The importance of “thinking time”, and how to do this.

Taking the time to think may seem like a simple thing to do. Depending on what you are thinking about, it certainly could be. However, if you are doing what is referred to as critical thinking, this type of thinking can be more difficult to do. Why? Because it will require you to factor in a number of different variables related to the topic you are contemplating.

Critical thinking is also usually associated with topics which may have multiple outcome possibilities. Some of which will be in your favor with the more experience you have either personally or professionally. Although this doesn’t mean you are incapable of exercising critical thinking if you do not have much life or professional experience.

Having just taken a vacation, I spent a fair amount of time on my vacation exercising critical thinking on a number of different topics. One of the topics was about mindset. In fact, I experimented with testing out the concept of having a positive mindset most of the time I was on vacation. During the few times that my mindset was not positive, it generally had to do with the fact I was tired, or had not been getting enough exercise or the right type of healthy food.

The other topic I spent a fair amount of time critically thinking about, was leadership, and what impact leaders have on those they lead. Since I have been conducting research for the past year on aspects of leadership associated with sports coaches and the teams they lead, my thinking about this topic has significantly expanded, and in a very constructive manner. It has been expanded due to having new insight into the different methods sports’ coaches have leveraged to lead their teams.

When I compare and contrast the difference between sports and workplace/business leaders, the most surprising aspect difference between the two types of leaders, isn’t one you might expect. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how sports coaches are much more willing to “test drive” multiple leadership methods than business leaders are. When I first started thinking about why this might be occurring, I first thought about how sports leaders have an enormous advantage over business leaders. What is this advantage? It’s quite simple, and it is that the sports team leaders’ teams all are singularly focused on one thing. Winning.

Of course, the business leaders’ teams also want to “win”, but their success is measured differently, and they are also motivated differently than sports teams are. From a critical thinking perspective, the sports coach leaders have a great advantage over the business leaders because the business teams may say they all share a common goal, but in reality, many of them don’t. I can credibly tell you this from having spent over twenty-five years in the business world, and I have both seen and experienced this for decades. I’ll refer to as a phenomenon.

The business leaders who were able to get their teams to at least appear to be on the “same page” from a goal perspective, and who were able to achieve what were classified as their success measurements or KPI’s (key performance metrics), achieved this with a different set of challenges than the sports coach leaders did. Yes, both types of leaders had equally challenging experiences with achieving their goals, but I can tell you that if the business leaders took a page out of the proverbial “playbook” of the sports coach leaders, it would make their jobs both more fulfilling, and less frustrating.

The “playbook” aspect I am referring to has to do with assigning more value to understanding team dynamics, and the top sports coaches in the US and outside of the US that I spoke to, understand this innately. They also assign and allocate both time, resources, and money to making sure that they get their team dynamics right. The results from the sports coaches who have “cracked the code” on understanding and applying methods to making their team dynamics work in their favor, are not only impressive, but should be better understood and applied outside of the sports team industry.

Since having spent the last year doing research on sports teams and team dynamics, I have had to do an enormous amount of critical thinking. Especially during the time I have been analyzing the results of my work. Here are some of the aspects of critical thinking I can share with you if you are interested in both understanding the importance of critical thinking, and why you should be taking more time to do so on a regular basis.

  • Critical thinking is more than having an opinion about something.
  • To be a critical thinker, you need to reserve the time to do so, be reflective and factor in multiple variables about the topic you are considering.
  • Patience is also required when you are attempting to spend time on critically thinking about the topic you are focusing on. Yes, this can be frustrating, as we live and work in a culture that demands an immediate sense of gratification, and critically thinking about a topic doesn’t always permit you to have an immediate answer or response.
  • Exercising and getting in shape can be compared to critical thinking, as it is the type of thinking which requires discipline, persistence and considering doing a number of different methods to get to the result you are seeking, or want to have options to consider.
  • You don’t always have to critically think alone. Although most of the time people do this type of thinking as a solo practice. Involving other people in your critical thinking discussion, is best suited when you have someone moderating the discussion.
  • When you regularly exercise your ability to critically think things through, you become much more skilled at making better decisions versus rash or impulsive ones. Decisions that will cause you to regret not having thought through the situation you were in.

If you don’t currently pride yourself in being a critical thinker yet, give yourself credit for contemplating what it will take to master this skill. Especially if you are looking to either lead others, or if you want to improve upon your current leadership skills.

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #CriticalThinking #Teams #SportsCoach #Leader #BusinessLeader #Success #Thinking #HowToCriticallyThinkThingsThrough #TipsOnHowToBeACriticalThinker #Sportsteams #Research

Making opportunities appear…and happen.

