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Archive for the tag “focus”

5 reasons why making New Year resolutions do not work and 3 strategies making them stick

5 reasons why making New Year resolutions do not work and 3 strategies making them stick 

How can you tell that it is resolution time at the beginning of a new year? Very simple: The ads for weight loss and smoke quitting programs just cranked up and are off the hook on TV. Sure, it makes sense because the end of a year lets you reflect upon the year that has passed and you ponder what you should do with the upcoming year. Before you know it you think about a resolution and come January 1st you start with it.

Problem is that they typically do not work in the long run. The vast majority of folks barely make it through a week or two before they light up another cigarette again, or they end up gaining weight and quit regular exercising. It happened to me, and I am certain it has happened to you as well. In fact I no longer believe in making New Year resolutions (mind you that is different from goal setting). Here are a handful of reasons why they do not work in the long run:

  • It is not organic. So you wait around for the end of the year to roll around and then all of a sudden you come up with a completely new pattern you want to establish overnight. Good luck with that. Most changes in culture take time – a lot of time and certainly more than the weeks or months you have dedicated to reach your short term goal.
  • Guilt is not a good motivator. Most resolutions are based on “guilting” you into staying on course while you are implementing your new behavioral pattern. What happens when you are sick and tired getting stressed out about your personal guilt trip? It’s stress and neither body nor soul like that stress.
  • Peer pressure isn’t powerful enough. You put yourself out on Facebook and perhaps you are brave enough to fess up to your family and friends what you promised you would do to get to your desired goal. So what? Most family, friends, and even co-workers are too polite to ever say a word to you. What is the point then? I do stand corrected with one measure that I have recently come along. Having an accountability partner has been fun and may prove to be the only worthwhile peer pressure tool though.
  • It does not deal with the triggers. Your patterns and habits all have certain triggers why and when you do things. You do not deal with the triggers and of course you will go down the old comfy ways – it’s like you are going down a beaten path with the know reward at the end.
  • Rarely is there a plan for what comes after reaching your goals. If you are part of the group of people who are successful at sticking to their resolutions and reach their goal, you may end up running through open barn doors. Meaning, that without the pressure and end goal on your mind, your mind will most likely fall into the same habits again eventually as the triggers and rewards will still be around and you just blindly follow them again. Ouch!

Sound familiar? If it does, there is a different way of dealing with changing your bad habits. How do habits, good, bad, or indifferent work? You need three key elements:

  1. Trigger: Habits have a trigger that is so engrained into your brain that it initiates a certain behavior / action anytime that it comes along. Keep a log of what is leading up to a habit that you want to change. Raise your own awareness about what happens and when. Do not worry that it happens; make sure that you know when the triggers come your way.
  2. Action: Any trigger sets off a certain behavior that follows it. This is the behavior that you want to make a lasting change to. Log your behavior again and keep this in the back of your head for the time being.
  3. Reward: Any action has a reward. This is why addicts become addicts. The reward can be so powerful and all but intoxicating you with positive endorphins. This is a drug like substance your body produces and it provides you with a sense of intense well-being – even if the activity is super bad for you.

Now you have 3 key areas where you can make a lasting change. Amend any of the three and you will get to have different results. Instead of telling your brain constantly what you do not want to do, you tell it what you should be doing in order to get a reward. Now you need to define what the reward is. That is the tougher part as you want to come up with something that is fun, or exciting as the bad stuff you want to get rid of.

Do not get me wrong, I am not telling you to not make resolutions. If it works for you, great. Go for it! It has not worked for me. I am asking all the others of you to make sure that you do this with the right reasons and end in mind. Overall I still think that resolutions are the telex and telefax of yesteryear and even e-mail is too slow anymore. Dinosaurs. They are also not around anymore. Take a look at your old dinosaur behavior patterns and think about how you can alter trigger, action, or reward in your favor.

