How to inspire commitment through accountability

If you lead people, you’d better be skilled in the ability to inspire commitment.

When you read that statement one or two common assumptions may come to mind.

  1. I do that every day, it’s automatic.
  2. It would be obvious to me if I weren’t, therefore I am.

That would lead to a really important question. If these statements are accepted as certain and without proof, how do you know whether you’re truly achieving your objective?

Answer: You don’t.

Forget the countless words of persuasion or the fake representation of concern. Despite what some believe, inspiring commitment requires leaders to go beyond an unbound enthusiasm, delusional optimism or tireless effort.

Behavioral Blindness

Think about a time when you’ve entered a room that’s completely dark. Your hand in front of your face, can’t see a thing dark. No matter how hard you try or how long you wait for your eyes to adjust, you can’t see.

In that moment and space, you have no sense of proportion or grounding. You can’t gain a reference point. You’re literally blinded by the darkness of the room in which you find yourself.

What if we were to identify that room as leadership? What if the people in that room couldn’t gain awareness or understanding? They know leaders are in the room with them and yet they can’t see or feel the leadership necessary to bring clarity and light to the situation.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a room that’s this dark, think about the fear and uncertainty that start to overtake your thoughts. Think about the hesitation that begins to creep in around decisions. That kind of behavioral blindness is concerning, overwhelming and frustrating to people.

A Purposeful Look

Within companies, among leaders, there’s often too much time being wasted on words of inspiration in the belief that this is what inspires commitment from people. Within organizations where this is the case; people and the performance they deliver would benefit from less words and more accountability.

Inspiring commitment begins when leaders are expected to take a purposeful look inside themselves and measure how they’re bringing energy and influence to people through accountability. Accountability first for themselves, their actions and decisions then for others.

Consider this perspective:

Every time you confront a challenge, the problem can’t be with someone else. The first thing you need to do is explore how you’re contributing to the problem.

Here’s an interesting thought a client recently shared with me. This comment was made to him during a development coaching session he was having with one of his key leaders.

“Accountability feels like an attack when you’re not ready to acknowledge how your behavior impacts others.” 

The starting point for curing behavioral blindness is increasing self-awareness. That has to be followed by a commitment to apply and measure your progression and the progression of those you lead. The leader he was speaking with had awareness in this comment. The next step would be for him to recognize that his behavior does impact others and that means he needs to hold himself more accountable and hold the people that work for him more accountable.

Being aware is only one part of the equation. What inspires commitment in people is the modeling of accountability from yourself and from those you lead. This prevents people from finding themselves in a dark room full of fear and uncertainty where they’re constantly concerned, overwhelmed and frustrated.

Thoughtstarter

Take a purposeful look inside your leadership. How are you inspiring the commitment of the people you lead through accountability?

Be accountable. It matters.

Brent

How have you seen accountability inspire performance firsthand? Your thoughts make a difference.


The Thoughtstarter Challenge is changing

Every fall for the past three years, my team and I have brought you the Thoughtstarter Challenge to help you maximize you by thinking deliberately and then implementing purposefully.

Change and Evolution

While the fall often brings a dose of energy to organizations, we wanted to change things up this year. This past summer I wrote about the evolution occurring at Perpetual Development. As a part of that evolution, we acknowledged that doing the same thing day after day, or year after year, with a limited awareness as to why, does nothing to maximize potential or break through boundaries.

We know why we created the Thoughtstarter challenge, but we didn’t have a concrete reason for doing it in the fall which is why we’re shifting it this year.

How It's Changing

To start, you won’t be seeing the Thoughtstarter Challenge until after the New Year. Rather than closing out the year with the Challenge, we’ve elected to have it lead off 2020, so that you can start your year with a fresh sense of clarity. We think it’ll be the perfect addition to your January.

Additionally, we’re evolving the accompanying workbook to be more user-friendly. You'll still see the same question and answer format, and now you can track your progress and discover activities that let you take what you learn and put it into action. 