Why does it seem like some people are gifted in the area of having an easier life or more experiences and opportunities coming their way? Are they more magnetic than others in terms of attracting them? Actually, they are. However, the good news is that anyone can be in this situation.

When you think about looking from the outside into other people’s careers or lives, most people who are looking are doing so via the proverbial rose-colored glasses. In other words, they are not taking into consideration the how and why other people who seemingly have a charmed situation got there. I guarantee you it’s not the way you think they did.

Our perception of “how” other people have accomplished something is generally way off base from reality, and we typically envision that everything is much easier or convenient for someone else. Why do we do this? Because it’s nearly impossible to fully appreciate all of the experience and potential struggles it took someone to be a position which currently looks easy.

For example, we know that professional athletes spend decades preparing to participate at the level they are at, yet their career is generally one serious injury away from severely disrupting or ending their career. If they are fortunate enough to avoid or minimize their level of injuries, they have often done so via specialized training to strengthen their body to withstand injuries that non-professional athletes could not tolerated.

Depending on what your definition of career success is, and how you measure your success, the people you would classify as being successful in their profession arrived there as a result of many different and possible paths. The path all of them had in common was that they were all tenacious and persistent in their pursuits. Especially when they encountered setbacks. The setbacks which occurred are not always seen or appreciated by others, but play a critical part in the journey the individual was on.  

I love the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”. This basic phrase deliciously packages and summarizes what I have heard some of the most accomplished people state over and over again. Perhaps not exactly this phrase, but the purest sentiment of it. When others would see their situation being fraught with difficulty due to obstacles of any kind, the people who encounter them, see them as opportunities to recalculate and recalibrate. When they do this, they are crafting opportunities which did not exist prior to the setback.

Instead of bemoaning what could have, should have or would have been, the people who are able to move past what happened are able to take back control, and retool their situation.  In many cases, to have a far better opportunity appear.  Some of the best inventions we now live with are classic examples of what prior to it existing was a result of a prior failed one (e.g., wheels, electricity, automobiles, computers, refrigerators).  These are strong examples of someone being persistent and not allowing a setback, or many of them, to block their forward progress.

When I think about the leaders or sports coaches I have worked with, all of them would tell you they didn’t get to where they are alone. In fact, they are incredibly humble, and will often not take credit for what they have accomplished. They don’t claim to be luckier or able to outsmart others, but they do all possess what I would argue is also one of the key elements to making better opportunities appear. More importantly come to life for you, and others. The one element is their attitude. Not only is it a great attitude, it’s an admirable one.

These leaders and sports coaches also take ownership for when things go wrong. They are not looking for “scapegoats” to blame for what went wrong, and they are highly introspective and reflective about what they could have done better. This is a refreshing way of leading and motivating others. Namely because others are not operating in a state of fear of being blamed, and are intimidated by expressing their opinions and suggestions to support the team they are on. If you are lucky, you are, or have been on one of these teams. If you haven’t been on one yet, it might be time to start considering looking for one like this.

Now, let’s circle back to my initial statement about how do people make opportunities appear and benefit from them doing so? Here are some suggestions to guide you.

  • There is no getting around the fact you might need to have an “attitude adjustment”. If you don’t think you need to have one, I recommend you ask someone you trust how your attitude is. If you can’t handle the truth about what you might hear, it’s likely that you do need an attitude adjustment.
  • Being aware of your surroundings, circumstances and perceiving how you come across to others is critically important. If your level of awareness is “off”, it will make seeing opportunities harder to spot.
  • Having a perfectionist attitude isn’t going to help you in the long run. You are far better off trying and failing than to constantly strive for perfection.
  • Most opportunities are also in what might be referred to as a “grey area”, which is both hard to define, but you won’t see it if your “perfectionist meter” is set too high. Consider dialing it down to have more clarity into the “grey area” or “grey zone”.
  • Walk away. Yes, literally do this, as often when you are too close to any situation, you need to step away to gain a different perspective and angle on how you could better capitalize on your situation. Think of the expression, “you can’t see the forest via the trees.”
  • Are you seeing patterns in data or activities which others are not? This may or may not be something you are skilled at seeing. If you are, and you are not taking advantage of this, when you do, more opportunities will present themselves.

The how portion of capitalizing on opportunities is going to be dependent on your level of risk tolerance, ability to be timely with your opportunity appearing, and having the right support in place. Both mentally and physically, as most opportunities are more similar to a team sport versus an individual one. However, there are certainly exceptions, but the critical point to consider is to allow yourself to be openminded to appreciating you deserve to have lots of opportunities coming your way. In other words, have a mindset of bounty versus scarcity. You’ll be amazed at what can happen in your favor when you think this way.

