Category Archives: The Journey

In The Turn

3 Ways You Can Find Opportunity in the Midst of Change

Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

Every leader I talk with these days is leading through some kind of change. I suspect you are, too.

Maybe you’re in an industry that’s being disrupted by technology. Maybe you’re leading a team that’s been part of a merger or acquisition. Maybe you’ve been assigned an under-performing team that needs coaching or a complete shake-up. Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur leading a team through the uncertainty of the start-up phase.

If you’re dealing with change, this post is for you. And I’ve got three very practical lessons to help you find new opportunities in times of uncertainty.

I’ve drawn these lessons from a conversation I had recently with a good friend of mine who has been knee-deep in change for years. She leads nearly 4,000 employees in 83 offices worldwide, and they are smack in the middle of the digital industry.

My friend is Ruth Stubbs — a fearless leader and an inspiring change agent. I’ve learned so much from her over the past few years about leading through change. She’s a pioneer in digital marketing with more than 25 years of experience in the media industry and today serves as global president of iProspect, a digital performance marketing agency and one of our sister agencies in Dentsu Aegis Network.

Ruth is a wife, mom and endurance athlete. She lives in Singapore and is a tireless champion of female entrepreneurs.

But what really strikes me about Ruth is how she brings a journey mindset to dealing with change. She’s learned to view change as a part of the leader’s journey, and she looks for ways to help her business and her community find new opportunities in the midst of change.

Here are three valuable lessons I took from my conversation with Ruth along with some useful tips that can help you lead more effectively through change.

Lesson #1: Instill Confidence in Your Team Courageous leaders use their passion for the journey and their optimism about reaching the destination to create confidence in others. But change creates uncertainty that often paralyzes people. And once paralysis takes hold, it can become virtually impossible to move a team forward because they cling to what they know instead of having the confidence to reach out for what lies ahead.

You can prevent that by instilling confidence in your team, grounded in a clear vision for a path forward. Here are a few tips for how to build confidence in others:

  • Encourage and praise team members whenever they bring their A game.
  • Celebrate the small wins.
  • Support them when they take a chance.
  • Help the team see progress toward the goal and believe they can get there.

“One of the most important things in my role is to instill confidence in others,” Ruth told me. “When people are confident about the future, there’s less doubt and less paranoia. Change shouldn’t scare you; it should excite you. Sure there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, so you must help everyone see the opportunities that await. And when things fall in place, people draw confidence from that.”

Ruth helps create confidence in others outside of her business, too. While working in Southeast Asia, she learned that many women run businesses from home but lack the confidence to consider themselves merchants. They also can’t get funding or even open a bank account on their own. So they have little hope of growing their businesses.

That’s why she started Female Foundry, an organization that helps fledgling entrepreneurs grow their businesses. I greatly admire this initiative and all Ruth has done to help women entrepreneurs. Female Foundry provides resources and mentoring to promising companies. But, just as importantly, it gives their founders confidence that they can achieve their dreams.

Lesson #2: Collaborate For The Win When leading a team through change, you must have people who are willing to work together to grab hold of emerging opportunities. In Ruth’s case, the iProspect global leadership team aligns on a common vision and business practices so they can be opportunistic and take action at the right time.

That’s hard to do if employees drift into silos and stop communicating or working as one. If your team struggles with collaboration, you’re probably also missing out on new opportunities right in front of you.

You can change that by helping your team collaborate for the win:

  • Show them the benefits of working together and the value of collective thinking.
  • Teach them how to lean into each other’s strengths.
  • Encourage them to offer support when someone else can really use it. These things build trust and reliability in your team.

Like all successful leaders, Ruth values the team and nurtures collaboration whenever possible. When she launched Female Foundry, she didn’t do it alone or even just with the support of iProspect. She sought the involvement of her parent company, venture capitalists, and iProspect’s clients to form a team that’s far more influential together than any of them could be alone.

She brings the same focus on collaboration to her day-to-day work, and believes you must be a learning leader, especially in times of change. “Don’t be too structured in your thinking when you’re looking for new solutions,” said Ruth. “Be open to what the universe can bring and what you can learn from others. I learn something new from my people every day.”

Lesson #3: Champion Others Leadership is not about you and your success. It’s about taking others on a journey to somewhere important. When you champion others, you end up creating champions.

But you can’t do that with a self-focused approach to leadership. You have to develop a giving spirit and a passion for helping others that’s rooted in your own personal belief system.

If you lack this, you need to do some self-reflection and self-discovery. If you’ve already got some passion around giving to others, act on it over and over and over.

“If the world has been good to you,” Ruth pointed out, “you have to pay it back. You have to have a giving spirit. Doing kind things must be at the top of your to-do list.” Giving to others and championing them makes the leadership journey far sweeter.

Ruth, as you might have noticed, is a high-energy, get-it-done leader. She sees challenges and attacks them with confidence, compassion, and action-oriented solutions. Now you know why I am proud to be her colleague and friend. When we lead like Ruth, uncertainty doesn’t stand a chance.

 

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In The Turn

How to Make the Toughest Calls of Leadership [BONUS]

The buck stops here. How true. President Truman knew it. And all great leaders embrace it. We can (and should) empower others to make decisions whenever possible. But leadership will always involve making the toughest decisions.

Having the authority to make decisions is one of the most rewarding parts of leadership, but actually making the tough calls is seldom easy.