And when you fall off the wagon, do not worry. We are all humans and stuff happens. We will love you the way you are anyway.


6 strategies how to not feel lonely on top of the leadership ladder

6 strategies how to not feel lonely on top of the leadership ladder 

Photo credit: Pablo by Buffer

Getting to be the boss is sometimes not at all what you thought it was going to be. You figuratively move up the ladder and the higher you step the less of a handrail you can hold on to for support and guidance. It can be outright lonely and while you are moving up, there is less and less support to grab a hold of. The stress rises and you are going to miss feedback where you stand with people. Watch out, because it can get worse. What you do hear may be carefully chosen, pre-filtered, and sometimes outright blatantly incorrect information. Candor gets rarer and rarer.

When you do a great job at work there is a good chance that you will progress up the career ladder. Before you know it you manage people, a department, and perhaps the whole company. All of a sudden it is like you have moved from one aisle in parliament to the other. People who used to be your colleagues are now your direct reports and their eyes are on you as well as from the people whom you report to. Game on: It is you versus them. You did not want for this to happen at all though.

Before you know it your stomach is in a knot because you may not know whom and what to trust anymore. Why do you think celebrities and really rich and successful CEO’s are in the news about their sometimes questionable public behaviors and organizational decisions? Sure, some folks cannot help themselves and it is their ego and narcissistic behavior that gets them into trouble. It just does not apply to the vast majority of leader-managers.

Does this sound like you? Painful, isn’t it? One powerful example how a successful manager avoided this dead end situation, was that he had been lucky enough to have an ex monk on staff. In the book titled “The CEO and the Monk” the monk became the spiritual adviser to the CEO more or less due to serendipity. Any of the CEO’s decisions – good, bad, or indifferent – had an impact on the organization and the monk provided extremely candid feedback that no one else felt safe conveying. The CEO was thus able making more long term sustainable decisions with a high degree of employee morale. He was in luck because he had had help. That is not what the average leader goes through though. You need not look for a monk though order to organize a well working support structure for yourself. With a few strategies you can do just as well on your own:

  • Listen well. Actually, what comes before that is to simply park your ego and ponder how you can make the life of your people better. When you do this the better listening part comes all but automatically. What does park your ego mean? Do not take yourself so seriously. It is not whether or not you succeed; it is about that your job is such that your team and team members succeed.
  • Seek candid feedback. Sounds easier said than done. Then again, you have the greatest impact on this. Candor can only happen when there is a trustworthy and safe environment for the people to actually share how they really feel and what they think is the best path moving on forward. That is your choice. Nothing is worse than reaming people out, chastising them in front of others, taking their information and immediately turning it on them or others, and many more of such examples destroy trust (remember: trust is what your organization sells and needs in order to survive and thrive). You just managed to never again get a good picture of what is going on again.
  • Walk through the office and shop floor from wall to wall. Get to know your folks. You think you may not have time, well, then make time. Not only is it good for your health to get up and move around at least every 90 minutes, but you have the prime opportunity to bond with people on a personal level. Sometimes you will notice people struggling with their jobs, calls, the striking scanner or printer. Help out and while you are at it you may want to ask what one the one most important thing that needs to change is in order for the department or company to survive. Be ready to do something with the knowledge and provide feedback.
  • When you mutter the words “open door policy” mean them. If your door is only left open because you like a fresh breeze or you like the view, I see some really intense self-reflecting and re-adjusting in your near future, or your chair may be facing a different occupant soon. Seriously, so much has been written about how important it is providing genuine and sincere one-on-one time for your employees. Put the phone on do not disturb, look at the team member and not your oh-so-important paperwork or Outlook schedule. Be there in the moment with the one who interrupted her day to speak with you. This is show time for some candor and fertile ground for growth of you, the employee and the organization.
  • Speak with your peer supervisors and leadership. Often, the people reporting to you would rather confide in other people. No need to get upset about this (remember? Park your ego!). Embrace the trust that your fellow manager enjoys. You two can really do wonders for the employees and the organization if you are using the information wisely and to the benefit of everyone. You can help the other supervisor by returning the favor. Keep in mind that the common denominator for all of the above measures is trust.
  • This is no time for favorites. Favorites are for TV shows, movies and perhaps sports. Here you do not want to only listen and speak to people that you are the most familiar with, or that you like dealing with the most. Favoritism will no doubt to an unsustainable form of leadership. People who need to listen to you all the time, will only do so reluctantly and at the end tell you what they think you want to hear. On the other side of the spectrum, folks that you normally do not speak with you, will be even less likely speaking with you if you do not make the effort first.

