Category Archives: Guidance

Are You a REAL Leader? What Pinocchio Can Teach You About Becoming One

Pinocchio Principle author Diane Bolden is also an Executive Leadership Coach in Phoenix, Arizona.

Often when I tell people that I wrote a leadership book called The Pinocchio Principle, they assume it must have something to do with ethics. It’s understandable, since the first thing most of us think of when we hear “Pinocchio” is a puppet whose nose grew when he lied. Pinocchio could easily be used as a metaphor for people who lie through their teeth while their proverbial noses grow…

And… it’s also easy to see why some might think it is a commentary on the importance of honesty in leadership.

While being truthful to oneself and others is a vital part of being a “real” leader, the reason I chose Pinocchio as a metaphor goes much deeper than his nose.

You see, the underlying narrative is, Pinocchio is a puppet who longs to become REAL. 

Like Pinocchio, at our core we too have a burning desire to become real, (authentic, resourceful, truer to ourselves, in better service to others, etc.) to bring into creation the greatness that resides somewhere within us.

After all, you were born with these impulses — to give form to your distinctive blends of talent, energy, passion and style.

We all come into the world equipped with far more than we are immediately able to utilize or even comprehend. And though these rich parts of ourselves are always there, they have a way of becoming latent over time.

Throughout your career, you’ve no doubt come across people who have a special way of tapping into that well of available greatness.

They seem to effortlessly draw forth bits of the magic, access energy reserves, continually improve skills and pursue their passions. These are the people we love to watch and be around — they do what they do so well that it is an art.

As they tap their inner reserves and unleash their own greatness, they inspire each of us to do the same… and that’s what sets them apart and elevates them to the level of “real leadership”.

In Walt Disney’s rendition of Pinocchio, the puppet encounters a blue fairy. She tells him, “When you prove yourself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish, Pinocchio, then you will become a real boy.”  You can imagine what Pinocchio might have been thinking upon hearing these words. What are these things this fairy speaks of? How do I get them? What must I do? How long will it take? Where do I start?

With the promise of a dream fulfilled, he endeavors to do whatever is necessary. And the odyssey begins. The twists and turns it takes are trials we can all relate to, and challenges that are a part of our human experience.

The qualities that the blue fairy encourages Pinocchio to demonstrate are not things he must acquire. They are attributes he already possesses. But to activate them, he must endure a series of events that allow him to realize these qualities are there and to exercise them accordingly.

In order to return to himself—his true self—Pinocchio must endure a journey of trials and tribulations that first lure him away from himself. And the same kind of drama seems to unfold in one way or another for each of us.

You have—within you—an animating genius.

This genius yearns to take different forms depending on the circumstances. Real leaders could be defined as those whose animating genius longs to create something for the greatest good, which is ultimately accomplished for, with and through others.

It has a keen ability to look around, see possibilities and utilize resources in a way that brings something into existence that benefits others, whether that is a family, a community, a non-profit organization, a corporation, or the world at large.

To accomplish this, leaders have the distinct charge of working with others in a way that brings out their best — that allows those we can impact to find the animating genius within them and apply it in service of accomplishing a common goal.

However, before you can bring out animating genius in others, you must start with yourself.

Many times the primary meaning of “to lead” is associated with directing something on a given course, or being in charge, and this can be one of the functions of leadership. But the essence of leadership is much more than that. The Merriam Webster Dictionary has the following entry as the first definition listed for the word “lead”: “a: to guide on a way especially by going in advance.”

If one of the essential functions of a leader is to bring out the best in others, this definition would suggest doing so requires that leaders first bring out the best in themselves. This, in and of itself, is the very same odyssey our friend Pinocchio finds himself on: To discover and liberate within himself what is real—divinely inspired genius—and to courageously apply it in a way that is truthful and unselfish.

I wrote The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader to serve as a roadmap for bringing out the best in yourself and others. My desire is to help you bring to fruition your greatest dreams and visions and better navigate through the perils and possibilities along the way. The book was written to help you:

  • Better differentiate what is true within yourself from the conditioning that would have you acting in ways that are inauthentic and self-defeating
  • Gain clarity on your unique call to leadership and leverage your experiences to prepare for something bigger
  • Explore navigational tools that will help you determine the extent to which you are on or off course and the direction you need to take next on your journey to becoming a real leader
  • Recognize and prevent assumptions and beliefs (your strings) that keep you from your best work so that you can utilize ego in service to something greater
  • Recognize and steer clear of the elusive promises (Pleasure Island) that divert you from your truest fulfillment
  • Face your greatest fears (the belly of the whale) in a transformational way that will reunite you with your own determination, courage and heroism
  • Rediscover the power that lies within (the fairy’s wand) to create and live your dreams
  • Find ways to return to the quiet places within yourself that nurture and inform your greatest visions

The ultimate odyssey is always that of self-discovery. Every challenge, every opportunity gives you a chance to learn more about who you really are and to utilize your inherent gifts in service to something greater than yourself.

