What the CEO wants you to have:

I ask executives frequently if they want their people to have written goals.  They almost always answer “yes”.  I think most workers would assume the CEO doesn’t care about their goals.  He/she must be thinking about other, more noble (or financial) thoughts than what the average employee desires in life.  Well, they’re wrong; their goals are important to the boss.  Here’s why:

Good leaders care about the personal goals of the workforce because they know it makes them better.  Having goals gives them a reason to be their best in the workplace.  Every good boss would love a company full of people who are working on themselves and using their jobs as a tool to improve their value in the marketplace.  People without goals usually don’t make as good employees.

If you’re a boss, use this truth to raise your productivity.  Encourage your people to set goals, write them down, and work on them often.  Help them set several goals in all areas of their life and get excited with them about reaching those goals.  Give them a vision on how their job can contribute to getting what they want in life both financially and otherwise.  Remind them how ambition is frequently rewarded and how all successful people set goals.  Is this appropriate?  Yes!  If workers don’t want to go there with you, that’s ok.  It’s not part of the job description and won’t be counted against them.  But many employees would welcome this coaching from their boss.

Most CEOs realize that they’re in a relationship with the workforce.  They serve the needs of their employees and the employees serve them.  And like all relationships, investing in the other party is one great way to strengthen and get more out of that relationship.  An important part of leading people is helping them making wise decisions and them having goals benefits you both.

Marathon Reflections

I was really inspired at the Go St Louis marathon today.  We went to watch our daughter-in-law run her 8th full marathon but got more benefit than we expected.  Thousands of people went out on a warm, muggy St Louis spring day to run the 26 mile marathon or the 13 mile half marathon.  Others chose to walk the 13 miles.  All of them made me glad.

I was glad because I really want to live among healthy people.  These neighbors of mine have been working hard to achieve a higher level of fitness in their lives.  When they strive for health, it makes me want to discipline myself to stay healthy too.  Not only does this tend to keep health care costs down it just makes us all happier too.

I was glad because I want to live among goal oriented people.  I have experienced the magic of having goals in my life and it inspired me that so many have set running or walking 13 or 26 miles a goal for themselves.  I know that setting that goal will lead them to more goals and soon they’ll be living a bigger, better life in many ways in addition to better fitness.

I was glad because it was like a street party with a healthy focus.  Thousands of us cheered each other on to do a good thing instead of to do some other less beneficial street activity.  Sometimes those streets aren’t very friendly, but they were today.  I hope we demand more good street activities and not give them over to the dark side.

And one more thing I was glad about:  I was part of a community today.  I used to live in a very small world with only room for 1.  Me.  The more I see myself as part of your world, the bigger and brighter and better my world is.  Thanks for being there.  Bob

Dealing with the difficult boss

Some bosses are great!  Some…not so much.  Here are my 3 best ideas on what you can do with the difficult ones:

1. Try to see their point of view.  Most bosses have their boss putting demands on them and that may be part of the reason they’re difficult.  If you can “get in their shoes” and see their challenges, that often enables both of you to work together easier.  Instead of taking communication from your boss personally, think about what is causing them to act that way and look for a way you can actually help them.  You don’t have to like someone to help them and doing this sometimes causes great result with bosses.

2. Provide some self-leadership.  The best leaders set goals, coach, mentor, share accountability, etc.  Well, you can do a lot of that yourself.  Set goals!  Ask for more work!  Be accountable!  It takes courage and ambition, but there is not much that will ease stress with your boss like managing yourself.  Find out what the best bosses do, and do that to yourself.  You might be amazed at how your relationship changes.

3. Focus on the mission.  Your customers are counting on your product or service.  In spite of your boss or anybody else, your actions either contribute to or take away from the customer.  Even if your boss is directing you to take actions to hurt the customer (an extreme example) there are other things you can do FOR the customer.  Thinking and acting for the customer often makes your difficult internal relationships less relevant.

P.S.  If you’re a boss, do these same things to keep from being difficult.

Read Your Way to Success

Without a doubt, reading good books can accelerate you success as fast as anything.  The world’s greatest minds are found in books and these are relatively cheap but for the discipline to read them.  All of the greatest people now and in history have been avid readers of great literature.  Our country was founded by men who were familiar with the classics and applied what they knew to design our very resilient government.

Most of the best habits that create success are suggested by books.  Staying disciplined to make personal change can be encouraged by reading good books.  I don’t know anyone who has achieved great levels of success without reading.  “Readers are leaders”, I have heard many times and believe it true.