Think about a time when the odds were stacked against you and the risk of failure was high. You didn’t have all the information you needed, yet you had to make a decision. Your team was waiting, and your organization was depending on you to provide direction. What do you do?

When we face the most complex and critical decisions as a leader, we need to recognize the fears and emotions that often hold us hostage and then lean into three powerful “must-haves” for great decision-making.

Recognize the Enemy

A wide range of emotions can cloud our judgment and hold us back when we find ourselves in those crossroads moments that we’d often rather avoid but must face as leaders.

Difficult decisions can make us feel:

  • Overwhelmed – A tidal wave can hit when the potential consequences of a decision we face are significant, we are unprepared, or we feel like we are in over our heads.
  • Anxious – Becoming overly stressed often leads to poor decision-making. The more anxiety we feel, the less likely we’ll have a clear enough head to make the best choice possible. Neuroscience shows anxiety suppresses the activity of pre-frontal cortex neurons, which play a pivotal role in cognitive functions such as calculating risk/reward, problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Indecisive – We sometimes feel paralyzed by too little or too much information. We might be unclear about which criteria we should use to help us decide. Or we might see multiple solutions that all look good.
  • Cautious – We’re hesitant to share information about a decision with others because we’re not sure things are going to turn out the way we want. We’d rather stay quiet, hedge our bets, and leave people to wonder what we decided and why.
  • Pressured – We feel pressured to decide in a certain way by others who have a stake in our decision.
  • Challenged — Similarly, no matter what we decide we know we’ll experience push-back from those who will disagree with our choice. Perhaps they will even challenge us publicly and inappropriately.

Fear rests at the heart of all these decision-making roadblocks. These fears don’t just make decisions harder than necessary, they cause us to question our instincts, project self-doubt and feel out of control. We’re then more prone to make poor decisions, and we risk losing the respect we’ve earned from others – something no leader wants.

So how do we avoid that?

Lean into the Fundamentals

Great leaders are willing to embrace uncertainty as a part of the journey, but they don’t walk down that road unprepared. They lead with authority and confidence because they know and practice the essential fundamentals that help them overcome their fears and make sound decisions.

Here are three must-haves of decision-making that have helped me deal with my most complex and challenging leadership choices:

  1. Process – Establish a tried-and-true decision-making process to help you make and manage any type of decision, but particularly more complex ones. This doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible. It means you’ll have guideposts and guardrails to move you forward and that you’ll make exceptions by design.
  2. Clarity – Learn to manage emotions that cloud your thoughts during decision-making so you can think clearly and rationally. The process will help with this, but you also need to do the hard work of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. This is an area where other trusted leaders can hold you accountable and help you see when your emotions are stifling your common sense.
  3. Consistency – Create patterns in your decision-making that minimize surprises and build trust. Having a standard process and managing your emotions will help you determine in advance how you will handle certain types of decisions so you can create greater consistency in your leadership.

What if you don’t have a process, or you’re looking to improve the one you have? Well, glad you asked.

I’ve created a free download that includes a detailed decision-making process, as well many of the benefits you will enjoy when you have this type of framework in place. Take a look. And here’s to better decision-making in your future.

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In The Turn

How to Go From “I’m Overwhelmed” to “I’ve Got This”

Your car wouldn’t start this morning. You’re behind on finishing the report that’s due tomorrow. Your boss just called an urgent meeting for late this afternoon. Your daughter’s dance recital is this evening. And on top of that, you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week.

That’s it — you’re officially overwhelmed, something all of us experience at one time or another. The mental and physical reactions are unmistakable: anxiety, helplessness, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath.

It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. As leaders we are often asked to do more with less, and the stakes get higher in a rapidly changing business environment. Our concerns at home can escalate at any time, too.

How do you find some peace? There are a number of things you can do to reduce the causes of stress in your leadership journey and minimize the chances for a pile-on. Here are six tips along with some steps you can take to help you move from “I’m overwhelmed” to “I’ve got this.”

1. Accept that you don’t have an answer for everything – Many times we feel overwhelmed because we want to maintain an appearance of having everything under control. But there will be plenty of situations for which you simply won’t have an answer, especially when you confront new problems that require new solutions.

>>> Start by telling yourself, “It’s okay not to know.” But you can’t end the sentence there, you must do whatever it takes to find out. Adopt the mindset of a learning leader, and role model this for your team, too. Welcome new challenges as a chance to grow and develop new knowledge and expertise. Remind yourself how empowering it will feel on the other side when you can say, “Now I know.”

2. Win where it matters most – On many occasions you can determine what does/does not go on your list of priorities. But too often we allow our to-do list to become longer than it should be, in part because this make us feel useful.

I remember a time in my career when I proudly showed my boss a list of more than a dozen goals I was planning to work on that year. His reply was to pick the top three and do everything I could do to ensure these were accomplished because they mattered far more than the others. The lesson was clear – I needed to focus my efforts and deliver where it counts.

Wiser leaders understand they can have a far greater impact by focusing on getting two or three crucial things done rather than a lot of little things.

>>> Get clear on what really matters. Assess your assignments and focus on the ones that support your organization’s most important goals. Move everything else to a “later” list, negotiate for more time to address anything that crops up, or see if someone else has the interest, ability and capacity to handle something you can hand off.

