Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Great Leaders Never Hide by Jas Singh

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Why Great Leaders Never Hide

We all make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Sometimes ones that make us feel mega embarrassed. Or the worst ones of all - mistakes that hurt others. Sometimes we are even involved in mistakes that had nothing to do directly with us.
As social creatures often the fear of criticism can become overwhelming. Especially nowadays - we know news travels fast and opinions can be expressed in a click. If we screw up, it can be hard to face the music.
And so we lock ourselves away. We hide. Often disguising our actions with a clever rationalisation - "being too busy" or passing the buck to someone else.
However, often the test of true leadership is being there when it counts most. Whether it is a business crisis, community emergency or fuming client, leaders come forward. They are there when others shy away. They protect others.
Here are some reasons why great leaders never hide.
They put the needs of others first
The main responsibility for any leader is to serve the people that follow them. The greatest leaders throughout time have been those who have given more than they have received. Who have a cause bigger than them.
A great leader will do anything he can to protect his followers. (Provided they have not violated the rights of others off course). When the going gets tough, not only are they prepared to take responsibility - often they volunteer themselves to take it.
Leaders who are great are the first ones to take full responsibility when something goes wrong. If a follower has failed, a successful leader will assume as it is they who have failed. They take the pressure off others and realise that leadership often requires this sacrifice.
Great leaders put others first.
They realise bravery and honesty builds respect
The collapse of the investment banking giant Salomon Brothers in 1987 is perhaps one of the most famous events in the history of Wall Street. Even more memorable however were the actions of one it's largest shareholders...Warren Buffet.
To summarise, Buffet had invested heavily in the Salomon business but purely as a shareholder. Late in 1987 it started to surface that a couple of rogue traders had acted illegally whilst buying US Treasury investments. The bank had tried to cover things up, but as soon as Buffet heard about what had happened he immediately forced the bank to confess - even though it had an immediate negative impact on the share price and in effect wipe out billions of dollars of his own money. When senior executives resigned and no-one wanted to take responsibility for the calamity, Buffet stood forward as acting Chairman to take the flack. Apologising on behalf the bank and taking full responsibility and penalties.
Yet it was his transparency and honesty which ultimately rescued the bank and allowed the US government to give Salomon some breathing space which prevented a full blown financial crisis. Often cracking under the emotion and strain, he was even reassured by then Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas Brady with the now famous line: "Don't worry Warren, we'll get through this".
Not sure whether most bosses who had nearly pulled down the largest economy in the world would receive such treatment.
Putting yourself forward to take the flack  - especially if it isn't something directly you were involved with - requires bravery. It takes honesty. It requires us to be self-less, which gains respect and appreciation from others.
Leadership requires bravery.
They realise hiding makes things worse
In some of the most high profile business failures of recent times - Enron, Lehman, WorldCom, (insert your own) - perhaps what's more amazing than companies of these sizes being wiped out, is how long they managed to keep things hidden. In nearly all cases, senior executives in the company had managed to keep underlying problems hidden for many months - even years.
Hoping that things would just get better. That the market would go the other way. That no-one would find out.
Great leaders realise that hiding from a problem just makes things worse. When things are going badly you have to act. Make big decisions. Take responsibility.
You can only hide for so long.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders by Dr. Travis Bradberry

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10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

