Posts Tagged ‘skills’

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Friday, November 30th, 2018

It’s common to complain that “this or that person stressed me out,” or that a particular situation creates undue stress in your life. It’s even more common that these “stressors” are external conditions or people under which we have little or no control. This creates a feeling of helplessness that affects both confidence and effectiveness. A hard truth is that much of the stress leaders endure in the workplace, or in their personal lives, is self-induced. It’s not a matter of conditions, but poor decisions that either create completely, or exacerbate, the impact of conditions as they arise.
There’s always going to be some degree of stress in life and at work (a sense of urgency to make something happen or solve a problem, deadlines that create renewed focus and resolve, standards that stretch comfort zones, accountability that creates the discomfort that fosters growth, and more) and I believe that can be very beneficial. Where stress starts to chew us up and spit us out is when it goes beyond those beneficial bounds and depletes us, and that’s where we are prone to make things worse by poor decisions. Following are a handful of thoughts and strategies to reduce the unnecessary, self-induced, stress that inhibits your performance, and can hijack both joy and health from your life:

1. Don’t be your own worst enemy.

Where stress is concerned, one’s personal leadership style is often the biggest culprit. If you don’t trust others and thus micromanage them; do a poor job of controlling your emotions; don’t delegate; lack daily focus; overreact to what’s incidental; can’t get over offenses and move on; and the like, then no one will ever have to defeat you. You’ll blow yourself up. It’s just a matter of time. Most all of the issues mentioned here are matters of developing a healthier mindset. If you haven’t read or listened to my book, Unstoppable, do so as it will help you in this regard. So will listening to my podcast, The Game Changer Life. Your business is only going to get better when you do, and real improvement begins with upgrading the quality of your thinking.

2. Learn to say “no.”

To reduce stress at work you’ve got to stop letting your mouth overload your back by taking on more than you have capacity to handle, or allowing someone to dump more of their work on you because you won’t speak up for yourself.

For example, when someone asks you to take on something that you know you don’t have the time to do, say something like: “This sounds like a worthwhile project. Unfortunately, I have a number of pressing obligations at this time that would prevent me from doing a good job with what you ask. But I appreciate your confidence in thinking of me.” Or, to save time, simply say “no.” “No” is a complete sentence.
3. Delegate to competent others.

Delegate or outsource your weaknesses and non-priorities to others. This is especially helpful when it is something that someone else – who is closer to it that you – can do as well as you, or will become more productive and valuable in learning how to do it and not having to wait on you to get it done. Certain nickel and dime decisions that others constantly wear you out with are a good place to start in this regard. It’ll make both you and them more productive and less stressed.
4. Stop winging it and start preparing.

Making your day up as you go along because you failed to structure it properly creates a reactionary leadership style that worsens stress. Remember: the more you prepare, the less you have to repair. Wise leaders don’t expect to improvise their way to the next level. They understand that failing to prepare is both lazy and reckless.

Consider this: it is estimated by time management experts that the ratio of preparation to time saved in execution is 3:1. In other words, 10 minutes of preparation saves 30 minutes of execution, one hour of preparation saves three hours of execution, and so forth. This makes preparation one of the highest returning investments in business and life! And not only does preparation build confidence as you face a day, it also reduces stress in the process. In fact, lack of confidence is a common culprit of stress.

5. Upgrade your skill level.

A key reason leaders feel overwhelmed or inferior is that they don’t have the skills to perform their job at optimal levels. This is why lifelong learning for anyone in a leadership position is not just a “feel good” idea – it is mandatory to sustain your success, build your confidence, and eliminate stressful situations for which you’re not qualified to handle. Getting outgrown by peers and by the industry is stressful. It’s also entirely preventable. If you’ve been outgrown it’s your fault. So fix it.
6. Become more coachable.

Even the most seemingly harsh feedback or coaching often has a grain of truth in it that can help you improve if you’ll set your withering ego aside and consider it. Before you get stressed out and dismiss your next critic – and then create more stress by rehearsing their “offense” again and again – look for that one biting bit of truth that will help you become a better leader, then make the necessary adjustment. This will also help you accomplish what was shared in point five.

7. Stop procrastinating.

Procrastination immobilizes you and stresses you out repeatedly…over the same issue. Developing the discipline to make yourself do what you don’t want to do, but know you should do, is a key to growing as a leader and eliminating huge amounts of stress. To pull this off you’ll need to develop the self-accountability to do what must be done even when you don’t feel like doing it; even when it’s not easy, cheap, popular, or convenient.

As you can see, pretty much everything listed here that may be ailing you and causing you undue stress is self-induced. In other words, it’s your fault. And that is really good news because when it’s your fault you can fix it.

Giving a “Little Bit Extra”

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

In my Mission Unstoppable workshop (based on my book Unstoppable) I play a short video of six-time national champion and legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant speaking to new recruits about the power of every player giving a “little bit extra” — across the board and at every game. There is a leadership application of this philosophy in business for, over time, lifting “caretaker” status team members to levels of performance that both they — and their manager — may not have thought possible. For perspective, and to get you on the same page in the event you haven’t read Unstoppable or listened to my podcast “The Game Changer Life” where I speak about improving performance, here’s some quick insight.