As I teach in The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow program, it’s only when you give yourself completely to the journey and find meaning in each step along the way, that you will truly live.

It’s your example and the unique contributions you make in the world that defines you as a real leader.

Now, more than ever, real leaders are differentiating themselves from people who simply hold fancy titles or have multitudes of people reporting to them. They exist at all levels of an organization, and they have the ability to transform it in ways that will allow it to achieve unprecedented levels of success.

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 Create Synergy and Collaborate with People’s Differing Styles

 

Are there people in your office (or your life) that drive you crazy because they insist on doing things so differently than you do? 

flower breaking through pavement to symbolize breakthroughs in dealing with people's differing styles

When all you want is a high-level overview, they drown you in details.  Or maybe you’re the detail-oriented person who gets irritated with people who insist on going full speed ahead with what seems like a very haphazard plan (or no plan at all).

Perhaps you are an eternal optimist surrounded by devil’s advocates who seem intent on proving that your greatest ideas will never fly.  Or you may be the practical realist that gets exasperated at what appears to be pie in the sky ideas that lack the scrutiny necessary to pass muster in the real world.

How do you deal with these differences?  One thing’s for sure – treating others the way you’d like to be treated is a surefire recipe for frustration when one person’s preferences are another person’s irritations.

But what if there was a way to better understand people’s differing styles – and to leverage them so that instead of frustration, there was appreciation, collaboration and synergy?

Last week I presented one of my most popular workshops, Communicating with Style: The DISC Behavioral Style Workshop to an annual meeting one of my clients regularly holds for their customers.  In this article, I’ll share with you the framework I presented to them that will give you a leg up on improving relationships with the most important people in your life – both at work and at home.

There are two different continuums of preferences that people’s behaviors fall on.  One is task versus people orientation and the other is introversion versus extraversion.

Task versus People Orientation

If you gathered a group of people together to work on a project, some of them would be very concerned about what needs to get done, what a successful outcome would look like and how it would be measured, what action needs to be taken, and who will do what.  These people have a strong task orientation.

Others would be interested in how the project impacts people and whether their interests are represented.  They’d also be intent on knowing whether the makeup of the group includes people with the skills and experience necessary to successfully serve others.  These folks have a strong people orientation.

It doesn’t mean task-oriented people don’t like people – they just think about the task at hand first.  And it doesn’t mean that those who are people-oriented don’t care about the task – they just think first about the people who are impacted by it.

Extraversion versus Introversion

There is another continuum to consider that we can overlay onto the first one.  Most people think of extraverts as those who are outgoing and introverts as those who are more shy and reserved.  This is true as it relates to people.

It is a question of where the energy goes first.  Extraverted people direct their energy outward to start.  As it relates to people, they tend to talk more than they listen, and they often do so before they give much inward thought to what they are going to say.   In the DISC Behavioral Style model, this is indicative of the I style, which stands for Influence.

Introverted people direct their energy inward first.  As it relates to people, they are more inclined to listen before they talk, and they prefer to organize their thoughts within themselves before they articulate them to others.  In the DISC Behavioral Style model, this is indicative of the S style, which stands for Steadiness.

Extraversion and introversion can also relate to task.  When energy goes outward toward a task (extraversion), it leads people to be intensely results oriented – wanting to jump into action before they have planned or considered the environ

ment.  In the DISC Behavioral Style model this is indicative of the D style, which stands for Dominance.

Introversion toward task leads people to want to plan and prepare, research, polish and perfect before taking action and/or putting something out into the world.  In the DISC Behavioral Style model, this is indicative of the C style, which stands for Compliance.

The DISC Behavioral Style Model

If you have an understanding of the two continuums, you can begin to appreciate the four different styles people tend to behave with.  Think of someone right now whose style you are curious about.

  • Is this person more task oriented or people oriented?  If she is task oriented, she is likely to be high in Dominance or Compliance.  If people oriented, she is likely to be high in Influence or Steadiness.
  • Is this person more introverted than extraverted?  If introverted, she is likely to be high in Steadiness or Compliance.  And if extraverted, she is likely to be high in Dominance or Influence.

