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3 Elements to ‘Lifelong’ Success

3 Elements to ‘Lifelong’ Success

As a child, I was not a big fan of being a student, at least the academic side. I thoroughly enjoyed the social, sports and extracurricular (outdoor clubs, scouts, etc.) activities but not the academic testing. I couldn’t wait until I was finished school and university so I could stop being a student and get on with my life. This attitude changed during my third year of university when I discovered a career that blended my passions and skills. That career was in adventure-based experiential education, essentially utilizing the wilderness to teach personal growth and leadership development. That was something I was excited about learning and still am. In my youth, I thought that when I finished my undergraduate degree, I would be done with being a student. Little did I know my student journey was just beginning and (hopefully) will stay with me till I die. I don’t miss those written exams on my learning in my youth and to this day believe there are better ways for the school system to educate and evaluate education retention in kids, but that is a topic for another day. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford In the book ‘Ego is the Enemy’, Ryan Holiday points out three elements needed to become a lifelong learner and maintain a student mindset. Without realizing it, I have been fortunate to have these 3 elements for most of my adult life, I hope you can say the same. The 3 elements to needed for ‘lifelong’ success are: Mentor Support: It is critical...
Why You Should Avoid Most Anonymous Feedback

Why You Should Avoid Most Anonymous Feedback

(Free list of 11 online applications for employee feedback, appreciation, and retention)   When is it OK to give anonymous feedback? I was disappointed and excited this week when I did a poll of the 1200 project managers on a webinar I was delivering and it showed that 56% said they don’t give their team members enough feedback. Clearly, I was disappointed that so many leaders felt they were not giving their team enough feedback but I was excited that they were aware of this and took the initiative to join the webinar to learn effective feedback techniques. In today’s post, I will address a question I was asked at the end of the webinar. Q. When Is It OK To Give Anonymous Feedback? It frustrates me that so many corporate evaluations, especially 360o ones, are often completed anonymously. I have always said that if you aren’t giving the feedback to a person face to face (in person or virtually), you shouldn’t give it at all. Personal feedback is just that, personal. I understand it can be a nerve-wracking experience but with the proper techniques, it can be a smooth and productive exchange. When giving personal feedback, the receiver needs to be given an opportunity to respond to the information they are receiving. Their response may be as simple as Thank You or could be as elaborate as explaining a complete misunderstanding. There has to be an opportunity for a dialogue. People naturally give unspecific feedback. If it was given anonymously, the receiver could not explore the feedback further with the person and at best the feedback opportunity would...
Do You and Your Team Really Understand?

Do You and Your Team Really Understand?

Speak Up and Make a Difference! In the past couple weeks, as a consumer, I have had two experiences where I have been affected by an organization’s policy that I thought was completely ridiculous based on my experience. In both cases, when I approached the frontline employee looking for an explanation, they shared in my frustration and also thought the policy was unwarranted. In one case, I addressed a (middle) manager about the policy and he also felt the same way. (To avoid turning this into a rant, I won’t explain the situations here. If you want more details send me an email.) Is this the reaction you would want from your team members when speaking with customers, clients or suppliers? As a leader, I know I would want my team to clearly understand and accept all our policies and have a clear and compelling explanation for any policy that may affect a customer. If they didn’t believe in the policy for whatever reason, I would expect them to approach me or senior management seeking further clarification or (even better) offer an alternative suggestion on why the policy should be removed or altered. I don’t want to be surrounded by a team of YES people or sheep with blinders on who just follow along without ever asking WHY. Stand Up For What You Believe Perhaps I am just a shit disturber or passionate about the work I do and the people I do it for. Nevertheless, when I am working for an organization and I don’t think something is right or could be improved, I will speak up or...
Professional Development for Parents