Lastly, the 2020 Thoughtstarter Challenge will push you in ways it hasn’t before. It’s more personal,  a bit more raw, and will require you to think outside of your comfort zone. The theme for 2020 is the relentless pursuit of excellence.

I’m excited to share this new experience with you in 2020.

In the meantime, follow along on Instagram.

With Purpose,

Brent

P.S. What happened to fall? We seem to have skipped ahead to winter in many parts of the country which has us prematurely thinking about the holidays. How do you stay motivated as we move into the holiday season? Share your insights with us in the comments and we’ll share them in a future Thoughtwave.


Is it really success if you don’t love each other in the end?

There’s a unique dynamic within family business. When your parent is your boss and your siblings are your coworkers, you’re bound to encounter struggles, victories, and other unique situations. These are the dynamics that those who aren’t in the business of family business could never imagine. This week, Brent, Trudy (Brent’s wife) and Alyssa (Brent’s daughter) are sitting down to discuss what it’s like working together in family business.

Individuals in family business often comment that they believe working in the business is actually more difficult than working outside of it. Do you believe this to be true? Why?

Brent:
Without question. When you blend the feeling and emotion of people who are related with the objectivity and level of commitment the business requires, you have the potential for complexity. It’s easy to say that the business has to come first. It’s much harder to practically understand and act on what that means. This is the constant battle that the business has the potential to wage in the family.

Trudy:
I think that this depends on your role in the family and your role in the business. As a wife, I work in a different dynamic than the children in the business. The most difficult aspect is the comfort level you have with your family. You feel you can say anything and everyone will be ok. You sometimes speak to your family in a tone that you may not use with others. Remembering that as a family member, we still have responsibilities as an employee, and both need to be respected. There are also times that you may feel more accountability to outside organizations because you feel like the family will be more lenient or tolerant when you do not perform, or make mistakes. There has to be an understanding of excellence in performance in a family business that is equal to any outside organization you may work with.

Alyssa:
I find this to be true because of communication dynamics. When you work with family there is significantly more context to your communication habits. While this can be a blessing at times; like when you feel as if you can read each other’s minds, it can also be frustrating when you feel like all of your past selves are on display in conversations as well.

How does working together in the business impact your relationships with one another outside of the business?

Brent: 
When you recognize that there’s no magical on-off switch to commitment, you can clearly understand the potential for a relational impact that’s both positive and negative. There are more days where personal and professional relationships are clear and contributive both at work and at home. I enjoyed working in my mom’s business growing-up and I genuinely enjoy working with family today.  There are however those moments, situations or approaches that have the ability to move everyone towards engaged emotion and away from reaction control. Having the self-awareness to understand which is which is what allows us to keep each other whole and valued as people and as members of the team. Working with family requires vigilance and awareness and it requires that you ask this question: Is it really success if you don’t love each other in the end?

Trudy:
There are times this is very difficult. I like to tease that he is the boss at work, and I am the boss at home. But realistically, it requires an awareness of roles both professionally and personally. Recognizing and remembering that we are on the same team is important.  It can be challenging to keep work at an appropriate focus level when we are spending time outside the office. You never leave work at the office when you own your own business, and it’s even more difficult when the family also shares in the passion for the business. It’s easy to talk shop at any time of the day or week. Patience with each other and open communication is important when the roles collide. Shifting of hats from boss to husband, or from office manager to wife is important so that you feel mutually respected and equal when we are outside the business.

Alyssa:
I’d say that working with my dad has actually improved our relationship outside of work. We both like working and being able to connect over business topics works well for us. We can challenge each other in a different way than we could before working together. Plus, he works so much that he’s quite hard to get ahold of outside of our scheduled calls. (He would refute and say I don’t answer my phone on the weekends, which is in part true because I’m normally riding my bike to lunch and around the city).

Alyssa, your dad commented in his book that sometimes he still sees you at 16 years old rather than as a professional with your own skillset. What do you do to remind him of who you are now?