So what books and how many?  First, resolve what NOT to read.  Most newspapers and magazines are just printed to be entertainment and have little beneficial content.  Magazines about your field printed by professional organizations are exceptions to this and usually have very valuable articles about your profession.  Other than that, stick to proven and classic works.  As for amount, try to read every day.  30 minutes every morning would be ideal.  Remember, your mind is under attack constantly from substandard philosophies and inoculating yourself daily is a great idea.

Google “top personal improvement books” and you’ll get a fairly good list.  One of my favorites is Brian Klemmer’s “If How-To’s Where Enough, We Would All Be Skinny, Rich, and Happy” which isn’t on most lists.  Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is another one that I wish all Americans would read.  I love the Bible.  From there, ask for recommendations from well read people or your mentor.  I always take note of book recommendations during good speeches.  That usually serves me very well.

As you read, you’ll find your knowledge and wisdom grow and your world will grow too.  Your challenges will find more answers and more opportunity will appear on your horizon.  You’ll sit at the feet of the world’s top teachers and be the beneficiary to all their thoughts.  All for the discipline of reading.  Wow!

Delegating pros and cons

Delegation, when done well by managers, produces higher productivity, higher morale, and greater workplace efficiency. However, two common situations prevent many managers from succeeding at this skill as well as they could.

First, managers usually know that the task they’re delegating will likely NOT be done as well as they could do it themselves. They will probably experience an immediate decrease in productivity by delegating that task.  Not good.  When environments are demanding, managers may feel too much pressure to take time for proper delegating.  A long view is needed to invest in employees by delegating.  Counsel them too, to deserve that investment.

Another barrier is the fear of being made irrelevant by delegating tasks central to one’s key performance. People tend to identify with their job tasks especially when they become proficient at them. Intentionally giving away those tasks, especially to someone who may eventually be better at it than you, can be intimidating. Managers need to courageously decide to do what is best and give up some of their power for the sake of the greater good.  I have talked to many managers who longed for their old tasks, long ago delegated to others.  Remember in your new role, you’re expected to go on to management tasks.

Delegation is more about growing people than it is reducing your own work load.  It communicates that you trust someone enough to give them higher responsibility for key results.  It provides a context for coaching, accountability, and training.  Learn the art and skills of wise delegation and reap the benefits of greater leadership and effectiveness.

Seize the moment with key people

One way to personal effectiveness is being able to focus on the proper task or person at the proper time.  This often boils down to “wherever you are, be there”.  Especially with people, “being with” that person without being distracted is a key element in interpersonal and business success.  It is also a fundamental part of being a good listener.

Of course, the difficulty is we are multi-tasking and going  miles per minute doing what we’re already doing.  There are things to be done, orders to fill, and projects to expedite.  Taking time out for undistracted time with people can seem so … inefficient.  But let’s all remember what Stephen Covey taught us: with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

As much as I wish we could schedule this slow time with our most important people, my experience tells me they often happen spontaneously and unplanned.  Our ability to seize the moment with them seems to get the best result.  Sometimes, weeks of problems can disappear with just a time of patient and thoughtful attention.  Be industrious but be adaptive.

The best CEOs, teachers, counselors, and parents are great listeners.  They know about the power of being with people without internal or external distractions.  Let’s all plan our lives in such a way that we can be highly productive and still leave open opportunities to be interrupted for important listening sessions when they occur.

Stretching Your Adult Brain

I facilitated a seminar last week for a group of rocket scientists who were at the top of their very technical game. This group have top secret jobs associated with secret weapons and national defense. They could tell me about it but then they’d have to….you know.

The subject matter was personality types and how we communicate differently based on our personality preferences. So many organizations have improved their effectiveness by becoming adaptable using personality type training and this group wanted those results too.  Some of the engineers were a little perplexed by this psychology stuff and kept trying to apply it with math and other technical methods.  These very smart people seemed to be using a part of their brain they don’t normally use.

My goal in business training is to make sure there is a business benefit.  I usually see several other benefits for seminar goers and one is the stretching of the brain.  My rocket scientist friends were very accomplished in rocket science but not especially well versed in personality types.  This stretched their brains.  Recent research has been confirming what our bridge playing aunt Irene always touted:  learning keeps the brain healthy and functioning.  Here Barb Strauch may say it better than me:   http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03adult-t.html.

Continuous learning throughout life is important.  Not the same kind of education we experienced in school and not for the same reason but possibly for multiple reasons.  Maybe that’s one reason lots of people keep seeking out learning experiences.  Even rocket scientists.