I recently had the pleasure of handing in my keys and closing the doors to my office. An office that I had helped start from scratch just some years ago. It’s not an easy thing to do when you’ve vested so much of your blood sweat and tears into a venture. The business world is a shifty opponent. You can hit the mark only to find the mark moved during flight. In the challenging hunt of profit, catching the elusive quarry doesn’t even guarantee you as a feature to the mold they plan to cast in the future.
I can say these things without bitterness because I’ve always had a logical approach to working for a company where someone else is writing the checks. I owned my own company in the past so I get it. Longevity to a location truly is their choice and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed when their vision goes elsewhere. More leaders should spend time making sure they align with their company’s vision rather than their company’s industry. I must also admit that it’s easy to write these things because I was fortunate enough to quickly land a position with a company that has me so excited I stay up at night thinking about how to hit the ground at full speed.
This late night reflection is what has me inspired and rejuvenated. I’ve always tried to carry myself with integrity and a true respect for others. I know that I have failed miserably at times, but overall I feel like I’ve put the good of others above myself and it has paid off in my young career. (I’m 41 and am convincing myself daily that I’m young regardless of what the mirror shows!) When people ask how old I am I always respond “in normal years or contractor years?”
How often in our careers do we get these re-starts or new-starts? And when they do come around, do we make the most of them? That question has followed me most of my career. “Am I making the most of this opportunity for my family, my team, and me?”
I’ve come up with these few challenges to myself to ensure that I’m staying true to the journey of growth and improvement and I thought I’d share them with you.
What is my purpose statement and am I still in alignment?
- If you don’t have a purpose statement, get one. What is it that inspires you? What was it that you admired about a childhood hero before someone told you it wasn’t realistic? I have a couple that I live by but in general it’s about mentoring leaders so that I make an impact in the future lives of people I don’t even know. Take a moment for self-reflection and make sure that you haven’t abandoned your principles at the bottom of that ladder you are so rushed to climb.
Be honest about my failures in my past experiences.
- My mistakes have been the greatest teachers of all time. In the construction world, our safety rules are written in the blood of our brothers. It helps to make a honest and brutal list of where you have failed and what your plan is to avoid these pitfalls this go round.
Spend quality time getting to know your team.
- Put into action the easy items first. Start weekly conference calls. Go on monthly ride-a-longs with your managers. Then step it up a notch and get out of your comfort zone. Call first thing in the morning with no agenda other than to find out how their weekend was. Learn the names of their children and pets. Some of the greatest relationships you may form are when you find out a 300 lb iron worker has a 5 lb lap dog named precious. Invest your time in caring about their well-being. The return on investment is exceptional.
Analyze your Mentors and adjust if necessary.
- Any great leader has a few partners or advisers that are sought out when tough decisions are to be made. If your recent transition has led you into greater responsibility or a different area of expertise, make sure that you have the trusted advisers in place to make you successful in your new journey.
The vehicle that carried you to the mountain may not be the best choice to make the climb
Take Time to Reflect
We have all made mistakes in our pasts, and if you’re like me, it was recent enough to remember the taste. We can make mistakes out of pure ignorance or by attempting to conquer new challenges. There are time when screwing up is just a risk we have to accept if we want to succeed. But, if you’ve tried enough times, you’ve likely enjoyed a few successes along the way as well. Each one of these moments, the ones of regret and the ones of rejoicing, are necessary in our quest of continual growth. They each can offer us nuggets of wisdom. But, what they have to offer can only be of benefit if we take the time to reflect upon the experience, soak it in and learn from it.
Below are 5 benefits of taking the time to reflect on your experiences.
- It allows us a chance to evaluate where we are against where we want to be: Giving ourselves an honest evaluation of our own progress is one of the most efficient ways to make the changes necessary to continue growing as leaders.
- It provides a moment to hit “pause” and make sure that where we think we want to go is where we need to go: Sometimes during the rush of everyday life and chasing success we don’t stop to make sure that the prize we’re chasing is truly one that we should win.
- It allows us to make sure we have our priorities in order: By reflecting on what has happened in our past and how it has affected those around us we can evaluate if we are holding true to our priorities, and if not, it gives us a chance to reorganize. This holds true for our daily tasks at work as well as our personal lives
- Replaying our yesterdays better equips us for our tomorrows: As we successfully navigate different scenarios in life we should mentally and manually record those choices that proved successful and have them at our disposal to better take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow.
- It gives us the courage to be better: By not sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that nothing happened, we become stronger people. We learn to face our fears and become proactive in planning our own future.
If we all start the habit of reflecting on our daily decisions it can prove to make us more effective leaders and simply more effective people. As you review your daily decisions you will surely find certain mistakes rearing their ugly head on a regular basis. All of us need help with certain things in our careers. Reach out to someone you trust and respect to ask for help.
“What was good enough to get you here, may not be good enough to get you where you’re going!”
Let’s learn something new each and every day.
Once again I’m staring into the distance as if nothing could be important enough to catch my attention. Another business trip and another morning of viewing the world through the looking glass of a window seat. Reflective vests and blinking lights will soon be overpowered by the breaking of the dawn. If you fly regularly at all, this is a common experience, and more than likely you zone out like I do during preflight check and the safety announcements they give at the beginning of the flight. Normally I would have my earphones in and a book open. For some reason this morning was different. I was actually paying attention and as they started directing us on how to use our oxygen masks if they are needed. Like always the steward stated that if you are traveling with someone that needs assistance make sure to put your mask on first before you assist those around you. What a real world example of Habit #3 on the list. It is impossible to help those around you if you are not taking care of yourself, or for the sake of our lesson, Filling Your Well. We are called upon daily by our friends, family and employees to fill a need. Heck, even random face to face meetings throughout the day deplete you of resources. In order to fulfill these responsibilities placed upon us, we must replenish our resources by means of routine maintenance.
