Steven's Own Words

Is It All In Your Head?

Is It All In Your Head?

  A few years ago I had a client who was lamenting the fact that she was a procrastinator. She always put things off until the last minute, and she wanted to change that.  “For instance, in college,” she said, “I would constantly pull all-nighters just to get things done at the last minute.” “And you hated that?” I asked. “Did you get bad grades?” “No, those grades were great!” she said. “I got ‘A’s’ and ‘B’s, but everyone kept telling me, and still does, that procrastination is a terrible habit.” “Were you frustrated by your procrastination?”  I asked. “Not really,” she replied. “It never bothered me to pull all-nighters.” “So let me get this straight,” I said. “You didn’t mind the all-nighters at all, the extra time was spent doing things you loved, like socializing and doing other projects like volunteering, and you got great grades for your effort? It sounds to me like you got to have it all.” “When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like much of a problem, does it?” she replied. It turns out, the only negative aspect of her procrastinating was the judgement she was holding onto in her mind. She got caught up in other people’s weaknesses and assessments of procrastination. But those other people judged procrastination by the results they got: low grades that accompanied their own attempts at all-nighters. This client simply didn’t have that problem. The pull of external pressure and opinion is a strong force, especially if your methodology isn’t traditional. But remember, while feedback is valuable, judgment really isn’t. If you’re happy with your process and your results, ask yourself if it’s really worth the effort to make that big change–or if...
What We Can Learn from Jon Stewart

What We Can Learn from Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart, renowned comedian and host of The Daily Show, retired a couple weeks ago. No matter what you think of his style, his work, or his sense of humor, one thing is certainly true: Jon Stewart was a Superboss. In a striking article for the Harvard Business Review, Sydney Finkelstein points out that Stewart was responsible for mentoring and building up a huge number of now well-known comedians. Steve Carell credits the Daily Show with launching his career, and he’s one among many big names. This is a great example of a big belief of mine: Great leaders don’t make followers; they make other leaders. What makes Jon Stewart so incredible isn’t just his sixteen-year run on TDS–it’s all the talent he developed and mentored with a generous, encouraging spirit. Check out the article and be inspired. I know I...
The Value Of Persistence (According to Coolidge)

The Value Of Persistence (According to Coolidge)

Too often one’s belief in their ability to lead is rooted in some external need–whether or not they have the talent or ‘genius’ for it.  It’s not rooted in that at all. Leadership is rooted in your commitment to see yourself as a leader and the persistence to keep practicing – regardless of whatever challenges, setbacks, mistakes or roadblocks you face.  Remember Calvin Coolidge’s great quote? “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful [people] with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Lead...
Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

Leaders, how often do you check in with your team — and in what way?Keeping regular progress checks and open communication is essential to a healthy team, but it can be tough to do that in a way that includes people instead of getting them defensive. One secret is to focus on activities and results instead of individual people as much as possible. Consider using a scale of 1 – 10 for the progress of a project. Ask your folks how they would rate the progress or result on that scale. This gives you both a measuring point for later down the road. More importantly, it helps to objectively separate the person from the project.   “On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate our progress?” “How would you rate the results on a scale of 1-10?” “How effectively did the team collaborate on a scale of 1-10?” If they respond with anything less than a 10, you have the opportunity to ask a powerful question: What would have made it a 10? Or, depending on the situation: What do you need to make it a 10? The objective is to find the gap and understand what your team sees as the gap.Only then can you truly manage the task. You may discover they are missing an important element, or that they have an insight you never saw from your perspective. Either way, this scale becomes the roadmap for moving things forward. What’s more, it’s a language that inherently shows your team that you value their opinion and...
Don’t Be An Ostrich!

Don’t Be An Ostrich!

A lot of people might say that any action is better than no action, but I have to disagree. As I wrote last week, the right action is whatever brings you closer to your objective. While I stand by that concept, it’s also important not to let yourself get stuck. When we’re afraid of making a mistake and taking the “wrong” action, it’s easy to bury our head in the sand and ignore important and significant challenges — or as we talked about last week, we might just do busy work instead of important work. One of the challenges leaders often face is conflict. Despite being the “leader,” confrontation can be seriously nerve-wracking. But the ostrich approach of burying your head in the sand — hoping it will go away — is pragmatically the same as running away, even if you’re actually standing still. And when it comes to conflict, doing nothing can actually be more harmful than doing the wrong something, because people often interpret silence as agreement, acquiescence or permission. When faced with conflict, steal a page from the oldest military strategy on the books: Divide and conquer. First separate from the trigger of the conflict. If it’s a situation, move to a different room to get some distance or perspective. The same is true if two people are in conflict – give them space to separate. As a leader, recognize the impasse and then give yourself and others permission to cool off. Instead of burying your head hoping it goes away, give yourself time to consider the triggers, the options and where the emotions are clouding...
Running Towards – Or Running Away?

