Category Archives: Boosting Creativity, Productivity & Effectiveness

3 Steps for Escaping the Hamster Wheel to Create Freedom & Flow

hamster on wheel

 

Do you find yourself running from one thing to the next with little time to really think about what you are doing and why?

If you answered yes, you are not alone.

Many high achieving professionals feel as though they have way more to do than they have time to do it. Their ambition, drive and passion have served them well, and gotten them to a nice place, but still they know they are capable of more. More visibility, more opportunity, more income, and dare I say – more freedom to enjoy their careers and their lives.

The daily grind has a way of keeping us tethered to the ground, feeling as though our best is just around the corner, if only we can get through what’s in front of us, which is often an accumulation of projects, events and other commitments that ends up growing far faster than it shrinks. Every once in a while, it becomes apparent that something’s got to give.

But who has time to slow down when there is so much more to get done?

The fantasy many of us have bought into is that if we just work longer and harder, we will get there. And despite our longing to find balance and the sweet spot that will finally allow us to relax and be more effective, we often act in ways that bring greater levels of anxiety and toil. As leaders, we also unwittingly create entire cultures of people who emulate our frenetic behavior in the name of getting ahead.

The hamster in the wheel doesn’t realize he isn’t getting anywhere.

And before he can, he must realize that he is, in fact, in a wheel. Our wheels are much more sophisticated and deceiving than those of the hamster. Because initially, our wheels do get us somewhere. It’s just that over time, they lose traction and become stuck in comfortable ruts. And we don’t realize when we’re stuck, because it doesn’t seem possible to be standing still when you are running like hell.

Are you ready to stop the madness and take things up a notch?

Can you conceive of finding a better way to do things? How badly do you want it? Bad enough to try something that goes against every compulsion you currently have to keep doing what you’ve been doing all along?

Consider the prerequisite for successful change.

Have you ever noticed that when you upgrade software, the program often needs to uninstall or extract something before it can successfully run? Gardeners know that new blossoms proliferate when the old flowers and branches have been pruned. Bargain shoppers know that stores sell older merchandise at a significant discount to get it off the shelves to make room for what’s coming in the new season.

How about you?

What tried and true ways of doing things have lost their leverage?

How willing are you to recognize that perhaps there is a better way of doing things than what you’ve done up to this point? All change begins with awareness that is coupled with desire. To move beyond your madness, try the following:

  • Pay attention to the times during the day that you feel the most anxious, stressed, or tense. Recognize the pattern of thought or behavior you are engaging in that may be causing this discomfort. This may be a prime area for you to make a shift.
  • Ask yourself some discerning questions such as, “What small, but powerful change could I make today that would allow me to be more effective and make the most of my opportunities?”
  • Notice what catches your attention in the coming days. The answers to your questions will reveal themselves to you, but you must open yourself up to them and be willing to listen.

Once you begin to notice that the patterns and triggers that create the highest degree of anxiety, stress and pressure – and the impact they are having in your life, they begin to lose their hold on you. When you open yourself to new ways of doing things, you move from a point of view to a higher viewing point – one that allows you to see solutions that may have previously evaded you. Allowing yourself to envision and believe in a new way of doing things will transform your frustration into fuel and help you summon the courage you need to overcome obstacles along the way.

If you are interested in specific strategies for breaking through old habits and patterns that no longer serve you so that you can create more freedom and flow in your work and your life, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Why You Don’t Need to Have It All Figured Out

 

 

woman hiking to work on figuring things out

You’re busy – scurrying from one thing to the next, tending to the most pressing needs of the day. The starting gun goes off in the morning and you are off and running. It might feel like a race that you just can’t win, despite the fact that you are moving faster than ever. And the closer you get to the finish line, the farther it seems to recede into the distance.

But every once in a while something breaks through that beckons to you.

Maybe it’s the thought that life and work could be better, easier, more satisfying, less stressful. Perhaps you’re ready to take things up a notch – play at a higher level, make a bigger impact, finally wade through the minutia and get to the juicy stuff that you’ve been pushing to the back burner until all the other urgent stuff gets done.

But you may not know exactly where or how to start.

You might feel like you don’t have the time to do anything different even if you did. And until you have what you think is an executable plan, you could be inclined to continue to just do what you’ve been doing – even though it isn’t really getting you where you really want to be.

If you feel that way, I encourage you to watch the below video.

Because the place to start something new – something that feeds you and unlocks your potential and opens new doors of possibility and purpose for you – is in your mind. And despite how busy you are or how little time you have, the technique I’ll share with you in the video is something that is not only doable, but world changing.

You can break that cycle of running yourself ragged to enjoy greater effectiveness and fulfillment. Watch the video below for an example of how it’s done. And then try it for yourself.

