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Build your Self Discipline Muscle….
January 18, 2011, 10:23 AM
Filed under: Communication, Leadership Quotes, Strategies, Team Development Strategies

“Self discipline means deliberately aligning our energy with our values and priorities. Through mental practice we focus in on a task before us and let other temptations and distractions pass us by.”

—Dalai Lama

 Every year we undertake the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. And, inevitably, we break them.  Whether it’s losing that extra 20 pounds or practicing more patience at work, we’ll do what’s necessary for a week or two before old habits creep in; and, well, you know the rest of the story.

 The New Year brings optimism and the feeling that we can truly do something different, new, exciting, impactful, and above all, lasting.  And when February rolls around and we have let those new and exciting goals fade back into January, we feel like we’ve failed…and we fall right back into the same old routine.

 Here’s an idea: don’t make new goals. Stick with the one that has been floating in your head for years. You know what it is. It is a good goal right? And if you accomplished it, wouldn’t you feel great? Wouldn’t you be a lot farther ahead than where you are now? You would…and all you need is a healthy dose of self-discipline.

 But how do you do that? We all know people who seem to have good self-discipline. Can it be acquired, or is it a gift from the gods? Most definitely it can be acquired, and you can do it in the next 30 days. Here’s how:

 1. Identify your top priority. Let’s say your goal is to increase your sales volume by 20%. For the next 30 days you’re going to place 80% of your focus on this priority. 

2. Identify the steps needed to accomplish this objective. Have a brainstorm session with yourself. Ask your supervisor. Interview top performers. Find out what they do. Then write down the steps you need to take. Let’s say you come up with five activities that, when you do them, will lead to accomplishing your goal.

3. Focus on the activities that produce results. Everyday faithfully complete the tasks that will lead you to meeting your goal. Do not move on to anything else on your agenda until these things are completed. If you have five activities that will lead to meeting your goal, do those five. Apply all of your energy to completing these tasks everyday.

 But you say, “I have a lot of other things on my plate!” Yes, it’s true that we all have a multiplicity of tasks, objectives and to-do’s that end up on our desk. But none of them is as important and your most important goal. That’s where self-discipline comes in to play.

 When you focus your attention and energy on your most important goal and you don’t divert your attention to other things, something magical happens.  You meet your goal! And you meet it a lot quicker than if you’re trying to juggle everything at once.

 The other things on your list? Get them done after, and only after, you’ve completed your priority tasks. This may be uncomfortable at first. But, as you apply yourself daily to accomplishing your important tasks, you’ll find that you get the important things done faster. You build “priority muscles” that push you forward.

 There’s also a fourth step to this formula: you’ll become more disciplined in what you’re willing to take on or add to your plate. Focusing on priorities places everything you do in perspective, which will inevitably lead you to setting clearly defined boundaries. You’ll be more discerning about what you’re willing to take on. And when you do take on something new, you can set realistic expectations as to when it will get done…making it clearly understood that the bulk of your energy will be put into your #1 priority goal.

 Do this for 30 days. Do it and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your important goals. As you meet your first objective or incorporate those activities into a daily routine (like making healthy choices), the next goal on your list can rise to the top and you can apply the same self-disciplined approach as you did before.

 By the end of the year you very likely will have met or exceeded your goals.  And when the New Year comes and you set some new goals, you can do so with confidence because you now have a set of self-disciplined “priority muscles” that will lead you to success


Overcome the Stress of Working with Someone Who Intimidates You

Is there someone in your office that you just have difficulty communicating with? Do you walk five floors just to get away from them? Do you create distractions down the hall in order to avoid seeing them? And, when you do have to talk to them, do they seem not to care about or understand your needs?

This isn’t about them. It’s about you. (After all, they don’t have this problem with you, right?)

So, what can you do? You’re tired of feeling like a shrinking violet. Here are some easy and relatively painless strategies you can employ that will empower you in any conversation.