D = Dominance (Task-oriented + Extraverted)

I = Influence (People-oriented + Extraverted)

S = Steadiness (People-oriented + Introverted)

C = Compliance (Task-oriented + Introverted)

We all have a little bit of each behavioral style within us.  Most of us have more of one style than others.   Some people are high in more than one of them.  You can have a high level of people orientation, like me, but also be a little bit extraverted and also somewhat introverted.  My style is high in Influence people-oriented and extraverted), but also very high in Steadiness (people-oriented and introverted).

How You Can Use this Understanding to Help Improve Your Effectiveness

Often people on opposite ends of any spectrum will have difficulty understanding and/or relating to each other.

As an example, task-oriented people can become irritated when others shift their focus from the task at hand and go to great lengths to ensure people feel included or are having a good experience.  And people-oriented people get frustrated when it appears those who are task-oriented are leaving people out of the equation.

But each of these people needs the other.  Task-oriented people need people-oriented people to ensure their solutions will meet the needs of those being served – and that they will buy into any changes that may be difficult for them.  People-oriented people need task-oriented people to ensure they take the action necessary to serve the people they care about within a small enough window of time to make a true impact.

Similarly, extraverted people need introverted people to help them see what they would otherwise miss and hear what they might otherwise talk over.  Introverted people need extraverted people to initiate conversations, help them come out of their shells, voice their insights, concerns and ideas and get things done.

Though people whose styles are different than our own can irritate us, when we begin to recognize that they can help us to be more effective, this appreciation leads to synergy.  It unlocks talent, potential and energy in organizations that can lead to higher morale, greater productivity, higher engagement and higher profits, market share and customer growth and loyalty.

What You Can Do Right Now

Think about what style you are inclined to utilize most.  Then ask yourself who you can partner with that is strong in areas you may not be to ensure that you can complement your approach in ways that are more likely to lead to a successful and sustainable outcome.

Encourage an appreciation of different styles and approaches within your organization.  Call attention to people’s strengths and how they complement each other.  Help them see how their unique styles allow them to do things together they would not be able to do individually.  Recognize those who go out of their way to embrace and leverage their differences and show them how it is done through your own example.

If you would like to complete a DISC Behavioral Style assessment to see how you (and/or others) score in each of the four behavioral styles, contact me at Diane@DianeBolden.com or give me a call at (602) 840-3627.

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 people in organizations to be able to work together in ways that fully utilize the talent, energy and potential of everyone in them.  Discerning customers will choose to work with businesses that lead them to feel valued, taken care of and connected, and this is a product of how people within those businesses work together.

To find out more about how you can cultivate this kind of culture within your organization, by starting with your own leadership (regardless of your position, title or role), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Three Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Trying to Influence Others — and What to Do Instead

Diane Bolden | Phoenix, Arizona Executive Leadership Coach

 

When my daughter was eleven years old, she handed me a piece of paper one Friday afternoon. Across the top of the page written in hot pink were the words “Why You Should Let Me Have a Friend Over Tonight.”

Beneath the heading, in various bright colors adorned with hearts and smiley faces were five or six bullet points meticulously printed with the most perfect of penmanship. One of them said “I’ll share my super sour gummy worms with you,” and another promised “we will only make a little mess.”

While I was impressed with my daughter’s effort and artistic flair, I made a mental note that at some point I ought to help her with her negotiating skills. I winced as I recalled the last time I tried one of her super sour gummy worms, whose pungent flavor immediately led me to regret the decision as soon as I put it in my mouth — and then again hours later when most of it was still stuck to my teeth.

You wouldn’t expect a senior executive to have the same errors in judgment in an attempt at persuasion. And yet, often even the most professional of people make similar blunders. Today I’ll cover three of the most common mistakes people make in their attempts to influence others:

(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value

(2) Overlooking the importance of objections

(3) Talking more than listening

Let’s talk about making invalid assumptions about what people value.

This was my lovely daughter’s critical error. While her offer to share super sour gummy worms may have been very compelling to her thirteen year old brother, it was actually rather repulsive to me. In her precious little mind, everyone loves those squishy sweet treats. It never occurred to her that wasn’t universally true.

And professional people often make this mistake as well. Not with gummy worms, but with questions of value.

One of my clients, Jan, learned the importance of checking her assumptions after pitching a proposal to senior executives with the argument that her program would allow employee satisfaction and morale to increase, leading to a happier workplace and less interdepartmental conflict.