 

As a leader, you don’t need to have it all figured out. In fact, you don’t need to even need to set goals. Learn more about why the best leaders don’t set goals and what they do instead.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Supercharge Your Summer: Three Strategies for Vacationing that Replenish You and Skyrocket Your Performance

 

We all know we need vacations.frustrated man feels the need for a vacation to replenish

Time to rest and recuperate, enjoy our loved ones, and have some fun. But all too often, vacation creates stress for high performing executives who dread coming back to loads of email and other work that has piled up, and spend their time away preoccupied and worried about what’s happening at the office or getting sucked into email and phone calls.

It’s not uncommon to come back from vacation feeling like you need another vacation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you approach your vacation with the same level of thoughtfulness and intention that you do with any project you undertake, you can create experiences that not only revitalize yourself and enable you to reach a new level of performance, but also increase the strength and effectiveness of your organization.

Here are three strategies for accomplishing this:

(1) Make the decision to completely disconnect.

We all know our electronic devices need to be recharged to work properly.

And it’s a no brainer that they charge more efficiently when we are not using them. However, we often fail to grasp that to replenish our energy, creativity, resilience, determination and focus – we too need to go offline.

It is often our underlying (and unexamined) assumptions that keep us from truly relaxing.

We are conditioned to believe that the harder we work, the more successful we will be, and that taking our eyes off the ball (even for a day, let alone a week or more) can lead to things spiraling out of control. As a result, many of us have a hard time letting go. We approach our vacations with one foot in and one foot back in the office, checking our phones and becoming preoccupied with work. In this state of mind it’s easy to get sucked back in to anything that appears to be less than optimal.

Few of us realize that this belief itself is the problem.

It is often the assumption that we cannot afford to let go that leads to most the stress, pressure and overwhelm we encounter when we return from our much-needed breaks. Like our cell phones, which are constantly searching for a signal and downloading messages, we too are expending energy even as we try to recharge it. In addition, this belief leads us to become far more susceptible to distractions that take us away from what we are doing in the moment. It also keeps us from doing the preparation necessary to ensure that others can handle things without us while we are away.

Once you realize this underlying belief is the culprit, you can substitute it with a new truth.

Chances are that voice in your head that compels you to check your phone will continue to speak. But when you begin to see the fallacy in that assumption as well as the pain it creates, it doesn’t have as much of a hold on you. You can begin to entertain the possibility that disconnecting will truly serve you (and your organization) and act in ways that make that true. And when you fully commit to a vacation that allows you to go offline, you are better able to prepare in ways that make that possible, which leads to the next strategy.

(2) Prepare people in your organization to handle things in your absence.

Most executives would benefit by delegating and empowering others more in general.

Often senior leaders find themselves unable to act strategically because they get bogged down in operational tasks that they really shouldn’t be involved in. So, creating a plan to prepare others to run things in your absence will yield dividends for you (and your organization) long after your vacation is over.

Take some time to identify what is most likely to hijack your relaxation, and plan accordingly.

Identify people in your organization whose skill, experience and passion are a good match for things you would normally handle yourself. Then take the steps necessary to bring them up to speed and put them in charge while you are away. Create and communicate guidelines that will help them know what to do in situations that would cause you the greatest stress, so they can make solid decisions without you. Taking these steps not only helps ensure consistency and effectiveness while you are away but also develops key players on your team that, given the right opportunities, can make a bigger impact.

When you return, follow up to help your people integrate what they have learned and build on it.

In addition to increasing their own capability, their fresh perspective may yield insights into how things can be handled more effectively in the future. Additionally, the confidence you place in your staff can go a long way in making them feel valued and appreciated. As a result, you’ll open doors to new levels of performance that benefit your entire organization.

(3) Set and communicate boundaries and expectations in advance.

Most of us are accustomed to setting up automated “out of office” messages in our mailboxes.

But we often fail to communicate and manage expectations in advance. As a result, people can feel caught off guard and demanding of your time while you are away. Or, you can feel inclined to respond to something that really isn’t all that urgent, out of fear of damaging a relationship or letting a ball drop.

Take the time to talk with others about your intention to completely disconnect while you are away.

Make it clear that you do not intend to check email or handle phone calls. Remind them of the guidelines you’ve set on what to do in your absence. And clarify your intention to use this time to replenish your reserves so that upon your return you can more effectively serve them.

When clients understand that you have taken steps to ensure they will be well cared for and know who in your organization to contact for what, they are much less inclined to interrupt you. If you discuss in advance what things can be done before and while you are gone and what is better delayed until your return, you will be able to leave with the peace of mind that everyone is on the same page.

Don’t underestimate the power of your example.

Leaders set the tone in organizations more by what they do than what they say. And if you interrupt your vacations to get involved in work, others are likely to feel compelled to follow suit. As a result, the energy of your team wanes, tempers flare, and performance begins to decline. People work harder than ever but don’t seem to get a lot done, or they burn out altogether.

