Monthly Archives: March 2013

3 Spring Cleaning Tips for Leaders

 |  Leadership

Spring is a time for renewal and rejuvenation. For many of us, it invites a ritual known as “spring cleaning.” To lead others effectively, we need to undertake some spring cleaning as well. Some of our spring cleaning focus is external; some of it is internal. Spring cleaning is a chance for us to address the external and internal factors impacting our ability to lead positive change. Here are three spring cleaning tips for leaders. The easiest one is first.

  1. Clean Your Space

    The first spring cleaning tip involves getting your space cleared out. If you’re like me, things can pile up. From time to time it’s necessary and quite helpful to reduce the clutter and create a clean space around me. This makes my office like a clean sheet of paper. A clean workspace is more conducive to concentration and creativity (at least for me). To help with the first tip, you may need to look at the second one.

  2. Clean Your Calendar

    Giving yourself some space is a great first step. Real spring cleaning involves getting rid of some things that are stealing your time. Every leader I’ve ever worked with spends between 25-50% of their time doing the work of someone 1-2 levels below them in the org chart. Stop it! Look at your calendar for the next two weeks. How many meetings are you attending that you’re not sure what the meeting is for or why you’re going? Look at your desk or your inbox. How many tasks are you working on that could be/should be on someone else’s plate?It’s time for a workload garage sale. This week, look to give a bunch of stuff away. Assign a proxy to handle at least 25% of the meetings you’ve got on your calendar. Delegate at least 25% of the tasks you’ve taken on. Give yourself the time to tackle the tasks that only you can accomplish. Give the other stuff to others. When you think you’ve delegated as much as you can, look for some more. If the thought of delegating makes you stressful, have a look at Tip #3.

  3. Clean Your Mind

    The pace we work at and the complexity we try to manage contribute to create stress. Unless we have a regular outlet, stress accumulates until it causes a breakdown. When that happens we act out. Some people explode at others. Some people implode. Neither is a good thing. As leaders we are called to positively impact others in order to get them to engage and perform at a high level. If we are stressed, our impact may have the opposite effect.

When we are stressed we are more easily emotionally hijacked. We get upset more easily. The cleaner or clearer our mind, the more quickly we can recover from a hijacked state. The third spring cleaning tip is to clean your mind. Building our capacity to recover quickly from an emotional hijacking means practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches our brains to notice the present moment without becoming reactive to it. Here’s how we develop mindfulness:

  • Find a quiet place (Close your door. Silence your phone.)
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes. (You may have to build to this. Start with 10, then 20, then 30.)
  • Sit comfortably in your chair with both feet on the floor.
  • Focus on your breathing. Don’t judge it. You’re just breathing.
  • Acknowledge whatever comes into your mind then let it go and refocus on your breathing.

If you think you don’t have time to do this, have another look at Tip #2. You’re wrong. You do have time. Find it. Make a commitment to yourself to practice this for 8 weeks. You’ll notice a difference. Cleaning your space and your calendar will help too. Spring cleaning is a chance to own your reality and lead by design. Happy cleaning!

6 Vital Skills for Strategic Thinking

 |  Change Leadership, Leadership

(NOTE: This post is an excerpt from a longer White Paper on Strategic Thinking. If you’d like a copy of the White Paper, private message me with your email. Cheers, Greg)

Lead Change

Leaders change things. At least we’re supposed to. We’re supposed to drive the business from A to B, move people from groups to teams, and develop ourselves from leading by default to leading by design. In a nutshell, our job as leaders is to recognize and overcome stasis when we must. We must encourage ec-stasis – transformation of the status quo so that the business and our team can achieve success. To lead change we need to be able to think strategically.

Static Thinking

The problem before us is that strategic thinking is not something that comes naturally to many or most of us. For most of us, our thinking tends to be focused on the near term. We think about the tasks before us today or those that need to be completed in a week, a month, or perhaps a quarter. There is also the reality that, without discipline our thinking and decision-making is reactive and influenced by our capacity (or lack thereof) for emotional self-management. Another factor in our inability to think strategically is the fact that as we age we lose our sense of curiosity. We become knowers instead of learners.

These tendencies, a short-term focus, reactivity, and a lack of curiosity combine to thwart our desire to think and act strategically. The implication is that we experience a gap between strategic thinking and strategic doing (intelligent action) and we develop a pattern of thinking and doing that is counterproductive to driving successful change. We race from A to B downloading old solutions onto current situations. We develop the “ready, fire, aim” mindset and our thinking and doing become more and more operational or tactical as we do what is most expedient in the near term and soothes the heightened emotional state we are in due to our reactivity. A serious consequence of this pattern is that we become static, fixed in time and space. The longer this pattern goes on the wider the gap between strategic thinking (when it occurs) and strategic action can become. So if it is not natural for us, how do we develop our capacity to think and act more strategically?

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking requires a shift in mind set, development of a strategic thinking skill set, and for many of us (at least for a time), utilization of a strategic thinking and doing tool set. When we decide to think and act strategically we are choosing to transform the status quo, to intentionally disrupt the system – we are encouraging ec-stasis.

Transformative leaders who excel at strategic thinking do six things well:

  1. Be Present. Respond rather than react. Develop the emotional intelligence to give yourself time to engage in critical thinking.
  2. Be Observant. See trends and indentify opportunities to work across boundaries to create value. Look for industry and business information that could change the game. Look to expand your network to see farther and wider than you could on your own.
  3. Be Creative. Reframe situations and problems. Look to discover the problems under the problems. Look for the patterns under events.
  4. Be Innovative. Encourage a learner mindset. Question assumptions. Consider multiple scenarios and invite multiple perspectives when exploring possible courses of action.
  5. Be Strategic. Set goals. Align people around clearly defined, achievable actions that disrupt the status quo.
  6. Be Purposeful. Develop plans. Have a preference for action. Decide. Plan. Execute.

The feedback from leaders who work to develop this mindset and skill set has been consistent. Focusing on developing these skills helps leaders grow their capacity for self-management; they become more proactive and less reactive. They become more intentionally curious. They begin to lead in a way that positively disrupts the status quo and creates the possibility for ec-stasis.

Leading change is not easy. If we are going to lead change successfully, we have to begin thinking strategically. To think strategically will require us to change ourselves. Change begins when we decide to develop ourselves. Change occurs when we discipline ourselves to practice a new mindset and skill set every day. The first step to more strategic thinking and doing is to become strategic regarding our own development as leaders. Once on the path, it becomes a matter of daily review and revision. In this regard our strategy for our own development is the same as our strategy for our business and our people; it’s dynamic and evolving.