3. Focus on what only you can do and give the rest awayMastering the art of delegation is an advanced leadership skill that will prevent a lot of your stress. You may know how to do lots of things, but that doesn’t mean you should regularly do them all, especially if it means you’re routinely working late into the night and on weekends.

Like the point above, you must change your thinking about the value you bring to the organization and recognize that hoarding responsibilities is not healthy or respected. Leaders who empower others and get more stuff done through others are far more valued and promoted than those who hold tightly and try to control everything.

>>> Focus on what only you can do and give the rest away. What do you give away? Not just responsibility, but also all the good stuff that goes with it – authority, recognition, relationships, information, resources. The whole package. Once you’ve given away the things others can do, you’ve freed yourself up to focus on more strategic things. And as a bonus, you win back some time for your personal life as well.

4. Say “no” more often so you can say “yes” to the best – In your leadership journey, you’ll be asked or enticed to do a number of things – serve on a volunteer board, take a leadership role for a special project at work, join an exercise group, attend a long list of social events, write a book, etc. But you can’t realistically do everything well.

>>> Develop a list of criteria to help vet opportunities that come your way and evaluate opportunities based on these things. For example, what will help attract new clients or raise visibility for your organization? Could an assignment broaden your professional network? Also, instead of just saying “no,” consider saying “not now.” That might sound like this: “That commitment is more than I am able to make now. Please consider me again for future opportunities.” By saying no more often you create space in your life to say yes where you want to be your best.

5. Schedule unscheduled time for yourself – Some of the highest achievers I know block off their calendar with a “Do not schedule” planner every so often. Scheduling unscheduled time like this gives you some much needed buffer you will otherwise never capture if you don’t plan for it. These blocks of time, no matter how long or short, can be used in very productive ways.

>>> Place a 30-minute or one-hour planner on your calendar twice a week (or whatever you can reasonably block off). Set aside email and your phone. Use that time in one or more of the following ways:

  • Think time to go deeper on a complex problem or to develop a new strategy;
  • A chance to reflect on a situation you could have handled better and make note of a few things you will do differently next time;
  • Seeking a mentor’s advice;
  • Nurturing your network by sending an email to a colleague or friend.

It’s also important to put personal appointments, family events and vacations on your calendar well in advance so you can work with others to plan around them as much as possible.

6. Get some rest – As elusive as sleep might be during stressful times, you must try to get all you can. Science shows the benefits of sleep to include enhancing, among other things, your immune function, metabolism, memory and learning.

Obviously you will think and perform much better when you are rested. For example, I know that getting a good night’s sleep helps me give better presentations the next day. I can think on my feet much more effectively when I’m willing to get to bed sooner rather than staying up late into the night preparing.

>>> Be more intentional about going to sleep earlier, especially when traveling or getting up for early-morning meetings. If you keep your phone by your bedside, turn it over when you lie down so it doesn’t light up while you are trying to go to sleep. Make time for some regular exercise such as walking or running to help improve the quality of your sleep and minimize chances for sleep issues such as restless leg syndrome or back pain.

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In The Turn

Are You Powered by Purpose?

Are you living with purpose?

I think a lot of us ask this question wondering if what we do really matters and if it’s changing the world for better.

Last week on Facebook Live, I sat down with Workmatters president and my good friend, David Roth, and shared some thoughts on what it means to find purpose in your work, make the journey matter and go with the detours in life.

I hope you’ll watch  — and join us for this year’s 2017 Workmatters Leadercast as I’m excited to be the keynote speaker sharing what it means to be “Powered by Purpose.”

You can also read the transcript below.


David Roth: Welcome, Facebook Friends. My name’s David Roth. I’m president of WorkMatters and it is my privilege today to be with my friend, Elise Mitchell. Welcome, Elise.

Elise Mitchell: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

DR: Elise is our keynote speaker at our 14th annual WorkMatters Leadercast and we’re going to spend a few minutes this morning diving into a little bit of what you’ll talk about at the conference.

Elise, Leadercast is about three weeks away and the theme for the conference is Powered by Purpose. Purpose is such a crucial word in our work. Tell us a little bit around what that looks like from a leadership standpoint.

EM: You know, it’s a great question. I cannot imagine not having a sense of purpose in our work. But, I think a lotof us wonder does what I’m doing really matter? Is it changing the world for better? Am I making a difference in other people’s lives? And while we search for purpose – which is a great thing to do, I’m excited we’re going to do that with Leadercast – I think part of that search begins with looking inward.

Really knowing yourself and understanding yourself is important. You have to ask yourself, ‘What are my gifts and talents? Am I really using those in my work? What are my values?” For many of us that’s driven by our faith. ‘What do I believe in? How does it align with what I’m doing?’ And then ultimately, of course, ‘What do I want my life’s work to be about?’

Some of that can be seen over the course of a career, but honestly, I think you want to have that sense of purpose every day. The tasks that I’m doing every day – is there purpose and meaning in those things? It’s very important.

DR: You wrote a book. An incredible book that’s been out for two or three months, Leading Through the Turn. And in the book, you talk about your passion for riding motorcycles. And through riding motorcycles, you learned a number of leadership principles. Tell us a little bit around how those things came together and what that looks like.

