Always on Stage

Always on Stage

Sometimes it takes an event to change your perspective.  Sadly it seems it’s a tragic event that needs to occur to awaken someone; to have him or her stop and reevaluate his or her life. I unfortunately faced a personal situation that made me pause and reassess my life.

Brain Fog

Brain Fog

Get out of the fog and spark your creativity.

That one project that never seems to get done, you know the one.  You have started it a million times but never seem to get it done. The project where everything else seems more important than what you are actually supposed to be working on. The creative juices have stopped flowing and procrastination sets in. You draw a blank and your brain finds this project impossible.

Your Happiness

Your Happiness

I don’t know you, but I want you to be happy. 

More importantly, I want to be happy. 

I understand that YOUR happiness is NOT my happiness.  My happiness includes great friends, great food and laughter that makes my sides hurt. 

Do you know what makes you happy?  It’s something that you should make an effort to find out.  You can’t make your kids, spouse, boss, co-workers, neighbors, or parents happy until you are happy yourself.  Just remember, nobody can tell you what makes you happy; you must find it in yourself or work on creating it.

Happiness Breeds Creativity

Happiness Breeds Creativity

Do you struggle with creativity?  We all do.  I recently read an article sharing different exercises one can do to get “unstuck” and turn on the creative juices.  Like most articles, it all seemed like common sense, but one specific exercise stuck with me (no pun intended).  The exercise was titled “Do Something Unrelated That Makes You Happy.”  I was experiencing writers block, so I went for a walk.  A walk on a warm spring day with the sun beaming down on my salt-and-pepper hair makes me happy.

Tracks in the Swamp

Tracks in the Swamp

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am in full procrastination mode. Thought of the fishing opener and the end of the ice fishing season run through my mind. Sometimes thinking about fishing is more fun than actually fishing; extreme heat or cold can make it miserable. Finally, after two hours and a nap my procrastination ends. My mind is still set on fishing so I start by putting line on a new pole I bought a couple of weeks earlier and I looked through my tackle boxes to see what I needed to buy. After watching the news and seeing the good weather to come, I decide to keep my ice fishing gear in my truck in hopes of going out once more before the season ends.

Creativity Roadblocks

Creativity Roadblocks

Coming at a project from a different angle can be both helpful and inspirational. Choosing a random word or sentence from a random word or sentence generator can be a great solution. It gives the brain a new way of making connections and a potential new path for the project, as well as getting me over my creative roadblock.

Be Selfish

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Be Selfish

Why is it so difficult to put our own needs first and focus on what we want to do rather than what other people expect us to do? We know that it is important, maybe even the most important key to our health and happiness.  So why is it so damn hard?  We are taught very young to be kind to others, to help others, to give, and to share.  These are all fantastic, but we also need to learn self-care.

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Put Your Listening Ears On!

Put Your Listening Ears On!

It's not a new concept, as a leader it's imperative to listen to your employees. We all heard it a million times but it's amazing how many leaders are actually bad at it. This lesson is also true outside of work, with all relationships. People communicate in a variety of ways - some will flat out tell you their opinion/feelings, others will passively communicate, while some will communicate with body language.

Think back to all the leaders you had. Which one's motivated and inspired you? Which ones did you have an allergic reaction to? I would bet the leaders that motivated you were great listeners, empathetic, and actually made you feel like you were being heard. I would also bet the ones you least liked made you feel like they could care less about what you had to say (along with other poor qualities). It was "their way or the highway."

Reflection is a critical tool seldom used. We get caught up in the fast paced environments we are in, wearing too many hats - constantly go-go-go. Reflection however is a necessary tool to spot check yourself. There's lots of research and techniques about reflection, and I am not the right person to be teaching that (but I can connect you with some great people that can). Done right, reflection will allow you to grow not only as a leader, but as a person.

So stop what you're doing and reflect - right now. How many employees have you lost in the last year or so? How many strategic relationships have gone awry? How many times has an employee flat out told you they weren't happy but you didn't do anything about it? How many times did an employee stay silent, but you could sense something wasn't right? How many times did an employee go from rockstar to low performer?

Think about it. If there's a trend, positive or negative, a main reason is your leadership. I once read an article in Forbes titled "People Leave Managers, Not Companies." The title itself is so true. I'm here to tell you right now - if you aren't listening to your employees (and making sure they know you're listening) - you are making a BIG mistake. It's a HUGEmotivation killer.

Let's role play: one of your employees tells you in a private meeting that they aren't happy with how things are going with their job. This employee is a strong contributor and if you were to lose him/her, it would have a significant impact to your business. What would you do?

If we are playing this game honestly, some of us would try to talk the person off the ledge, then hope that this will blow over (the employee is probably crabby that day) - not good. Others would try to spin this back on the employee and make them feel worse than they already do (how dare this employee say this to me) - not good. Some would actually listen to their employee, be genuinely empathetic. They will ask questions to further understand this employee's dissatisfaction - GOOD! One question I like to ask is, "If you had a magic wand and could change your situation, what would that look like?" Hearing someone's "pie-in-the-sky" ideas is a good thing. Sure some of the ideas won't be feasible, but I am confident some certainly are.

Don't confuse my message - I'm not telling every leader to make drastic changes so their employees are happy every time they come with concern. What I am saying is LISTEN to your employees, but actually make it obvious you are listening and that you actually care. Be genuine. Be empathetic. If you don't care what the employee is saying, that is a red flag - even if it's your worst performer. If you tend to ignore such complaints and hope it will go away, that is also a red flag.

Too many people underestimate the power of a motivated employee. The amount of work a motivated employee can accomplish versus those unmotivated is amazing. While everyone needs to own it and be self-directed and self-motivated, it is one of the responsibilities of a leader to keep their employees motivated.

Your employees are talking to you every single day...every hour...every minute...every second. You just have to pay attention and LISTEN. Most importantly, you just have to care and do something with all that information that is being transmitted to you.

If during reflection you realize you are one of those leaders that doesn't take action; or hope things will go away; or flat our ignore what your employees are saying - then it's time to make a change before you lose a lot of good people (or lose more people). Looking in the mirror is hard, I get that. But nothing is harder than replacing talented people. Time to put those listening ears on!