Hopefully you got a little comfort out of this blog post. Candor flourishes when you as the leader allow for it to happen without any, and I mean any, repercussions. Provide a safe, ethical and positive environment and you will be amazed how many problems seem to fix themselves. It is like nailing guard rail extensions to your success ladder. There is no way but up for your team, you, and the organization.



Turning crisis into opportunities

Turning crisis into opportunities 

Photo: The engine that started it

I am sure you are intimately familiar with days where nothing seems to work in your favor. Such a day happened to me during apprenticeship way back when in Germany. It was a late afternoon fall day and I had just finished with work and I was on my way home. The engine suddenly sputtered and hesitated like crazy and I barely made it home. This was just what I needed – not! How would I get to work the next day without the car? This was going to be an expensive repair. Would I even be able to afford the fix?

That same evening I went to the local gas station in the village and the owner agreed to take a quick look. He did that and told me that he had no time to fix it until later in the week. Well now, that was not going to work. Just as I tried leaving the gas station I saw a relatively new Audi with out of state plates on it pull in. The nicely dressed owner got out and started to talk to the gas station owner. He also had had car troubles and need to get it looked at right away. I stopped in my tracks as I observed the car getting pulled into the shop bay and getting worked on right away. I was totally shell shocked and mad as a hornet. For one I learned that being neatly dressed, driving a nice car, and money get people’s attention and help getting problems fixed. The more important lesson I picked up was that I could choose turning a disaster into a great opportunity. That was the day I turned this trouble into a passion of mine: Fixing cars, bicycles, and motor cycles.

Still mad at the gas station owner for not helping me, I bought myself a repair manual the next day and also a few special tools and parts. I used my old moped to get to and from work allowing me to work on the car engine. I went in my garage to address the problem. It turned out to be a blown head gasket that did not take long to fix at all. I had a lot of fun doing the work and was quite happy with the result and myself. Not only did I get this fixed a lot sooner than any shop would have been able to fit me into their schedule, but I also saved a lot of money. Almost overnight I had turned a moment of being disappointed and mad at a situation into a lifelong love for fixing things on wheels and otherwise.

The defining moment of change was realizing whether or not I wanted to do something about this problem myself was nobody’s choice but mine. Once I chose that this problem was also an opportunity things turned for the better. I even received unexpected help from my uncle and granddad who both were very handy people. When life hands you lemons, you can choose to make lemonade out of it.


Letting go of what you want the most in order to get it

Letting go of what you want the most in order to get it 

Sounds counterintuitive but it makes sense: Picture yourself in a canoe going down a small stream and around a bend all of a sudden you see a bunch of boulders directly in your current path. You paddle like crazy and you focus all your attention on the boulders in trying avoiding them. Guess what? You just doomed yourself because you will surely hit them straight on anyway, because you trained your brain to lock in on the rocks – and not where you should have gone.

Anyone playing golf, soccer, football etc gets to use this concept. Getting the ball hitting the target works best when you imagine the ball in the place where it needs to go. Now reflect upon your social and work life. What and where are the boulders that you have your eyes set on? Do you want to hit them? Flip this around by pondering and imagining a desired and positive outcome for yourself. Voila! You have reset the clocks and can now tap into the power of hitting your target.


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