Below you will find 3 “R”s that if practiced daily can ensure you are equipped with the tools needed when life calls on you.
It’s so simple yet so ignored. Reading is a must for any leader. We must feed ourselves with the experiences and knowledge of those that have gone before us is we want to reach our personal best and help those around us fulfill their potential.
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary. We must not allow anything to stand between us and the book that could change our lives.” – Jim Rohn
Benefits of Daily reading
- Starts a process of achieving self-mastery: We may not retain 100% of the knowledge that we take in through reading but through the repeated process of digesting data we both expand and sharpen our skill set. It’s a means of equipping and developing.
- It’s the quickest method of gathering valuable information: Through reading we are awarded the opportunity to live multiple lifetimes in the pages of one simple book. Reading does not replace the knowledge we gain through experience but instead ,if applied properly, it multiplies our life knowledge exponentially.
This word means different things to different people. It may mean nightly sleep, vacation, golf with the boys, or all of the above. Regardless of your definitions, you need to find the time to take a break. Some time to just take a deep breath and relax. You can not stay in production mode all the time. It is a mandatory practice amongst successful people to take a moment to heal form the stress of life.
Benefits of taking a break.
- Improved brain function – Fatigue or stress can make it difficult for you to concentrate and retain information. How many times have you said “I don’t know where my head is?” when you’re stressed or tired? When you relax, your brain gets a chance to process the activities and impressions of the day which is important for memory formation and problem solving.
- Overall health – The human body needs adequate rest to heal and rejuvenate itself. Even the most fit of individuals can benefit from a day of leisure.
- Reduces stress – Rest has beneficial effects on your emotional health as well. Starting off the day well-rested makes you feel more capable of handling what life has to offer. If you’re exhausted before you get started, you will never catch up.
At some point during the day you had to handle something that disrupted your schedule or priorities for the day. Take a few minutes to place your priorities back in order and plan the following day.
Benefits of Reorganizing
- It stops the snow ball effect: Taking just a few minutes to put the pieces back in place can keep any chaos that happened during the day from continuing or at least not pick up momentum going into the next day. Don’t fall into the habit of ignoring issues and hoping they’re better tomorrow.
- It keeps your priorities in order:
- It makes us more capable: If we have pre-prepared plan for each day, we feel confident that we are back in control. By knowing the next step you’re taking you are much more likely to be successful at it. We owe it to ourselves and those under our watchful eye to put forth the effort to always look ahead.
Learning to give to others is a building block to becoming a better leader, but creating the habits necessary to make sure there is always something to give is what sets you up for success. Make sure you are taking care of yourselves so that you can take care of the ones you care about.
I was visiting with some industry colleagues of mine. Although we hate to admit it, we spent the first ten minutes showing we’re completely human by griping and moaning about the economic forecast, customers, and the labor pool. After coming to grips with our shame, we somehow began talking about various supervisors we have worked alongside in our careers, both recently and in the past. Only a minute or two had passed before it became apparent that one of the main attributes that made these people either exceptionally good or bad was their consistency in carrying out the duties of their position. In other words, their daily habits were either a “make or break” bullet point on their resumes. The great authors of leadership and personal growth have a significant amount of printed space dedicated to the importance of such daily habits.
During my own limited studies of the subject I have developed (and by no means do I claim it is original thought!) a list of 6 habits that most any successful person must practice to continue if they wish to grow both professionally as well as individually. Truth be told, over time I have merely watched successful people and copied what worked for them. I’ve never been one to believe that I can pronounce the word “Wheel” in a sexier manner much less make it roll better.
This week I’ll touch on an overview of these habits and then over the next six weeks we will look at each one separately.
- Take responsibility for yourself: The first step towards growing as a leader and as a person is to come to the realization that you are responsible for your own attitude, words, and actions. Once this becomes part of your basic beliefs you can evaluate your shortcomings and make a plan to move forward. Your plan can be as simple as: Starting, Educating, Reflecting, Correcting, and Repeating. Yes, I did mean for Starting to be first!
- Take Action: The next step to growing is acting. Now that you’ve made a plan, you need to act on it. Never procrastinate when it comes to your future. This is possibly the most important of all of the habits. There is no way to measure the importance of, taking your plan and acting upon it each and every day. Many people will tell you that you need to prepare before getting started. True personal growth will be accelerated when you understand that preparation is an ongoing part of the journey, not a prelude to it.
- Fill Your Well: Treat your mind as a well that you and the people under your influence draw from for support and sustenance. For you to lead others properly you must retain enough knowledge and resources to give to your team and not run out. Education must become part of your daily routine so that you don’t run dry as a leader.
- Take Time to Reflect: Reflection is one of the more advanced habits of successful people. Too many people have the drive to push forward but not the discipline to stop and learn from past experiences and mistakes. It is in this reflection that we modify our past plans to make better our future plans. Remember that “What was good enough to get you here, may not necessarily be good enough to get you where you’re going!”
- Help Others: All of the habits we form to become more developed leaders, and hopefully better people, should be for this one reason, to help others. If you live your life so that other’s lives are fulfilled, you will find your true purpose as a leader.
- Never Stop, Do it all over again: Finally we must come to the realization that growth is a continual process. Truly successful people know that they can never stop these daily practices if they want to continue to grow. Once you have become efficient at each of these habits you will learn to recognize the opportunities to practice each of them, even if only in a small way, every day.