Don’t Burn Your Fingers!

Last month I described the results of a session on creating a “Secret Sauce for Successful Leaders”:  vision, communication, confidence, positive role modeling, reliability, trustworthiness and transparency with generous dashes of encouragement, motivation, appreciation, fun, coaching, caring and steadiness.

In our “How to Avoid Burning Your Fingers” exercise, the group identified the following potential distractions to implementing that Secret Sauce recipe:

  • External market factors
  • Loss of business
  • Morale / Negativity
  • Resistance
  • Communication
  • Safety or other incidents
  • Talent
  • Resource management
  • Personal distractions

Could you choose the perfect dessert for each member of your team without asking them what they want?  Our last item on the menu for this session, “Why We Shouldn’t Skip Dessert,” explored the importance of celebrating successes in ways that motivate each individual.  Here are some of the techniques that were mentioned:

  • Listening
  • Trust
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Support
  • Involvement in decision-making
  • Meaningful work
  • Autonomy
  • Training & development
  • Career advancement
  • Money

I invite you to create your own secret sauce recipe, develop a plan to put the lid on potentially painful distractions, and serve each of your team members a dessert that will motivate them to succeed even in a challenging market.

Can’t Lose

I binge-watched Friday Night Lights this summer and wrapped up with the final episode last night.  If you haven’t seen the show, the football coach’s motto is “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”.  He starts the chant and the team finishes it before they head into every game, committed to doing their best.

As you might expect in a show set in high school, there are a lot of transitions over five seasons and 65 episodes – students graduating and leaving home, parents losing jobs and relationships ending.  The motto was a good reminder of how to handle some of the transitions I have been observing with my clients and some I am experiencing myself.

When we can get past the negatives to clearly see the positive lessons in these transitions and respond to them with hearts full of courage, then we can’t lose.

How Will You Be Remembered?

My sweet 87 year old mother-in-law passed away recently and my husband wrote and delivered her eulogy. It was a wonderful tribute to a very loving, caring person with a great sense of humor and an amazing amount of tenacity. I couldn’t help but think about my own life and how I might be remembered. The idea of writing my own eulogy seems like a good way to assess my priorities and commitments to myself and to others.

If you decide to explore this yourself, here are some questions to consider:

  • What words did you live by? One of my favorites from Gandhi is “You must become the change you wish to see in the world.”
  •  Which accomplishments made you the most proud? These might be personal, professional or both.
  •  What will people miss most about you? This would be a good question to ask someone close to you.

Once you are clear about the kind of person you want to be, I invite you to identify anything you need to change, how you will do that and who will hold you accountable. You never know how much time you have left so don’t delay!

Suspending Judgment

In a recent presentation, Avoiding Potholes on the Road to Career Success, I mentioned one of the 20 habits in Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There — Passing Judgment. Goldsmith defines that as rating people according to our standards, which is different from stating an opinion.

This is a hard habit to break in a world focused on celebrities and reality TV. I admit to the guilty pleasure of watching the “pre-game show” on Academy Awards night, which is all about rating what the stars are wearing and judging how they look. When we pass judgment on someone’s appearance, actions or ideas, we assume we know better. No one wants to be judged.

If you need to break this habit, here is a celebrity challenge for you: try to avoid judging any ideas for one week. Stay neutral and just say, “Thanks.” That doesn’t mean you agree or disagree with the idea, only that you heard it. Notice how people react. If you find that suspending judgment leads to more open discussion, keep it up!

It Might be a Train

Have you heard the expression, “That light at the end of the tunnel might be a train?” For a lot of us who work in the energy sector, the impact of the rapid drop in the price of oil has felt like being hit by a train we didn’t see coming. The ripple effect on other industries hasn’t started yet but the forecasters tell us it won’t be long.

So what do we do now? Hunker down and play it safe or find ways to be creative?

It is easy to keep doing what works when times are good. In the face of an unexpected setback, our first response may not be stepping out of our comfort zone. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that any experience, good or bad, can lead to creativity if it pushes us outside our normal thought patterns.

If you use this opportunity to think creatively about your business, your team or yourself, how might you ride that train through the downturn and be well-positioned for the recovery?

“No Thanks”

Are you tired of people telling you to be thankful this month? You already know that is important. What about saying, “no thanks?” This isn’t about the second piece of pie at Thanksgiving dinner although it is about resisting temptation – to saying “yes.”

Do you keep saying “yes” to everything you are asked to do until you are so overwhelmed that you can’t do any of it well? I’m not discouraging going above and beyond to exceed performance expectations. I am encouraging strategically prioritizing the things to which you say “yes.”

How do you say “no thanks?” In this month’s issue of Fortune the CEO of Priceline Group shares this advice: “It is far more important (and difficult) to decide what you are not going to do than what you are going to do. Try to replay every direction in the negative: We won’t do X, Y, and Z. Focus and simplicity are a workforce multiplier.”

Try (politely) saying “no thanks” to one thing to which you usually say “yes” and see what happens. Enjoy the holiday and the pie!