No one ever became a great leader without first becoming a great communicator.
Great leaders connect with people on an emotional level every time they speak. Their words inspire others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Great communicators are intentional about it, and there are 10 secrets they rely on to deliver a powerful message. Put these secrets to work in your communication and watch your influence soar.
1. They Know Their Audience
Great communicators don’t worry about sounding important, showing off their expertise, or boosting their own egos. Instead, they think about what people need to hear, and how they can deliver this message so that people will be able to hear it. This doesn’t mean that leaders tell people what they want to hear. Quite the opposite­—they tell people what’s important for them to know, even if it’s bad news.
2. They Are Experts In Body Language
Great communicators are constantly tracking people’s reactions to their message. They are quick to pick up on cues like facial expressions and body language because they know this is the only feedback many people will give them. Great communicators use this expertise to tailor their message on the fly and adjust their communication style as needed.
3. They Are Honest
The best leaders know that for communication to be effective it has to be real. They can’t have people parsing every word trying to separate fact from spin. When great communicators can’t share certain information, they come right out and say it because makeshift, half-truth answers breed distrust and anxiety. In good times and bad, honesty builds trust.
4. They Are Authentic
Great communicators don’t try to be someone they’re not just because they’ve stepped behind a podium. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg presented Facebook to investors in a hoodie and jeans. Great leaders know that when they stay true to who they are, people gravitate to their message. They also know the opposite happens when leaders put on an act.
5. They Speak With Authority
Great communicators don’t try to cover their backs by being ambiguous, wishy-washy, or unassertive. Instead, they stick their necks out and speak very directly about how things are and how they need to be.
6. They Speak To Groups As Individuals
Leaders rarely have the luxury of speaking to one person at a time. Whether it’s a huddle around a conference table or an overflowing auditorium, great leaders know how to work the room and make every single person feel as if he or she is being spoken to directly.
7. They Have Ears (And They Use Them)
Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street and what they hear is often more important than what they say. When someone else is speaking, great communicators aren’t thinking ahead and planning what they’ll say next. Instead, they’re actively listening, fully focused on understanding the other person’s perspective.
8. They Use Phrases Like “It’s My Fault,” “I Was Wrong,” and “I’m Sorry
When great leaders make a mistake, they admit it right away. They don’t wait for someone else to find and point out their blunder. They model accountability for their words and actions, even when they could have easily “gotten away” with the mistake. And they do it matter-of-factly, without drama or false humility.
9. They Solicit Feedback
The best communicators never assume that the message people heard is the exact same one they intended to deliver. They check in to verify that their message was understood correctly, and, if it was not, they don’t blame the audience. Instead, they change things up and try again.
10. They’re Proactive
Leaders with the best communication skills don’t waste time playing catch-up. They’re quick to head off the rumor mill by sharing bad news in a timely manner. They also give clear, concise goals and directions so people don’t waste their time heading in the wrong direction.
Bringing It All Together
Great communicators stand out from the crowd. They’re honest. They’re authentic. They listen. They excel in communication because they value it, and that’s the critical first step to becoming a great leader.
What other strategies make for great communication? Please share your thoughts on leadership and communication in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

9 Ways 'Wasting Time' Can Boost Your Career by Bernard Marr

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9 Ways 'Wasting Time' Can Boost Your Career

A 2014 survey from said that 89 percent of workers waste at least some time at work each day. And although plenty of people would guess that young people would be the biggest time wasters, but actually, people 26–39 were the worst culprits.  
Or should that be… the best? 
What’s interesting is that more than half the survey’s respondents (53 percent) said they waste time because they believe short breaks make them more productive.
Another study from a social networking group used a time-tracking app to analyze the most productive people. They discovered that productive workers don’t put in longer hours, but what they did do was take frequent breaks — specifically, they took 17 minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.
Perhaps even more surprising is what these employees did with their breaks: they got away from the computer completely, taking a walk, chatting with a coworker, or reading a book.

9 ways to waste time properly.

Reading blogs, watching videos on YouTube, or reading a book unrelated to your work are all things that really career focused people sometimes see as wasting time or distractions that take them away from the things they should be doing to further their career.
But actually, it is really valuable to spend some time (not too much though) on these activities that might give us completely new ideas and perspectives. They can help us discover new things, make new connections, come up with innovative solutions and challenge our current thinking.
The next time you feel bored, tired, or stuck at work, try one of these:
  1. Take a walk. The fresh air, sunshine, and most importantly exercise will get your blood flowing and improve concentration, memory, and performance.
  2. Catch up with a colleague. In an MIT study, workers at a call center who were allowed to chat with their colleagues got through more calls (not less) and felt less tension and stress about their jobs.
  3. Take a nap. If you feel tired, a 15 or 20 minute power nap can absolutely boost your focus and productivity.
  4. Read a book. It turns out, people who read books — especially fiction — are better at interacting with their colleagues. So you’re not just reading the latest bestseller; you’re improving your EQ.
  5. Surf the net. This isn’t as useful as getting away from your computer, but taking some time to look at websites that aren’t totally related to your work can give your brain a break as well as spur creativity.
  6. Daydream. It’s a common anecdote that we have our best ideas while otherwise distracted — say, while driving or taking a shower — but science has shown that different parts of our brains light up when we daydream, which may help you break through a thorny problem.
  7. Take a lunch break. Actually taking a break to eat lunch is a foreign concept to many, but stepping away from your desk and eating some nutritious foodcan boost productivity.
  8. Meditate. Even a short meditation has benefits for the brain like lowering stress levels and improving overall health.
  9. Plan your next vacation. It turns out that planning a vacation (whether you actually take it or not) boosts happiness. So if you’re feeling stressed or overworked, taking a few minutes to pick out a cruise or look at hotels could make you feel better.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