EM: Well, it’s funny because motorcycling came at a pivotal point in my life. Honestly, David, there was a time – and you’ve known me a long time, so you know this about me – there was a time when all I thought about was winning at work. And I didn’t have time for hobbies – actually I didn’t make time for hobbies, and that needed to change. My life was suffering because I was focusing on work and needed to reinvest in those parts of my life.

So my husband and I decided to go on a trip together, which we hadn’t done for a number of years — we were just busy with work and raising our kids. I agreed in a moment of insanity to get on the back of his motorcycle and take a 10-day trip. And I remember thinking this is going to be uncomfortable, I don’t know why I’m doing this. But you know what? I got on the back of his bike and I never looked back. I was hooked.

Motorcycling is one of the most exhilarating ways to travel. The sights, the sounds, the smells. It’s such an amazing experience. And most importantly, it taught me about joy in the journey. I realized I was so focused on reaching destinations in my life that I wasn’t really appreciating the ride and the joy of life. I wanted that to change.

I remember when we came back from the trip and my husband said, ‘Elise, you were meant to ride. You should ride your own bike.’ So when I took the motorcycle safety course, I learned a fundamental principle of motorcycling called looking through the turn. It works like this: as you approach a turn in the road, which is where a lot of the hazards are, you determine whether or not there are potholes or oil slicks that might make your bike wreck.

But you don’t stare straight into the turn because, if you do, you’ll drive right into it. Your bike will follow your eyes. Instead they teach you to keep your eyes focused on where you want to end up. Looking through the turn.

When I heard that, I thought to myself this is a powerful metaphor for business and life, and it really stuck with me. I thought, ‘How do I become a leader who is looking through the turn, or in my book, leading though the turn? How do I become a leader who does that?’ Ever since that time, I’ve really made that my mantra and tried to live that way — and lead that way. That’s what inspired me to write the book.

DR: That’s awesome. Also in your book, you talk about bumps in the road. You talk about plans that you had that maybe were different than God’s plans and how you overcame those, how you dealt with those. I know there are a number of people watching this video that are struggling with that. Maybe they’ve had some setbacks in their career. Can you speak to what you’ve learned around changing plans and how you dealt with it?

EM: Well, it’s funny. We always make these plans in life. I liken it to when my husband Raye and I go on motorcycle trips. We get on the computer, look at the map and plan very carefully all the roads and the routes that we’re going to take. But a lot of times the ride doesn’t turn out like that. You have these detours that occur. And I thought how similar that was in life.

I remember a very specific time in my life when I had a big detour. It was a career-changer. And it was not what I wanted. It was very unexpected. And I had a choice at that time that I could go and be bitter about this change or I could go and let it make me better. It just reminded me it’s not as much what happens to you in life, but it’s how you respond to what happens to you that really matters and defines who you are as a person.

I learned some very valuable lessons around that. The idea of being willing to go with detours in life because you’re probably going to end up in some pretty terrific destinations. You can see God’s hand in those detours. I know many people are in personal detours, they’re in professional detours, they’re in health detours, things that are unwanted. And we have to figure out how we’re going to respond in those moments.

DR: That’s powerful. Well, I’ve read the book, of course, a couple of times and I know that what you’re going to share at Leadercast is going to be extraordinary, so much deep teaching from your life as an entrepreneur, the hard lessons that you’ve learned through your life.

We’re really looking forward to you unpacking this in more detail in about three weeks at Leadercast. Before we close, though, I do want you to share with our audience a little bit more about your book and how they might be able to buy it and listen to it.

EM: Thank you. I appreciate that. So the book is called Leading Through the Turn. Published by McGraw-Hill, came out just a few months ago. There’s a really simple thing – one thing that people can do if they’re interested in finding out more – is to go to my website, which is elisemitchell.com.

Everything is there. You can buy the book there. I have a very active blog where I share not only lessons from the book, but leadership lessons in the trenches, things I’m learning every day now. So I post regularly to it. We invite people to join our list there. They can subscribe and get notices of when we post to our blog.

Also – this is kind of exciting – my publisher asked me to do an audio recording of my book. It is available now on audible.com. I actually recorded it myself. The beauty of that is that my publisher wanted it to be a really authentic read from the author, to share the emotion and the passion that comes with sharing my own work.

 

DR: Well, for our viewers here today, we hope that you’ll join us for the 14th annual Workmatters Leadercast. There will be over 1,000 people there that day so I want to encourage you, if you haven’t bought your ticket yet, to attend Leadercast, but also don’t come alone. Bring a co-worker. Bring a friend. Bring a family member. And for those of you that lead teams, I highly encourage you to bring your entire team.

I can’t tell you with 1,000+ people there, how many people, small companies, literally shut their companies down to attend. Leaders that have a small or large team bring their entire team.

Work is hard. We’re running fast. And this is such an incredible opportunity to just slow down and listen to leaders like Elise Mitchell and nine other speakers from around the United States.

They’re some of the greatest leaders in the entire country. So, I want to encourage you to buy your ticket and here’s how you can do that.

Click on this video and it will take you right to the website. Or you can go to the website at nwaleadercast.com and you can buy your tickets there.

Look forward to you seeing and hearing Elise. And also, just know, that Elise’s resources will be available at Leadercast, as well, so if you want to purchase them then.

Thank you so much. We’ll see you next time.

