Retweet: Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Today we’re going to take a little different spin.  

Personally and professionally, I find a lot of value in LinkedIn.  I love seeing what kinds of articles people post.  Yesterday, I came across a quick read by Bruce Kasanoff (entrepreneur, writer, speaker) that really has a great message that we need to remember and act on (often).  As it’s short and to the point, I will post the entire article below or you can click on the link here to access it on LinkedIn.  Enjoy!

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Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Every time you encounter another person, think: help this person. It’s not altruistic. Nothing else can so quickly supercharge your career and improve the quality of your life.

When you walk into Starbucks for a coffee, think help this person about the barista who serves you. Instead of being frustrated that he isn’t moving fast enough, see if you can make him smile. Better yet, tell him to keep the change.

When the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Think help this person while you answer the phone. Doing so will change your demeanor, your thought process, and the entire interaction.

If you have a subordinate who isn’t pulling her weight, instead of criticizing her, every time you see her think help this person. This doesn’t mean let her slide, or ignore her shortcomings. It means help her either improve her skills or find a position better suited to her strengths. But don’t just brush her aside; really help her.

But wait a minute – I know what some of you are thinking. What about the people who take credit for other people’s work? What about the rich and powerful who have gotten that way by crushing others? Doesn’t their success prove me wrong?

Not at all. Sure, there are some people who take the exact opposite strategy. But it takes real skill and focus to succeed by being evil, and most of us just don’t have the fortitude to pull it off. For those of us with a soul and a heart, the only real choice is to succeed by helping others.

By first thinking help this person, you will change the ways that others perceive you. There is no faster or more effective way to change your interactions and relationships. You will be viewed as a positive, constructive, helpful and dependable person. People will think you are more perceptive, attentive and understanding.

That’s why this way of thinking is not altruistic; it is selfish, in the best sense of the word. The single best way to help yourself is to always be looking for ways to help other people. Sure, you’ll be making the world a better place, and in the course of your life you will help many thousands of people. But don’t do it because you ought to, or because it’s the “right” thing to do.

Think help this person because you’re selfish, and proud of it.

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Suck It Up, Get a Helmet, and Drive On!

It’s been just over a month since the last Leader’s Locker post, but for good reason.  It’s not because I’ve been lazy or had no desire to post, this last few weeks have just turned out to be pretty crazy busy.

Crazy busy to the point that these old adages have been floating around in my head for days.  You likely know them well enough to complete them…

When it rains….

When life gives you lemons….

When the going get’s tough…

What doesn’t kill you….

Did you get them all?  Apparently, when it pours your supposed to make lemonade and get going so you can be stronger!  Right?

My favorite saying though was one that I used often when I worked in Emergency Management when things got really crazy – Suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on.”

So what do you do as a leader when it’s raining heavily in your life and the demands are coming at you faster than you can count them?

Here are 4 things to consider:

  • Project Confidence!  When the ground shakes and the skies grow dark, the troops look to their leader for strength and direction.  If you appear rattled it can have a devastating impact on the morale of the team.  They need you to be calm, even-keel, and steadfast.  This is the time to lead and provide direction – regardless of how bad it gets.  If you get rattled, they get more rattled.  If you get scared, they get more scared.  If you stand strong and are unwavering in the face of a tough situation, you may be the one thing that keeps them going.  They look to you.  They need you.
 
  • Lean in to it!  Have you ever stood in a strong wind?  What happens if you lean backwards?  The wind either pushes you backwards or knocks you over.  BUT, if you lean forward, what happens?  You can usually endure whatever the wind dishes out at you (unless you’re in a tornado – then it’s just plain bad unless your name happens to be Dorothy).

So what can we learn from leaning forward?  When things get crazy – lean in to it so the situation or demands don’t knock you off of your feet.  Approach the challenge head on, get a good look at it, and quickly determine how you’re going to approach what’s coming.

  • Prioritize!  The faster the demands come in a short period of time, the higher the stress, the more likely that you are going to miss something – which is why triage becomes an important activity.  Looking at all the tasks and asking – What is it?  How important?  How long will it take to accomplish?  Where does it rank in all of the other things I need to get done?  This means that you may have to decide to delay some things and/or not to do some things at all, but at least you are making a conscious and calculated decision as to what demands your precious time and where you spend your energy.

Quite frankly, this is why I haven’t posted in a few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t love blogging, rather it’s that I had to prioritize increasing family and work responsibilities over blogging.  ….and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

  • Fight the good fight!  This is where the phrase – ‘suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on’ comes in.  Some times you just need to double down on your resolve and dig deeper to get things done.  And as a leader, you often need to take people with you, which means you need to ratchet up the energy throughout the tough times.  Not only will you need the energy to stand on your feet, set priorities, and make decisions, but you’ll need it to feed your people.  Your example, your direction, and your ability to inspire will be key to charging your troops’ batteries to keep them going (in the right direction) when the chips are down and demands are crazy.   They will literally feed off of your energy – so you need to make sure that your energy output is at the right level.  Perseverance and tenacity are key words that comes to mind here.  This is the time that your true leadership colors are on display.

The good thing about crazy busy times?  They don’t last forever.  Sometimes it may seem like it – but eventually the craziness subsides.   And I know that I can handle anything for a short period of time.  And so can you.

So when the  raining turns in to pouring – suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on.  Be the leader that your people need you to be.

 

What do you do when times get crazy?

3 Lessons from Walking Across the Office

Yesterday morning, I was reminded of some very important leadership lessons.  The funny thing is that they all occurred in a walk across the office that took less than 5 minutes.

On this particular walk, I was in heavy thought.  I was trying to process some complex information before getting to my destination.  As a result, my head was down, my eyes were on the floor, and I was walking briskly.  I wasn’t my normal friendly, approachable self.

And in that short walk from one side of the building to the other, this is what I learned:

Lesson 1:  Eyes on the floor and walking briskly are not a good combination.  It’s a recipe for disaster.   In my brief journey, I successfully ran in to another person coming around a corner,  ran in to a box of marketing materials,  and nearly ran in to a structural column.  Where was my “Danger, Will Robinson, danger” alarm? Simply, I wasn’t paying attention.  I was lost in my own world and was not cognizant of my surroundings.  Besides being a physical threat to myself and others, the lesson is a great leadership metaphor. 

Leaders need to keep their eyes on the horizon to successfully navigate changes in their environment.

Lesson 2:  I am a pretty friendly person and am a strong believer that a leader’s attitude is contagious, which is why I am quick to greet people, give a smile, or slap a high five.  With my head down and lost in thought, I was not acting like I normally do.  And as I walked by a colleague without looking up, he said, “Good Morning, Jason!” in a friendly, yet challenging tone.  I say hello to this guy every time I see him, but this time I didn’t – what was I thinking?  I’ve set a standard and expectation for my behavior, but failed in this moment. He realized it and said something.  I stopped, went back to him, shook his hand and apologized saying, “I’m sorry.  I was lost in thought.” 

What’s worse is that he wasn’t the only one that I did that to on this walk.  I was no more than 50 feet from him before the same situation repeated itself.  And I found myself apologizing in the same fashion.  “I’m sorry.  I was lost in thought.”  What a pathetic excuse.  It really didn’t matter why I didn’t say hello, the fact is that I failed again and was called on it again.  How many people did I pass that didn’t call me on it?

People not only pay attention to your actions, but also to your inactions. …and they hold you accountable.

Lesson 3:  A little later in the day, well after my brief walk, I was back to my normal self.  At our office coffee bar, I greeted an associate and asked her how she was doing.  Instead of responding to my question, she said, “I saw you this morning.”  And then softened her voice and turned her eyes down and finished, “…but you didn’t see me.”  Those words cut me straight to the core, “you didn’t see me”.  It’s every leader’s nightmare.  I asked her, “Where were you?”  She responded, “I walked right by you.”  Ugh! What was I doing?  I asked her why she didn’t say hello.  She responded that she thought I looked really busy and didn’t want to bother me.

I pulled my lame apology back out for the third time.  She said, “It’s okay.”  But I finished with, “No.  It isn’t.  And I am really sorry.”

People not only pay attention to a leader’s action and inaction, but they are impacted by them.

That was a lot of learning for such a short walk.  It goes to show that leaders are “on” all the time.  Whether you realize it or not, people are watching your every move and are impacted by what you do and don’t do. You don’t get “down time”.

While this may seem like a tough concept for leaders to accept, the fact is that more is required from you because of your position – whether formal or informal.  My favorite bible verse is Luke 12:48 because it speaks such truth for leaders –  To whom much is given, much is required.

I appreciate these associates for calling me out and helping me get back on track, because as leaders we are judged by our weakest moments.

So, keep your head up, eyes on the horizon, and make sure your actions positively impact others.

What lessons have you learned while walking across the office?

Put Some Jingle in Your Jangle!

I love this time of the year!  It’s so much fun!

Festivity abounds through the sights and the sounds; the giving and goodwill; the camaraderie of colleagues, family, and friends; and, well…..this time of year just makes me feel really good.

And for many of you, I bet this time of year makes you feel good too!

However, the holidays are not time to sit back on our leadership laurels and simply soak up the merriment and cheer.

It is the time for leaders to lead more than ever!  It’s time to put some pep in your leadership step.  Some extra glide in your leadership stride.  Some jingle in your leadership jangle!

“How do I do that?” you ask?

Here are 4 ways:

  • Set the Tone!  All year long, your teams look to your example for how to act.   I was about to say that this time of the year is no different, but that’s not true.  It’s very different.  This is the time of the year that is filled with all kinds of extra activities and demands on time – and quite frankly, your folks are going to be looking to you even more for what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  Should they go to the Divisional Christmas party or do they stay at their desk and work?   Should you go to the team charity event or not?  Should they pass out Christmas cards and gifts to each other?

You (the leader) need to set the tone for how to act and engage during the holiday season.  If there are rules to be followed, then say so and be clear and consistent.  Demonstrate the acceptable behavior.  For the good of the group, you may have to get outside of your own comfort zone to set the proper example (e.g., go to the department holiday party so that they know it’s okay to attend – even though you’d rather sit alone in your Grinch cave drinking eggnog by yourself).

  • Don’t get distracted!  While everyone may be worried if Santa Claus is coming to town or not, it’s not time to lose focus on what needs to be accomplished at work.  Set expectations and clearly communicate with your teams what needs to get done (and when) during this frenzy of activity, parties, parades, events, and vacations.  Without being Scrooge, help guide your teams to find the balance in their hectic schedules to make it all work.  Lead by example and make sure that you are getting your work done too!
  • Be highly observant!  While the holidays are generally a time of joy for most, there are those that may be struggling.  It could be that they miss their friends or family.  Or they have lost a loved one that won’t be there this year during the holidays.  Or maybe they are struggling financially to make ends meet for their family.  Regardless of the circumstance, you as their leader need to discern the situation and be sensitive to their plight.  It’s time to show compassion and care.  It’s time to provide encouragement and support.  Be a good shepherd and keep watch on all of your sheep!
  • Spread Joy!  This is one of the most important components of holiday leadership!  It is time to inspire and spread joy!  One of the best things you can do during this time of the year is share a smile, laugh, or word of encouragement or appreciation with those around you.  I wrote an article this last April that fits perfectly here.  Click here to learn 5 Ways to Spread a Little Joy!

What other ways can you step up your leadership game during the holiday season?

Get Out of Your Seat!

Day after day, I talk to lots of folks who are looking to improve any number of work place issues.  Whether its resolving a dispute, gaining performance out of others, understanding what people are thinking, or simply building relationships, people are looking for the good ‘how to’ answers.

While there are no silver bullets, I do believe that there is one simple way to solve the above issues (and more).

Simply, get out of your seat.  Go ask.  Go listen.  Go talk.  Go engage!

It’s amazing what a little direct interaction can do to solve your ills.  Back in the day, we didn’t have email, instant messenger, text, or other digital mediums to communicate through (or hide behind).  We actually had to talk face to face with each other.

While that may sound archaic, it’s extremely effective.  And those that do it well reap successful rewards.

So what can ‘getting out of your seat’ do for you?  Check out these three benefits.

Improve your health.  Really!  Instead of sitting and typing an email, get up and go talk!  I was recently reading an article by Michael Hyatt that highlighted the dangers of sitting in your seat for prolonged periods.  There was an infographic that stated that sitting 6+ hours per day increases your likelihood of death by 40% as compared to others that sit far less.  That’s a pretty compelling reason in and of itself to NOT rest on your laurels all day.   Make sure to read through the infographic  – it’s pretty interesting!

Solve issues faster.  More than once today, I talked with colleagues and was asked, “How should I deal with this person?”  My response each time?  Go talk with them.  Stop speculating, trying to interpret emails, and/or listening to the scuttlebutt dished by other people.  Take the initiative, be proactive, and go get face to face with the source.  If approached correctly, you will get to the root issue much faster and gain resolution much faster.

Expand your influence.  One of my favorite leadership tenets at my company is that of Coaching By Walking Around (CBWA).  This is an intentional activity where the leader engages with the troops where they are.  But more important than coaching, is listening.  A leader will learn far more about what is going on in the business, how employees feel, and what’s concerning them by getting out from behind the desk and asking.  The added benefits of this critical exercise, if done sincerely, are that you become more approachable, more appreciated, and more influential – which makes your coaching (when necessary) more readily accepted.

As with all things, you have to use common sense and know when to communicate in the right manner.  Learn to use your tools appropriately.  But when it comes to those issues listed in the first paragraph – get up and go!

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there!

A Conscious Legacy

Last night, I was doing some blog surfing when I came across a blog by a gentleman named Rick Forbus.  In one of his posts, he was recanting the recent loss of his father and the importance of the legacy that he left.

Rick made a great statement in his post, “Leaders are conscious of their legacy.

As the night went on, my mind kept drifting back to this statement.

I think there is real truth and power in this statement.  I have one small tweak though  – “Good leaders are conscious of their legacy.”

And not only are they conscious, but they are also deliberate, passionate, and diligent when it comes to the legacy that they are creating.

They realize that they have the power to build up, grow, nurture, develop, encourage and inspire others; just as much as they have the power to do the opposite.  The question though is, “What will they choose to do with their time?”

One of my favorite leadership quotes is from baseball hero Jackie Robinson who said, A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” 

As stated by Al Duncan, what Jackie meant was “Do something to breakdown a barrier or carve out a path for someone else, not once, but as often as you can.”

Leadership is not about one time; it’s about as many times as possible.

There are many types of legacies that leaders can leave, but what I want to focus on here are four words for those of you aspiring to be good (or even great) leaders.  In thinking about the legacy you will leave, be:

  • Conscious.  Be aware of what you are doing.  Know what your words, body language, and actions really say.  Know how they impact others.  Be self-aware of the message you send – always.  Leaders are always “on”.
  • Deliberate.  Be intentional about growing and developing others.  Seek out opportunities to nurture others – don’t be a passive bystander.   The greatest legacy you will leave behind is that in which you have invested in others.   Purposefully and actively think through how those within your sphere of influence will best be encouraged – and then act on it.
  • Passionate.  Be fanatical in your advocacy and support of other people.  Clear their path, give them the tools, and then get out of the way – and not just once – do it over and over again.  When they don’t think they can do it, lend them your energy and inspire them to new heights.
  • Diligent.   Be tenacious.  Developing others is hard work. It may take you many attempts with some people, but I promise you that the reward of seeing them blossom is absolutely worth it.

Leaving a legacy is not something that happens after you’ve left this earth.  Leaving a legacy is about now.  It’s about the investments that you made yesterday, today, and the one’s you’ll make tomorrow.

So, be conscious – be deliberate – be passionate – and be diligent in the legacy that you are creating in others.

What are you doing about your legacy today?

Three Lessons From My Great Race

I blame my parents for my competitive nature.  While not the most athletic lad growing up, I certainly was taught to “strive for excellence”, “do my best” and to “never give up”, which fuels this competitive fire inside of me.  While I wasn’t great at sports, I most certainly learned some valuable life lessons from sports, of which I will use this post to share three.

When I was a teenager, two friends of mine convinced me that I should take up long distance running.  There was a 5k race approaching and they talked me into training for it.  My friends were on the cross-country team at school and had much more experience than I.  I trained hard and prepared for race day, but was still nervous about the race.  I didn’t know what to expect or how I would perform.  I just knew that I would do my best and try not to embarrass myself too badly.

Before the race, as most young men do, we ribbed each other and I remember one of them saying, “Just try to keep up.”  Of course, I responded in kind.

As the race was getting ready to start, my parents reminded me to “do my best”.

As we lined up with the crowd of racers at the starting line, I looked at the other racers in admiration, hoping and believing that my mind and body were ready and they would not fail me. I reminded myself to just do my best.  The announcer started the count and at a gunshot, we were all off and running.

I was excited in the beginning because I was keeping pace with my friends.  I think I was full of adrenaline, because I felt great and wasn’t winded!

At about the one-mile mark, one of my friends started stumbling and slowing.  He complained of side pains and started breathing heavily.  Because he was slowing, my other friend and I started to outpace him.  He started yelling that we needed to stay together (which meant that we would have to slow down to stick with him).  The faster friend and I decided that we needed to “run the race” and not slow down.

We told him what we were going to do and started pulling away.  Our friend was clearly not happy with our decision.  His curses grew softer and softer as he faded into the distance behind us.

The two of us were moving at a pretty brisk pace when, at mile two, my friend (the more experienced runner) started to slow. For a moment I didn’t know what I was to do, but was comforted when my friend told me that I needed to go on and do my best.  I nodded and started to pull away from him, but this time I didn’t hear curses.  I heard him cheering me on saying, “GO! GO! GO!  You can do it!”  This fueled my pace.  And I heard his encouraging words grow softer as he faded into the distance as well.

Now I was by myself.  I had outlasted my two experienced friends.  I was moving at a good pace, but didn’t really have a gauge for whether I was doing good or bad. The only thing I could do was increase my own speed and focus on what was in front of me.  So, I ran faster.

I started to pass other runners, which quickly gave me new purpose.  After I would pass a runner, I would set my sights on a new target in front of me and try to run past them.  I did this over and over.  So, I ran faster.

Finally, before I knew it, I was in the home stretch and I could see a crowd of people.  I could hear them cheering.  So, I ran faster.

Before long, I was sprinting as hard as I could almost to the point of hyper-ventilating.  Yet, I kept the sprint up until I passed the finish line.

My parents were probably more surprised than excited at my achievement.  My mom didn’t get any pictures at the finish because they didn’t think I would finish that quickly.  I definitely surpassed everyone’s expectations.

I finished third in my age bracket with a time of around 20 minutes.  Not a super fast 5k race time, but not to shabby for my first race.  It was a very proud moment for the Jackson household.

I share this story with you not to relive a glory day (although some great memories came back while writing this), but rather because sports always seem to provide great life lessons and this parable had some for me that I’ve applied in both my personal and professional life.

So what did I learn from My Great Race?  Here are three lessons:

PLAY TO WIN

When you’re in the ‘game’, you have several choices.  Among others you can choose not to play, play not to lose, or play to win.

Each choice has a different mindset behind  it and each elicits different results.

My personal opinion is that if you are in the game, ‘choosing not to play’ really isn’t an option.  Although, I can think of countless stories where I have watched people sit on the sidelines and/or give up along the way.  Not playing is simply not acceptable.

‘Playing not to lose’ is an example of what I would call an incremental (and sometimes mediocre) effort.  It falls in line with other choices where you set a specific limit or goal and then play only to that goal and then stop.  For example, if I set the goal of doing 30 pushups in my morning workout.  I will almost always hit 30, but rarely go beyond that.  In business, it may mean performing to match or stay slightly ahead of a competitor’s performance.  Or performing to a specific number (e.g., comp sale, volume number), but not blowing it away.

We often have to set incremental goals in our mind or on paper, but how we truly view that goal is what will determine our level of success.  There is a time and place for setting these types of performance goals, but if you constantly ‘play not to lose’ you will rarely meet your FULL potential.

Playing to win means that you ‘show up’ and strive for the greatest result possible (doing your best) regardless of the goal.  Doing so will propel you towards meeting your potential and surpassing everyone’s expectations – even your own (as happened with me)..

In the race, had I stayed with either of my friends as they slowed, I would have met my goals of finishing the race and not embarrassing myself, but I never would have met my true potential that day.  So, ALWAYS do your best!

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Believing in yourself is something that I am sure you have heard many times before.  Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of the Power of Postive Thinking, captured it well when he wrote, “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

This is often easier said than done.  There are many factors that contribute to whether or not you believe in yourself.  A major factor is what those around you say.  Depending upon your sensitivity to others’ comments, they can lift you up to the highest of highs or bring you down to the lowest of lows.

Few roles open you up to more scrutiny than the role of a leader.  People always have opinions and comments about your performance.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  As I have told many, you can’t control what someone says, but you can control how you react to it.

Part of being a leader is learning to listen to others, determine the value of the information and then choose a course of action and drive forward.  You can ignore it, ask for more information, change your behavior, or let it fuel you.  Regardless, you have to learn to accept the cheers and the jeers.

Thinking back to the race, my first friend (perhaps out of frustration) cursed us for outpacing him.  He tried to hold us back and guilt us in to staying with him, which would have hindered our performance.  My second friend, cheered me on when I outpaced him and encouraged me until I couldn’t hear him anymore.  Two very different reactions to my performance, but because I believed in myself it was easy to process the information; one I ignored and one I let fuel my efforts.

SET YOUR SIGHTS FORWARD

There was an interesting point during the race that I found myself without a benchmark.  When I was in the last mile by myself, I entered the “okay…what now?” phase.  I didn’t know how I was performing, but instead of just running down the road aimlessly, I decided to set my sights forward on beating the next racer, then the next, then the next.  This helped me go faster and achieve greater results.

This definitely has application to how we function in the business world.  While we need to be aware of our surroundings, we should constantly be looking forward at how to achieve even greater results and higher heights.  Don’t be satisfied with the status quo.  Don’t run the race at the same pace as others.  Run faster.

I hope that you’ve found these three life lessons to be valuable.  I know that I have and practice them regularly in my career, leadership, and life.

What life lessons have you learned?

Enjoy!

~Jason

2 Million Smiles

Today was the annual Shareholder’s meeting for Walmart. The event is always a spectacle to behold.

About 20,000 people descend on Northwest Arkansas to attend the Friday Shareholder’s meeting after a week of all kinds of events. The entertainment is first rate and our executives are in top form as they rally the crowd.

Associates travel in from all over the globe and bring a vibrant enthusiasm to the venue. In fact, they are still fired up! I’m sitting here in the airport terminal writing this post and I’ve heard at least 3 loud Walmart cheers in the terminal where they are waiting to depart and return to their homes.

It was in one of the Shareholder Meeting presentations that I heard something that has been rattling around in my head all day.

It was a quick comment. You would have missed it if you weren’t paying attention. Here it is:

“If one person smiles it’s contagious. If 2.1 million people smile, it’s an epidemic.”

They were speaking in reference to our corporate culture and of the 2 million plus people that make up our great company.

What it meant to me was that one person doing something great makes a difference locally. A group of people doing something great has the power to change the world.

As leaders, we should always be cognizant of our actions and strive to positively impact those around us; even with something as simple as a smile.

But as leaders, we should also be building our organizations to make a positive difference. We do this through the culture that we build, the environment we create, the expectation we set, the people we develop, the emphasis we place on what’s important, and the example that we provide.

As leaders, we need to focus closely on both. Be contagious. Start an epidemic. Make a difference. Transform the world. Smile.

Enjoy!

~Jason

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