Category: Maximizing Potential

Leading with Values

leadership-circle gray“Leadership is a reciprocal relationship between those who choose to lead and those who decide to follow.”   ~ Kouzes & Posner

Do you know anyone who called himself a leader,but hasn’t noticed that no one is following?

Have you observed a group who has self-selected their leader even though there is an individual who has been appointed leader but hasn’t earned their support?

Leadership is both a right and a privilege. If you have the ability to bring people together, step up to the opportunity. Having others trust you to lead the way is a privilege.

A key to successfully leading others is to recognize what they value. By aligning your leadership style to the values of others, you gain greater trust and support. If your values reflect their values and you lead with both your head and your heart, you will find that your followers will stay focused on the mission that brought you all together.

Continuously be mindful of the values they share and you will find success as a leader. By modeling this leadership awareness, others will learn to do so as well.

Accepting Our Differences: The Key to Success

Accepting Our Differences: The Key to Success

Each of us is different. By learning how to interact with all behavioral styles more effectively, we can improve communication and reduce conflict. Once we understand behavioral styles, we can identify effective behaviors in various environments.

We can increase self awareness and self confidence in all aspects of life. We can interact with others in such a way as to encourage trust, respect and rapport.

Behavioral style is an outward expression of who we are. It is a distinct way of responding – acting and reacting – to life. Behavioral style indicates a tendency to act in a predictable way. It also helps us to identify our needs and how we are motivated by them.

Time Management Challenges-Ineffective Multi-Tasking

Time Management Challenges-Ineffective Multi-Tasking

As women, we often snicker at the whole concept of multi-tasking. Who hasn’t had several pans on the stove while answering the phone, opening the mail, switching loads of laundry and making a kid’s snack – all at the same time? The only way to make it through each day is to double and triple our efforts in the same time slot. Is this the most effective way to function? Maybe not, but it is often the most efficient way for us.

This is not to suggest that men do not multi-task. I am merely suggesting that multi-tasking is often so second-nature to women that we don’t even give ourselves credit for what we do accomplish in a day. In fact, more often than not, we beat ourselves up for not getting enough done that day! 

There is a difference in the effectiveness when multi-tasking in a setting where we really need to focus on content and details. Those household tasks described above have become learned patterns or habits so our brain often does not have to fully focus on what we are doing. It is like driving the car. You don’t really think about each action you take to start the car, buckle up, adjust your position, back out, etc. But you do think about specific actions such as checking behind you when you back up, watching for other vehicles and signals, etc. This group of tasks requires your focus.

Recently it has been reported that multi-tasking does not make us more efficient. It is suggested that we have less satisfactory results than we would have if we would just focus on one thing at a time. Carnegie Mellon University researcher Professor Marcel Just used MRI imaging to study what happens in the brain when a person multi-tasks. He measured the number of “brain units” that were activated when subjects performed tasks separately and then at the same time.

The results indicated that when the subjects took each task individually, 37 brain units in different areas were activated for each of the two tasks. When the subjects combined the tasks as in multi-tasking, only 42 units were activated. This indicated a 44% reduction from a total of 74 units (37 from each task) when the tasks were done separately.

What does this mean for those of us who multi-task frequently? We could experience: 

  • reduced efficiency
  • lower levels of performance
  • mistakes
  • forgetfulness
  • less than desirable outcomes
  • frustration
  • exhaustion
  • stress

To function at our highest level, we should approach important tasks one task at a time. It is important to set aside a specific time when you will not allow interruptions. Make an “appointment” with yourself – actually write it down in your planner or Outlook calendar. Then keep the appointment just as you would if you were meeting someone else. Now go out there and focus on one important thing at a time and let others know you will handle the next task later. Here’s to your effectiveness!

Time Management Challenges: Too Much Information!

Time Management Challenges: Too Much Information!

What does your daily mail look like? I don’t mean just your email, but also your snail-mail. How much of it is junk? How many trees were lost to all that we throw away each day?

 Between the mail, emails, radio and television plus whatever newspapers or magazines you read – online or off, there is just too much information to handle each day. It is time consuming and frustrating when you can’t remember where you read that tidbit you wanted to share because your mind has traversed numerous information sources.

Information is essential. The form in which it comes in not the issue – it’s the amount! Handling the abundance of information requires some good habits. Computers were supposed to have reduced the paper usage. Do you really think they have since it is so easy to generate and distribute more information more efficiently? And too many people email the person in the next office instead of talking to him. After a series of email discussion points back and forth, the amount of paper it takes to capture the information is greater than ever – assuming one prints it for a “CYA file.”