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In The Turn

My Dear Mackenzie, Always Believe You Can — #InternationalWomensDay

Dear Mackenzie:

“If you fumble raising your children, nothing else you do in life matters very much.” I happened upon this quote during a particularly difficult time for me – we had just moved to Arkansas where I found myself starting over in terms of career and community. It was tough, and I often found myself glancing at this quote, which I had written and posted on our refrigerator as a reminder of what really mattered to me.

And that was you. You were our only child at the time – Jackson came along a few years later. And as badly as I wanted to build a successful career, I knew I wanted to be a great mom even more.

It was then that I made a goal for myself that I knew would raise the bar pretty high and wasn’t a short-term kind of thing. That goal? I wanted my children to be able to say they had a happy childhood. That meant I needed to buck up and get busy every day for the next 18 years at least if I wanted to check this one off.

Along the way, we’ve had some pretty amazing adventures as a family, plenty of ups and downs, lots of laughter and our share of tears. Your dad and I have learned some amazing things from you and your brother, and I realized how hard it is to be a great mom. Yet the goal was well worth striving for despite my short-comings. As I see how you and Jackson not only left the nest but soared into your own lives, I am hopeful the goal has been reached in some small way.

In addition to the ins and outs of parenting, I have also learned a lot along the way about life, love, professional wins and losses, friendship, personal growth and discovery. In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share a few of those lessons that I think have been game-changers for me and I hope they will for you, too.

1. Believe you can – Don’t be afraid to dream big, especially if the obstacles are great. Know that you might be the one that breaks the mold or proves the critics wrong. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. If you believe in yourself, you’re half-way there.

2. Trust your instincts – You’re smart. You’ve seen enough of life and come across different types of individuals to know when something or someone is authentic and worth your time. Trust your gut to lead you toward opportunity, toward those who will make your life richer and fuller. Just remain open to learning so your instincts will only get better as you grow.

3. Assume the best – Cynicism is ugly. Hope and potential attract opportunity. Enough said.

4. Never give up – There are plenty of times you’ll feel redirected, but a true win is holding on to something or someone that is truly worth your while. Most of the wins in life are because you hang in there when everyone else calls it quits. In business and marriage, resiliency is key and often means the difference in claiming victory.

5. Earn self-respect – Accolades are great, power and money have their benefits, of course. But don’t make these things your ultimate goal. Always make decisions you are proud of, and in the end, this is all that really matters. Most of all, know how much you are loved and respected by your family. That we are your greatest fans and will always be there to cheer you on.

And while I have enjoyed success as an entrepreneur and achieved many things I dreamed of doing in life, being a parent has been the best job I’ve ever had.

Thank you for letting me be your mom.

Love,

Mom

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In The Turn

Three Essential Steps to Make Your Dreams a Reality

View this blog on Facebook Live here.


“I Have a Dream” is one of my favorite Martin Luther King speeches. There is one quote in particular that really moves me – “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”

The fierce urgency of now – what a compelling thought.

I love this because I think Dr. King was telling us we need to be leaders who dream, but also leaders who take action. That is the hardest part, right? We all have dreams, but making them a reality is so hard.

We have countless excuses that hold us back like…

  • “I’m busy with living life right now so I can’t make a dream happen.”
  • “I’m worried I’m going to fail.” or
  • “I’m worried about what other people will think of my bold ideas.”

You can’t let excuses hold you back.

My question for you is this – do you have a dream? Do you have something you want to make a reality? Could 2017 be the year you make it happen?

I’d like to share three steps that I hope can help you make your dreams a reality.

1. Just get started – Take the first step – that’s where it all begins. I remember when I knew I wanted to build a company. I slid a proposal across the desk to my boss and asked him to be my first client. It wasn’t until I had the courage to make the ask that it had actually happened. Of course, I didn’t know how to start a business – I had to figure out how to do that! But at least I got started.

The same thing is true when I decided to write my book. I thought about it for years, but until I sat down and wrote chapter one I didn’t have a book in the works. You need to take that first step, and the rest will take care of itself once you’re rolling.

2. Deal with the uncertainty – One of the things that holds us back is our fear of the unknown and our anxiety about what might happen. We come up with plan B and plan C. It’s OK to have plans for things but you must accept that you won’t ever really know what’s going to happen. That’s part of it.

Being a journey-minded leader means you’re willing to live with the tension of uncertainty and tell yourself, “I don’t really know what’s going happen, but I am talented and capable enough to learn as I go. I’ve got smart people around me who will help me, and I know I can figure out what I don’t know once I’m moving forward.”

3. Live with no regrets – I don’t know if you’re a country music fan, but there’s a song I really love by Tim McGraw called “Live Like You Were Dying.” It’s a very moving song because it’s a story of a man who figures out that he’s getting ready to die. He begins to think about how he wants to live life in those last few days – and of course, he wants to live life to the full!

Nobody gets to their death bed and thinks “Gosh, I wish I’d been more conservative in my life.” No, we wish we’d taken more risks, stepped out of our comfort zone. We wish we’d taken that leap of faith. We wish we’d love sweeter, and we wish we’d given more forgiveness. These are all the things that make life rich and full!

So don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t live with regrets. Could you become an entrepreneur? Could you write a book? Whatever your dream is, don’t look back and regret that you never took that chance.

I want to close with a quote that I included in my book, Leading Through the Turn. I won’t tell you the whole story around the quote, although that story’s one of my favorites in the book (hint – it’s in Chapter 11).