Alyssa
This used to bother me more than it does now. I used to feel like I had to step out from under the shadow of him seeing me as a younger version of myself so that I could be valued as a professional. Now, I can appreciate the fact that I will always be his daughter and he carries perceptions that I can’t change or control. To help shift some of those lingering perceptions though, I continue to focus on defining my own identity and being visible in new spaces. It helps that I’m not a full-time employee and I have built my own business outside of my work with PDI. Having passions for similar topics but wanting to use them in vastly different ways for completely unique audiences has been a fun evolution as well. I’ve been able to take so many things I’ve learned from him throughout my life and apply it to new spaces that are interesting to me. As I continue to expand in multiple directions so do his perceptions and my patience.

Trudy, what is it like playing the role of Brent’s wife and his colleague?

Trudy:
Brent differentiates each role of mine with his clients. He introduces me as his colleague in business settings when his intent is to establish my own credibility as a representative of Perpetual Development, not as his wife. It takes an awareness on both parts to respect every hat we wear together, and how that needs to be represented in each situation. I am fortunate in my professional life to have an amazing role model, mentor and colleague in Brent. He values my opinion, and we work together as colleagues that can support each other and rely on each other's expertise and strengths when needed. I am a very proud wife, and it’s important that he knows that I support him as my husband, a provider, and a father to our children as well as a colleague. And in the long run, this is the most important to me. I truly get the best of both worlds.

Brent, was becoming a family business intentional?

Brent:
It would be well scripted to say yes and that would be completely inaccurate. Becoming a business was first about survival and it has continually progressed to thriving. Becoming a family business requires two essential ingredients. First, there must be family members who are interested in being a part of the business. Second, those family members must align with a defined role that contributes to the company. When family businesses are not intentional, it usually shows through a collection of family members who think entitlement first and contribution second. I’m thankful to say that Perpetual Development became a family business because the required ingredients were/are present.

Alyssa, it’s important to recognize that you work with your dad on contract rather than as a direct employee. Why is this? 

Alyssa:
We’ve always been clear that I don’t want to work in the family business full time. I’ve watched my dad build this business for most of my life which meant I learned the value of working for myself from a young age. As a result, I was fortunate enough to start my own business right out of college and I love what I’m creating. However, I also love my dad and since our spaces and skills complement each other nicely I enjoy that I can support his business and challenge him to consider new ways of doing things. He does the same for me and that seems to work well for us.

We’re funny because we’re so similar in some regards yet vastly different in some of our core values and driving forces. Working with my dad on a contract basis allows me the freedom and independence I desire but grants me the pleasure and joy of seeing him continue to evolve a business he’s so passionate about.

Brent, how will Perpetual Development continue to grow as a family business?

Brent:
I’ve had the privilege to work within businesses that have had two family members involved and I’ve worked with a company that had 42 family members participating in the organization. Interestingly, both of these businesses are large companies both by the number of people employed and the total sales volume. Evolving as a family business doesn’t necessarily require more family members. The growth of the business is fueled by the expansion of opportunities, causing leaders to think, providing exceptional guidance and limit assumptions about how all of this will happen. Growth has been, and will continue to be, fueled by awareness and understanding that helps our clients arrive at better decisions and outcomes.

Trudy, what do you do to help separate family time from business time? 

Trudy:
Set parameters. In business, there are expectations of performance and commitment to the business.  When you work together in the business, you need to also set expectations and commitments personally. It’s difficult to not talk about the business when you are spending family time together. Part of being able to do that is to schedule time together during the workweek to discuss work issues, so you have business covered and can focus on the family because the work topics have been addressed at another time. We have hobbies that we share, and when it’s time to relax, we do that. We have to plan our time away from work and be deliberate about that time, whether we are with family, friends, or heading off on an adventure.  We both love variety, and most of the time can challenge anyone to keep up. That’s fun for us.

What is the most rewarding part of being a family business?

