Category Archives: Leadership

In The Turn

7 Inspiring TED Talks You’ve Probably Never Heard

 

Looking for a little inspiration?

If you’re like most busy leaders, you’d love something to kick-start your thinking or give you a fresh perspective. But you just don’t have the time to search out the best stuff. Which is why I wanted to share a few things I’ve found.

Some of the hidden gems in the TED talk library pack just as powerful a punch as the better known presentations. I’ve pulled together 7 of my favorite TED talks on leadership that you’ve probably never heard. These are all really good, and have something interesting to offer.

In 18 minutes or less, I guarantee you’ll get at least one thing you can use – a new idea, a little practical advice, and undoubtedly some timely inspiration.

So grab a cup of coffee, and take a quick look.

 

Photo Credit: Ted.com

How to Use Others’ Feedback to Learn and Grow — Sheila Heen: Most of us have a love-hate relationship with feedback. This is an exceptional talk that hits home on why it’s so hard to hear honest feedback from others. But how learning to accept and leverage feedback can significantly improve your performance and fundamentally change the trajectory of your career. Sheila

Heen is a Harvard lecturer, business consultant, a New York Times best-selling author, and a mom of three. She has a charming delivery with a hard-hitting, practical message.

Photo credit: Ted.com

5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change — Jim Hemerling: As a leader, you must constantly work to become more nimble and adaptable to change. This is often daunting. Does change always needs to be so hard?

Organizational change expert Jim Hemerling thinks adapting your business in today’s constantly-evolving world can be invigorating instead of exhausting. He outlines five imperatives, centered around putting people first, for turning company reorganization into an empowering, energizing task for all.

Photo Credit: Ted.com

Two Reasons Companies Fail — and How to Avoid Them — Knut Haanaes: Is it possible to run a company and reinvent it at the same time? A tough challenge, for sure. If you’re involved in an innovation project right now, this would be a good one to watch.

Business strategist Knut Haanaes believes the ability to innovate after becoming successful is the mark of a great organization. He shares insights on how to strike a balance between perfecting what we already know and exploring totally new ideas — and lays out how to avoid two major strategy traps.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life — Bill Eckstrom: After documenting and researching over 50,000 coaching interactions in the workplace, Bill Eckstrom shares life-altering, personal and professional development ideas through the introduction of the “Growth Rings.”

The rings illustrate how dangerous it can be to remain in a state of comfort and how being in discomfort is the only way to sustain growth.

You know you have to push yourself to grow. Don’t be afraid of discomfort — it can change your leadership journey in a good way. 

Photo Credit: Ted.com

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? Dan Ariely: This is a really fascinating talk and super useful for leaders to hear. It explores what motivates people to work. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either.

It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.

Photo Credit: Ted.com

Lessons for Women in the Workplace — Leila Hoteit: Professional women in the Arab world juggle more responsibilities than their male counterparts, and they face more cultural rigidity than Western women. What can their success teach us about tenacity, competition, priorities and progress?

Tracing her career as an engineer, advocate and mother in Abu Dhabi, Leila Hoteit shares three lessons for thriving in the modern world.

Photo Credit: Business Growth Blog

The Puzzle of Motivation — Dan Pink: Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with the fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

 

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In The Turn

Last Crop in Fallsville: A Lesson of Love and Compassion

Like you, I’ve been inspired by the many kindnesses shown to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Neighbor helping neighbor.

But it shouldn’t take a crisis for us to show love and compassion to those around us.

I have a favorite story about a chance encounter years ago when I was learning to ride a motorcycle – and it happened on Labor Day Weekend. It taught me a lesson I’ll never forget about the opportunity we have as leaders to impact others for good every day. Please enjoy…

“By the fall of 2009, I could confidently say I had made the turn toward a journey mindset that brought balance to my destination style of leadership. I wasn’t there—I’m still not there—but I was on a better course.

So when Labor Day weekend rolled around that September, I had no problem rolling away from my work and enjoying a ride on my bike.

Raye and I met his father, a good friend, and another couple just as the sun came up for a beat-the-heat ride through the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. Our self-appointed navigator was born and raised in these hills, so we fell in line behind his Harley as we started out from Fayetteville. The general plan—after a pit stop for biscuits and gravy in Huntsville—was a ride through Newton County, a sparsely populated county with winding highways that are quite popular among cyclists.

The first hour or two of our ride took us through small towns, some beautiful rural areas with tree-covered hillsides, sprawling farms, and tiny churches with inspiring signs like, “We use duct tape to fix everything. God used nails.”

By mid-morning, we decided to stop at a bend in the road called Fallsville. The small gravel lot had a lone white building with a single glass door, and three old-timey gas pumps. No credit card swiping here. You’re gonna have to go in, which was our intention anyway. We needed a stretch.