1.   Don’t take it personally. Right. Easy for me to say. But, look at the situation realistically and without the emotion (or thoughts of future disasters). We often make things more difficult than they are or need to be. The emotional junk-in-the-trunk we carry around gets in the way of rational thought. You know this is true. We all know it’s true. We’ll tend to create the conversation between our ears before speaking a single word aloud. So, stop doing that. Focus on the positive. One way to do this is to acknowledge that you have no control over what the other person will say. But, you do have complete control over how you respond. Acknowledging this and practicing it will help you to not view any workplace conversation as personal.

2. Strategize. What do you want? What is the path of least resistance that will generate the specific result you want? To what kind of communication does this person respond well? Do you need to paint the picture with a broad stroke? Give minute detail? Flatter? Stick to facts? Create a plan before you engage in the conversation and stick to the plan.

3.Charge neutral. Let’s face it, sometimes in the heat of the moment some people respond rudely, abruptly, with profanity, or otherwise act offensively. While our internal response may want us to put a verbal fist to their nose, or shrink away and find a safe place to hide, neither gets you what you want. Charge neutral means remaining calm, composed and in-control regardless of the situation. This type of response diffuses the emotion in the air and helps bring things back to ground zero. The side benefit is that the more you practice this, the more your reputation grows as being someone who does well under pressure. Here are a few great examples to help you create responses that work for you:

“The way you’re responding makes it sound like you’re too busy to deal with this right now. When would be a better time?”

“Is there other, more specific information that you need that would help resolve this?”

“It appears that you’re upset. I’ll come back later when we can talk calmly.”

4. Be direct. Don’t dance around the issue. Let them know specifically why this conversation is taking place. You are requesting feedback, a request, direction or a decision. You might find that they respond better to this direct style.

Finally, put the emphasis where it needs to be. Don’t focus on the person but on how you communicate, where you’ll feel empowered and valued. Recognize that none of this has anything to do with the person you find intimidating. No one can make you feel a certain way…but you.

5 Strategies for Success in Working with a New Boss

Just when we’ve got the old boss trained…you get the picture. We all know it’s a pain to get a new boss or supervisor. A number of serious questions will inevitably arise.  The thoughts and questions which arise may lead to concern, even to the point of anxiety. Will my new boss like me? How will he know how much I’ve accomplished before he got here? Am I going to have to prove myself all over again?

 In these times of mobility, downsizing and right-sizing, transition in managerial and supervisory positions is frequent. It’s possible that you might have two, even three new bosses over the course of a couple of years. This revolving door can be tiring and frustrating.

There are some simple things that you can do to minimize the frustration and make life at work a little easier. And it all has to do with communication.


What are their priorities?

In coming into a new position, a supervisor or manager is going to have some initial objectives that are important to her. What are they? Set some time aside to ask about her priorities. During your exploration, also take notice of how she communicates. Is she a big picture person or a detail person? Will she have an open-door, or do you need to send a memo or e-mail?


How open are they?

First, how open are you? Many times your openness will actually facilitate more openness and transparency from the new supervisor. If he feels at ease with you and you are at ease with him,, the more fluid the conversation will be. Put yourself in your supervisor’s shoes. Notice that he’s just as nervous as you. Creating openness puts him at ease and facilitates more honest and open communication. 

Communicate your needs.

Once you establish a relationship of openness and learn about her priorities, communicate your own needs. Present your work style and ask how that meshes with the expectations of your manager. To what do you respond best? Discuss this with her. With an idea toward establishing mutual expectations, be very clear about the kind of support you would like…the kind of support that helps you do your best work.


Can you ease their transition?

This isn’t about being a “teacher’s pet”.  It’s about creating an environment for teamwork. Your new supervisor wants to succeed just as much as you do. And if you demonstrate leadership by helping the new supervisor move more easily into his position, you will establish yourself as someone he can rely upon.  

Work smarter.

Don’t guess or make assumptions about the expectations of your new supervisor. Working smarter means asking questions like: What specific information are you looking for in relation to XYZ? What can I share about this project? What would you like to see from me on this? Again, this is about creating expectations and setting a foundation for good communication. The more you ask, the more you’ll learn. And the more you learn, the better off you’ll be in working with your new boss.


