How to Work on Yourself While Also Leading Others

We’re forever toggling between different tasks, conversations and focuses. This is a challenge for our external work—what we are paid to do. But it’s even more so for our internal work, namely being mindful and exercising our emotional intelligence.

As leaders, we are charged with paying close attention to and developing other people at the same time as we are expected to be constantly self-aware and self-regulating—all while continuing our own growth. Developing this brand of bimodal vision isn’t easy and is even more difficult to carry out in times of stress and under pressure.

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Turn your vices into virtues & grow personally and professionally

As we head into a new year and new decade, you may be looking at your goals and personal vision to determine how the next year or 5 or 10 might look for you. I’d like to propose that we make 2020 and beyond about being bold and getting out of our comfort zone.

Many professionals today are focused on growing and continuous learning, but when was the last time you did something that you knew you should but it made you wildly uncomfortable? Something creative and out of character? Something you were truly nervous to do?

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Difficult teammate or intelligence agent? You decide

Often we look at challenging team members as people who annoy us—as people who enjoy rocking the boat or making other people’s work lives more difficult than they need to be just for the heck of it. They may ask a lot of questions, challenge organizational decisions and fixate or complain about details that seem minor in the context of the bigger picture.

It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the leadership team or an individual contributor, challenging team members tend to develop a negative reputation. The first instinct for most of us is to want to find a way to avoid, shush or redirect them.

But I want you to shift your perspective. I want you to look at those difficult team members as intelligence agents, people who are actually giving us information that we should be thankful for.

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Working with the Rare Breed in Your Organization

Silicon Valley tends to attract an interesting, often eclectic, workforce that likes to experiment with new ways of working and unusual office spaces. And many of these leaders pride themselves on being unique—a rare breed, if you will.

I recently read the book Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous and Different by Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger. Just a few pages in, I was hooked and knew I needed to share some thoughts about it here. It’s a fantastic read about leadership and an alternative roadmap for how to grow a business or movement outside of the traditional mold. Challenging our thinking around how a leader looks and acts in the process.

According to Bonnell and Hansberger, rare breeds are talented and gifted people, but they’re cut from a different cloth than buttoned-up C-suite executives traditionally are. And sometimes it’s because of their perceived talents and rare gifts that their behaviors, though sometimes unproductive, may be overlooked, justified and ultimately forgiven a little too quickly. As leaders, we are often afraid to correct non-productive behavior for fear of losing them our rare breed in the process.

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Adopting the Right Mindset in Your Leadership

As a leader, you know you can’t control everything that happens to you or your team; there are too many variables that operate outside of your direct influence. What you can control, however, is how you react to the unexpected.

The 3T model, a framework I developed after working with hundreds of clients over the years, is a tool to help us analyze trade offs associated with doing nothing, taking action or changing your mindset about an individual, team or organizational challenge

With every challenge we encounter, there’s a choice to be made. For those who like to see themselves as contrarian it’s helpful to realize that even doing nothing is making a choice. And the area where leaders tend to get stuck the most is with people-related decisions, especially when the stakes are high.

The 3T model frames our decisions and actions (or the lack thereof) as living in one of three contexts: tolerating, transforming and transcending.

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How to Use Constraints to Successfully Drive Your Leadership

Most leaders look at constraints as things that hold them back. There’s not enough time, or the talent isn’t ready, or you recently lost a team member, or the budget just isn’t there.

It’s easy to view these challenges as excuses – the job can’t get done on time or to the expected level of quality. But in reality, constraints like these are opportunities to improve and do unexpected things.

Leaders and business owners often get comfortable with the way things have always been done. It takes someone five days to finish a report, and that works for us. Until something happens and it no longer does.

Constraints are an opportunity to get off our laurels and raise the bar on our own quality and output. And they’re a way to encourage team members to be more efficient and continue to grow.

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How to Get Quality Feedback from Others

As a leader, you’re used to giving feedback to team members. But the thought of asking for and receiving feedback from others creates anxiety and triggers–from you and the people you’re asking.

Without feedback, you can’t get better faster because your ability to figure things out, to determine what’s working and what’s not, is limited to your own. You need feedback so you can see things from a different perspective and leverage the experiences of others.

There are two big challenges to feedback: First, you need to ensure your team, stakeholders, colleagues, etc. feel comfortable giving you quality, constructive feedback that may not always be positive. And second, you need to have the right mindset to accept the information, process it and do something with it.

The two go hand-in-hand, every time.

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Intentional Strategic Planning for 2020

Often the fall season brings new goals as we prepare for the new year. It’s a great time to wrap up projects, reflect on where we’ve been and look forward to the future. I personally find fourth quarter to be energizing and full of ideas and planning.

But as we’re planning out new goals for ourselves and our organizations, it’s important to look at them in a more strategic, systematic way to ensure we’re truly moving forward toward our long-term vision.

Depending on your industry or the size of your organization, you will want to intentionally, strategically plan ahead for a year, three years, five years or even more. Considerations during that planning process include looking at what’s going on in the economy, what’s working well, what needs to be improved on and more.

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Emotion can make you a better leader

Many of us hear from other leaders, team members, even our families that we need to stop being so emotional, both at work and at home. The reality is that emotion is part of being human, so we can’t entirely avoid experiencing and expressing it.

We all experience emotion a bit differently. Some people’s feelings and expression of them are more intense while others are more moderate. And how strongly you emote depends on the situation, your past circumstances and even what else has happened to you so far that day.

Everyone is emotional, but everyone in their own way. Whatever your set point when it comes to leading and emotion, you benefit from building those skills so you can use it appropriately everywhere from the boardroom to the kitchen table.

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How to shift your mindsets as a leader

Your mindsets matter. They dictate how you work and react and how you think about things. They are the set of eyes and ears through which you perceive everything. And when you don’t know exactly how your mindsets are operating, which is the case for many leaders, it can impact your ability to be successful.

A mindful leader is more aware of his or her actions and is in tune with what’s going on internally. This is who leaders should aspire to be, regardless of the popularity of mindsets in their organization.

But how? You’re not born to be mindful; it’s a skill and a practice that you must work at. And if organizations don’t train you to be more mindful, how are you to learn the skills needed?

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