Running Towards – Or Running Away?

These days, everyone seems to be going a hundred miles an hour. Everyone’s running, but not everyone is running in the right direction. Are you running towards your greatness, or away from it? If all your energy and action is focused on a project that distracts you from a more important issue or goal, that’s essentially the same as running away. It’s counter productive, ineffective and distracting. There is a world of difference between being effective and just looking busy. Often, these distractions look good and even feel good — we are in motion and it seems like we’re getting things done. But they are little more than an excuse to not face our fears. Your time, energy, and resources are limited — everyone has 24 hours in a day. What are you doing with yours? And are you doing the right things, and more importantly, are you letting go of the right things? How many of your actions are pushing you down the road towards your dreams–and how many are pulling you...
Why NOT To Do It Yourself

Why NOT To Do It Yourself

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is having the courage to let go. As leaders, we may think we know what others don’t–like we’re the only one who understands the big picture. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll just do it myself.” That, or we’re tempted to lead through assigning tasks over and over again, instead of letting others learn through the growing pain. There’s only one way to avoid this trap and still stay on the path towards success for our team and ourselves: Trust. Building trust is a two-way street. Does your team trust you? And, the sometimes more difficult question, do you trust them? How can you build that trust today? What do you need from them? What do you need to let go of? And what do you need to manage within...
Why In The World Would You Want To Be The Boss?

Why In The World Would You Want To Be The Boss?

  “You’re not the boss of me!”    “Stop being so bossy!”   “Who died and made you boss?” And these are just the phrases kids use!   Any way it comes out, however, it is most assuredly NOT a compliment. So why do so many people clamor to be the ‘boss’? If you’re aspiring to ‘be the boss’ you might want to stop and check in with your intention, because as children know instinctively, bossy is all about telling people want to do and demanding allegiance.  If, however, you’re aspiring to have a positive impact on the team, or to change the world, your company, your industry, your family…that doesn’t take a boss or bossiness. That takes leadership. Leaders aren’t in it to tell people what to do. They’re in it to show people what is possible and to inspire people to be more than they have...
The Helm is Yours

The Helm is Yours

We captain many ships in our life: Relationships, partnerships, friendships, citizenship, hardship… but it is our Leadership that is most capable of taking us to new shores and upon which we will discover new worlds. We sail our leadership with the sails of values and wisdom and integrity, accompanied by the crew whose hands we are willing to put our life in, and whose dreams we care for in return. This is the ship of possibility, the ship of our beliefs. It’s not meant to be kept safe in the harbor–that’s not what ships were built for. It’s meant to be sailed, and no one else can captain it but you. So take the helm — and sail....
4 Reasons You Should Avoid A Coach!

4 Reasons You Should Avoid A Coach!

I know what you’re thinking–what the heck is this coaching thing, anyway? What’s the point? How does it work? How do you even know who to trust? Well, that’s not even the worst of it. Working with a coach, life/executive or otherwise is, quite frankly, a ridiculous idea. I would know. I AM ONE. And here’s 4 good reasons you’ll want to steer clear: Your coach is only your coach. How weird is that? They’re not your friend, your spouse, your pastor, your boss, your sibling, your neighbor…in fact, they’re not tied to you in any way. And what, you’re just supposed to share your goals and dreams with them? They won’t even be affected at all by your choices! I mean, wouldn’t you rather talk with people who have a personal stake in everything you say? People who have endless opinions of what you should do, who believe they know better than you and aren’t afraid to say so? I don’t care if it provides uncomfortable relational baggage, that’s the way things are supposed to be, right?! But with a coach, it’s like they’re just 100% committed to your agenda or something. I mean, weird, right? Just imagine. Putting you first. Who ever heard of such a thing?! That’s the second thing. They’re so darned focused on you! You’ll be quoting Regina George in no time and saying “why are you so obsessed with me?” I mean, gross. All they’ll care about is you, listening to what you say, responding and inquiring about your goals, obliterating your obstacles and driving you forward, helping you discover your needs, wants,...

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