TAGS: #Leadership #Motivation #Teams #Leader #Sportscoach #Coach #Business #Sports #Seekingopportunity #Opportunity #Howtocapitalizeonopportunities #Opportunities #Sales #Salesteams

Leadership and being happy.

Yes, I feel lucky. Why? Because the state of being happy is generally something I always feel. Of course, there are exceptions, but my natural tendency to perceive the world is that the “glass is half full.” I realize that not everyone has the same outlook that I do, and I also appreciate that there are tremendous advantages because of my innate nature.

Sure, there are days when I may not be at the top of the happiness meter rating, but when I’m not, it also makes me appreciate and have perspective on the state other people feel on a regular basis.

When I was giving thought to this topic, I was surprised that I had not written about it before. Especially given that last eighteen months of everyone’s world being tipped upside down due to Covid and other non-pleasant realities. Some that we have control over, and others we do not. Fortunately, despite what some people might think, we do have more control over our respective world than they might give themselves credit for.

What I mean by this, is that everyone has choices. Perhaps not in every situation, but the majority of the time they do. Sometimes our decisions will negatively impact our future choices, but it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. In fact, having hope is one of the basic foundational aspects which can contribute to a person’s happiness level. Consider this from thinking back to a time when you made a decision which may not have been the best one. It likely caused you either to have a set-back, or was a contributor to lowering your happiness meter.

As I think back to the impact of people, and particularly leaders I have worked for, I started to notice a pattern in the leader’s demeanor. The leaders who came across as intimidating, were far less easy to approach and open up to. Conversely, the leaders who exhibited what I’ll refer to as “more human” and down to earth qualities, were the ones that I enjoyed working for, and who’s track record for business success was higher than the other type of leaders.

The other noticeable characteristic of the more successful leaders was that they outwardly appeared to be happy. This one factor alone made them easier to get along with, open up to, and trust sooner than those who didn’t have this quality. What impact did this have on the success of the business? A tremendous amount, and one of them was how they were able to establish the type of work culture you wanted to be a part of. It also made you want to help the leader to be successful, and everyone else at the company too. A true team effort, not a siloed team one that exists at many companies.

So, if you are not a naturally happy person or leader (e.g., business, sports coach), are there things you can do to change the trajectory of your outlook or alter your less than sunny disposition? Of course, there are! You simply have to be willing to want to change, and this can apply to numerous concepts. I’ll provide some suggestions on how you can go about altering your outlook, but before I do, I want to share a quick story with you.

The story is a true one, and is about a business leader I worked with. I’ll never forget the conversation we had, as I never imagined having it with him. However, what he told me at first was shocking, as I was in complete disbelief as I first heard him tell me what he said. What he told me was that he was scared to truly be who he was in his leadership role. He also expressed that he thought he needed to take on an entirely different persona in this role, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could put on the charade of being someone who he was not.

When I asked this leader why he thought he couldn’t be himself, he said that his natural personality of being an upbeat and happy person was something he had repeatably been told wasn’t an asset. In fact, he had been told it would be a liability, and that the people he led would not take him seriously if he allowed his actual “positive” personality to shine through.  Upon hearing this, I immediately felt sad that he had been essentially negatively influenced to alter his personality based on some “so called advice” about how to be a leader.

Fast forward this conversation, and I asked this leader why he chose to accept this advice, and I asked him how it had been working for him. He told me that it wasn’t working well, and it was impacting his health and well-being. His business metrics were also being negatively impacted too. However, after having our initial conversation about him essentially exhibiting classic signs of “imposter syndrome”, mixed in with subpar advice on how to act as a leader, we continued to have conversations about how he could become more comfortable simply being himself.

If you are wondering how the story unfolded, spoiler alert, I can tell you that this leader went on to be wildly successful. People also flocked to work at his company and for him, and he is one of the happiest people I know. All because he finally embraced being the happy person he truly was.

So, as promised, below are some suggestions you can consider if you are looking to either embrace being a happier person, leader or sports coach. Why sports coaches? Because I view them as prime examples of how their leadership ability can have such a strong influence and correlation on the interactions they have with the people they lead.