When you apply these strategies, you’ll exercise true leadership – showing others how to truly revitalize themselves and their performance by modeling it yourself.

If you are interested in more strategies, approaches and tips for revitalizing yourself and your organization, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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How to Accomplish More by Thinking Less

 

How much of your time is spent thinking about what really needs to get done versus doing it? If you are like most people, the more anxiety or resistance you have to a given task, the more your thoughts will throw you for a loop.

Sometimes those thought loops suck up a whole heap of time that could be much better spent. In many cases the thoughts we have about what’s in front of us lead us to procrastinate and block us from the very insight, creativity and resolve we need to do what’s most important.

What if it was possible to turn that dynamic on its head? Watch the video below to find out how.

 

And if you’d like more tips and insights on how to turn your grandest visions and dreams into reality, click here to download my special report, Why Real Leaders Don’t Set Goals (and what they do instead) and to receive additional tips and insights on an ongoing basis.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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How to Leverage Untapped Talent, Energy and Potential Through Behavioral Styles

 

According to Gallup, employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.

But sadly, in many organizations people are not given many opportunities to do what they are best at.

Worse, some people are routinely put into situations that are dissatisfying to them, leading them to shut down and leaving an untold amount of talent, energy and potential untapped in many organizations.

Identifying what people are skilled at and ensuring the roles, projects and initiatives they work on are a good fit requires discernment and dialogue. Having a better understanding of behavioral styles and what motivates people with each of those styles can really help.

In my last post, How to Create Synergy and Collaborate with People’s Differing Styles, I explained that there are two continuums that people fall on: task versus people orientation and introversion versus extraversion. If you overlay each of these continuums, you will create a matrix with four quadrants that make up each of the four behavioral styles of the DISC Behavioral Style Model.

D = Dominance (Task-oriented + Extraverted)

I = Influence (People-oriented + Extraverted)

S = Steadiness (People-oriented + Introverted)

C = Compliance (Task-oriented + Introverted)

Today, I’ll provide you with some tips for leveraging the strengths of people that operate with each of these four behavioral styles. Remember, sometimes people operate with more than one, so you may want to check out recommendations for all that could potentially apply. See my last post for an overview on how to determine which style others most likely operate from.

Matching Work to Task Oriented, Extraverted Individuals (Style = Dominance)

People who are extraverted toward task are energized by challenges – the more daunting the better. They thrive in turnaround situations where they can make sweeping changes to save a struggling enterprise, venture or initiative.

They like to be in charge and tend to be very directive and decisive. They come to life in situations that require them to get others to act on things quickly but will quickly get frustrated if they are not given authority along with responsibility.

Those whose primary style is Dominance are big picture people who get bogged down with too many details and frustrated with anything that keeps them from taking quick, intense action. Inefficiency will drive them crazy and they will feel hemmed in when surrounded by constraints that get in the way of progress.

They prefer to work autonomously and will feel stifled by managers who hover and appear to be overly controlling.

Matching Work to People Oriented, Extraverted Individuals (Style = Influence)

People who are extraverted toward people thrive on social interaction. They like (and want to be liked) by everyone they meet and often possess the kind of charm that can win others over in a relatively short period of time. The excitement and buzz they generate around things they believe in allows them to be highly persuasive, which lends itself well to situations where influencing others is paramount.

Natural cheerleaders, they excel in situations that require enthusiasm and optimism. They have the ability to infuse energy and lightness into the dreariest of environments and often rely on humor that allows others to loosen up and get unstuck and revitalized.

Those whose primary style is Influence are also big picture people who get bogged down in details. They are highly creative and visionary people who get excited about things even though they may not have data that suggests their optimism is merited.

Because they tend to take things personally, they can be deflated by people who are overly skeptical and negative. They work best with people who support them and provide them with the data they need in a way that doesn’t rein them in or dampen their spirits.

Matching Work to People Oriented, Introverted Individuals (Style = Steadiness)

People who are introverted toward people are extraordinary listeners who hear and notice things others do not. They also have a natural tendency to diffuse tension among people who are overly stressed, frustrated and worked up – sometimes without even saying a word.

People whose primary style is Steadiness love to contribute and be of service to others and are content to operate in the background rather than the spotlight. Their ability to understand and connect with others allows them to serve as a bridge between people who are having difficulty seeing eye to eye. They gain and sustain support and buy in from others because of the solid level of trust they cultivate.

They are also very insightful, but often are unlikely to share their observations and ideas with others because they are uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves and tend to underestimate the impact they could potentially have. They do best in settings that encourage them to provide input but allow them time necessary to organize their thoughts before having to present them to others.

These people are steady, thorough, easy going and warm hearted. They can be depended on to deliver and follow through consistently, though often at a slower, more methodical pace.