But I will tell you why this quote means so much to me. Someone shared it with me when I needed it most – and he didn’t know how badly I needed to hear it. I was really at one of the lowest points in my life, and this quote spoke to me in such a powerful way.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

—THEODORE ROOSEVELT

The lesson for us is this: Get and stay in the arena. That’s where all the action is anyway.

When my friend gave me the gift of that quote, I actually got up out of my chair and took action that changed my life. I wanted to be in the arena fighting for my dreams, not just sitting on the sidelines!

What about you? Where do you want to be? Why not make 2017 the year your dreams become a reality?

It’s up to you. Go make it happen!

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In The Turn

Best Last-Minute Shopping Tip Ever: Give the Gift of Yourself

Hey everyone I have a couple of tips for you today – and I want to start with my best last-minute business gift ever. I want you to get up out of your office and walk into someone else’s office and ask this question – “What can I do for you to help you succeed today?” Ask them that question and I think you’ll be so surprised by the answer. It’s the best gift you could ever give and it’s my bonus business tip for the day.

Now let me get on to my other last-minute shopping tips.

Do you remember last week when I said I didn’t get all of my Christmas shopping done? Well I hadn’t, but I got a lot more done this past weekend with my daughter – just buying stuff for people. I woke up this morning and thought, “There is something missing from our tree,” and I had this crazy idea and I wanted to share it with you.

It comes with a story.

About 15 years ago when I was first building Mitchell I was on this business trip with one of our clients. I was on a plane back with someone who was on the trip with us. This guy – his name was Jim – was super nice and asking lots of questions about the company that I was building (at that time we were still pretty small). He seemed really interested, and I came to learn that he was very entrepreneurial himself and had helped start several businesses.

As the plane was getting ready to land, he leaned over to me and asked “Elise, what can I do for you?” I was stunned by the question, and of course I said, “Oh no there’s nothing you can do for me.” Because who takes people up on that kind of question?! I didn’t even know what to say.

Then I thought to myself, “Am I crazy? This very successful business person asked me what he can do for me.” So I thought of something and I leaned over and said, “If you’re serious about helping me there is something you can do. Would you be willing to introduce me to a particular person who is very influential in our business community?” I’d always wanted to meet Cameron Smith who had – and still has – a very successful business here in Northwest Arkansas. And this person said, “Absolutely! I work with Cameron. Consider it done.”

Sure enough, before my head hit the pillow that night, there was an email in my inbox from Jim introducing me to Cameron. Needless to say, in the next few weeks I jumped right on it and made plans to meet Cameron. When we met, I think we must have sat for two hours at lunch, just connecting and getting to know each other. He said, “I feel like I’ve met my sister from another mother!” We both just laughed because we were thinking how could we not have met each other until this point in time. Cameron’s been one of my best friends in the business ever since then and you’ve probably had a similar experience when you met somebody who really changed your life in a lot of ways. And to think how simple it was for Jim to do this for me.

So my lesson from that is this: Give the gift of yourself for Christmas and here’s how. You see this card on my tree (and I’m not an artist at all) that I’m giving to my husband Raye, my kids and other members of my family. It’s a piece of paper that says, “Good for one thing I can do for you.” I can’t draw but I think you get the idea.  That you would do something for someone else that is meaningful to them – this is powerful and it’s probably the best gift you can give to somebody else.

So I want you to do this. Make the cards, put them on the tree and put people’s names on them. And I tell you this is going to be really amazing on Christmas Day! I want you to come back and tell me – what did people take you up on? Perhaps they want you to help them clean out a closet that they haven’t gotten around to cleaning. If you do that, of course, you get the benefit of spending time with them cleaning it out. It might be that they want to just spend an afternoon going to the movies with you or they’d like a piece of advice that you can share with them.

I want to know what people give you because there’s probably so many incredible things that will come from it!

So put those envelopes on the tree and give the gift of yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for others. My good friend Amy Jo Martin is doing that right now (you need to follow her if you’re not). She has this terrific podcast called “Why Not Now?” and she’s on Facebook right now saying, “Hey guys! What can I do to help you?” So it’s this same idea of kindness and just doing kind and generous things for other people, which is really just giving the gift of yourself.

And one last thing!

Thank you for making “Leading Through the Turn” the #1 trending book on Amazon in workplace culture. We really appreciate that, and it’s not too late to give the book to someone for the holidays. You can still order the book on Amazon Prime and get it just in time for Christmas.

Have a great last couple of days before the holidays. I look forward to seeing you next week!

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In The Turn

 5 Things You Can Do to Avoid BurnOut

6zxwp5xpbpe-jamie-street How are you sleeping these days?

Do you find yourself lying awake night after night processing challenges you face at work? Perhaps you have goals you want to accomplish, yet you feel an enormous burden and anxiety about reaching them.

When this goes on for too long, you risk burnout. German-American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined this term in 1974 to describe physical and mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Inability to sleep is also a common symptom.

If you’re experiencing this, you’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans (48%) report lack of sleep due to stress. I’ve experienced burnout at different times in my career. During one of the worst times, I stopped sleeping for several months. I was exhausted and mentally and emotionally depleted.

Since then, I’ve learned to become more of a journey-minded leader, putting my fears and frustrations into context and viewing life as more of a journey and less of a destination.

In last week’s interview with Claire, she touched on this and shared her solution – she took a sabbatical.  While that might not be possible for you, there are some simpler things you can do to hit the “pause” button and minimize stress-related anxiety.

