiates You?

different.jpg

As I have coached high performing leaders over the years, I can’t help but notice some common themes. As they move up the ladder, sometimes they take for granted how hard it would be for someone to fill their shoes. Or they underestimate the value of their perspective, one that has been shaped by a unique set of personal and professional experiences.

So, today, I want to ask, “When is the last time you stopped to think about what makes you truly unique and valuable to an organization, whether it’s your current employer, a client or prospect?” If you’re like most people, you spend little to no time contemplating what differentiates you—unless you’re actively job hunting or lobbying for a pay increase or promotion. Yet going through this process can help you step up your game, leveraging your unique value in a way that serves you and your company.

To clarify what sets you apart, start by answering the three questions below. Remember that this won’t take the place of a more thorough personal leadership branding exercise, but it will get the ball rolling in the right direction.

What common themes do you see in the type of work others ask you to do?

Sometimes it takes other people repeatedly pulling you into certain types of projects or opportunities before you notice that what you bring to the table is unique and valued. Think about some of your experiences over the past six to nine months. What jumps out at you?

What have you heard others say about your work?

What do others value most about your work? I want you to think about it from two vantage points, what you do and how you do it. Also consider what you have heard people consistently say, whether or not their feedback made it into your performance review.

What skills or perspective do you have that would be hard to replace?

Finally, get to the aspects that cannot be easily replicated, i.e., your unique approach, perspective, skills, or background. People often openly point these out when they initially meet or get to know you. So, think about conversations you have had with people who have known you for little time, as well as those who have known you for years. What have you heard them say?

It may help to start by asking a few people you trust for input. But even if you don’t, you should gain some insight from answering the questions yourself. If you want to take the exercise one step further, identify one small step to highlight or leverage your unique value, in the context of your career goals and what’s important to business.

Put More Power Into Your Communication Style

power.jpg

Women sometimes undermine their own power in how they communicate. I see this time and again with my coaching clients, and I have made some of these mistakes myself.

Women often don’t realize how their communication style gets in their way or impacts how others view their leadership. Although women may have good intentions, those may not be apparent in their communication. I think this quote drives the point home: “We judge ourselves by our intent, but we judge others by their actions.” So, remember that your actions may be doing you a disservice, no matter how positive your intentions.

Let’s take a look at three common communication traps to see if any of them apply to you.

1.  Getting into the weeds.

Women often make the mistake of building up to their conclusions, rather than starting with the two or three key headlines. They often don’t realize how this can diminish their credibility. By taking everyone through the details first, they run the risk of losing their audience in a sea of information, or giving the impression that they can’t see the big picture or get out of the weeds. Remember you can always provide additional information if others need it — so lead with the headlines.

2.  Holding back.

Have you ever been in a meeting and never said a word? Perhaps it’s because you agreed with what others said and you didn’t see a need to convey that. Or maybe you didn’t want to be rude and talk over someone to get your point across. Or perhaps you simply wanted to respect everyone else’s time and not prolong an already long meeting. Whatever your rationale, what did your participation (or lack thereof) convey to others? Did your presence really make a difference?

So next time, speak up! Before you walk into that meeting or jump on that conference call, take five minutes to anticipate what will be discussed and develop your point of view. This will make it easier to dive right in, contribute to the discussion, and get your voice heard.

3.  Treading too softly.

Women sometimes use a tone of voice or language that reduces their power and influence. Their voice may take on a higher pitch at the end of a sentence, giving the impression that they’re asking a question rather than making a statement with a strong sense of conviction. They may speak too quietly, or use words that communicate indecisiveness: “I think”; “I guess”; and so on.

So, pay attention to what you say and how you say it. To get a better sense of how your communication comes across, ask people you trust for feedback so you know what to watch for.

The good news is that you can address these issues through minor tweaks in your communication. Identify one small step you will take this week to put more power into your communication style. Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

Put Your Wisdom to Work

books.jpg

I’ve noticed a theme that keeps emerging with my clients and others I meet. I’ve talked at length with several people about the importance of thinking big—and beyond our selves. In the midst of day-to-day life, it can be easy to forget how many people have helped us along the way, personally and professionally, and how much we have to offer.

So, instead of writing a full article on this subject, I want to challenge you to think about how you will put the power of your knowledge and wisdom to work to help someone else.

Take a look at the four questions below to get your wheels turning.

  1. Who do you see struggling that could use your support?

  2. Who do you see repeating the same mistakes because no one will give them the feedback they need to break the cycle?

  3. Who could benefit from your influence, perspective, expertise or contacts?

  4. What have you been excited about getting involved in that you just haven’t taken action on

So, before you dive back into your day, identify one thing you will do this week to pay it forward, leveraging your unique value and perspective. You might be surprised at how much you get from the experience.