Matching Work to Task Oriented, Introverted Individuals (Style = Compliance)

People who are introverted toward task strive for perfection, order and consistency. They thrive in situations where processes and procedures are clearly spelled out and place a high value on data that allows them to achieve and maintain a high level of accuracy, precision and security.

People whose primary style is Compliance have a high attention to detail. They prefer to rely on the tried and true rather than reinventing the wheel and tend to be somewhat risk averse. Because of this, they excel at making sure work is up to or above standard and nothing significant gets overlooked.

They often enjoy doing research and analysis – a welcome complement to other styles who would rather work at higher levels and surrounded by people. They do best in an environment that allows them to spend the time necessary to ensure things are done right the first time, where processes and standard procedures are clearly spelled out and enforced and high quality is essential.

Because they tend to be driven by logic and data, they can get frustrated in situations where people are overly emotional for reasons that do not appear to be rational.

What You Can Do Right Now

Think about the people who report to you or serve on teams you oversee. Use the information above (and/or see my recent article on recognizing styles) to identify what is likely to be the predominant style of each person. Ask yourself whether the projects they are currently working on and/or the roles they are playing are well matched to those styles.

You don’t need to drastically reengineer people’s jobs to ensure the work they are doing is a good fit for them. Sometimes the smallest tweaks make the biggest differences. Use your insight to begin a conversation with them that will open the door to better understanding and utilization of their talent, energy and styles.

If you would like to utilize the DISC Behavioral Style assessment to see how you and others in your organization score in each of the four behavioral styles, contact me at Diane@DianeBolden.com or give me a call at (602) 840-3627.  The assessment is completed online and will provide you with a comprehensive twenty plus page report that provides a tremendous amount of insight – including a full page on Keys to Motivating and another on Keys to Managing.

And if you are interested in learning more about behavioral styles and how you can leverage them to dramatically increase your individual and organizational effectiveness, consider enrolling in my new self-study version of Communicating With Style: DISC Behavioral Style Workshop or bringing this workshop in house.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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How to (Finally) Get Your Most Important Work Done

 

Is there something vital that you’ve been meaning to get to that seems just out of reach? A juicy project, initiative or undertaking that you’re passionate about – that could potentially make a big impact on your career, in your organization, or simply on another human being?

If you’re like most people, the answer is yes. We all tend to have something relatively important we’ve been putting off – for lack of time, energy, focus (or a combination of all three). Sometimes it keeps slipping because other people’s projects and requests tend to take priority.

But more often than not, these critical tasks and projects are in a perpetual state of incompletion because we simply have not gotten serious about carving out time (and energy) to do them. They tend to have a few things in common:

  • They require you to think creatively – to bring into form something that did not previously exist or to solve a problem that doesn’t have easy answers.
  • It seems the time it will take to do them is greater than the time you have available.
  • The thought of jumping in makes you mildly uncomfortable, leading you to be all too inclined to put other things ahead of them.

I know, because the article you are now reading fell into that category for me. So, in effect I am writing this as much for my own benefit as yours.

Below are three simple tips to help you get off the dime and get those essential projects rolling.

(1) Make the decision to stop talking/thinking/planning and start DOING.

The word decision derives from the Latin “decidere”, which literally means “to cut off,” from de- “off” + ceadere “to cut”. Making a decision means cutting yourself off from other options. In the words of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, “There is no try, only do.”

Sometimes you can kick start yourself by using this logic in reverse. What if the option you cut yourself off from was the completion of this important task/project/initiative? What would be the impact on your life if you did not do it? How would you feel? And what would the effect be on others?

If you were to flash forward another week/month/year/decade, and you still hadn’t done this thing that has likely been gently (or not so gently) nudging you forward, would you be okay with that?

Conversely, what is there to gain by going all in? How would you benefit? How will the work you are on the verge of doing enrich the lives of others or make a difference in a way that matters? Flash forward and imagine that you have completed it. How would you feel? And what kind of impact would it have on the world around you?

William James once said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” Sometimes the very incompletion of a task that has meaning and significance for us is more exhausting than the energy required to actually do it. So, make the decision today to cut yourself off from other options and move into action.

This leads us to the next tip.

(2) Block time and hold it sacred.

Now that you’ve made the decision to get that precious piece of work done, you must dedicate time to do it. Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t necessarily need to have large, uninterrupted chunks of time to make progress. Even the smallest of actions you can take will begin creating momentum that will move you closer to your finish line.

Break bigger projects into smaller milestones and get into the practice of using whatever time you have to take action toward your goals. Challenge your assumptions on how long things will take to get done. Interrupt that chatter in your head that has you believing you don’t have time to make a dent in something by simply moving into action in spite of it. Just get started.