And before you say, “Elise, there’s no way I can hit pause,” I will tell you some of the strongest leaders I know live out these lessons and are better leaders, parents, spouses and friends because of it.

So do me a favor. The next time you’re on the edge of burnout, I want you to stop and consider these five things.

· Stop pushing yourself so hard – You’re harder on yourself than your boss, right? Destination leaders often think they need to take on every extra assignment offered, skip lunch or constantly stay late. Yet no one specifically says, “I expect you to stay late” unless it’s a special situation.

Stress and chaotic days are a part of being a leader, but be smart about how you spend your time. Always observe deadlines, but recognize it’s not as much about the quantity of time as it is the quality. If you’re unclear about how to stop pushing yourself, have a conversation with your boss and ask what their expectations are for you. This could help clarify how to invest your time so you’ll know when it’s OK to turn the computer off and head home.

· Prioritize – Think about the different areas of your life – personal, professional, spiritual, etc. What needs to happen now, what can wait? It’s important to have both short-term and long-term goals for these things. But don’t try to focus on everything all at once. That leads to feeling overwhelmed. Instead, keep a running list of immediate tasks you need to accomplish in deadline order so you can knock them out on time. Keep a second list of long-term goals with specific actions to take so you can make progress towards those things over time.

· Let it go – Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes you just need to let it go. I’m sure you’ve heard “perfect is the enemy of good.” I am as guilty of this as anyone I know, but I am learning to let things go when they are good and delegate authority to others so more things can move forward. Don’t be guilty of being a bottleneck that holds things up simply so you can review and approve everything. When you do that you miss out on the incredible feeling of having a great team that can take your business to new heights you never could have imagined. There are plenty of things you can let go of and empower others to decide. Just be selective about which things you need to see, and what others can approve and move. Tip: Consider the root/trunk/branch/leaf approach to decision-making.

· Put a fence around the things that matter most – If something is important to you, don’t allow your demanding schedule to make you miss it. That could include a special project at work, exercise goals, or family activities. I always attend my son’s college football games even though he is in another state now, and for seven years I traveled with my daughter to her competitive cheer competitions. It’s taken a lot of juggling, but I work my schedule around these activities so I can be present for them. It really matters to our kids that my husband and I are there for them. So I put a fence around these activities and do everything possible to make sure I am there.

· Keep something in the reserve tank – There’s a common myth that motorcycles have a reserve gas tank, but there’s only the one that sits between you and the handlebars. The tank does get smaller at the bottom, however, where there’s an intake straw. When the fuel drops below this point, your motorcycle sputters and comes to a stop. But by turning the petcock valve you can access the gas that’s still in the tank and travel another 20 or 30 miles.

I love this illustration because when we’re dealing with challenges, we all need access to a reserve of internal strength and determination that allows us to power through the critical moments when most others will quit.

But in order to have that reserve when you need it, you must build it up in advance by fortifying your emotional capacity, clarifying your sense of purpose and strengthening your desire to succeed. You must also take care of yourself physically, not becoming so run-down or out of shape that you lose the stamina and clear-mindedness to face challenges.

If you haven’t been doing so, now is the time to reinvest in your own health. Get to bed earlier (check out Ariana Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution), put the phone away, take up some sort of physical activity to get moving again, cut back on the carbs. A stronger you will allow you to deal more effectively with whatever comes your way.

I’ll admit some of these steps are easier said than done, but I promise you’ll experience more joy and fulfillment when you start trying them. By doing so, you’ll avoid burnout and become an even better leader than you are today. Learning how to pace yourself is the key — and one of the first steps you can take to becoming more of a journey-minded leader.

 

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In The Turn

How motorcycling helped me find the right balance between success and happiness

my-view-from-the-bike

Motorcycling is truly an out-of-body experience. I first got on the back of a motorcycle 10 years ago while vacationing with my husband and was hooked. The sights, sounds, and smells of traveling on two wheels can spark an explosion of sensations that is absolutely intoxicating. The adventure and thrill of the ride makes the journey matter just as much — if not more — than the destination.

When was the last time you felt that way — found pure joy in the journey?

A lot of leaders I know, including ‘achievement addicts’ like myself, are destination-driven.  We’re determined to reach our goals no matter what it takes. For me, I was so focused on my career and where I wanted to be in 20 years that I didn’t care about the 19 years that would help me get there. I worked myself so hard that everything — and everyone else around me – soon began to suffer. Even worse, I found myself asking the question “Is this all there is?”

Focusing on a destination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Going full throttle in both your work and your personal life has its advantages. But it can’t be all you’re about.

Many people are searching for a better balance between the journey and the destination. You can only go so fast for so long. Is there a way to strive for your goals and still enjoy the ride of your life?

Through motorcycling, I’ve been inspired to think about the journey and take a different approach to how I live and lead. I found some answers in a principle called “looking through the turn.”

Looking through the turn

One of the biggest challenges motorcyclists face is handling turns. As you approach a turn, you must look where you want to go rather than focusing on all the potential hazards within the turn itself. The difficulty comes in keeping your eyes focused on where you want to end up while using your instincts and experience to adjust within the turn — all at a moment’s notice.

The concept of “looking through the turn” has influenced my journey, both in leadership and life. It was also the inspiration for my book, Leading Through the Turn.