10 Steps to Make Each Day Exceptionally Productive by Jeff Haden

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10 Steps to Make Each Day Exceptionally Productive

No matter what your job, in one way everyone's day is basically the same: We all have the same amount of time at our disposal.
That's why how you use your time makes all the difference -- whether you're bootstrapping a startup or running a billion-dollar company like Jim Whitehurst, the president and CEO of Red Hat, one of the largest and most successful providers of open-source software.
Here are Jim's tips for maximizing your time and improving your personal productivity:
1. Every Sunday night, map out your week. Sunday evenings, I sit down with my list of important objectives for the year and for each month. Those goals inform every week and help keep me on track. While long-range goals may not be urgent, they are definitely important. If you aren't careful, it's easy for "important" to get pushed aside by "urgent." Then I look at my calendar for the week. I know what times are blocked out by meetings, etc. Then I look at what I want to accomplish and slot those tasks onto my to-do list.
The key is to create structure and discipline for your week--otherwise you'll just let things come to you...and urgent will push aside important.
2. Actively block out task time. Everyone schedules meetings and appointments. Go a step further and block out time to complete specific tasks. Slot periods for "Write new proposal," or "Craft presentation," or "Review and approve marketing materials."
If you don't proactively block out that time, those tasks will slip. Or get interrupted. Or you'll lose focus. And important tasks won't actually get done.
3. Follow a realistic  to-do list. I used to create to-do lists, but I didn't assign times to each task. What happened? I always had more items on my to-do list than I could accomplish, and that turned it into a wish list, not a to-do list. If you have six hours of meetings scheduled today and eight hours worth of tasks, then those tasks won't get done.
Assigning realistic times forces you to prioritize. (I like Toodledo, but there are plenty of other tools you can use.) Assigning realistic times also helps you stay focused. When you know a task should only take 30 minutes, you'll be more aggressive in weeding out or ignoring distractions.
4. Default to 30-minute meetings. Whoever invented the one-hour default in calendar software wasted millions of people-hours. Most subjects can be handled in 30 minutes. Many can be handled in 15 minutes--especially if everyone who attends knows the meeting is only going to last 15 minutes.
Don't be a slave to calendar tool defaults. Only schedule an hour if you absolutely know you need it.
5. Stop multitasking. During a meeting--especially an hour-long meeting--it's tempting to take care of a few mindless tasks. (Who hasn't cleaned up their inbox during a meeting?) The problem is that such split focus makes those meetings less productive. Even though you're only doing mindless stuff, still--you're distracted. And that makes you less productive.
Multitasking is a personal-productivity killer. Don't try to do two things partly well. Do one thing really well.
6. Obsess over leveraging edge time. My biggest downtimes during the workday come when I drive to work, when I drive home, and when I'm in airports. So I focus really hard on how to use that time. I almost always schedule calls for my drive to work. It's easy: I take the kids to school and drop them off at a specific time; then I can do an 8:00 to 8:30 call. I typically don't schedule calls for the drive home so I can return calls, especially to people on the West Coast.
At the airport, I use Pocket, a browser plug-in that downloads articles. Loading up 10 articles ahead of time ensures I have plenty to read--plenty I want to read--while I'm waiting in the security line.
Look at your day. Identify the downtimes. Then schedule things you can do during that time. Call it edge time--because it really can build a productive edge.
7. Track your time. Once you start tracking your time (I use Toggl), you'll be amazed by how much time you spend doing stuff that isn't productive. You don't have to get hyper-specific. The info you log can be directional, not precise.
Tracking my time is something I just started to do recently. It's been an eye-opening experience--and one that has really helped me focus.
8. Be thoughtful about lunch. Your lunch can take an hour. Or 30 minutes. Or 10 minutes.
Whatever time it takes, be thoughtful about what you do. If you like to eat at your desk and keep chugging, fine. But if you benefit from using the break to recharge, lunch is one time where multitasking can be great: You can network, socialize, and help build your company's culture--but not if you're going out to lunch with the same people every day.
Pick two days a week to go out with people you don't know well. Or take a walk. Or do something personally productive. Say you take an hour for lunch each day; that's five hours a week. Be thoughtful about how you spend that time. You don't have to work, but you should make it work for you.
9. Protect your family time. Like you, I'm a bit of a workaholic. So I'm very thoughtful about my evenings. When I get home from work, it's family time: We have dinner as a family, we help our kids with their homework. I completely shut down. No phone, no email.
Generally speaking, we have two hours before the kids have to get ready for bed. During that time, I'm there. Then I can switch back on. I'm comfortable leaving work at 5 or 5:30 p.m. because at 8 or 9 o'clock, I know I will be able to re-engage with work.
Every family has peak times when they can best interact. If you don't proactively free up that time, you'll slip back into work stuff. Either be working or be home with your family. That means no phones at the table, no texts. Don't just be there, be with your family.
10. Start every day right. I exercise first thing in the morning because exercise is energizing. (Research also shows that moderate aerobic exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours, too.)
I get up early and run. Then I cool off while I read the newspaper and am downstairs before my kids so I can eat breakfast with them. Not only will you get an energy boost, efficiency in the morning sets the stage for the rest of your day. Start your day productively and your entire day will be more productive, too.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Communication is a Critical Skill Not a Soft Skill by Marlene Chism