We discovered the only available restroom didn’t require a key—outhouses apparently don’t need that much protection. As we laughed about this, I noticed not far from us an old pickup sitting under a tree. An overall-clad gentleman was perched on the edge of the passenger’s seat with the door standing open.

Sprawling around the truck were piles of plump green-striped watermelons. I didn’t need a cutting to know they’d been picked at the height of their juicy glory. I decided to wander over for a visit, and Gentleman Gene, as I think of him now, broke into a smile at the prospect of a buyer approaching.

“How’s business,” I asked, curious if he had—or if he really expected—to sell any melons that day.

“Picking up,” he said. “They’re beauties, and better than anything you’ve ever tasted.”

Certainly a convincing argument, especially on a hot summer day.

“You raise pretty melons,” I agreed as I looked them over.

He got out of his seat and leaned on the side of the truck. The entire bed was filled with dozens more melons.

“I’m just trying to get whatever I can for them today,” he went on. “They’re not mine. They’re my neighbor’s.”

Gene, as it turned out, was a proud farmer who just couldn’t stand the thought of letting perfectly good watermelons rot in the field. So he had driven to his neighbor’s house that morning and convinced him to let him load up his truck and come to the gas station to try to find a home for as many as possible.

“Why wouldn’t your neighbor bring them himself,” I asked. Seemed like a nice but strange thing to do, hauling off your neighbor’s bounty. Was his neighbor lazy, tired of eating melons, tired of giving them away?

His answer caught me off guard. “He’s just not up to it this year. He’s got cancer pretty bad. He’ll never make another harvest. This is his last crop.”

A new appreciation for the melons flooded over me, and their natural beauty just shone. Gorgeous shades of green, smooth round skin, plump centers. Just the way they were at rest on top of each other looked as if someone had carefully placed each one in a certain spot to catch the morning’s light through the trees. I began taking pictures of them.

Gentleman Gene went on to tell me how his neighbor had lived off the land his whole life, reaping what he sowed and scraping together enough along the way to feed and clothe fourteen children. An experienced chef after a fashion, he had taught all the women in the area to make homemade sorghum molasses. Gene grinned, “I think the most he ever made in a year was $1,200. Some of it from his melons.”

No doubt.

Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of motorcycle engines. I looked past him to our group. They were putting helmets on and folding maps. Time to get going again. I thanked Gene for his story and apologized for not being able to take some melons with me.

“They don’t make saddle bags big enough for melons,” I said. “But I want you to do something for me.” He leaned forward. “Please tell your neighbor you met someone today who thought these were the most beautiful melons she had ever seen. That she took pictures of them and promised to share their beauty with others.”

He laughed. “That will make him smile, and I haven’t seen him smile in a long time.”

As we rode away, I thought about fall, but not with the welcome anticipation I’d felt that morning. Harvest is a time of plenty but it’s also a time of endings. I never used to think about things winding down in life; I was always too wound up. But of course there is a time of harvest that comes for us all. The real question is what are we harvesting?

Gentleman Gene had done his neighbor a favor, but he’d done one for me, too. It may have been a last crop, but it won’t be one that’s forgotten. ”

P.S. You’ll find this story at the end of Chapter 12 in my book “Leading Through the Turn.”

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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 Be a More Agile Leader and Have Greater Success in Uncertain Times

We live in an increasingly disrupted world. Thanks to powerful forces such as technology, analytics, globalization and social media, nothing stays the same for very long.

Business leaders must constantly evolve their thinking to stay relevant and competitive, and we must become more comfortable leading through constant change. That’s why agile leadership is not only a valuable skill, but also a critical one. Leading with agility will allow your organization to not only survive during uncertainty, but also to thrive.

Learning leaders Agility requires a willingness to learn on the fly. And with the speed of change accelerating, the lessons you learned in business school may no longer apply. You must be a lifelong learner if you’re going to figure out what works now.

What’s expected of you will change dramatically during your career, too, especially as you take on new responsibilities. When I founded my company, we were a small, scrappy startup. Now we’re part of a global enterprise, and my job description has changed pretty significantly.

Deciding to join the bigger firm and taking on a broader role forced me to develop an entirely new skill set. I had to work across cultural and language barriers, build relationships throughout a much larger organization, and reconfigure the way I viewed the big picture. I wasn’t dealing with one small company or region anymore — I had to think across international markets.

That experience taught me the power of agile leadership. Executives who can adapt to new situations will have greater success driving change in real time, diagnosing problems as they emerge, and mobilizing their teams to design effective solutions.

The operative concept here is “in real time.” In the past, we followed a linear path to organizational change. Leaders would identify opportunities, conduct research, build consensus, and then devise plans to implement change. That methodical, time-consuming approach is virtually nonexistent today.