Brent:
Uniquely, what is most rewarding is consistent both with our clients and within Perpetual Development: Seeing people that you love, care about and are committed to achieving things they may have never imagined because they were willing to think beyond boundaries. Put another way - helping people develop their potential, maximize their capacity and produce definable results. I never lose sight of the unique nature of family business as a differentiator at many levels.

Trudy:
Sharing a goal, and a passion for the same things. Watching the members of the family succeed and grow together toward that goal is exciting, and rewarding. The constant growth and change that we experience does not stop when you leave the office because it carries into all aspects of our life.  The business is a huge part of our lives together, and we don’t get to totally separate that from everything else that we do. It’s because we work together, understand and see what the other is going through that gives us the freedom to be together. How many people get to say “I really love my boss!” and it means so much.  Being on the inside gives me the opportunity to really appreciate everything that goes into a life that is rewarding professionally and personally, and knowing that we have the privilege to do this together every day is such a blessing.

Alyssa:
I think the most rewarding part of being a family business is getting to experience wins together. Because we work together and have such a deep context for what each person does, it offers a depth of understanding to each win (and challenge) that would be harder to comprehend otherwise.

Are you a member of a family business? What is the most rewarding part for you? Let us know in the comments.


The Power of Cultural Cohesiveness

Take a look at print publications, digital campaigns and social media and you’ll discover countless articles, conferences, and people talking about culture. Frankly, the importance of culture is ever-present and emphasized.

So, what happens when you have a well-defined culture and experience a lack of connectedness and cohesiveness among leaders? Is this possible? Yes. Is it desirable? No. The negative impact of such a situation is discovered in the cultural fragmentation that your company will confront.

This is where definitions matter.

  • Culture - The shared attitudes and values that characterize a company.
  • Cohesiveness - Forming of a united whole.
  • Connectedness - Joined or linked together tightly.
  • Fragmentation - Breaking or separating something into separate and distinct parts.

Taking a cue from urban sociology; cultural fragmentation within a company is about the absence or underdevelopment of a united group of leaders that are linked together tightly around the shared attitudes and values of their company.

Put simply, the interests and preferences of individuals have taken priority over the united whole. This is both deceptive and dangerous.

This is where definitions matter for the second time.

  • Deceptive - Having the power to cause someone to accept as true, that which is false.
  • Dangerous - Able or likely to inflict injury or harm

Put simply, it’s culturally dangerous for any individual(s) to represent their preference or individual interest as the cultural norm.

The Power of Perspective

Cultural fragmentation is about the minimization of shared values. The power of cultural cohesiveness is about the maximization of awareness, communication and commitment.

This is where definitions matter for the third and final time.

  • Awareness - Possessing the knowledge and understanding of the shared attitudes and values that represent your company.
  • Communication - Expressing the shared attitudes and values consistently and continuously throughout your company.
  • Commitment - Demonstrating and living out what it means to be a cohesive and connected leader within your culture.

Thoughtstarter

The ability to maximize outcomes and results is a direct reflection of the uninterrupted connection between leaders and the culture of their company.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with five being high, and one being low, how would you assess the power of your cultural continuity and cohesiveness?

With intent,
Brent

P.S. Thoughts? I'd love to hear them in the comments.


The Evolution of Culture Within Family Business

“Don’t romance the past and fail to consider the future.”

(A client of mine made this very simple, yet incredibly profound, statement when discussing the cultural shift through transitions within the company.)

The Shift

The majority of my clients are going through a shift - the founding entrepreneurs, owners and senior leadership are preparing for offboarding while the next generation of leaders is stepping into more challenging roles.

Foundational leaders have experience and want to protect and advance what they created and built. The next gens desire more responsibility and want to carve their path. In most cases, both generations recognize the need for innovation and new ideas. How they go about it is likely the key difference.

Keep in mind that company cultures are living and breathing organisms and team members are intuitive and highly aware. They’re smart and sense, know and feel when changes or cultural shifts are about to occur.

If the leaders of organizations are to maximize generational transitions, they’ve got to inspire high levels of accountability, communication and collaboration among foundational and next-gen leaders. This is the opportunity to define a renaissance within their company.