Reserve larger chunks of time by scheduling meetings with yourself. Consider sending yourself a meeting notice, complete with a subject line and an agenda that spells out your objectives in the body of the message. This will serve to direct your attention and focus to what you have the power to accomplish in the time you have reserved.

Regard these meetings you schedule with yourself the same way you would a meeting with a client or your boss. If despite your best efforts, something else must be scheduled in its place, don’t just delete it from your calendar. Find an alternative date and time in the same way you would another appointment that you are committed to.

If upon looking at your calendar it seems there is simply no time available, challenge yourself to use the discernment necessary to create it. What can you delegate, defer or dump? How can you simplify the things that may not require as much time as you thought they would? What things are you involved in that in the scheme of things really aren’t true priorities?

Now that you have allocated time to work on those precious projects, let’s talk about how you can create the kind of space you’ll need to make good progress on them.

(3) Maximize your FOCUS and PRODUCTIVITY.

During the time you have set aside to do that important work that has previously eluded you, it is likely there will be a multitude of things competing for your attention.  We are conditioned to believe that taking time for ourselves is indulgent. But in many cases, it is the most generous thing you can do because it allows you to engage in the kind of work that is of greatest service to others.

Despite that fact, many of us are all too quick to defer those projects that bring us the greatest joy to meet the urgent requests of someone or something that is demanding our attention.

Sometimes that is an actual person standing in front of us, but often it is the little ding that tells us an email has landed in our inbox, or the ring of the phone that we are conditioned to answer without even thinking, or the lure of social media or internet surfing that sucks up immeasurable amounts of time that we’ll never get back.

So, it is essential to consciously and intentionally eliminate distractions and create the kind of setting that is most conducive to enhancing your focus and productivity. Close your Outlook or Gmail and your browsers as well. Make the decision not to answer the phone.

Shut your door (if you have one) and/or communicate with others to manage their expectations about when you will become available. If you have the option, you may even consider going to a remote location like a coffee shop or restaurant where you are less likely to be disturbed.

Notice what environment leads you to find your zone of productivity. Some prefer a completely quiet space, while others enjoy ambient sounds around them. Some like music in the background or the sound of water.

Set a timer and designate anywhere from thirty to fifty minutes to do a “sprint” of work followed by a five to ten minute break that allows you to relax, take some deep breaths, move your body, get a drink of water and/or rest your eyes. Research shows this practice will dramatically increase your productivity (and I have validated that through my own experience as well.)

One of my favorite apps is Focus at Will, which offers a variety of background music and sounds that are designed to keep your brain at the right focus level by increasing beta and theta brainwave activity. The program allows you to set a timer, at which point the background sound will stop signaling time for a break.

A few words on why your most important work shouldn’t wait another minute…

Throughout corporate America, executives are prone to move so fast from one thing to another checking boxes that they sacrifice the strategic in favor of the operational. Those juicy projects and creative visions that beckon to us in our quiet moments are vital not only to our sanity and sense of meaning and purpose, but also to the very future of our organizations and the lives of the people they serve.

The Real Leader Revolution already underway is bringing this to a head for us. Real Leaders (at all levels of both small and large organizations) who heed these calls to break out of business as usual by tending to work that has real significance are already experiencing the rich rewards of fulfilling work that makes a bigger, more sustainable impact in the world.

If you would like to learn more about how you can join them, sign up below to receive a copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it becomes available.


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Feeling Stuck? Learn How to Access Your Best Answers

Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden

My last article, “How to Meet Change, Challenge and Uncertainty with Courage and Grace discussed the importance of shifting from a reactive mode that is (often unthinkingly) triggered by fear and conditioning to the conscious, thoughtful, and intentionally constructive response that is characteristic of Real Leadership.

Today, I’d like to give you a concrete tool for helping you do just that – one that I often share in my presentations and workshops and also work with participants in The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow program to apply. It’s called Using the Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present.

Are you in the midst of some kind of change or challenge right now? What is occupying your thoughts and energy these days? Think about it until you can come up with a concrete example of something you may be struggling with – or simply in the process of working through.

See if you can tune into the way this challenge is leading you to feel. Frustration? Uneasiness? Doubt? Worry? Can you put your finger on what is most unnerving about the situation at hand?

Now, think back to another time that you have felt this same way. A time when you had to work through an earlier challenge. One that was perhaps equally difficult and/or anxiety provoking – or even worse than the issue you are currently facing.

Can you recall what you were thinking at the time? What were you telling yourself? What questions were you asking yourself? What worries were plaguing you? What doubts were eroding your confidence?

Imagine that you can go visit that younger version of yourself and share some advice. What would you tell yourself? What do you wish you would have known back then that you know now? What encouragement would you provide? What would you tell yourself to stop, start or continue?

You may want to pause for a moment and write that advice down.