In any organization you have four types of mindsets that dominate the performance of the people on those teams: undertakers, caretakers, playmakers and game changers. These categorizations are not determined by years of experience, talent, or knowledge of skills, as much as they are by one’s mindset. The caretaker is a particularly frustrating team member because in many cases they can do more but choose not to. They do baseline work — period. They don’t initiate, solve problems, ask for more responsibilities or look to help anyone else. They soldier on daily in their role, pledging allegiance to their job description, romancing the status quo, and doing what is minimally required of them, but nothing more. Their mindset is, “I’m doing my job, so what’s the problem,” and fail to realize that in high-performing organizations “doing one’s job” is not heroic, and barely adequate for survival; that team members are ultimately measured by how they do over and above what is minimally expected of them. Caretakers can populate any department from top to bottom, in any sort of organization, not just in dealerships. How do you raise this person’s sights? How can you “push the right buttons” to lift them to consistently perform at a higher level — a level you know they’re quite capable of? You’ve probably tried pep talks, bribes, and guilt trips to try and get them to “step up for the team;” and, while they may occasionally — very occasionally — show a flash of brilliance, those moments seem to come around about as often as Haley’s Comet. Here’s where Coach Bryant’s “little bit extra” application can help.

First, we must understand what won’t work: trying to raise them to their full potential in one fell swoop. Even if they are capable skills-wise, if their own mindset—their attitude—doesn’t buy into the goal it’s not going to happen. In fact, psychologists warn us that if goals are either too high or too low that people don’t buy in and mentally check out of them. And while the little bit extra strategy can work with any position, I’ll use a scenario where a sales manager is coaching his salesperson to call more of their customer base to stay in touch, build relationships, re-engage them in another car deal, and get referrals. In fact, let’s consider an underperforming veteran salesperson sitting on a gold mine of sold customers over a past decade or two, but who still only manages to sell an average number each month. This, in my opinion, is one of the most costly and infuriating wastes of assets within a dealership.

In this scenario we’ll assume the salesperson is required to make a minimum number of contacts with their customer base daily. You’re convinced he or she can make ten, has the time to make ten, the talent to make ten, and that making ten would add several sales and referrals each month. But, you also know if you approach the veteran caretaker with moving from six to ten you’ll be met with disbelief: incredulity, a rash of excuses, and the possible accusation that you’re endangering their health by insisting on an activity that will raise their blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of stroke or heart failure. Or, even if they do agree with the new standard just to get you off their back, you know full well they’re unlikely to actually do it for long.

But what if you had a conversation that explained how the entire team was faced with higher goals and expectations this year; and, while that no one person is expected to increase their output to an unreasonable level, that everyone would need to do their share and contribute a “little bit extra.” You then ask—don’t command—if he or she thinks that based on their vast talent, experience, and robust customer base, they would be able to make one additional quality contact per day for the next sixty days. It’s almost completely certain they will not argue with this expectation, but will in fact be so relieved it’s so “low” that they will quickly buy into it and agree to do it. Then explain to him or her that so everyone understands their new role and there can be no misunderstandings, you’re putting everyone’s new expectations in writing, asking them to sign it acknowledging that you’ve both agreed this is a reasonable number, and that he or she will be able to retain a copy for their records.

With this seemingly unimpressive commitment you’re actually reaching agreement for nearly a seventeen percent increase of daily productivity. You then reinforce the new behavior often, thanking the team member for “doing their part and keeping their commitment.” After the sixty days you meet specifically to review this new standard and discuss their success, the impact it’s had, the improved results, and then collaborate to reach a new goal for the next sixty days that includes just one additional daily contact. At this point—especially if you can get the person to agree that making the one extra daily call was a no-brainer for them—it’s logical to step it up incrementally more and follow the same pattern, with every right to expect that within the next sixty days you will have raised their daily productivity in this particular area once again, and that in a four month period their quality customer contact production will have risen 33%. You can continue this “little bit extra” method into future sixty- day periods as well, and in doing so will have steadily and consistently, over time, helped change this person’s mindset to the point that they’ll be producing twice the quality contacts they once were — a goal they would have scoffed at initially.

Now here’s where this strategy really gets valuable: remember that Coach Bryant’s principle was that every player would do this little bit extra, every time. Multiply the impact of each person on your team — not just the caretakers — lifting their level of performance. Even if only two-thirds or half your team steadily raises their performance over time by giving a little bit extra, the return will be exponential and you’ll increase sales dramatically without having to add headcount.

I’ll close with this thought: low expectations presume incompetence, and when you presume incompetence you eventually create it. People will live down to them. Raise the bar, but do it intelligently, gradually, collaboratively, and consistently over time and you can help grow your caretakers into playmakers, and possibly even game changers.