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Why Communication is a Critical Skill Not a Soft Skill

Interpersonal communication is a critical skill necessary for life, leadership and business. One reason communication skills training does not work is because communication is viewed as a soft-skill instead of a critical or strategic skill. I talk about this in No-Drama Leadership at length. Your philosophy about communication (soft versus strategic) as well as your competency in various forms of communication brands you as a professional or a novice; savvy or clueless; responsible or inconsiderate. In short, the way you communicate affects brand YOU.
For example, I know baby-boomer leaders who are too stubborn to learn how to text, and I know Generation Y’ers who think its not cool pick up the phone. The need to be right keeps you from seeing the value of stretching beyond your comfort zone.
A commitment to being right will help you feel good at the cost of losing a client, creating misunderstandings, and positioning yourself as difficult to work with. A more productive viewpoint is to focus on being excellent.
Your communication skills brand you as competent or incompetent: In the know or out of touch.Not responding to email or voice mail brands you as one who is inconsiderate or unorganized. Here are some communication errors that negatively impact your brand:
  • Starting emails without a warm introduction
  • Writing a long or detailed email
  • Letting voice-mail back up
  • Losing control of a meeting
  • Interrupting
  • Telling long stories instead of getting to the point
  • Criticizing and complaining
These errors brand you as one who wastes time, is insensitive, or unorganized–definitely not leadership material.
In contrast, managing your email and responding with a yes or a no, brands you as decisive and in control. Starting emails with a warm greeting brands you as approachable and friendly. The ability to craft a concise email brands you as one who is clear and focused. Getting back to voice-mail brands you as organized and responsive. Holding a tight meeting brands you as a competent leader. Listening rather than interrupting brands you as sensitive and interesting. Getting to the point brands you as clear and decisive, and taking responsibility brands you as trustworthy.
Today’s leader needs to be multi-lingual in all the forms of communication, from email, to text, to using the telephone.
Right or wrong, people make judgments. As a leader you must understand that the actions you take, the decisions you make, and the language you use work together to help people form an opinion of you.