The Value of Being “Speechless”

quiet.jpg

Once I lost my voice to the point of a whisper. It was truly a first for me. As an extrovert and someone who provides coaching and consulting services, it was so hard to refrain from talking. To add another interesting dimension, I also had my 6-year-old son solo that weekend, so writing down what I wanted to say wasn’t an option — unless of course I wanted to limit myself to simple three-letter or four-letter words!

So, between losing my voice and starting off that week teaching coaching skills to a group of leaders, it reminded me of two simple but important ideas relevant to leadership.

1.Notice themes in your nonverbal communication.

Sometimes we forget how much we communicate without ever uttering a word. Whether it’s that scowl on your face, the hand on your hip, or that big smile — you constantly send messages. And the nonverbal cues speak so much louder than words, carrying much more weight if there’s a “disconnect” between the two.

So, right now, take a minute to think about what you are communicating on a day-to-day basis. Do you constantly look rushed, stressed out, or too busy to stop and have a conversation? How do your nonverbal messages align with your leadership brand (i.e., what you want to be known for as a leader)? If you are unsure about what you’re communicating nonverbally, ask for feedback from people you trust.

2.Recognize how the simple act of listening can propel things forward.

During the session I facilitated, I helped leaders practice coaching skills that they can apply to any role or situation. As you might expect, we focused on listening as one of those critical skills. Through various coaching scenarios and interactive role play, the leaders focused on:

  • giving their undivided attention

  • being “in the moment”

  • listening with genuine curiosity

  • withholding judgment as they listened

As we talked about the experience, several leaders mentioned how listening in this way can make a huge difference because the other person feels heard. They went on to say how taking this approach generated more engagement, opened the other person up to exploring solutions, and ultimately helped them take action faster.

Think about this for a minute. As a leader, if your team members feel that you are willing to listen and care about their perspectives, they will get more engaged in solving their own problems — giving you more capacity to work on other priorities.

So, right now, look at the questions below to assess how effectively you listen:

  • How often do you multi-task as others are talking?

  • How much do you focus on how you would solve the person’s problem or what you would say next while the other person is talking?

  • How much do you REALLY pay attention to the person’s tone of voice, energy, nonverbal cues, and words?

Hopefully these two simple reminders have made you pause, as I did that week, to consider a small tweak you’d like to make. I urge you to identify one small step you‘ll take in the next five days to align your nonverbal communication with your leadership brand or to fine tune your listening skills. Remember, small steps can lead to big results.

What’s Your Impact?

impact.jpg

Every day we engage with people from all walks of life in our professional and personal lives. Each interaction results in an exchange of energy, information, and ideas—positive and negative. Through the following three questions, I challenge you today to think about the impact you have on others.

What kind of energy are you giving off?

First, are you the kind of person who brings a conversation to a halt with your “healthy dose of realism” that others might call pessimism, or are you someone that people receive positive energy from? As you go through your day, notice how people respond to you by observing their body language, tone and actions. Recognize that some of their reactions may be more about them than you, but others may be directly related to what you are saying and doing. By paying attention more closely, you may notice some important patterns.

How do you impact results?

Next, ask yourself how the company or others benefit from your involvement or participation, whether you’re participating in a meeting or on a conference call. What do you typically contribute? Are you the person that “hangs back” or dives right in with your ideas? How much do you focus on moving things forward versus staying below the radar or just trying to wade through? Even if you’re “showing up” to participate, are you actually adding value?

What do others take from your behavior?

To bring the last point home, I want to share something from a meeting I was facilitating with an executive women’s group last week. We talked about how leaders are always in an “invisible spotlight.” In other words, people are constantly watching them, noticing what they are doing and drawing their own conclusions.

So, whether you realize it or not, you are sending indirect messages with everything you do. What are yours? Is it that you’re overwhelmed and need to be managed carefully or you might make life miserable for everyone? Or are you that unwavering leader that can provide direction and guidance consistently no matter what is going on? Recognize that small actions can add up to big messages when you put them all together.

Remember that you have an impact on everyone you interact with, but you do have a choice about what kind of impact you want have. So be intentional and purposeful about it and make sure that what you do reinforces your leadership brand and aligns with your values.

So, what one small step will you take this week to have the type of impact that’s important to you and your team?

Three Keys to Peak Performance

Since I just completed my new self-paced coaching program, which is all about peak performance, I can’t get the topic off my mind. As you know there are several things that come into play when you want to really step up your game and take your performance to the next level. I have chosen three to get your wheels turning.