A Business Renaissance

Renaissance. A renewed interest in something. Rather than just transitioning from one generation to the next, family business leaders have a choice about bringing a sense of revival to their leadership teams and to the future of their company. Transitions offer opportunities. Leaders define whether they will use them or lose them to catalyst new ideas, new ways and new approaches.

Preserve, Let Go and Communicate

As leadership transitions from one generation to the next, there are three critical questions to consider.

  1. What do we need to preserve and why?
  2. What do we need to let go of and why?
  3. What are we doing to continually communicate, value candor and define accountability?

Don’t Leave Your People Guessing

Keep this thought in mind: People should not be left to guess about what transition means for the company, its culture and forward direction.  As companies move from one generation to the next, it’s important for leaders in transition to keep the context of decisions, choices, communication and actions in mind. This is about awareness at the highest levels. It stems from the mindset that a generational transition impacts every single person within the company at some level. Rather than constantly discussing “the change” discuss the new opportunities that the transition presents. Allow leaders the opportunity to share their visions and build an environment of enthusiasm.

Always remember that in the absence of clarity and communication people will fill in the blanks for themselves. Don’t let that happen. Value legacy. Embrace the future. Don’t romance either at the expense of the other. Define your renaissance.

Here’s to revival,
Brent

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments.


The Importance of Healthy Separations

Always Thinking About the Business

Entrepreneurs, owners and execs have many things in common. One of which is that we’re always thinking about the business. I repeat, we’re ALWAYS thinking about the business. With this comes the struggle between work life and personal life. No, I’m not talking about what I believe to be the overly-discussed, overly-conceptualized and overly-idealized work-life balance. I’m talking about maintaining a passion and purpose for your complete self and your complete life.

The Frustration

I’ve tried and failed many times at work-life balance. As a business owner, there are times where such a condition simply doesn’t exist. As a person, there are times where balance is as simple as a little less work and a little more personal time. Reading about the topic frustrated me more than it helped me. I didn’t feel like this utopian state of work-life balance was possible or existed.

Passion and Purpose

I’ve always been passionate and purposeful about what I do and the things I choose to undertake. These are characteristics of who I am at my core and they have brought more good than bad in my life. So I got to thinking... What if I were to change my view? What if I were to look at it differently?

What if I utilized them to define a healthy separation instead of the so-called work-life balance? What if I were deliberate about creating space in my life?

Anything But Easy

Achieving space to create a healthy separation is anything but easy. It’s 8:01 p.m. and I’m writing this while I’m home. I’m a student of this process and a teacher of others (where a proven track record of achievement is much more clearly defined).

To say that I’ve had to be diligent about developing systems that support a healthy separation would be an understatement. For me, home can’t always come second to work and prioritizing home doesn’t mean that I’m compromising work.

There’s value in hobbies, interests and friendships. They offer support to a healthy separation; they don’t compete against it. Easy to say, much harder to recognize and act on.

The Business of Family Business

Recognizing this value can be especially difficult within the boundaries of family business. When you work together, it’s nearly impossible to not take business home. Yet I know that I must value the totality of my life not just the working aspect of my life.

I once asked a client’s daughter how their Thanksgiving was; her response was heartbreaking. “What Thanksgiving? We had a business meeting.” Don’t judge. Think about how closely this may resemble some aspect of your life.

When you’re passionate and purposeful, creating a healthy separation is hard work. It’s hard because of attributes like commitment, dedication, care and concern. And yet, if we don’t make the effort to do so, we never gain the ability to understand and appreciate the value of a complete life.

Recognizing this, I’ve developed 5 tips/reminders to support a healthy separation. Reminders and tips to myself and for myself. Maybe they will help you as well.

  1. Have a defined time each evening when you shut off work and focus on home.
  2. Develop a code word or hand signal your family can give you when you’re crossing over into work at non-work events.
  3. Set aside certain days each month that are strictly personal. Use these days to focus on your family, friends and hobbies.
  4. Develop a hobby that you love and take the time to identify how the hobby helps you confront your work with clarity.
  5. Take a vacation!