Chances are the advice you would give to your younger self is pretty darn good guidance for you now. Rainer Maria Wilke once wrote, “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”

What if the very experiences you have had over the course of your life happened in perfect order to prepare you for what you would experience in your future?

What if those challenges that that left you stumped or feeling uneasy or pushed you to your edge served the purpose of helping you to discover in yourself a strength you didn’t know you had – and develop a muscle that would allow you to lift heavier weight and move bigger mountains?

Much of my work as a coach is helping people connect the dots of their own experiences in ways that help them see they have exactly what it takes to successfully address and rise above their current issues and obstacles. It is not uncommon for people to realize that what they thought was unchartered territory at its core is in fact something they are not all that unfamiliar with.

Even something you may have written off as “failure” may reveal rich insights and answers if you take the time to identify what you learned in your past that you can potentially apply to your present.

Most of us don’t pause long enough to realize the ways life has prepared us for what we face. We are all too quick to want to forget about the frustrations and anxieties of the past rather than leverage them in ways that allow us to learn and grow. And when presented with what feels like an insurmountable challenge, we tend to think we need to speed up rather than slow down.

So, you have to make a deliberate, concerted effort to turn that pattern around.

When you do that using The Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present process, you’ll begin to recognize that the biggest source of anxiety and frustration is largely based on conjecture and hypothetical situations.

You’ll also realize as you examine your past, that you likely have concrete data – evidence-based proof that you have what it takes to successfully navigate through uncertainty, to think on your feet, and to find solutions where it appeared none existed.

In so doing, you’ll shift from doubt to confidence – from what you don’t know to what you do know. And you’ll focus on what is in your control to influence rather than all the things that are beyond it.

From that mindset, you are infinitely more likely to access the courage, confidence, ingenuity, determination and resilience necessary to be successful in any situation. You’ll be more likely to see solutions to the problems that once confounded you – and to lead and inspire others to do the same.

This is the essence of Real Leadership.

If you are interested in learning more about Real Leadership and how you can unearth it in yourself and your organization, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it becomes available.


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Leadership Lit Up: 5 Distinctions That Separate the Best from the Rest (Part 4)

Real Leader Revolution founder and executive leadership coach Diane Bolden.

 

Today’s article is the fourth in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.  

KEY POINT #4: Real leadership unites. It does not divide. 

Conflict is an inevitable part of life and relationships. It exists because we are different. We need to look at it in a way that allows us to come together and learn more about who we are and what we can do together.

In every conflict, each party truly believes they are right, and most of the time they have good reason (at least in their own minds) to think that way. But often our conclusions are based more in conjecture than fact.

We all tell ourselves stories of why people do the things they do. And if you believe a story that convinces you someone else has ill intent, chances are your reaction to that person will create problems that could have otherwise been prevented.

To rise above this pitfall, get in the habit of asking yourself questions such as “What am I believing about this situation (or person)? What do I really know? What am I not seeing?” When you ask questions like these, your brain expands its orientation to allow new information to come in.

Real leaders treat their stories more as hypothesis or possible explanations and are willing to entertain that there may be alternate explanations and view. Simply said, things are not always what they seem.

It is essential to be open to the views of others and go a step further to actively seek those alternative viewpoints out. Encourage people to challenge the way you are seeing things with the knowledge that you could be wrong.

When you are able to relax your filters in this way, true learning and innovation can take place. Solutions to problems that were right in front of you suddenly become visible. You’ll go beyond your limited views to see what is really possible – in yourself and others, your relationships, projects, positions, and organizations.

The trust and respect you’ll create in your working relationships will give rise to solid partnership and collaboration. The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for this kind of collaboration, and the need to handle conflict in ways that bring transformation and new vision into our organizations, businesses and lives.

To find out more about how you can be a forerunner in this new way of doing business and achieve higher profitability, greater market share and sustained levels of exceptional performance, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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5 Ways for Executives to be Less Operational and More Strategic

Diane Bolden - Executive Leadership and Career Development Coach of Phoenix, AZ.

 

As we ponder what 2018 will bring, an adage comes to mind: the only thing that’s certain is change.

You can plan and prepare all you want, but the best way to be agile in a shifting environment is to stay connected to the undercurrent of emerging events and patterns – and utilize ingenuity to find the best way to rise to the coming challenges and opportunities.

And, whether you realize it or not, we’ve all been conditioned to tune out or disregard this vital source of intelligence.

The reason is, these days the speed of change (and innovation) moves very quickly …

And it becomes far too easy to rely on plans and approaches that were designed in the past, using old ways of thinking.

In the end utilizing information that is no longer relevant comes with heavy opportunity costs.

Albert Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind it’s faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

This seems especially true in corporate America, where systems, processes and standard operating procedures are often revered as a means to minimize risk, variation and chaos and exert control over our environment. People go to great lengths to plan and research best practices, set guidelines in place and create controls that ensure people follow them.