Here are three ways “looking through the turn” can help you find the right balance between success and happiness.

• Keep your eyes focused on where you want to end up – It’s easy to get distracted. We hear about destinations others are headed for, goals that sound more interesting. Our heads get turned by what sounds like a better job or happier life. Not that you can’t course-correct, but if you do that all the time, you’ll never accomplish anything substantial.

Getting clarity about what you want is essential if you’re serious about achieving something big. Don’t get spread too thin. Stay focused on your most important goals regardless of the distractions, and you’ll increase your chances of getting there.

• Find a way around the obstacles – Hazards happen. We must develop instincts and experience to assess what’s going on and maneuver around those things that cause crashes. Adaptive leaders are good at recognizing challenges when they crop up unexpectedly and mobilizing others to solve problems in real time.

Our personal lives are filled with obstacles too – relationships, parenting issues, health and financial problems. The key is to develop the react/respond muscle so it works as quickly as possible and keeps us moving forward.

Don’t let obstacles become an excuse for why you’re not finding success or happiness – or both. There is always a way around an obstacle if you’re willing to keep trying.

 • Live in the moment – Many times we’re so focused on the destination, we forget how to enjoy the ride. Life is meant to be savored and experienced. We only cheat ourselves when we miss the scenery along the way.

When we ride, my husband and I will occasionally pull our bikes over, put the kickstand down and just drink in how beautiful it is. This always makes the journey more enjoyable and memorable.

How often are you pausing to celebrate success at work? Saying thank you to others? Letting those in your personal life know how much you value them? Take a good look around and appreciate where you are right now. You must make time to live in the moment, because it will be gone before you know it. Embracing the journey is key to enjoying the ride.

By looking –and leading — through the turn, you can find greater balance between your desire for success and your longing for happiness.

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In The Turn

My Story…and I’m Pretty Sure It’s Your Story, Too

Elise Mitchell_barn.jpg (cropped)Welcome!  After months of preparation and lots of help, I’m excited to be launching this new website and blog.

I’m glad you’re here, because I’ve got a story to share with you. A story about a journey, a destination, a problem and a solution. It’s my story, but I’m pretty sure it’s your story too.

Going full throttle

From the beginning, I must confess I’m a destination person, much more interested in being somewhere than experiencing the journey. I’m a leader with a determined focus to get there, wherever “there” might be.

Friends have described me as an intensely passionate achiever with a motor that seldom slows down much less stops, and it’s hard for me to argue with that assessment. I’ve been on the go most of my life. Always searching for the next stop—but never stopping because there’s always another achievement, the next “there,” that keeps me going.

Sound familiar? Perhaps you have a similar destination-focus; if not, I suspect you know someone who does. So you know that while going full throttle has many advantages, it also has its challenges.

Paying a price

For years, I wrestled with the tension of choosing between work and life – and had no idea how those two things could possibly blend well. I’ve spent the last 20 years with the help of many smart people building a company, Mitchell Communications Group, from scratch and selling it to a global organization. I’m still with both companies today and am loving every minute of it. This has been one of my greatest professional accomplishments, and we reaped plenty of rewards from that success.  I’m tremendously grateful for all of it.

But I also paid a big price. I lost sleep, worked endless hours. My relationships with friends and family suffered. My mental, physical and spiritual health were pretty terrible. No hobbies. No vacations. Nearly everything I thought about was work and chasing “The Big Dream” of building a successful business.

In short, I was all about the destination. But I was missing the journey. And I knew something needed to change.

Living the life you dream of

I get what it means to live life at this intense pace and the toll it can take on you as well as those around you. I bet you do, too.

We all want success. I’m sure you’ve worked hard to reach your goals, make more money, get that next promotion, earn the prestige and recognition that comes along with that. And it’s all good. These are wonderful rewards, and you should enjoy them! I certainly have.

But it can’t be all you’re about. I know you want much more. You want to feel passionate about your work. You want to be a leader who impacts others for good. You so badly want to be a good and supportive spouse, to have the love of your children and family, to be a faithful friend to others.

You want to live a life filled with joy, sleep, adventure, laughter, love and fulfillment. And ultimately, you want to make the world a better place in some small way.

In short, you want to live the life you only dream of. Me too.

And that’s why I’m glad we found each other. Because I have discovered a better way to live and lead that makes these things possible. I’m a different person today than I was several years ago. Adopting a journey mindset was the key.

Showing you a better way

That’s what this blog, website and my new book, Leading Through the Turn, is all about – sharing with you what I’ve learned, how my journey has changed, and how you can change yours, too.

If you’re interested in hearing more, you only need to do one thing – sign up for my email list. Through it you’ll get access to:

  • A free preview of my book
  • Guest interviews from other leaders and what’s working for them
  • Free downloads with practical advice on how to be a destination leader with a journey mindset
  • Dozens of lessons straight from the front lines of leadership
  • More of my own stories on living a whole life.

I want to show you a better way so you can:

  • Lead at your best
  • Make the journey matter as much as the destination
  • Reach the destinations that matter most to you.

Joining is easy. Simply click here. I have lots more planned, plenty of surprises too. I don’t want you to miss out on any of the good stuff, so be sure to sign up.

Ready to write a new chapter in your story?  Then join me. Together we’ll find a new way forward.

Until next time, whatever you do, be sure to enjoy the ride.

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