With an appreciation for the journey and the recognition that we’re all a work in progress.

Brent

P.S. How have you worked to create a healthy separation?  Share your tips in the comments.


The Fine Line Between Order and Chaos

How much change is too much change? It’s a question I’m asked on a regular basis.

How much change is too little change? It’s a question I’ve never been asked in nearly 20 years as an advisor to the leaders of privately-held companies.

Understanding how much change your company can absorb exists in the relationship between requirements, capacity and speed.

  • Requirement - The level and pace of change needed for your company to adapt, evolve and exist into the future.
  • Capacity - The understanding of how well you’ve developed and conditioned people in your company to handle and manage specific amounts change.
  • Speed - The pace at which change must occur in order to maximize opportunity in relation to performance and profitability.

While there’s a fine line between order and chaos, change must occur for growth to occur. If you expect your company to thrive into the future, you need to be highly intentional at evolving the load limit of your leaders. Behaviorally, people are unique and each of them responds to change differently. You can, however, increase the required capacity and speed by which your team deals with and processes change effectively.


Awareness Drives Understanding

I drive a Ram 3500 Laramie. There’s no doubt that it’s a big, bold and powerful truck, and yet it has limits. These limits are designed to protect the truck and allow it to maximize its performance. Example - before towing anything with my truck, the manufacturer recommended that I drive 1,000 miles. Why? Because towing puts the truck under load and in order to maximize performance, the truck needed to have some miles on it before that happened.

There’s no mathematical equation or crystal ball to define whether there’s too little change or too much change occurring in your organization. Leadership awareness is what drives this understanding. You must be directly connected to the people and culture of your company to understand specific load limits. Do you recognize these within your company?

Agents of Change

You’ve got to understand with relentless awareness who will do what when it comes to engaging the requirement, speed and capacity of change. Here are five questions to ask yourself regarding leaders and their load capacity.

  1. Who consistently steps in, steps up and demonstrates an ability to handle change?
  2. Who’s long on talk and short on action?
  3. Who needs time to think and process?
  4. Who will follow direction regarding change and spell out the rules related to change?
  5. Who thinks, acts, executes and owns change proactively?

Advancing the Load Limit

If you’re looking to understand real chaos, it can be found through leaders who have never been tested - leaders who have a philosophical understanding of the difficulty and challenge of change but have never had to fight the battle of change day-in and day-out.

Advancing the load limit of a leader begins by providing exposure to situations and scenarios that cause them to discover capacity that they didn’t even know they had. Difficult? Likely! Great! Dive in! This is where the skills of planning, critical thinking, action orientation and measurement are discovered and developed.

Order is maintained through change when someone demonstrates their awareness and experience in leadership. By the way, this doesn’t mean they have to have all the answers.

Chaos is the result when you don’t condition people to expand their critical thinking, confront change proactively and don’t require them to expand their decision-making ability.

An investment in someone who consistently relies on other people to do their thinking for them is a waste.

Thoughtstarter

Your engine warning light serves a purpose even though at first look you may view it as an inconvenience. That light is designed to bring awareness. It exists to help you identify an issue before it becomes something much worse.

There’s an engine warning light in your company. It’s what identifies the people in key positions who don’t recognize the requirement, capacity or speed at which change is occurring and must occur- the people you keep propping up in the hope that they will eventually get it.

WARNING: They won’t. What’s your engine warning light?


The Question That's Increasing Your Employee Turnover

“To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things that no one else is doing.”
Craig Groeschel

Am I Supposed to Be Here?

I recently attended an event at which there was not a name tag prepared for me when I arrived. As the individual running the registration table fumbled to figure out why I didn’t have a name badge, I stood there staring at the 100 plus name tags that were laid out on the table. “Am I supposed to be here?” I wondered to myself. How often do new employees have this same thought on their first day?