While these were certainly attributes of a program she worked very hard to develop — and benefits that were quite meaningful to her — her audience was far more interested in financial gain than employee satisfaction.

Did she have to completely revamp her program to get their support? Absolutely not. She simply needed to amend her case to show the return on investment her program would generate after factoring in lower absenteeism and turnover rates, increased productivity, and reduced waste.

“Treat everyone the way you want to be treated,” we are taught from an early age. But unfortunately, not everyone values the same things. A better adage might be, “find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.”

Unfortunately, understanding what people value isn’t always enough to cinch the deal — even when it appears that you have agreement. Let’s move on to the next most common mistake, overlooking the importance of objections.

Why is it important to surface objections?

Things are moving along well. You see heads nodding. It seems you are gaining the support of most the people sitting around the table. Wouldn’t surfacing objections at this point throw a monkey wrench in the works? Why allow people who are already with you to be swayed by people who have dissenting opinions?

The problem with those head nods is that you don’t really know exactly what people are agreeing with. They might be on the same page when it comes to the way you described the problem that needs to be solved. But not necessarily on board with your solution.

They may agree with part of your solution, but not all of it. They may be nodding their heads because their peers are doing that, and they feel compelled to follow suit.

The problem with partial agreement is that it usually only gets you part of the way there.

That may not be the case if all you are negotiating for is a onetime event — as in the case of my daughter. But more often than not, what executives really need is ongoing support and commitment. Sure, they want to get their program funded, their product launched, or their order filled.

But in order to have lasting success, they need champions within the organization, people who are committed to their projects, and customers that will continue to place more orders. And that takes more than a simple head nod or even a signed contract.

Partial agreement falls apart when things get difficult. People don’t follow through. Your calls stop being returned. Your funding gets pulled. And you are left scratching your head wondering what happened.

Those people who aren’t nodding their heads in agreement could be worth their weight in gold. But only if you get them to talk.

This leads us to the third mistake many executives make in their attempts to influence others: talking more than listening. Anytime people are being pitched with a proposal, a call to action, a request for support or funds or business, there will be concerns and skepticism.

Often these reservations don’t get voiced. Instead, people adopt a “wait and see attitude.” But the questions rattling around at the back of their minds may very well be valid — and if you knew what they were, you could take steps to address them and sidestep potential pitfalls you would otherwise unwittingly fall into.

So, the first step is to intentionally encourage people to voice their dissent. They could very well tell you something you really need to know. And if you acknowledge that they may see something important that you may not be aware of, you are sending a message that you value and respect them and care enough about them to address what they care about.

When your audience takes you up on your invitation to share their concerns and reservations, it is more important than ever to resist the temptation to talk and listen instead.

But many executives don’t do that. They figure a stronger argument is required. More data. Sexier examples. Better stories. Increased persuasion. So, they tell, and they sell while their audience feels less and less understood and slowly slips away.

When you feel the inclination to begin defending your case, hold your tongue and get curious instead. Ask for more details. Recap what they’ve said to be sure you heard them correctly. Paraphrase what you think is most important to them.

Continue asking clarifying questions until you begin to see things from their perspective. Because when you do, you will earn their trust.

You may have to rework your proposal. It may not be the reaction you were hoping for. But you have won for yourself the chance to truly gain the support you endeavored to secure — and when you take the steps to listen and respond to the concerns of your most important stakeholders, you increase the chances that the support you have just won will stand the test of time.

Let’s recap the most common mistakes executives make when attempting to influence — and what to do instead.

(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value. Instead, recognize that not everyone likes the same thing you do. Find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.

(2) Overlooking the importance of objections. Instead, realize that objections help you recognize what your audience cares most about and gives you an opportunity to deliver it. It earns you trust, respect and ultimately, their support.

(3) Talking more than listening. Resist the temptation to diffuse your audience’s objections and concerns with more information, telling and selling. Instead, probe to get a better understanding of what they really need and take steps to deliver it.

Influencing others is about more than crafting a polished presentation and a bulletproof case for action. You will get much further if you treat the art of influence more like a dance with your audience than a performance in front of them.

Invite them in and get them to participate. Listen to their needs, their desires, their concerns and their recommendations. Take action to address what they consider to be most important.

And whatever you do, please don’t offer anyone super sour gummy worms.

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for executives at all levels of organizations large and small to voice their ideas, concerns and suggestions in a way that can move their businesses forward.  For more on why this is so vital right now, as well as how you can advance your own ideas while inspiring and empowering others to do the same, 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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How to Meet Change, Challenge and Uncertainty with Courage and Grace

Executive Leadership and Development Coach Diane Bolden.