1. Focusing on the right work

Many of us get sidetracked by all the things we need to respond to each day – even when we know not all of it is critical or impactful. Keep in mind that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort, so imagine what might be possible if you could consistently focus on what matters the most. I have a whole module dedicated to this topic in my self-paced coaching program and consistently spend time on this with every client, given its importance.

So, take a minute right now to identify the three areas where you can have the biggest impact in your role – what I like to call the “Big 3.” Having clarity about this will help you make more deliberate choices about how you invest your time and energy.

2. Managing your mindset

How you “show up” each day and respond to what’s happening around you can dramatically help or hinder your progress - and ultimately your results. This year, I will be collaborating with Dr. Paul Stoltz who is a global thought leader on resilience and works with leaders to respond to challenges and adversity in a way that elevates and sustains individual and team performance. His company has done over 25 years of research in this area and has documented the financial impact of implementing their tools and techniques. As you might suspect, it all begins with managing your mindset. If you haven’t seen Paul’s work, check out his latest book The Adversity Advantage.

3. Defining success

Finally, high performers are notorious for expecting a lot of themselves but not always recognizing what they’ve accomplished. Have you defined success for yourself so you’ll know when you’ve gotten “there?” Taking a few minutes to do this will help you notice your progress, more easily share it with key stakeholders, and celebrate your successes.

So, this week, I would encourage you to take one action step in one of the three areas above – whether it’s defining your Big 3, thinking about your mindset, or defining what success looks like for you over the next six months. Just remember that half the battle is just getting started. What small step will you take?

Be Still But Keep Moving

I had a chance to hear Bill White, a community and business leader in Dallas, speak. For years, he has been a strong supporter of the United Way. His quote is the inspiration for my article today: “Be still but keep moving.” This really stuck with me, and reminds me of two important things that can be easy to forget as we rush through life.

Be Still

As I reflected about the first part of this quote, several things came to mind. First, there are times in your life where you need to stop pushing so hard and just let go. You know, those moments where you need to take a leap of faith and trust that you have done all that you can.

Sometimes, that brief pause can allow important lessons to surface that you might not otherwise notice in the midst of it all. Or it can create space for others to step up or things to unfold in ways you hadn’t expected.

Second, being still emphasizes the value of taking time to reflect and understand where you are. So when you do move forward, it’s strategic and deliberate. Strong leaders have mastered this practice.

Keep Moving

Now let’s think about the second part of the quote: “Keep moving.” To explain what he meant, Bill compared life to a bicycle. He said, “You have to keep moving to keep it in balance.” In other words, if you allow yourself to stay still too long, you will falter and won’t achieve what you want. You won’t get to the other side. So, you can’t allow yourself to stagnate or keep tolerating what doesn’t work for you. Sometimes you just need to do something and allow yourself to learn from it. Often taking even one small step can give you the insight, motivation, or information you need to take the next one.

There are times when you need to be still and other times when you just need to keep moving. Both are important to achieving your goals, personal and professional. So, what one step will you take to put this into play for yourself this week?

Venus Williams on Leadership

Thanks to my friend Millie Bradley, I had the opportunity to meet Venus Williams and hear her speak at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Girl Scouts in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. She was an impressive 6 feet and 2 inches, towering above most of us with a big smile on her face. Her keynote speech was full of personal stories as she described what leadership means to her. Although you have probably heard these three points before, they are good reminders:

1. Challenge yourself to grow

Venus’ parents have clearly had a huge impact on her perspective. She described how her father always challenges her and Serena to try different things on the tennis court. He doesn’t want either of them to get complacent, sticking to what feels comfortable in tennis or life. Rather, he wants them to constantly stretch and challenge themselves to do better – even when it feels like there isn’t a need.

2. Have a “can do” attitude

Venus laughed as she said, “In my family ‘can’t’ is a four letter word. We were NOT allowed to use that word in our home!”  She shared how her parents always pushed her to find a way to make things work, developing her tenacity and creativity. As evidenced by her impressive track record, there is tremendous power in having a winning, “can do” mindset.

3. Look for the lessons in your failures

As you know, how we handle our failures can have a huge impact on our future successes. Venus shared how losing a big match impacted her.  She often took it really hard, getting depressed and going into her cave for days. Eventually, she realized the value of making mistakes. She laughed as she said, “It’s okay to make the same mistakes twice. It just means you didn’t learn the lesson you needed to the first time. But I draw the line at making the same mistake thrice. You better have it figured out by then!”