When Laura arrived at her first job out of college the office doors were locked. When she knocked, no one came to the door. Eventually, someone with a keycard let her into the building, but they were unable to provide her direction on where to go beyond that point. “I had wandered into a sea of closed doors. I felt so lost,” said Laura, “I wondered if I was supposed to be there.” Laura only stayed with the organization for 10 months. 

Many companies put an emphasis on onboarding and development to “fulfill” new employees but simultaneously fall short in the first impression by failing to make the new employee feel known and welcome.

Succeeding at the First Impression:

In today’s job market, it’s no secret that top-performing job candidates have numerous options. As you hire, you must constantly remind yourself that not only are you trying to select the ideal candidate, but they’re trying to select the ideal company. First impressions matter. Would you rather work for a company that made you feel welcomed at your interview or a company that made you feel intimidated?

Ten Points for Positive First Impressions:

  1. Select someone to greet the individual and guide them through their first day.
  2. Provide an itinerary for their first day.
  3. Make sure all required materials and resources are prepared and ready.
  4. Clearly communicated expectations for the first day.
  5. Meet, greet, tour and introduce.
  6. Be prepared to answer simple questions like “where’s the restroom?” or “where should I go if I have questions?”
  7. Develop a handout of company language and terms.
  8. Create a connection and talk with them about your first day on the job.
  9. Don’t tell them about your company’s culture, show them examples of how your culture is experienced and lived out.
  10. Remember what you’d want to experience if this was your first day on the job.

Do Your Actions Reflect Your Words?

I constantly hear leaders say, “We value our people!” That’s great, but let’s make sure our actions are a reflection of our words. No new employee should have to wonder if they belong at your company on their first day.

#Thoughtstarter

When was the last time you invested time in understanding what a new employee, at any level, experiences on their first day?

Given the experience, would you feel welcome and want to work for your company?

Final Thought

What if your entire paycheck was based on the first impression you created for new employees? Would you get paid?  Are you willing to challenge yourself to change something that isn’t working?

People deserve better than our scraps of thought regarding their first day and first impression.

Brent

P.S. How does your company/organization work to make positive first impressions on new employees? Let me know in the comments.


Why Vulnerability Creates Connected Leaders

Dear Evolving Leader,

I begin this letter with the recognition that there’s no such thing as a completely developed leader. Each of us who are seeking to grow, develop and advance needs to be continuously evolving. We are quite literally, a work in progress.

You may be asking yourself why you’re getting this on Thursday rather than Tuesday. The answer is because this is a really challenging topic for me to write about and I’ve re-written this letter several times.

Throughout my career, one of my biggest struggles has been in the relationship between confidence/strength and the ability to be vulnerable. How does the ability to resist and withstand connect with the ability to be open and susceptible? In my mind, this was about the choice of either/or rather than and.

There are areas of our evolution that are easier than others. Some take more time and some less. For me, the balance between strength and vulnerability has been a continual work in progress. These two don’t seem to naturally go together and there are times when I feel like they contradict each other.

All too often, we as leaders find ourselves unnecessarily guarded. Afraid to be real or raw. Hesitant to reveal a personal perspective in order to not compromise the professionalism for which we’re known. Recognizing that there are many times when we have better questions than we have answers.

While there’s a certain protection in not revealing our vulnerabilities, the price that’s paid is potentially becoming unrelatable as a leader. Leadership is about people and it’s about influence. As such, there’s no advantage to being unrelatable to the people we lead.

There’s a very thin line between being relatable and unrelatable. My experience has shown me firsthand that the line is labeled vulnerability.

Vulnerability isn’t based on weakness, it’s based on awareness. Awareness of our strengths, limitations and potential blind spots. Areas where we’re the catalyst for advancement and where we’re the roadblock to progression. Vulnerability is what opens the door to new conversations and new ideas. It’s at the core of innovation and re-invention. On so many occasions, vulnerability means standing in a place that’s necessary even when it’s not comfortable.