 

A few weeks ago, I traveled to one of my client’s global quarterly leader meetings to deliver a presentation on navigating change and uncertainty. It’s something many executives are working through right now – in organizations both large and small.

In fact, ironically, change is the one thing that is certain to be a constant challenge for all of us.

The very nature of change thrusts us into circumstances that lead us to feel out of control, beyond our comfort zones, and potentially at risk in one way or another. And when your future is uncertain and all the things that used to work are no longer effective (or relevant), your self-protective mechanisms get triggered.

Left unchecked, your instinct for self-preservation can lead you to engage in behavior that is not particularly productive or constructive. It would have you reacting out of fear, putting your own needs above those of others, mired in doubt and negativity and fixated on obstacles and limitations. From that mindset, you’ll (often unconsciously) act in ways that exacerbate the problems you are already facing.

But, as I  teach in The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Program, there is a wiser, stronger part of you that you can access during times that test you – one that will allow you to rise above the fray and meet change and uncertainty head on with courage and grace.

This wiser part of yourself (which I call your Genius) meets fear with resilience and puts service and self-realization over self-interest. It replaces doubt and negativity with optimism and possibility. And it sees beyond limitations to recognize possibilities. It utilizes challenge as opportunity to become stronger, to rise up and discover that you have within you all that you need to prevail.

This part of you is the essence of Real Leadership – which brings out the very best in everyone and everything and channels it into something that serves a greater good. Real leadership is what is required in times of great change, challenge and uncertainty. And it is something that can be exercised by anyone, at any level of an organization at any time.

What most people don’t realize is that the true cause of stress, frustration (and the knee jerk reactions it often triggers) is not their circumstances themselves, but rather the thoughts they are believing (and the stories they are telling themselves) about their situations. Cognitive science tells us that confirmation bias leads us to take in information that aligns with our current beliefs and screen anything that contradicts them out.

So let’s say you believe the problems you face are insurmountable, the people who surround you cannot be trusted, and that you (or others) lack the resources, skill or resolve to overcome your current challenges. Confirmation bias would lead you to take in information that confirms those beliefs and overlook (or disregard) information that contradicts them – even though that information is the very thing that could potentially turn everything around.

And from that mindset, you’ll behave in ways that make things worse. You could very well act in a manner that makes your worst stories (which are likely based on conjecture) become true.

The biggest problem is that you likely won’t even realize you are falling into this trap. You’ll attribute the cause of your frustration, anxiety and stress to your situation rather than your mindset.

As long as you see the problem as “out there”, you’ll feel more like a victim than a victor.

But even in the most daunting of circumstances, you can find something within yourself that has the potential to change the way you are seeing things. And when you change the way you are seeing things, you’ll notice opportunities, resources, strengths and possibilities that would have otherwise been completely off your radar.

The key to liberating yourself from a self-defeating phenomenon is to recognize frustration, anxiety and stress as a key indicator that your thoughts are not aligned with your Genius, so that you don’t take them quite so seriously.

Rather than getting set on what you think you know, ask yourself what you don’t know. What are you not seeing? What are you believing about what is happening? And how much of that are you certain is actually true?

If you are willing to see things differently, your whole world could change in an instant.

The thing about change is that nothing is certain. And when nothing is certain, anything is possible.

If it is possible that we tend to act in ways that make our stories true – and bring about more of what we are focusing on, then the most powerful thing we can do is allow our stories and our focus to shift to something more empowering.

  • Rather than putting your attention on what you don’t want, you can create a compelling vision for yourself and others of what you do Resolve to move toward what you desire rather than away from what you fear.
  • When you notice you are fixated on obstacles, see if you can look beyond them to discern opportunities.
  • When feeling threatened about all there is to lose, consider what there is to gain.
  • Instead of thinking of what you need to get, ask yourself what you have to give.
  • Rather than getting lost in your head, reliving the past or worrying about a future that has you living the worst case scenario, challenge yourself to be intensely present to what is unfolding in the moment and the best way to respond to and leverage it.
  • When plagued by doubt, think back to previous challenges you successfully overcame and recognize your strengths can get you through this one too.
  • When you begin to worry about all the things that are beyond your control, ask yourself what you have the ability to influence and start to make positive change there. Do what you can where you are with what you have.

These practices of Real Leaders will come more naturally when you keep yourself from falling into the trap of identifying with your doubts and limiting beliefs.