Professional Development for Parents

This post is for the parents and soon to be parents out there. Sorry non-parents, I will be back to regular programming in my next post. As I mentioned in my last post, if you are parent, you are a leader. I have an important question for you. What is more important to you: your role as a parent or your role in your job? Most parents I speak with quickly say Parenting! Well, then why have you put in only 1/10th of the training you have put into to acquire your ‘day’ job? Parenting IS A Job! Parenting is a job and it is time you start treating it this way. Parents act and say irrational things all the time. Just think of some of the dumb things you have said and done while you lost your cool at your kids. Now, can you imagine acting this way in the office the next time you had a disagreement or something didn’t happen the way you wanted? I lost my cool on my kids several times in a week last fall and being a leadership and communication guy, that got me thinking…. What is really causing this blow up and there’s got to be a better way to communicate with my kids. The behaviors of my kids and myself was not acceptable to me and I wasn’t willing to carry on like this for years to come, i.e. making it “normal’ behavior in our family. I reached out for support, advice and training to be the best leader parent for my kids. I am still on this journey and...
Leaders: Born or Made?

Leaders: Born or Made?

This week, I address the most consistent question I have received over my 20 years of teaching leadership. This question is especially popular with young and emerging leaders. Are Leaders Born Or Made?   My quick answer to this age-old question is YES. Perhaps my answer is a bit biased, as I have been instructing leadership in some capacity for 20 years and if people were born leaders, I would have been wasting my breath all these years. I believe every person is born with leadership qualities but the most effective leaders have been crafted through years of observing quality role models, experimenting, mentorship and constant personal development (courses, books, mentoring, etc). If you are born with the capacity to produce offspring, you are born with leadership qualities. Those qualities may lay dormant for years or flourish as a child or young adult but they are there. Not one outstanding leader would say they were born with their leadership abilities and that’s it. Sure, they may have been born with stronger leadership tendencies but however strong they were, they were raw. These effective leaders developed their skills over many years of emulating leadership practices they saw in others and through deliberate practice on their own, even if that practice meant they failed many times over while in leadership positions. My mother always told me I gravitated to leadership situations as a kid, at first organizing street hockey and baseball games with the neighborhood kids. I agree somewhat but by no means was I the best or the most natural leader. Of the dozens of sports teams (soccer, basketball, volleyball, water...
Proactive Leadership = Greater Retention

Proactive Leadership = Greater Retention

The Importance of Stay Interviews A friend once told me that for whatever reason her manager ended an annual evaluation meeting by mentioning the company sees her as a low risk to leave the organization any time soon. Who says that? As a leader, much of your time is spent putting out fires and dealing with people who are ‘below the water line’, underperforming team members. What if you focused most of your attention on the employees above and well above the water line? These people need and deserve your attention the most. They are the most valuable components to your team and organization, yet you spend the least amount of time with them. It may not seem like they need much attention because they are performing at a high level, but it’s human nature to want to feel valued. You are wired to gravitate to and give your 100% for those who value you the most. As a leader, here are a few things you can incorporate into your management practice to show your most valuable employees you REALLY value them, even if the company can’t always show it. Conduct ‘Stay’ Interviews – Organizations will often do Exit Interviews when an employee is leaving the company, where the information gathered is often too little too late. How about doing a ‘Stay Interview’ at least once a year with your team members where the main focus of the conversation is learning from the team member what is working and not working for them in the organization and what will keep them there in the long run. This is not...
What Do You Need?

What Do You Need?

This is my last post before the Christmas holidays and I take a little vacation with my family (Ireland here we come!!). I want to wish you the most happiest of holidays, whatever you celebrate! I hope you are able to spend time with family and friends and give back to those less fortunate. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read my posts and share them with your colleagues. 2017 will bring many new exciting developments to LiveMore including launching LiveMore Masterminds for Project Managers and other leadership niches, details to follow in January. It is a privilege to serve you and I promise to continue delivering high-value content through this blog and other outlets.   Are your needs being met? Several times in the last three months I have felt overwhelmed with all the things I WANTED to accomplish. At the time they sure felt like a NEED but in retrospect, just about everything I thought I needed was really a WANT. My world would have carried on if they weren’t accomplished or at least not perfectly. This list entailed business projects, house projects and family time. In this uneasy time, I was not completing my work to the best of my ability and I felt like I was being a poor parent, spouse, and leadership consultant. As a person who has high expectations for myself, this was a horrible feeling that I could not tolerate for long without something breaking down in my life. Many of us with ‘first world problems’ call this survival mode, where you boil down your priorities and focus on only the most...
3 Ways to Have Accountability on Virtual Team