And when it’s time to execute – you put your head down and run from one thing to the next, juggling multiple priorities and putting out fires, only stopping to troubleshoot when things don’t go to plan…  There never seems to be enough time to pause long enough to determine whether the path you’re running on or the tactics you’re engaging in will get you to where you want to go.

After many conversations with colleagues and clients, it’s a clear consensus that real leaders are ready for a revolution of sorts. It’s time to capitalize on the opportunity to create positive change at all levels of an organization, from top down, to bottom up, because…

If the route you’re taking isn’t aligned with your desired destination, moving faster won’t do you any favors. And relying on your plan to tell you where to go next won’t either.

When you put more importance on the tactics than you do on the strategy and cling to a plan without continually reevaluating it, you have sacrificed the strategic in the name of the operational.

As an executive coach, this is one of the major challenges I work with executives to overcome. Operational is clean. It has defined edges and finite solutions. You can check the boxes and feel a sense of closure and control with an operational approach.

Strategic on the other hand can be a bit messier. It involves stepping into uncertainty to address challenges and opportunities that are new and unfamiliar. There is usually no one right answer. It often involves taking steps out of your comfort zone. And it requires that you slow down instead of speeding up, something that most of us tend to resist because slowing down flies in the face of what we’ve been conditioned to do.

To avoid this discomfort, many executives prefer being busy to being strategic. It gives them the illusion of being productive and the burst of adrenaline that is a nice (yet ultimately unsatisfying and addictive) placebo for real progress.

But busyness isn’t going to help you hit the target necessary to advance your business. Because until you slow down long enough to assess your environment and allow your intuitive mind to partner with your rational mind, you may not even realize what your true target is, let alone how to get there.

Malcolm Gladwell echoed the wisdom of Albert Einstein his iconic book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He wrote, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

Knowledge is the product of absorbing information. Understanding is the product of insight. And insight comes from the integration of information with experience, from slowing down long enough to practice reflection and discernment.

And that’s an important key to successfully navigating the changing landscape of “business as usual”.

We live in an age of information. You can find an abundance of resources – articles, books, dissertations, webinars, workshops, best practices, etc. on any given topic. This information tends to be descriptive of what worked in the past to address the challenges faced by people and organizations whose situations are rarely identical to our emerging challenges and opportunities.

Acting on information without discernment is like taking someone else’s prescription given for a diagnosis that you aren’t entirely certain matches your own.

And yet all too often we move full speed ahead with seeming solutions that don’t really address the true underlying problems (and often make the problem worse). Ask yourself how many times have you’ve overlooked, disregarded or suppressed inklings or rumblings that told you something is just not right.

It happens to the best of us, because we get so attached to our plans that we resist (consciously or unconsciously) anything that could potentially interfere or slow us down.

Sometimes the inklings come from within, accompanied by a sense of incongruence. It might feel as if you are wearing someone else’s clothes while trying to convince yourself that they fit just fine, even though they are way too tight. But in the name of efficiency (and because you think slowing down to address it is a luxury you can’t afford), you press on anyway.

Other times the rumbles come from others within the organization, people who aren’t so attached to the predetermined plan, who are a little closer to the real problems and issues and have a sense of what needs to be done to address them.   And they are all too often shushed by others (usually a few levels above in the hierarchy) who measure performance based on how well predetermined plans are implemented and adhered to.

So how do you turn this short-sighted, self-defeating old way of thinking dynamic around?

Here are five practical tips to get you moving in a new, more progressive and productive direction:

  • Carve out time regularly for yourself to reflect, integrate and think strategically. Block this time on your calendar and hold it sacred in the same way you would a meeting with your boss or your most important customer. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time. The important thing is to slow down long enough to consider how things are going and to determine whether your approach is aligned with your desired goal. Identify what, if any, tweaks to your plan are necessary, and write down your ideas.
  • Put just as much weight on the questions as you do the answers. Ask, “What are the problems I am/we are trying to solve? Could they be symptoms of a larger issue that has not yet been addressed? What are we seeing? What are we not seeing? How can we get the information and knowledge necessary to truly understand the problem and what needs to be done to effectively address it?”
  • Encourage dialogue. This is a big one. Give people who are closest to the challenges and issues that are being addressed an opportunity to communicate with those who have the bigger, more strategic picture. Take steps to integrate top down and bottom up approaches by creating a forum for discussing emerging patterns, trends, problems and opportunities and dialoguing about what the best approaches and solutions may be.
  • Welcome and embrace dissent. This may not be comfortable at first, but the more you can encourage people who have concerns with the current course of action to speak up, and give them opportunities to constructively express those concerns, the more likely you’ll gain the support and momentum you need to move forward. When you value people’s perspectives and contributions by listening with an open mind and a willingness to act, you’ll also have access to information that will dramatically increase your chances of success.
  • Use discernment. When looking to best practices or considering recommendations from experts, determine whether they are truly a good fit (and to what degree they should be tweaked or tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization) before they are implemented.