  • Mindset and having a positive and open one is key. Sorry, but there are not any exceptions or shortcuts on this one.
  • Give others the benefit of the doubt, or give them a chance to succeed by helping to set them up for success. This is a quality all exceptional leaders/sports coaches possess.
  • Find ways to help other people. Especially on days you might need to pump up your happiness meter. There are numerous small things you can do on a daily basis to have this suggestion support you well.
  • Turn off the news. It generally is only providing you with negative information. This is never helpful.
  • Surround yourself with more positive people. I wrote an article about how you sometimes need to “prune” your social and business circle from time to time, as some people will creep in like weeds.
  • Seek out doing things and experiencing activities that make you happy, that are not detrimental to you (e.g., exercise, meditation, eating healthy, being outside, listen to music or an upbeat, inspirational or educational podcast).
  • How’s your attitude? Make sure you take a pulse on it from time to time, as we sometimes will need to adjust our attitude is disposition from time to time.
  • You own your happiness dial, and need to take complete ownership and not cast blame on others for the level your happiness meter is at.

The list of things you can do to contribute to increasing your happiness level is infinite, so my challenge to you is to seek out other ways you can tap into with the purpose of leveling up your happiness level. Here’s to having a new outlook on how you can be happier each day going forward.

TAGS: #Happiness #Beinghappy #Happy #Howtobehappy #Leadership #Sportscoach #Leader #Business #Success #Leadingbyexample #Impostersyndrome #Teams #Sportsteams #Influence #Positiveinfluence #Management #Strategy

The power of a handwritten note.

I had the good fortune of learning a long time ago about the influence a handwritten note can have, and I can credit my Mom for teaching me this. She wasn’t a business person, she was a nurse, so she clearly had an appreciation of the impact words can have on others.

Initially when it wasn’t my choice to be writing handwritten thank you cards to people who had done something nice for me, or given me a gift, it seemed like and arduous task. One I actually tried to avoid doing. Mainly because I am dyslexic, and when I was younger, writing was not a talent I had developed. However, my notes were all sincere, and it established a wonderful and lifelong habit of sending handwritten notes.

Recently I was going through some boxes in my attic, and I came across a box which was filled with letters that I had saved. All of them were written before the internet came about. The amazing thing about these letters, was that they captured a time in my life I had not thought much about. Most of the letters were from my friends from high school and college, and they were mainly letters reminiscing about experiences we had together, updated me on what they were currently doing, or telling me they missed me, and were looking forward to seeing me again.

When I received those letters, they appeared to have arrived at the perfect time, as I was either home sick, or missing the person that sent them. Hearing from them cheered me up.

Some people might think of writing a letter or a card, especially in the professional world as being old fashioned. Perhaps it is, but since fewer people are writing them, they have a greater impact when they are received. In fact, I have saved the handful of cards I have received over the past few decades from other professionals.

One of the cards I saved was from a CEO I was working for. I was in fact shocked to have received a handwritten note from him, but it was probably one of the most impactful ones I had ever received. Why? Because I was incredibly disappointed by the way he handled a project. He knew this, and he knew he had made a mistake with the approach he initially took.

The CEO’s letter to me was an apology and thank you letter. In the letter, he told me that he should not have pulled rank on me, or have overridden one of my decisions, and he regretted that he did that. He expressed both his regret, and sincere appreciation for how I handled myself professionally, and for how exceptionally well the project I was leading turned out. Receiving this letter was actually shocking, but it provided me with an entirely new lens on this leader. A much more positive one, as I could see that he had taken the time to be reflective, had learned from the mistake he had made, and was willing to own up and take responsibility for owning his decision and actions. When I think about this situation, I don’t think verbally hearing what he had written would have had the same positive impact.  In fact, I know it would not have.

I can understand that some people might not feel confident about being able to craft a handwritten note, but let me assure you, you can write one with greater ease than you imagine. It just takes some practice, and the good news for you, is that it doesn’t have to be a long note. Consider the size of most traditional thank you cards. They are literally about four inches wide, and three inches long. That’s not a lot of writing real estate, so this can work in your favor. Even better? If you buy a traditional “thank you” greeting card, they often have something written inside, so you only have to add a sentence or two to personalize your note.

If you still are not convinced that you should be writing more handwritten notes to people, here are some other reasons to consider why you should be doing this.

  • Writing a handwritten note doesn’t take much effort, but the person receiving it will consider that you put genuine effort into doing this.
  • There isn’t any downside to saying thank you to someone, especially via a handwritten note.
  • If you are a leader, you should absolutely be regularly crafting handwritten notes. No exceptions or excuses for why you are not. As they saying goes, “lead by example.”
  • Yes, manners are still noticed. Especially when good ones are exhibited, and crafting a handwritten note ticks off the box of having good manners.
  • Being thoughtful isn’t overrated, and sending someone a handwritten note can speak volumes in your favor when you do this.
  • Sure, you can stand out on social media, but consider this. When do you think the person you are trying to influence the most received a handwritten note? Consider standing out from the crowd by finding your pen and a card to send to them.
  • Handwritten notes can cover a wide variety of topics. Consider all of the people you could write a card to, and what you could express to them from a positive perspective.
  • Keep the negative notes to yourself, as they tend to do more harm than good. However, writing them can be cathartic, but I don’t recommend sending them.
  • Consider the last time you received a handwritten note from someone. Perhaps you can return the favor and send one back to them?