3 Ways to Have Accountability on Virtual Team

What happens when you see a co-worker’s desk empty? I know from my brief time working in an office that I would think they are slacking off either in a meeting, at an out of office appointment, on vacation, or dealing with a family issue. I NEVER thought “wow, they must have important work to do and found a productive place to get it completed that worked for them”. Virtual teams are a hot topic that’s not going away anytime soon. In the last few weeks, I have given two webinars for two different associations to a total of 3300 people from around the world. This has been the greatest number of attendees I have had on a webinar to date. The level of interest blew me away. One of the questions that come up the most is “How do you hold virtual team members accountable”. This is understandable as unfortunately our corporate culture has been built on ‘being seen’ and perceived effort. We have been trained to believe if we can’t see someone sitting at their desk during the allotted time they are supposed to work there, they must not be getting any work completed. In many cases, this could not be further from the truth. To keep your virtual team members and frankly all your employees accountable, there are three keys elements you can implement: Identify Values And Behaviours:Create a set of work guidelines that outline expectations in terms of core hours, availability, communication, and project tracking. Getting clear on these behaviors will help get your virtual team on the same page. This doesn’t mean you should tell employees...
Looking Backwards to go Forwards

Looking Backwards to go Forwards

“Far more learning comes from failure than success.” Nobody wants to fail but learning from those who do may be the fastest and easiest way to achieve success. During my career leading mountaineering and backpacking expeditions around the world, one of my favourite publications that I used to read was Accidents in North American Mountaineering. The yearly journal, published by the American Alpine Club, gave an in-depth analysis of several mountaineering accidents that happened throughout the year. You may think what a depressing read that would be. I want to hear about the people who made it to the summit. When Was The Last Time You Bought A Book On Failures? Too often, we are lured into the glamour of success. You hear about a person who has achieved great success in a project, in business, or in sports and you wonder “What did they do to achieve that? Perhaps if I do what they did, I will reach the same level of achievement”. You listen to their interviews, read their articles and books and perhaps buy their products because if you do what they did, you may reach the same level of success. Early in my entrepreneurial days, I read dozens of books on entrepreneurship and subscribed to several entrepreneurial magazines. Looking back, it seems 85% of the books and 100% of the magazines I read were about entrepreneurial success, many of which seemed like overnight accomplishments. There was little talk about business failures and the learning that comes from them. As a young entrepreneur, I started believing this business thing was going to be fairly easy as...
3 Steps for Managing Surprise Constructive Feedback

3 Steps for Managing Surprise Constructive Feedback

Surprise Constructive Feedback – You may not believe it but it is important! You know the kind of feedback, the type that comes totally unexpected and catches you off guard. It usually sends you in a tailspin of emotions. Once I received surprise written feedback from a client, saying that at times I spoke to them in a condescending voice. My first reaction was to say, “No I didn’t, and you don’t know what you’re talking about”. My second reaction was “I am not that fond of the person anyway so their opinion doesn’t mean much to me”. My third, and most reasonable, reaction was “That’s horrible, I feel so bad. Was I really condescending? If so why and what can I do to alter my behaviour?” For my brain to run through these reactions took about 5 minutes, without talking to anyone. At times, you may receive personal constructive feedback that you are surprised to hear. You may believe it to be true or not but the fact of the matter is that it has been said to you and now you need to react. What do you do with this sort of feedback? A common initial reaction is to blow it off as just a “one-off” and deny that it could even be true or on the other hand, express extreme concern that your behaviour has a negative effect on someone. Thoughts such as “It doesn’t really matter, it’s only one or two people who feel this way” are also common. Sure, at the end of the day, feedback is just one person’s opinion, it’s not who...