You need an agile mindset supported by a strong working knowledge across the enterprise to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment, which means cultivating expertise in finance, strategic planning, people development and systems. You also have to balance smart risk-taking with a demand for quick results. Perhaps most important, you must act as a visionary, building and leading a team that can fulfill your company’s long-term goals.

Agility in action Being a strong, responsive leader is always important, but periods of upheaval or uncertainty really require you to step up. I’ve learned the most about agility when I’ve had to lead through difficult times. Here are five tactics I recommend to improve your agile leadership capabilities.

1. Fix what’s not working.

Take an honest look at your organization to identify what needs to change. Keep an open mind, and be willing to switch up inefficient processes or outdated systems that aren’t working anymore. Tweak your new business efforts, or revise your marketing plan. Once you know what needs to be fixed, be decisive and act swiftly.

2. Recognize your triggers.

Executive coach Nikki Nemerouf cautions leaders against letting their personal triggers derail their decision-making abilities. This is especially important in agile leadership as uncertainty often diminishes our ability to think clearly.

Take time now to reflect on your hot-button issues and the types of situations that typically rattle you, and then determine a smarter way to respond. The next time something upsetting happens, you’ll handle it better.

Apply the same mentality to your company as well. Evaluate problematic patterns and potential threats that could impact your business, and work out a plan for addressing them before they become serious concerns.

3. Bring in a fresh perspective.

Revisit problems you have been stuck on or have dismissed. Consult colleagues or mentors who can offer fresh takes on the roadblock, and brainstorm creative solutions to recurring issues. And don’t be afraid to challenge convention — that’s how the most innovative ideas are born.

4. Enable collaboration.

Workplaces are becoming less hierarchical, and an agile leader knows how to get the best from her people by enabling greater collaboration. Encourage team members to bring forward new ways of working together. Create different teams to find new solutions, or put more powerful networking tools such as Slack, Trello or Yammer in their hands that create organizations with no boundaries.

Invite people with different perspectives and backgrounds to the conversation. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Agile leaders seek out diverse opinions and are willing to live in the tension between them while they find the best way forward.

5. Embrace uncertainty.

Your team will follow your lead, so you can’t melt down when times get tough. Approach chaotic situations with confidence and determination, and know you can adapt as you learn more about the problem.

Lead your people through complexity by being forthright, decisive and focused, even when that means making the hard calls. Agility is critical as your team looks to you for vision and guidance, especially while changes unfold.

Many of the challenges leaders face today are those for which no clear answers exist. Agile executives are willing to lead through uncertainty, learning as they go and mobilizing their teams to find new solutions that propel the organization toward success.

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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

Facing Your Fears: Overcoming What Scares You Most

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer

 

“Are you fearless?”

A reporter once asked me that question. How I wish I could have answered her with a bold swagger and a confident yes.

But despite 20-plus years of entrepreneurship and a penchant for motorcycling, I’ve had plenty of things that have kept me awake at night. Particularly in the early years of building my business. I feared losing clients or key employees. I feared failure – with a passion.

But after experiencing some of my greatest learnings from botched attempts — for example, launching a service no one wanted to buy or losing a pitch for a piece of business we really wanted — I’ve stared that tiger down.

The main thing I worry about now is doing or saying something that would somehow violate my values. But I think that’s a rather healthy fear to have and keep.

What are you afraid of? Regardless of what title you hold or where you are on your journey, you’re afraid of something. We all are.

Yet we long to be more fearless in our leadership. I’m inspired by “Fearless Girl”  — the bronze statue of a defiant girl standing in front of Wall Street’s iconic charging-bull statue. I want to be that courageous in the face of all things menacing.

But let’s face it. Leadership can be scary at times.

And despite our best efforts to hide those things we’re afraid of, we spend a good deal of time trying to avoid them. That’s human nature, and our preservation instincts are there for a reason. But if you focus too much on your fears, you’re hurting yourself in other ways.

So what’s the secret to breaking through? Here are a few of the bigger fears leaders face and some thoughts on how to tackle those things that scare you the most.

• Anticipate but don’t fixate – Fear of “what could be” can be quite paralyzing. In motorcycling, you learn to assess potential hazards in the road ahead and make necessary adjustments in the moment, but you don’t fixate. If you stare at the pothole or oil slick you’re trying to avoid, you’ll drive straight into it. Most of the things we worry about in life are unlikely to happen. It’s good to think ahead and prepare for the worst, but when you let your thoughts dwell on worst-case stuff, you’re catastrophizing and draining energy needed to react and respond with precision. Keep looking ahead, but maintain some perspective so you can channel your efforts into dealing with what you know, not worrying unnecessarily about what could be.