So why does vulnerability create connected leaders? Because it’s their source of confidence rather than contradiction. Their ability to withstand is based on their awareness and openness to understand themselves, others and the situations they face. They’re the first to admit their successes and failures. They openly share the experiences that have shaped who they are and they’re willing to say, “I don’t know,” … which is followed quickly by, “but I’ll find out.”

In a world that seems to have no filters, engaging in the conversation creates its own unique vulnerability. I don’t need to be vulnerable because it’s trending or socially driven. For me, my growth in this area is about one thing: Being relatable and valued as a person and a professional to the people with whom I’m connected. 

This is the space of confidence and strength driven by a continual evolution and achieved by a willingness to be open and aware.

In this space, I have come to value what it means to be an evolving leader and I hope that this letter contributes to your progression as well.

Sincerely,

Brent

#Thoughtstarter

What does vulnerability mean to you? Where have you been willing to be vulnerable and built your confidence at the same time? Let me know in the comments.


Your Success Depends On Getting Out of Your Own Way

Can you identify a time when you were a roadblock to your own success?

Maybe you overthought something when you should have taken action. Maybe you weren’t receptive to a new/different idea because it challenged your norm or what you knew. Maybe you focused so much on others that you didn’t focus on yourself. Did you miss the forest for the trees?  Maybe you lacked an awareness. Whatever the case, it's time to get out of your own way.

I know a promising young entrepreneur. He’s extremely bright and talented. He connects and communicates with confidence, but he has one problem... He’s standing in his own way. He’s so focused on his own path and methods that he overlooks, or fails to consider, who his clients are and what they’re striving to achieve. He doesn’t take the time to self-reflect and gain the awareness of his own roadblocks.

Like so many of us, he doesn’t need more lessons, he simply needs to get out of his own way.

Assessment, Awareness and Advancement

The starting point of my work with people and companies is assessment. Most often, that involves an owner/exec/manager/leader completing an actual assessment. The assessment offers value and objectivity in understanding personal strengths and limitations. Quite simply, these are the two factors of awareness that either accelerate advancement or become potential roadblocks to success. These roadblocks are the things that stop or slow you from getting what you want.

What To Do With a Roadblock?

When we face roadblocks, the best option is to deal with them so they don’t stall progress.

Waze, the mapping app, has two primary objectives. The first is to provide the most efficient route to get you where you’re going and the second is to keep you moving. How does Waze accomplish this? Aside from a whole lot of technology, the app integrates user feedback and reporting on what’s going on in real time.

There’s nothing more frustrating than being stalled and feeling like you’re going nowhere. In that moment, Waze doesn’t give users lessons on how to drive, it helps them navigate the best course of action in dealing with the situation and current conditions. Waze relies on a community of users that help each other navigate the potential roadblocks that will be confronted along a chosen route of travel.

Your Community of Users

Like Waze Users (a.k.a. - Wazers) you can learn from your own community of connections. (a.k.a. - Mentors) Effective mentors don’t give you lessons on how to lead, they offer you awareness and guidance based on their real-life experiences. You get to choose the best course of action in dealing with current conditions and situations. Mentors help you develop an awareness of your strengths and limitations. They help you get out of your own way.

Five Ways Effective Mentors Help You Get Out of Your Own Way:

  1. They ask you the questions that make you think, reflect and increase your self-awareness. Ultimately, the questions they ask are helping define a course of action that helps you achieve what you want.
  2. They focus on you. They don’t focus on their achievements or accomplishments. Your successful outcome is the measure of their success and a failure is shared.
  3. Their influence takes a work with approach. They’re willing to be vulnerable and experiences are shared in a way that forms a relatable connection.
  4. They will challenge you to maximize your capacity and often times see things in you that you don’t see in yourself.
  5. They’re relentlessly objective with you and you being comfortable with every idea isn’t their primary objective. Your evolution and advancement is their “why.”

Thoughtstarter

How do you deal with roadblocks in your awareness, understanding or career? Let me encourage you to get out of your own way.

Brent

P.S. Do you have a mentor who had a positive impact on your life? Share about them in the comments.