It is essential to recognize that you do not need to banish your doubts and limiting beliefs. Doing so is an exercise in futility, since as a human being you will continue to be barraged by these thoughts whether you want them or not.

All you need to do is recognize that there is more to the picture than your current mindset is allowing you see. Don’t let those random thoughts blind you to the solutions that are right in front of you or obstruct your vision of what is possible.

The simple recognition that your thoughts are not serving you in the current moment is enough to allow your mindset to get unstuck. Without a whole lot of effort on your part it will begin to expand, allowing you to get a broader, better view – and connecting you naturally to the mindset of a real leader.

The Real Leader Revolution is already underway, liberating the power of the human spirit in the workplace again even the most insurmountable odds. We are all so much stronger than we think we are, and each one of us is capable of so much more than we realize.

In the face of inevitable change, we can rise up as adventurers and warriors and summon strength that often lies dormant within us until given an opportunity to emerge.

If you are interested in learning more about the qualities of Real Leadership and how to unleash it in yourself and others in your organization, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.

Stay tuned for my next article, where I’ll walk you through a concrete process you can use in the midst of challenge that will help you access your best answers and unearth your strength and resilience.


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

Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden is the founder of the Real Leader Revolution.

 

Today’s article is the fifth 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 #5: Real leadership brings life to our greatest dreams and visions. 

Leadership is about taking people to a higher place. But before you can go there, you must envision it and create it. You must pay attention to the ideas, thoughts and inspirations that land gently on you and beckon to be given a vehicle to enter the world.

To do that, you need to take steps in your own life to nurture them. These ideas will come when you are relaxed, thoughtful, and open. It won’t happen when you are rushing around putting out fires.

You must create the time in your daily life to honor and develop your dreams, and to take care of yourself in such a way that those dreams continue to come to you. You must pay at least as much attention to the possibilities for change and improvement that exist all around you as you do trying to keep things running the way you think they should.

Many of the things you’ve devoted your time to trying to control and improve have likely served their purpose and need to be replaced by something else. Real leaders are those who ask the tough questions about whether what we are doing and have been doing is still in everyone’s best interests.

When times change greatly, Real Leaders know we all must change with them.

Pay attention to the small still voice within you that dares us to be greater. Quiet yourself enough to truly hear what it has to say. Then have the courage to act in spite of your fears. Be willing to move out of your comfort zone and act boldly. As you do these things, you’ll model the way for others to do the same.

Together, we can create true and lasting transformation throughout Corporate America. The Real Leader Revolution is enabling people at all levels of businesses and organizations to make a bigger, more meaningful impact being who they truly are, access and sustain unprecedented levels of performance and live more fulfilling lives – both on and off the job.

To learn more, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is 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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Leadership Lit Up: 5 Distinctions That Separate the Best from the Rest (Part 3)

Executive Leadership Coach and Founder of the Real Leader Revolution Diane Bolden.

 

Today’s article is the third 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 #3: Real Leadership is not a one man or woman show. 

We are all familiar with the idea of a mighty hero, who is infallible, fearless, and all powerful. When you believe those should also be the characteristics of leaders, you’ll likely act in ways that can become more disempowering than anything. Leaders who believe they have all the answers seldom listen much to others, except to know how to better defend their own positions.

If leadership is truly about bringing out the best in people, leaders need to learn how to better listen to and connect with others, with a mind that is open and has room for ideas and thoughts that may oppose their own. Only then will we find the solutions that truly benefit a greater good.

No one person has all the answers themselves. As a leader, you are there to help others unearth and do something with their ideas so that they can become a part of a collective solution. To do this, you must place just as much importance on what others have to say as you do on their own thoughts and ideas.

When you can honestly admit you don’t have all the answers, you build trust and strengthen relationships while cultivating the ability of your people to find those answers together. In acknowledging your need for partnership with others and encouraging them to share their own vital pieces of the puzzle, you will create a strong, self-sustaining culture that works together to produce excellence.

You do not need to be the hero. In fact, some of the most effective leaders are those who are more concerned about elevating the status of others than raising their own. Lao Tzu, one of the greatest mystics of all time said “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves.”

The Real Leader Revolution is allowing executives to free up significant levels of energy by letting go of thinking they must have all the answers – and in so doing inspire and empower their people to get better results, make a bigger impact and contributions.

To find out more about how you can exercise Real Leadership to create the kind of vibrant, inspired workplace that unleashes unprecedented levels of performance and attracts key talent and loyal customers, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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