So with those important reminders from Venus, how are you going to put them into play for yourself? Take a look at the questions below to get started:

  • What will you do this week to stretch outside your comfort zone, even if it’s just a little bit?

  • What one thing can you do this week to have a more positive outlook, focusing on what you CAN do?

  • What was the toughest lesson you learned this year? How will you take that lesson forward into next year?

As always, identify one small step that you will take this week. You know I’m a firm believer that small steps can lead to big results.

What Seeing Things in Black and White Can Do for You

I realized that I received five journals as gifts this year from various conferences at which I have spoken and events that I have attended. Seeing that stack of journals reminded me about the power of writing things down. It seems like such a simple thing - so simple that many underestimate its value.  So, as you wrap up the year and begin thinking about the next, take time to write down these three things:

1. Your goals

Writing down your goals has tremendous power. Once you put them on paper, you will find yourself applying more scrutiny to them, refining them, and thinking about how you will achieve them. Often that step to get the goals out of your head and onto a sheet of paper is the most important one in making that commitment to achieving them.

What are your top 3 goals for the next six months or year? Be specific.

2. How you define success

People tell me all the time that they expect to be past a certain point by now, whether they are talking about their careers, a particular project, or something related to their personal lives.  “Come on, shouldn’t I be there by now?!”

When I dig deeper, I usually find that they haven’t defined where “there” is.  In other words, they don’t really know what success looks like. So, of course they never get “there.” And even if they did get “there,” would they know it?

In situations like this, most people don’t realize that their definition of success may have become a moving target tied more to their feelings in that moment rather than their progress against clear measures of success.

So, what is your definition of success for the next six months or year? How will you know when you have achieved it?

3. Your accomplishments

I find that high performers usually underestimate or overlook their successes, quickly moving to the next thing on their lists without taking the time to notice or celebrate what they have actually accomplished.

Having a list of your achievements handy will not only help you recognize your achievements, but also arm you with the information you need to regularly provide “strategic snapshots” of your performance to key stakeholders.

What are the three accomplishments you are most proud of from this year? Who will you share them with? How will you track your accomplishments next year so that you can keep them front and center?

I hope this week’s article has gotten your wheels turning. I urge you to look at your calendar, and find some time to answer the questions I posed. Remember that you don’t have to do it in one big chunk of time. Just do it in a way that works for you

Have You Seen these Resources?

Throughout my career, I have had the chance to learn from and work with some great thought leaders. So, this week, I thought I'd share three resources with you from people whose work has helped me and my clients.

Put Your Mindset to Work

I had the opportunity to meet Paul Stoltz last month, and am impressed by his ability to take complex research on resilience and overcoming adversity and turn it into something you can apply in practical, simple ways. His latest book is Put Your Mindset to Work. The Adversity Quotient lays the foundation for his subsequent books, and has some good gems in it.

A Smarter Way to Network

I had a chance to meet and work with Rob Cross when I was at Deloitte, and I'm a huge fan. He has done some valuable research on networking, identifying what distinguishes high performers from others. He's an author, professor, and business consultant. You can buy his latest HBR article, published in July 2011 and listen to an interview with him by clicking on this link: http://hbr.org/2011/07/managing-yourself-a-smarter- way-to-network/ar/1.

BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It

For those of you who have trouble letting others know about how you create value and make a difference and haven't been able to attend one of my workshops on the topic, take a look at this book by Peggy Klaus.

Just Colleen – Leading with Luv

On September 9, 2011, we had the unique opportunity to hear Colleen Barrett (President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines) speak about Servant Leadership at our monthly North Texas Coaches meeting. Unlike most leadership presentations, this was an open forum where she encouraged us to ask her what we really wanted to know. I have to smile as I think about my experience with this event. It began with logistical emails back and forth with her team as I sat on a Southwest Airlines (SWA) plane from Dallas to Houston. When they realized I was on a SWA flight, I immediately received heartfelt emails thanking me for being a customer, signed with lines of “X’s and O’s.” That was truly a first for me in a business setting. And quite fittingly, the event itself ended with more Luv. As I thanked Colleen on stage, she gave me a big kiss on the cheek while she endearingly adjusted the back of my suit jacket and said, “I just couldn’t let you walk around like that.”

In the hour she spent with us, Colleen shared story after story in such an authentic style, all in the spirit of teaching us what she has learned over the years. As you know, she and Herb Kelleher successfully planted the seeds that have grown a culture that truly differentiates Southwest Airlines from its competitors, driving results in a challenging industry. So, today I want to share a few of Colleen’s pearls of wisdom.