There are a few habits you can develop to help you manage information:

Printed Information:

  • You have choices here: Dump It, Delegate It, Do It or Delay It!
  • Try to handle it only once.
  • If you don’t have time to deal with it at the moment, file it in an appropriately labeled file: Reading, Up Coming Events, Follow Up, Needs Immediate Attention, etc.
  • This will help you clear your work space and let you retrieve the information quickly when you need it.
  • Don’t forget about File #13: Trash. 

Develop criteria for what you should keep and what to toss.

  • Analyze your printed information to see what you can combine, eliminate, shorten or modify to capture what you need.
  • Develop routines and procedures that simplify the way you work. Schedule time to read the information you have saved.
  • Schedule work sessions to deal with the information.
  • And finally, remember to clear out your files at least once a year!

Electronic Information:

Your email inbox is full. You have saved emails in a number of folders. Your computer is bogged down! What’s a person to do?

Some emails are worth saving – either in a “folder” or as a hard copy, which means you have to handle that also.

  • Do you go back to those saved in folders or do they just sit there holding space?
  • If you saved an email for a specific reason, use or log that information as soon as possible so you can delete it.
  • This will require you to have a logical system for capturing and storing important information.

What about downloads: MP3 files, PDF documents, video files, webinars, etc.?

  • Do you find time to listen or read them again?
  • Is there a way to capture the key points you need to keep?
  • Should you burn them to CDs or DVDs or a thumb drive?

You have a number of choices with electronic information. The important point is that you must decide what to do with each piece and act on it. Just like printed information, it will begin to pile up!

Ask yourself: Is this information really going to be of value to me? 

To manage the information that crosses your desk, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Will I really use this information?
  2. When will I use it?
  3. Where should I keep it so I can retrieve it when needed?

Next Step: Catch yourself spending too much time handling information. Either give yourself permission to continue for a specific amount of time and move on or ask yourself: “Is what I am doing right now getting my closer to completing my goal(s)?” 

Remember: you are in charge of your time!

Time Management Challenges – Poor Habits

Time Management Challenges – Poor Habits

We all know we have bad habits! Actually, we have many more good habits than bad. It is just that the bad ones stand out or cause us grief in some way. One of the greatest challenges to managing our time and activities lies in not giving in to our bad habits: time wasters, failure to organize our lives, procrastination, etc. You get the picture. And can probably add a number of things to this list.

What is happening in your head when you know you are wasting time and just cannot make yourself stop?

  • Are you avoiding something?
  • Is there a fear of failure?

If you just don’t want to do the task, figure out what is the blockage to action. Ask yourself: Why? In fact, ask yourself “why?” five times!

In the Root Causes Analysis process, we ask “why?” at least five times. For example:

  1. Why am I avoiding the task? Answer: I am concerned about getting the right outcome.
  2. Why am I concerned? Answer: I will look like I don’t know what I am doing.
  3. Why will I look like that? Answer: I am supposed to know how to do this without help.
  4. Why should you know how? Answer: I stated that I could do it without help.
  5. Why did you say that? Answer: Because I wanted to prove I was ready for the promotion.

So the there is a deeper motivating factor here! If you claimed you had the knowledge and experience to take on a greater challenge, but have self-doubt, a fear of failure to meet expectations may be the reason you can’t get yourself started on a task. It is more comfortable to avoid it by making yourself “busy.” Being busy without results that matter will not serve you well in the end.

Sometimes it is a matter of being on overload – too much to do and not enough time. This is especially true when there have been so many cutbacks and shifting of duties and responsibilities.

What finally motivates you to get the task done?

At some point you will run out of time. The deadline is looming and you HAVE to get it done! There are even people who claim they like to let things go because they work best under pressure. They think they are more motivated by the pressure of the deadline. Actually, they are forced to focus on the task because time is running out! They can no longer avoid getting the job done. This creates more stress for the individual and those around them.

Your Action Plan:

  1. Create a list of habits that are working for you and a list of habits that are working against you.
  2. See if you can sort out those that are keeping you from achieving your best level of performance.
  3. Then consciously focus on eliminating them one at a time.

Remember: It takes working on a habit at least 21 days to make it stick. Work on one at a time so you can maintain your focus and commitment.

Is Stress Taking Its Toll on You? How You Can Control It

Is Stress Taking Its Toll on You? How You Can Control It

In this bustling 24/7 world today, it is difficult to carve out some quiet space. As working women (a category that includes mothers working at raising their children), each of us has too many lists, too many tasks, too many requests from others, too many expectations and not enough time or energy to meet our own standards of perfection or self-expectations. We fail to cut ourselves some slack as the calendar fills up. We try to be everything to everyone – except oneself!