So, rather than see your new boss as a pain, see the situation as an opportunity. Like so many other challenges, your attitude determines your path. There’s probably a lot you can learn from your new supervisor. Conversely, you have a lot to offer as well. By being open to learning and being of assistance to your new boss, you may also be opening yourself to far more success and satisfaction.

10 Ways to Promote Employee Self-Responsibility (and 2 Things to Avoid Like the Plague!)

With a business culture that is become fraught with outsourcing, downsizing, streamlining and virtualizing, many organizations are looking for employees to become more self-sufficient. Thus, for managers and coaches, promoting employee self-responsibility has become a primary objective.

 So, what is self-responsibility in a business context? It is a practice in which an employee becomes accountable for his or her performance in achieving objectives and producing positive results.


Bearing in mind that employee behavior will be different between departments, there are certain basic steps any manager or coach can take to ensure positive outcomes for the employee and the company. Here are 10 ways in which managers and coaches can support employees in becoming self-responsible.


1.      Clearly outline the employee’s role. It is hard to be responsible if one doesn’t know for what or to whom he or she is responsible. Ensure every report knows what his or her basic area of responsibility is and to whom they report.


2.      Set specific and measurable goals. Accountability can only be produced if there is a clear set of goals and objectives from which to measure progress. Goals should be concrete with measurable benchmarks (e.g. an advertising account executive’s monthly goal might be a specific dollar amount to be billed) and agreed upon deadlines. What makes goals even more effective in building self-responsibility is if the employee is involved in the goal-setting process and is able to “own” the goal.


3.      Connect goals to the company vision. Work doesn’t happen within a vacuum, and a company’s projects aren’t singular events that have no bearing on a larger outcome. Ensure that the employee has a clear understanding of the company’s overall vision, mission and goals. Help the employee connect his or her responsibility to this vision in concrete ways. For example, a corporate goal may be to increase operational efficiency by 10%. A project manager could connect his or her ability to complete a project on-time to this larger vision by connecting his project team’s efficiency with that of the company as a whole. As the manager, it would be your role to communicate company progress; or, better yet, have a communication mechanism in place in which the project manager can compare his progress with similar activities within the organization. In this respect, the employee has taken a broader level of responsibility by being able to self-assess progress.


4.      Create effective strategies. Once goals are set, give the employee the task of creating the strategy to achieve the goals. Act as a mentor…provide the employee with specific, useful feedback with respect to refining strategies. If the strategy is for a team, help the employee create a template for creating strategies, delegation plans, etc.


5.      Set check-in times. Within the strategy should be regularly scheduled check-in times during which you and your report will discuss challenges and successes, make alterations to strategies, and explore opportunities. This is a tremendous opportunity for you to be a coach, not a manager. While you are responsible for accomplishing all of the goals for your area of responsibility, your reports are responsible for theirs.


6.      Be a good listener. As employees take on more responsibility, they will most certainly face challenges. Some will be mechanical or logistical, while others will be more internal and/or emotional (i.e. conquering fear). Listen to their feelings, even if they are irrational. Don’t judge or try to fix the problem. Just listen, be empathetic, let them know their concerns matter. Quite often they will find solutions on their own once they get through their emotional concerns. They are clearing mental and emotional space for new ideas to come forth. Facilitate this clearing-out by listening. But, as you are interacting, also listen for what’s not being said. This allows you to develop your intuition and, as a coach, provide the direction needed help the employee overcome barriers and fears.


7.      Be authentic and real. People can sense a con a mile away. If you aren’t authentically invested in cultivating an employee’s self-responsibility, your report will pick up on this and, most likely, will always be wary. Developing accountability is a two-way street that is about building trust. You are entrusting the outcomes of your department to your employees, while they are trusting that you will allow them to fail or succeed.


8.      Empower decision-making. Cultivating self-responsibility inherently means that you as a manager must relinquish some decision-making responsibilities. Owning the goal also means being able to make decisions with respect to accomplishing the goal. Discuss decisions during check-in times. Discover your report’s thinking process when making decisions. In assessing decisions that may not have created a favorable result, help cultivate and refine their process by pointing out different ways they could have approached the decision.