Guaranteed Ways to Boost Your Confidence When You Need It Most by Jeff Haden

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Guaranteed Ways to Boost Your Confidence When You Need It Most

A critical presentation. A key meeting. An broken customer relationship you need to repair. Whatever you're about to do it's incredibly important... which makes you incredibly nervous.
To perform at your best, what you need is a quick dose of confidence -- which might take more than simply reading inspirational quotes to increase your confidence. (But then again maybe not -- check 'em out.)
While true confidence takes time to develop (because true confidence is based on incremental, steady success), fortunately there are ways you can quickly overcome your anxiety and nerves and perform well:
1. Burn off some chemical stress.
When you feel anxious or stressed your adrenal glands secrete cortisol, one of the chemical triggers of the instinctive fight-or-flight reflex. High levels of cortisol heighten your emotions, limit your creativity, and reduce your ability to process complex information. When you're "high" on cortisol you get tunnel vision just like you do when you're startled or scared.
Here's what to do: Burn off excess cortisol with exercise. Take a walk at lunch. Work out before you leave for work. Hit the hotel gym before your meeting.
Don't think it will help? Remember a time when you were totally stressed and decided to work out. When you finished exercising felt a lot less anxious and a lot more grounded. The perspective you gained came at least in part from lowering your cortisol levels.
2. Eat the perfect "pre-game" meal.
Dopamine and epinephrine are two chemicals that help regulate mental alertness. Both are found in tyrosine, which is an amino acid found in proteins.
Here's what to do: Make sure you include some type of protein in your pre-game meal. And don't wait until the last minute to fuel up -- the last thing most of us want to do when we're nervous is eat something healthy.
3. Prepare for a few "What if?" possibilities.
If you're like me, the "What if?" stuff is your biggest worry: what if PowerPoint crashes? What if my time gets cut short? What if someone constantly interrupts and screws up my flow?
Fear of the unknown is a confidence killer -- and can quickly spiral out of control.
Here's what to do: Think about some of the worst things that can happen and create a plan to deal with them. Then you'll feel more confident because you will have transformed, "What if?" into the much more positive, "Okay, if that happens all I have to do is..."
Plus simply going through the exercise of planning for different scenarios will make you better prepared to think on your feet and adapt if something unexpected does occur.
4. Go beyond your lucky socks.
Superstitions are a vain attempt to control uncertainty or fear. Wearing lucky socks doesn't really make anyone perform better.
Here's what to do: Instead of creating a superstition, create a pattern that helps you prepare and emotionally center yourself.
For example, I like to walk the hall before a speech to check audience sight lines. Maybe you will decide to always do a run-through of your presentation an hour before you go on even though you're sure you can do it in your sleep. Or maybe you will decide to run your demo one last time before every client meeting, even though you've run the same demo dozens of times.
Pick certain actions you will perform -- actions that are actually beneficial and not just based on superstition -- and do those things every time.
Comfort lies in the familiar, and so does confidence.
5. Establish a secondary goal.
Say you're speaking to a group and your goal is to convince members to donate time to a worthy cause. Pretty quickly you realize almost no one is listening, much less cares.
What do you do? You flounder. Maybe you try too hard. Or maybe you give up and just go through the motions. Whatever you do, you walk away feeling like you failed.
Here's what to do: If you know what you really want may be hard to get, always have a secondary goal in mind. Plan for success but also plan to turn total failure into partial success. If you can tell you won't succeed with your primary goal, be prepared to plant seeds for another attempt down the road.
Say you have an idea and want upper management to okay your project. Midway through you can tell they won't say yes right away (after all, they almost never will.) Be prepared to shift to laying the groundwork for future meetings. Explain what you've done and what you plan to do even if your project isn't officially sanctioned. Lay the foundation for the people in the room to see future possibilities. Lay the foundation for them to develop a sense of trust in you and your idea.
Sure you may want them to say, "Approved!" Shoot, you may need them to say, "Approved!" But you should still be ready to turn a one-time meeting into a series of meetings.
Whatever your primary goal, establish a secondary goal so that instead of losing all faith in yourself and your mission you're ready to transition to that goal. If things aren't turning out the way you hope you'll still be able to stay confident -- and keep moving forward.