The tendency to act operationally instead of strategically and overlook, disregard or suppress the very insight that will lead you to the best solutions and innovations, is only one of many common practices that are being challenged and improved on within the emerging real leader revolution. The focus of these new conversations and perspectives is helping both executives and the organizations they are a part of to unleash unprecedented performance, make a bigger impact and enjoy a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment in their work and their lives.

This translates into increased profitability, greater market share and stronger relationships with customers who become their biggest advocates.

If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, I encourage you to get on the waiting list for the release of my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming soon…


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Have You Leveraged the Gifts from 2017 That Will Make 2018 Extraordinary?

Diane Bolden, executive leadership coach and founder of the Real Leader Revolution

 

Well, the dust is finally settling, and the holiday decorations are (almost) packed up and put away for next year. For many, the holidays are a frenzied time – a rush to the finish line that has adrenaline spiking for days on end. Between running around trying to find the perfect gifts to sending out cards, preparing meals, entertaining family and friends and spending a lot of time around people we don’t often get to see, it can be exhausting.

Some of us were lucky enough to have a bit of down time before jumping back in to the excitement that the New Year brings. And others of us have simply been riding that wave that takes us from one activity to the next, with little time for transition. Though it is already mid-January, it is never too late to take advantage of the demarcation that the end of one year and the beginning of another brings.

The turning of each year lends itself well to waxing reflective, calling to mind both the experiences in the past that have led us to the present moment, as well as what the future might hold – what magnificent things are bubbling up within us, just waiting to take form.

It’s curious that we often associate moments of reflection with major milestones (like a New Year), rather than as a continual process in our lives. Yet it’s easy to let the frenetic pace of business, the holidays, and personal affairs prevent us from enjoying the clarity of being alone with our thoughts, and even going beyond them into the silence of our own experience.

We get swept up in a kind of auto pilot mode, where we just do what is in front of us and go from one thing to the next, without a lot of thought.

But it is in the evaluation and reflection of our experiences that we receive insight – a vital gift that can become meaningful and empowering force in our lives.

Pressing on from one thing to the next without pausing long enough to integrate what we have learned deprives us of the gifts these experiences bring. It’s like finding a few wrapped presents with your name on them that were left behind in the festivities – and absentmindedly throwing them into a box instead of opening them up to see what’s inside.

Our experiences are uniquely designed to allow us to learn – about ourselves, others, and life itself. We learn about what works, what feels good, what doesn’t, who we are, what we are capable of, what we want more of (and less of too).

But only if we pause long enough to entertain the questions that allow us to unpack these gifts that are waiting to be opened.

If you have not yet afforded yourself the indulgence of conscious and intentional reflection, I encourage you to carve out some time to do so. Because the best goals, the best visions to move toward in the coming year will be those that align with the whispers of your heart – those that tap the infinite potential and wisdom that is already inside you. And you’ll never really know what those are until you take the time to go within and ask.

Below are some questions that can help you in this process. Some of these questions might seem more powerful to you than others – let yourself go where you are drawn with them. You may even want to take a quick look at them and then put them away and see what comes to you when your mind is empty of thoughts.

Or, you may scrap these questions and come up with different ones of your own. The important thing is to allow yourself the time to go within and listen with curiosity and earnestness.

QUESTIONS FOR YEAR-END REFLECTION

  • As you reflect on this past year, what were your three or four most significant accomplishments, breakthroughs, and/or achievements?
  • Looking back over the year, what (if anything) blocked or held you back as you moved toward your goals/objectives? How will you overcome those obstacles in the future?
  • What were your biggest insights or realizations over the past year that you gained through your experiences?
  • How will you apply what you learned this past year to what you want to create in the upcoming year?
  • What are the top two or three things about your job/practice that you most want to be different this year?
  • What two or three changes do you most want to see in your personal life?
  • What significant challenges will face you this year? Personally? Professionally?
  • What strengths will you rely on most to face the challenges that lie ahead?
  • What qualities, skills, etc. could you develop within yourself to better arm you for the upcoming year?
  • Picture yourself a year from now, looking back over the past year. What three or four accomplishments would you like to have achieved?
  • What actions are you prepared to take to achieve your desired results for the upcoming year?

I look forward to another year ahead of navigating a path of discovery – one that will lead us all closer to our most precious goals, and allow us to make the most out of every experience we have – leaving everything we touch a little better off for the interaction – our teams, our customers, our colleagues, friends, family, and of course, ourselves.

Wishing you a wonderful and prosperous New Year ahead!