Serve First

Colleen began by telling us that serving first is the backbone of Servant Leadership, a philosophy core to her management and leadership style. This means that servant leaders think about others’ needs first and ask, “How can I help?” Colleen views this as key to understanding how to motivate and develop employees and get results. By serving others and following the Golden Rule (i.e., Treat others as you would like to be treated), leaders build true followership.

Do What You Luv

Colleen spoke about the importance of loving what you do, what she called “combing your advocation and your vocation.” For her, the past 40+ years in the airline industry have been about customer service, something she wholeheartedly thrives on. She reminded us that life is short, and that we should not underestimate the importance of doing what we love. We inherently know that tapping into what we enjoy brings out our natural creativity and elevates performance.

You Can Learn from Anyone

Colleen also reminded us that great ideas can come from anywhere. As leaders, when we let go of the hierarchy and adopt a learning mindset, we can naturally and easily bring out ideas from others. Colleen also emphasized the power of noticing the small cues, like body language, which can teach us volumes about what people really think.

Do the Right Thing

By the end of her presentation, Colleen had us all in tears. She closed with a moving story in which employee after employee at SWA had jumped through hoops, working around at least four major rules and government regulations, to do the right thing for a passenger in a dire family situation.

She used her example to highlight the power of doing the right thing, even if that means bending or breaking the rules. Colleen explained that the SWA culture empowers employees to do what they feel is right in a given situation – to use their own judgment, take a risk, and potentially make a mistake. Although SWA has a forgiving culture, they do stand firm about what matters most - employee attitudes and customer service.

As you might guess, we left the session sniffling and inspired. If you want to learn more about how Servant Leadership can drive results, take a look at Colleen’s new book co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success.

Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn

Over the past three years, my most requested presentation has been Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn. It may surprise you to know that individuals at all levels of organizations struggle with self-promotion. Many find self-promotion draining and difficult but absolutely essential - yes, a necessary evil.  I don’t like it any more than you do, but I learned how to do it over the years because I had to. At Deloitte, I worked on consulting projects all over the country, where the partners and directors who made decisions about my pay and promotion often had no direct visibility to my work. So, I had to find ways to talk about my results and accomplishments and arm others with that information – in a way that worked for me. Today, I help my clients do the same. To get you moving in the right direction, I want to share three common roadblocks to self-promotion and how to move past them.  

1. “My good work will speak for itself. I don’t have time for these games.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear this phrase. It’s usually from talented individuals who do great work but detest political games (i.e. affectionately called “the heads down” worker”).

If this sounds like you, recognize that most people are way too busy to notice all the ways you add value - even if they want to. I’m guessing that your boss has several direct reports, her own boss, and other key stakeholders who demand her time and attention. On top of that, she has her own goals to meet and distractions to manage. How much time does that really leave her to focus on you?

So, it’s up to YOU to make it happen – to take the initiative to give visibility to your work, to get recognized for your contributions and open up new possibilities for yourself. Your good work alone won’t get you there - and unfortunately you can’t win at a game that you won’t even play. Start by making a decision to get in the game.

2. “I don’t want to come across as obnoxious or full of myself.”

No one likes to listen to someone whose head can barely fit in the door. Yes, we’ve all met at least one of those people in our lives! The good news is that those negative experiences can give us clues about what NOT to do. So, if you don’t want to come across as arrogant, think about how you DO want to show up. To get started, come up with three words to describe the type of impression you’d like to leave about yourself when you are telling others about your accomplishments. If you have already defined your personal brand, use that as context as well.

Remember that having clarity about the imprint you want to leave on others will help you develop strategies that work for you.

3. “I’m bad at it. I just don’t know how to do it.”

You’re not alone if you feel ill equipped to tastefully toot your own horn. If you feel this way, think about how you can share information about your results and accomplishments in a way that is relevant and helpful to others.

I’ll give you two examples to think about. First, consider that someone else in the company may be faced with a challenge similar to what you just successfully overcame. By taking the time to share what you did and how you did it, you can help them tremendously.

Second, keep in mind that your boss has to make decisions about your performance, pay, and development (to ensure that you can continue to contribute to the company’s goals). Providing information to her on a regular basis will allow her to make those decisions easily, and will serve you and the company well. Remember that she will be held accountable for your results.

Finally, to give you more clues about how to tastefully self- promote, look for others around you who do it well. Simply notice what they do and say. You may find that you can adapt some of their strategies to fit your own style.

By recognizing what’s holding you back from self-promoting, you can determine how to move forward. Start by defining an action step you will take this week. Also, if you haven’t read it, take a look at Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn.