Align your Actions with your Leadership Aspirations

Who is that leader you emulate? What does your leadership style look like when you are at your best? Which adjectives would you use to express the leader you want to be? How would you want others to describe your leadership? Think big: Sheryl Sandberg, MLK Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, your parents, a mentor, your best boss ever.

Now think about all the work they invested in becoming that leader. They all successfully aligned their actions to their aspirations in authentic ways. They learned to walk the walk.

I’ve worked with leaders who shared in 1:1s that they care about their people but then on stage at an employee meeting, they felt they had to talk about themselves and almost justify why they have their job. We collaborated to figure out their aspirations and priorities, then aligned their actions and messages to push them to be the best leader they can be. It’s incredibly important and rewarding working. I love doing it.

What are your leadership aspirations? What is your action plan to get you there? Let’s connect to brainstorm actions that align with your aspiration and develop a robust action plan you can start with today.

What Skill will you Develop this Year?

Your career development is solely your responsibility.  You get to develop the skills you want.  You get to apply for the roles that you can use those skills and develop more.  You get to seek out mentors and accountability partners who can help you achieve your goals.

Now, sometimes it may feel like our development is someone else’s responsibility.  There are influencers and decision-makers that are needed to get you that next role, title, promotion, or pay increase.  There are mentors and managers that will give you insight into areas of improvement or give you opportunities to stretch yourself.  But sometimes, we give all these other people too much power in our career development.  You do not need permission or an invitation to grow.  Remember they are team members in your development, you are the team lead on this! Build relationships in your career, learn from others, and get advice.  Work with your manager and HR team to see what’s available.  Some companies do tuition reimbursement, will send you to conferences and events, or have subscriptions to Harvard Business Review or Lynda.com.

What is the most important skill for you to develop this year? Here are some thought starters.

Leadership Skills: Who is a leader that you admire?  What leadership skills do they have that you want to emulate?  Think big and create an action plan to develop these skills!  Keep yourself in check.  At the end of each week, set aside 15 minutes for a reflection.  Celebrate the successes from the week and replay when you fell short.

Team/Relationship Skills: Most of us work in teams at work.  Even if you don’t work directly in teams, other people contribute to your success.  How can you improve your teamwork?  How are you currently perceived in team settings, and more importantly, how do you want to be perceived?

Technical Skills:  Is there a software you want to master?  Does your boss have a task that you don’t understand but want to learn?  As a business owner, do you wish you were better at P&Ls, insurance, or marketing?  What are some technical skills future-you needs?

If you are ready to commit to your career development, it may be time to hire a career coach!  Reach out to me for a free 15-minute introductory call to learn more about coaching.

Diversity & Inclusion: Listen & Learn During Black History Month

There are three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and the truth. Think about when two kids get in trouble and their parent asks each of them what happened. It’s usually two different stories and neither is the complete truth.

I’ve been in conversations with people recently: “why do we need Black History Month? It’s one History!” But it’s not one History; it’s generally one side of the history. When the textbooks are all written by one side (those in power), the movies from that era are directed and produced by one side (those in power), and the laws are created by one side (those in power).

Now, we are fortunate to celebrate Black History Month. There are books, articles, and movies that offer multiple perspectives and allow people to share their experience. It’s an opportunity for us to be empathetic to someone else’s experience and perspective.

While we may feel like that’s so far in the past, our parents and grandparents lived through it. And our peer’s parents and grandparents lived through it too, and maybe had a much different experience. Even today, you may be surprised to learn about experiences your peers have that don’t even cross your mind.

One thing I spent some extra time learning about recently was Voters’ rights.

For example, the 15th Amendment passed in 1870 which prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

However, that amendment was poorly enforced and there were consequences for those that did vote (you can hear stories about loss of bank loans, loss of jobs and destruction of property). Then Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to enforce the 15th Amendment. In 1965, when the Act passed, there were no African-American U.S. Senators and only six African-American U.S. Congressmen.

This month, listen and learn something about the Black Experience. Read articles, watch movies, or even better, have a conversation! Listen and learn from someone you know. When you approach a conversation willing to listen and learn, share your intentions and ask if they are willing to share. It may be a very powerful conversation.

Diversity & Inclusion: It’s Different This Time

Diversity & Inclusion is on the minds of top CEOs and companies across the country.  And there have been several movements in our country’s history when this has come up, like The Civil Rights Movement and The Women’s Movement.  Maybe even in your career experience, you’ve seen companies focus on the percentages of minority employees or attended tolerance workshops and trainings.

In 2017, I had a different experience with Diversity & Inclusion.  Something that has seemed so overwhelming, taboo, and out of my hands became real, comfortable, and important.  I read more, I had more dialogues, and I participated.  I knew my intentions were in the right place to understand and that I could better express my intentions in one-on-one conversations and in groups.  People opened up and shared with me more than ever on this topic.  It was enlightening, it was meaningful, and it was real.  We can all be better.  We can treat everyone with respect and understanding.

In 2018, I’m going to blog more about Diversity & Inclusion.  But I’m going to start here.  In 2016, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson gave a speech to the AT&T Employee Resource Groups.  In it, he shared:

“When a parent says ‘I love my son,’ you don’t say ‘but what about your daughter?’
When we run or walk for breast cancer funding and research, we don’t say, ‘What about prostate cancer?’
When the president says ‘God bless America,’ we don’t say, ‘Shouldn’t God bless all countries?’
And when a person struggling with what’s been broadcast on our airwaves says, ‘Black Lives Matters,’ we should not say, “All Lives Matter,’ to justify ignoring the real need for change.”

This topic is incredibly sensitive for all of us.  And I’m not going to share a checklist of things you can do to be an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion.  It’s not a checklist, it’s about you showing up as the best version of you.

For now… Think about what Randall Stephenson said.  Think about how you have responded to people asking for their voice to be heard.  Think about how you can truly listen to what people are saying.  And if you’re up for it, think about what you can do to support them.

Difficult isn’t a barometer you’re on the right path

I used to be motivated by the whole “no pain, no gain” and other strong quotes about how brilliance is on the other side of hard work. I don’t always buy it anymore. It doesn’t have to be difficult. And we shouldn’t use pain or difficulties as a barometer we’re on the right path. I’ve learned something greater – mindset. So let’s look at two ways difficult can be reframed to tell if you’re on the right track.

Do the work. Real work is awesome. When you set a goal, put the effort in, learn amazing skills, ideas, and philosophies along the way and you can find great success. I suppose real or hard work can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t discount real work as being difficult or painful. Celebrate real work for what it is – helping you achieve your goals.

Other times our professional lives are difficult. Sometimes we’re in the wrong situation. And we are empowered to do something about it – we can make changes or we can leave. If you are waiting for changes to happen outside of your control, you’ll be sitting in a difficult, painful place indefinitely. Here are some questions to help you identify if you can change the situation.

Environment: Are you in an environment where people like you can be successful?
– Are there people around you that you can look to as a role model, mentor, or advocate? Have you put in the real work to find them and develop a relationship with them?
– Are you at an organization that is helping you develop or master the skills you want to use in your career? Can you articulate what those skills are and an action plan to achieve those skills?
– Are you at an organization that celebrates and leverages your uniqueness to contribute to the success of the organization? Have you had the conversations to validate your answer?

People: Are you in a difficult place because of the toxic people around you?
– Have you built the skills (technical, soft, leadership) that you need to earn a promotion but other people are holding you back? Who are the real decision makers and have you had the conversations with them about your inability to grow?
– Are your managers, peers, or executive team demotivating? If there are specific things happening, have you had the right conversations with the right people to initiate change?
– Are you unnecessarily competing with people when it’s not a competition? How can you change it from competition to collaboration?

It’s Just You: And maybe it’s you. Maybe you aren’t being true to the career life you want. Maybe you’re not on your right path, leveraging your best skills, or building your future skills? Maybe there’s something else out there that aligns with your work priorities. What’s holding you back from pursuing your dream career? Maybe it’s just you.

Take some time to think about if difficult parts of your professional life are:
1 – real work and you need to evoke your mindset.
2 – difficult because you’re not on the right path.

Communicating Decisions: We Fixed the Glitch

Making decisions can be complex, especially when it involves people. As managers, we put so much thought into the decisions we make that by the time the decision is made, our energy for that situation is spent. The decision-making group walks away and tackles the next situation. Leaders, however, know that if you stop there, you missed the most important piece – the people. Your decision will impact people and it’s essential to carefully craft a communication strategy and plan.

Working through this with a client, I was reminded of a great leadership lesson from Office Space. Don’t just fix the glitch, be a leader.  Here’s the clip.

Managers will execute for the business. They made the decision (Milton won’t work here anymore), they fixed the glitch (he won’t receive a paycheck), and they moved on/avoided potential conflict (“these things just work themselves out”).

Leaders balance the needs of the business with the needs of their people. They make the tough decisions (we are letting Milton go) AND have a communication strategy and plan to accompany major decisions.

Here are a few factors to consider when developing a communication strategy and plan.
1 – Who are the audiences? In this case, it may be:
– Directly Impacted: Milton, his manager, the employees taking on his work
– Indirectly Impacted: his peers, coworkers that sit near him, the office manager
– The Follow-Up: your boss, the management team

2 – What do they need to hear? Go audience by audience and consider: the decision, the why, and the plan forward.

3 – Who, how and when do they need to hear? Will it cascade from manager to manager? Will there be a company-wide or team-wide email? Does the plan happen quickly to reduce chatter and gossip?

4 – Execute. Once you have the plan, execute! If you tend to avoid conflict or don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them and they need to know so they can move forward. Rip it off like a band-aid.

5 – Reflect. Look back at how it went. How are people feeling? Is everyone ready to move forward or do they need more? Did you miss a key message?

In the end, common sense always wins. Be a proactive, transparent leader. Empathize with each audience and think what you would want if you were in their shoes. When you continue to have a track record of transparency and warmth, you’ll develop a trusting culture where the team is set up to succeed.