9.      Give permission to fail. Good judgment can only be developed by having learned from bad judgment first. By the same token, success typically is built upon a series of failures. Allow your reports to experience failure when it occurs. If you are in an environment in which successful risk is rewarded and failure is punished, then the effort to promote self-responsibility will also fail. Punishing failure squelches risk-taking. However, if your culture allows for failure, especially if there is a supportive accountability system in which learning is emphasized, then self-responsibility has a chance to succeed.


10.  Give recognition and praise. As employees take on more and more responsibility, a sure way of empowering them and encouraging their success is to praise in private and in public. Whether it involves being named “Employee-of-the-Month”, being given credit publicly at a meeting (especially if senior management is present) or in a company newsletter, praise is an asset that every manager has in abundance. Praise costs nothing, yet can return millions.


These may seem like common-sense measures to take. But if any one of them is lacking, your effort to cultivate self-responsibility will be diminished. Will these measures work for everyone? No. Every human being is different, and each of us comes into the workplace with a full set of life experiences that have molded and shaped our attitudes and habits. Recognize this. Be aware of your own limitations and shortcomings, in addition to your strengths, as you recognize these traits in your reports. Recognize that some will fit into leadership roles, taking more risks and making decisions more easily. Others may be more risk-averse and will fit more neatly into follower roles.


As you institute a culture of self-responsibility, there are two things that will short-circuit your efforts 100% of the time: micro-management and poor communication. 

It’s axiomatic that if you micro-manage, your reports will hand back any responsibility they have been given. And why shouldn’t they? If you micro-manage you are actually making them less accountable. If you have a tendency to micro-manage, figure out why and stop doing it. Are you uncertain if your reports are capable of fulfilling their responsibilities? If so, get them more training or provide them with the resources needed to support their effectiveness. Are you feeling insecure in your position? All too often newer managers may have these feelings, believing that they need to control everything around them…but the quicker one learns to promote self-responsibility, the quicker the results will actually improve. Let go of control…give team members permission to succeed.

Poor communication is sure to doom any accountability system. If employees are working and taking responsibility; and you don’t check-in or you are not available, then they won’t take their responsibilities seriously…and you won’t derive the results you want. Maybe you are uncomfortable in a coaching role and need to develop these skills. Get the training. Conversely, if a report doesn’t communicate well, work with him or her to develop his or her skills, provide more structure, and/or provide outside training.

Obviously every organization is different. But, if implemented, these steps will ensure better outcomes. By being more responsible, employees feel more valued and connected to the organization, thus diminishing turnover and morale deficiencies. With more responsible action, better and more consistent results are also produced.

Too Much Information?
May 31, 2010, 3:10 PM
Filed under: Communication, Leader Beware, Team Development Strategies


Good leaders strive to engage their team members—letting them know the vision, direction, and decisions of the organization; inviting their input; and sharing information.  The goal is to develop strong teams and team members with a strong commitment and investment in the organization.  Those leaders need to be aware and know where the balance is between providing information that needs to be shared and providing team members with too much information.

Team members do not need to know details of the background information—the company finances, information about people within the organization, the feelings of those in the organization, and why things are the way they are.   Decisions can be made without seeking employee input and without providing more information than is needed.  In fact, providing unnecessary information can lead to other problems:

  • Taking too long to make decisions
  • Taking decisions in order to please others rather than doing what is best for the organization
  • Team members using the information to their advantage

When sharing information with your team, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this important for them to know in order to meet their goals and objectives?
  2. What will the short- and long-term impact be if this information is shared?
  3. Am I sharing to “tell someone”, or am I venting?
  4. Is there a purpose to this?

Building a strong team is vital.  Providing the right information is imperative to the success of that team.  As with all things, balance is the key.

Leadership Presence

Is it really important that you become more commanding?  After all, you may feel you already are a good leader since everyone likes you.  You are nice and get along well with everyone.  You are respected by those under your charge.  So, why be concerned with changing how you operate? 