So, having expressed my views about the power of handwritten notes, don’t be surprised if you get one from me one day. I’ll also be waiting to see who will take me up on my concept of leveraging the power of a handwritten note. Maybe I’ll receive one from you?

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Success #Rolemodel #Leadbyexample #Impressions #Firstimpressions #Leader #Leaders #Positiveinfluence #CEO #Communication #Management #Marketing

Asking for help. Is there a good way to do so?

Yesterday I was having a serious conversation with a person I know. Someone in fact I have known for decades. I could tell by the sound of their voice that someone was wrong, or perhaps that they were struggling with something that didn’t come up initially during our conversation. Sure enough, my instincts were correct, and I asked a few more questions, and the person revealed what was going on.  In fact, there was too much going on, and they were so overwhelmed, they didn’t know what to do. Or, how to ask for help. 

This person’s situation was quite extreme, and from an outside perspective, you would have thought they could have easily been seeking help. They were not. Instead, they were suffering alone, and ironically, were helping everyone else around them. 

Perhaps because this person finds it to be so easy to help others, that they have either neglected being able to help themselves, or they have fallen into a common conundrum. The conundrum is failing to provide self-care. This can often happen, and is sometimes done unconsciously. One of the reasons this occurs is that although it may sound counter intuitive, for some people, it is sometimes easier for them to care for others than it is to care for themselves. 

Another person I know who was admittedly challenged with self-care, would say that he would struggle with being able to metaphorically “put the oxygen mask on first”. Being able to take care of yourself first, appears to be a “no-brainer”, but it isn’t always for everyone. This scenario can be further complicated due to the situation the person finds themselves in (e.g., work, or personal). Although if someone is challenged with being able to ask for help from others, it typically is something which impacts all aspects of their life. 

When I started thinking about whether we are taught how to ask for help, I thought back to a time in my life when I was learning to be a lifeguard. As I was going through my training, there was a great deal of focus on how to simultaneously help the person you were rescuing, while also making sure you would be safe too. This seems obvious, but when you are in a situation when you are rescuing someone, sometimes they or the surrounding circumstances can make it much more difficult to rescue them. 

Having the right tools to help someone is critical. A large part of being able to do so, is knowing what questions to ask the person, with the goal of getting them to open up and share with you what is going on. However, let’s turn the scenario around, and put ourselves in the “shoes” of the person who is in need of help. Everyone has been in this situation, and admittedly, some are better at being able to ask for help than others. The people who have cracked the code on being able to ask for help, are in a much stronger position than others. This is despite the thinking for some people that it is a sign of weakness when you ask for help. I’m not sure where this thinking came from, but it does not serve anyone well to think this way. Especially those who are in leadership positions. 

Both personally and in the workforce if someone doesn’t and should be asking for help, and the situation they are in which needs attention, tends to decline further. Ignoring a situation because someone doesn’t want to ask for help generally does not end well, and I can guarantee most of us have given this option a try before. 

Yes, it can take courage for some people to ask for help. However, asking for help shouldn’t be tied to pride or emotions which conjure negative associations (e.g., appearing weak, exposing something you don’t know how to do, being embarrassed, you don’t deserve the help). Although I realize for many people these are common reasons they do not ask for help, asking for help can get much easier to do, and it applies to all situations. Practice.

Below are some suggestions you can consider if you are the type of person who does not like asking for help. 

·      Asking for help takes practice. So, if you need or think you will be in a situation where you will need help at some point, don’t let your situation get to the point of putting you in an extreme situation before you ask for support. 

·      Think about the factors contributing to why you are uncomfortable with asking for support. Are they rational or reasonable? 

·      Why do you think you have to be able to do everything yourself? No one person is an expert at everything, and no one is perfect. 

·      Is there something you can do to help the person you might need help from? Perhaps you will be more comfortable asking them for their support if you are able to help them in some way?

·      Have you considered that people want to help you or others? Most people find it highly gratifying to help someone. 

·      Will your situation improve if you were to ask for help? 

·      Do you want your situation to improve? It can if you ask for help. 

There isn’t one perfect way to ask for help, and when you need help, I hope you will get to a point of being able to comfortably and confidently ask for it. Remember, people by nature like to help others. Keep this in mind when you are reluctant to ask someone for the help you need. 

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Workplace #Professional #Personal #Help #HowToAskForHelp