We schedule, juggle and run through each day and well into the night, we tell ourselves we are coping and have it under control. We are convinced we can live on little sleep, caffeine, grabbing a morsel of food here and there and multitasking – even our conversations. We are aware of the silent enemies of our health: heart disease, various cancers, exhaustion, etc. We tell ourselves it won’t happen to us – or when the thought of the mere possibility of one of these knocking us down comes to mind, we shake it off and say we don’t have time for that!

There is a very sneaky condition that is quietly working against us: stress. Oh sure, we feel the stress. We hear ourselves lose our tempers, raise our voices at the ones we love, forget where we parked the car or why we are even in that parking lot. Certain times of the year such as back-to-school, holidays and family vacations add extra stress even though they are supposed to be fun and special family times.

What we are not seeing is what stress is doing to us. Stress is the body’s reaction to the demands of life. There is good stress; it motivates us and is necessary. There is bad stress to which we react in a variety of ways – both outwardly and inwardly. The real culprit is chronic stress, which can leave us with a persistent feeling of anxiety, anger or frustration and keeps our bodies in a “crisis mode” for long periods of time. It wears us down, interferes with sleep or digestion, and makes us irritable and prone to headaches and other muscular tension.

Chronic stress can exhaust our adrenal glands and throw off the body’s chemical balance. It can cause a drop in melatonin, the sleep hormone, and a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone. This sets us up for what we may think is an “unexplained weight gain.”

Actually, the explanation is stress: the kind of stress we have been pushing down inside because we don’t have time to deal with it. The longer we put off taking steps to manage stress, the more serious the problem becomes. The more we diet and fail to see the pounds dropping, the more frustrated we become, which increases the stress. Now we are caught in the vicious cycle. In the meantime, our bodies are suffering. Our relationships begin to suffer. We don’t even like ourselves. And it goes on and on …

It is time to listen and abide to the old adage: Women, take care of yourselves first so you can take care of the other important people in your lives.

As an over-achieving perfectionist and breast cancer survivor with depleted adrenal glands and digestive distress, I encourage you to:

  • simplify your life,
  • carefully consider the impact of saying “yes” to often, and
  • take care of yourself.

You cannot outrun the odds, so slow down and catch up on caring for yourself. Take time for yourself – now !

Success Strategies-Lessons Learned from Best Practices

Success Strategies-Lessons Learned from Best Practices

Often you count success when the outcome is positive. If the outcome is less than what you expected, it is labeled a failure. In both situations, lessons can be learned. It is important to take time at the end of any task or project to analyze “what worked’ and “what didn’t work.” From this analysis, you can draw out the lessons learned and from those, create Best Practices.

In reality, if the project is a success, you pat yourself on the back and move on to the next assignment. If this is your normal pattern, you are missing out in several areas:

  1. Give the team or other vested parties the opportunity to enjoy the success and share the highlights, challenges, ways they overcame them, etc. This activity will build a bond of trust and cooperation among them. It also allows you the opportunity to gather insight into the project and personnel. Just as important, taking time to discuss the project demonstrates that the organization values their effort.
  2. Even in a successful outcome, there are lesson to be learned. Rarely is a project perfect in all phases and steps. Everyone can learn from others when they share their tactics for overcoming challenges and setbacks. From this knowledge new approaches can be developed and future project teams may be able to avoid repeating the same pitfalls.

Of course, when a project is less than successful, there are always lessons to be learned. However, these lessons require a different approach. The goal should be to determine what worked and what didn’t – not to find blame.

If you start from a position of seeking to blame, you will not get truthful answers.

  • Everyone will tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • They will be trying to protect themselves from the possibility of being singled out and put on the spot.
  • Those who know they were part of the problem may already be punishing themselves.
  • The goal is to gain information so the problem does not occur again.

To create an environment in which people want to work together for continuous improvement, approach it as a problem-solving session – with the emphasis on “problem-solving” and not on blaming or punishing. Your goal is to gather information to improve the process for a successful outcome the next time.

A) Analyze what happened – not who did it!

B) Ask for what was learned

C) After gathering input from everyone’s perspective, create Best Practices to avoid a repeat situation.

Once Best Practices have been determined and agreed upon, be sure to communicate them across the department or organization so others may benefit as well. Make a habit of reviewing each project with those involved to maximize future success.

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