Think twice before you answer that question.  Your answer should be a resounding “yes”– you do need to consider how you present yourself and how others view you.  As a leader it is imperative that you have good leadership presence.  We are not talking about being overbearing, obnoxious, forceful, or loud.  Those behaviors are not conducive to good leadership.  What we are talking about is paying attention to your body language, the tone of your voice, and how you direct others.   Commanding the floor will enable you to be heard.  Your ideas and suggestions will be taken seriously.  You will be given credit for your contributions.  You will be respected for the great leader you are. 

If you are serious about wanting to improve your leadership presence, there are some great private trainers who can help you.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but you just may be able to retain the services of one of the top private trainers for presentation skills.  She only works with top executives and is hard core.  She will tell you the ugly truth and then help you fix your image and presence.  You will be a stronger presenter and communicator as a result.

Executives…what are your teams saying about your leadership styles?

How to go from the person people avoid to someone others can’t resist.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” —Zig Ziglar

Are you an encourager or a disparager?

Are you always asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Virtually all of us want to call ourselves encouragers. But if we’re really honest, we may find that the opposite is true. There are certain traits that come about in our interactions with others and within our own minds that may give more insight into our “disparagement quotient”. Ultimately, the more disparaging or negative we are, the net effect is that we get less of what we really want out of life. There is less joy, less success, less trust, and less love. Is that what you really want?

Take a quick survey by asking yourself a few quick questions (this isn’t a Cosmo quiz, so there’s no scoring):

Do you get depressed on Sunday evening (in anticipation of Monday morning)?

Do you accept criticism or direction well? Or, do you get defensive?

What’s you instant reaction when someone tells you about their dreams? Are you inwardly (or outwardly) critical? Do you say to yourself, “There’s no way she could ever do that!”?  Do you resist change?Do you like things to stay just the way they are?

Do you engage in gossip…any kind of gossip?

Are you constantly bored?

Do you have written goals? Are you working toward them?

Do you often feel overwhelmed and stuck?

Do you get angry easily?

Do you often blame others for your mistakes?

Do you seek to find fault?

Do you complain frequently?

Do you just hate it when “Susie or Sam Sunshine” comes into the office?

If you had an instant negative reaction to the very thought of answering these questions, you probably weigh more on the side of the disparagement scale. Don’t despair. All is not lost. And, no, your solution may not require therapy. You may only need to take a few simple actions that could turn you from a discourager to an encourager. First, be honest. You don’t have to share your answers to the aforementioned questions with anyone. But, if you said “Bingo” to some (or many), you might want to consider making some changes in the way you relate to others.

Try doing these things:

Every day single out one person in your office or at home and share with them your sincere appreciation for something they did for you. If no one has done something recently, try complimenting them on something they accomplished or appreciate something about their personality. Whatever it is, make it genuinely positive.

Next, each day offer your services freely to someone who needs help. If you don’t have something specific in mind, go to a busy person and say something like, “I’ve noticed how hard you always work…I have a little free time today, is there something I can help you with?” Do this often enough and your actions will be seen as a contribution…and others will soon contribute to you.

Offer a compliment or pat-on-the-back to your team members daily, if that is too much for you to take…then weekly. Encouragement increases productivity and performance. Finally, be interested in what others are doing. Ask questions. When the person is answering, be quiet and listen. After they’ve answered, ask another question and another. When the conversation is over, the other person may walk away thinking you’re the coolest person on the planet…even though you may not have revealed a single thing about yourself! Practice this and you will have many, many friends. Everyone needs to be encouraged. When you become an encourager, you’re giving a gift to someone. As you provide ongoing sincere encouragement, something will change within you; and more and more people will be attracted to you…and encourage you.

Like drinking in a cold glass of water on a hot summer day, you’ll find this encouragement to be refreshing and energizing. More and more people will want to help you meet your goals. And, ultimately, you will be less frustrated, bored, angry, disparaging and accomplish more through others. Now, isn’t that what you really want?