• Mourn the loss, and move on – Fear of failure is a big one. But failure is inevitable. No one crosses the finish line first every time. You must learn to let go of frustration as quickly as possible and turn loss into learning sooner. It’s okay to be disappointed, but get it out of your system and move on. Set a deadline for mourning (e.g. a day or a week); then get up and get going again. The sooner you can bounce back, the sooner you can try again for the win. And the next time around, apply what you learned so you are smarter, better, faster and stronger – and the win is more within your reach.

• Go for it, take that leap of faith – Fear of looking foolish often holds us back from going for it. As a result, we miss out on a big win because we were afraid to take a chance. But how many times can any of us honestly say we are prepared for the next big challenge of our career—or our personal life, for that matter? Regardless of where we are in our leadership experience, the first thing we have to embrace if we want to lead at our best is a willingness to explore the roads—even if we feel unprepared, unqualified, and unsure. Step out and take a chance. You never know where it might lead.

• Know what matters most – Fear of disappointing others haunts many leaders throughout their lives. Often we attempt to live up to others’ expectations for us. Yet all of the nonsense and chaos – the “head trash” – consuming our thoughts serves only to divert our attention away from the things that really count. In that case, we end up trying to become the leader others want us to be, not what we want for ourselves. In the end, it’s what you think of yourself that matters most. The internal battle is the hardest one. Double down on the things that matter most to you and remember who you are and what you believe in. This will give you the power to push through this fear.

There’s a common thread here – did you pick up on it? Fears don’t go away. There is no magic wand to make them disappear. Instead, we overcome them.

You must learn to embrace your fears and understand they are just a normal part of any leadership journey. Once you accept that reality, you’re one step closer to conquering them.

And guess what? The more willing you are to face them, the less power they hold over you.

I want a share a quote that really sums up this mindset from someone who had good reason to know a lot about fear, but who refused to let it consume or define him: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Facing your fears is the key to overcoming them. But don’t just face them; run towards them. They only appear big when you shy away. They get smaller the closer you get.

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In The Turn

How to Thrive in the Face of Conflict

Few things in life are certain.

An old adage narrows down the list to two items: death and taxes. But I’d argue that as journey-minded leaders we could also add conflict to that list. Put two or more smart people in a room for an extended period of time and different points of view are bound to arise. Two leaders can set their sights on the same destination but design entirely different routes to get there..

Conflict can be a healthy part of a high-performing workplace if it leads to constructive debate and better outcomes for the team, but unresolved conflict can be a distraction and erode trust between team members. Letting it fester can be toxic to your workplace.

One study revealed that 81% of HR professionals have cited ongoing conflict as the main reason for an employee’s resignation, and 77% say it’s a common source of employee absenteeism.

These consequences can be costly to your business, and they illustrate why it’s so important to monitor and quell workplace conflict as soon as it arises. In doing so, you actually turn a bad situation into a great learning experience that will undoubtedly help your company down the road.

Good things come from conflict resolution: new thinking, new points of view, and a deeper understanding of others. It opens the door for positive adjustments and endless new possibilities.

Your Role in Conflict Management

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: Having conflict on your team doesn’t mean you’re a bad leader.Conflict is just part of a leader’s journey, and you have to accept that, not run from it.

Conflict is a regular part of workplace life, and your role as a leader is to swiftly deal with it, minimize its negative impact, and learn from it.

Conflict management skills come naturally to some people, but for others, the task can be quite daunting. It all stems from your level of emotional intelligence: Are you empathetic? Are you a good listener? Can you build trust? These are the key qualities of conflict management.

Here’s my conflict resolution guide for leaders:

  1. Act quickly. Get to the heart of the issue as quickly as possible. Unresolved conflict will escalate and cause additional problems as it grows.
  2. Understand the situation. Speak directly to those involved, listen well, and pose clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand what’s going on.
  3. Keep it contained. Don’t allow others to get drawn into the negativity. Advise only those who are directly involved.
  4. Peel back the layers. Be sure every issue is on the table. Conflicts often have multiple layers, and their root cause could easily go unspoken.
  5. Stay engaged. Some peoples’ flight instincts kick in when things escalate. Don’t let this happen to you or your employees. Keep everyone engaged all the way through to the resolution.
  6. Find common ground. Focus primarily on what the involved parties have in common. This will lead to mutually beneficial resolutions.
  7. Move forward. Communicate what you expect going forward, and hold others accountable for these changes.
  8. Check in. Periodically assess the success of your solutions. Make adjustments as needed to ensure continued progress.

The idea of confronting and quelling conflict can be nerve-wracking to some leaders, but ignoring it or delaying its resolution will only make things worse. Rarely do these things work themselves out, and whatever solution you reach will undoubtedly improve your workplace and bottom line.

Like it or not, conflict resolution comes with your leadership role. Monitoring and addressing conflict as it arises will ensure a happy, present, and productive workforce for your company.

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In The Turn

Three Essential Steps to Make Your Dreams a Reality

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“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

 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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