Archives For leadership

Here’s my talk for today’s presentation at the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) Annual Conference:

NSPE 2017 Conference

Engineers Managing Engineers

Jon M. Stolpe

Friday, July 21, 2017

When an optimist looks at a half-filled glass, he sees the glass half full.  When a pessimist looks at the same glass, he sees the glass half empty.  When an engineer looks at the same glass, he sees the glass as being twice as big as it needs to be.

As engineers, we look at the world through a different set of lenses than the rest of the world.  Engineers want to get to the bottom of how things work.  They tend to be technical in nature.  While the rest of the world may see us as robots, we are more than mechanical devices going through the motions.

Engineers are people too!

For the next 50 minutes, I want to help you better manage the engineers who work for you.

Here’s our agenda for our time together.

First, we’ll look in the mirror to get a better understanding of who we are.

Next, we’ll spend some time talking about how you can get to know your team members better.

I’ll give you some tips for managing performance for your direct reports, and I’ll give you a powerful tool for managing your team members.

We’ll spend some time helping our team members develop a plan for their future.

And we’ll finish our time together brainstorming ways to encourage your team of engineers to be innovative.

Before we get started, I wanted to share a few things about me.  I graduated from Grove City College in 1994 with a degree in mechanical engineering.  After graduating, I worked for a small building automation company in north Jersey and Manhattan as a project engineer.  During my year and a half with the company, I installed building automation systems on the top ten floors of Rockefeller Center and the Liz Claiborne World Headquarters.  I moved to Landis and Gyr Powers which eventually became Siemens Building Technologies where I have been for over 21 years.  I started as a project engineer and became a project manager which gave me opportunities to work on projects all over the Greater Philadelphia area.  In 2000, I went back to school to work on my MBA at Penn State University.  For the past 10 years, I’ve been an operations manager.  I lead a team of engineers, project managers, technicians, and installers.  And I love my job!

I’m married with two teenagers.  And I have a passion for personal growth, leadership development, writing, and speaking.  I’m excited to be here today to share some of the things I have learned along the way which have helped me (an engineer) lead my team of engineers.

Getting to Know Yourself

If you want to be successful managing your team, it’s important that you get to know yourself first.

When we think of becoming better leaders, we think of tools and techniques. We think of books and seminars. We think of skills we must add or improve to connect with those we are leading and to help others navigate their paths to becoming stronger contributors to the overall good of the team. Much of our leadership development is externally focused.

How can we get our team member to do this? Or how can we get our team member to stop doing that?

In our quest to become better leaders, we often forget to look in the mirror.

Becoming a better leader starts by learning to lead ourselves first.

I don’t know about you, but my podcast feed is full of podcasts about leadership. My nightstand is full of books about leadership. And my blog reader is jammed with blog posts and articles about leadership. It’s great to feed our minds with great material, but we must learn to step back from time to time and develop habits to lead ourselves.

As a leader trying to figure it out, I believe self leadership starts when we take time to STRETCH ourselves. To help you see what I mean, here’s an easy way to remember seven keys to leading yourself:

  1. Still yourself.

Too many leaders believe busyness is a badge of achievement. In the rush to hustle more than the next guy, leaders forget how to stop and be still. Learning to still yourself takes practice. Start with a minute every hour. Or start with 10-15 minutes in the morning before the days responsibilities take over.

  1. Take note.

Become an observer of life. Keep track of what is happening. Keep a journal. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day capturing the details of the day. If we don’t write it down somewhere, we’ll forget it.

  1. Reflect.

It’s not just enough to still yourself and take note. You have to take time to reflect. For me, this means getting away for a couple of days once or twice a year. Reflection provides the opportunity to gain wisdom from what we have just experienced, and it gives the chance to ponder the future.

  1. Engage in key relationships.

One of the best ways to lead yourself is to open yourself up to feedback from others. When I think of key relationships, I think of my family, my close friends, and my boss. Who are the people who will help you see the things you need to see when you look in the mirror? These are the people who can help you take your leadership to the next level.

  1. Try something new.

It’s easy to fall into a rut when we are leading. In order to break out of our patterns, we must be willing to take a risk. Leading yourself requires you to willingly move past unproductive routines. Trying new things on a regular basis helps leaders learn things they may have otherwise overlooked.

  1. Community. Community. Community.

Whether you or an introvert or an extrovert, you need community and community needs you. By involving yourself in community, you gain opportunities to lead others outside your team. Community is also the place where you can be led by others outside your normal circle of influence. When you lead in the community, you gain valuable insights to lead better in your organization. If you want to lead yourself to become a better leader, get involved in your community today!

  1. Help others.

Leadership too often is a race to see who climbs the corporate ladder more quickly. If you want to be an effective leader, you must analyze your motives. Why are you leading? When your season of leadership is over, what legacy will you have left? The best way to lead with impact is when you lead with a servant’s heart. Find ways to help others, and your leadership will advance to a whole new level.

If you paid attention, you may have realized that these seven keys encourage leaders to S.T.R.E.T.C.H. As you lead in your organization, don’t forget to STRETCH by leading yourself first.

Getting to Know Your Team

Piece of Paper Exercise

Learning to Look for Differences Exercise

Tools To Help You Learn More About Your Team Members (and About You)

Myers-Briggs Temperament Index – My MBTI (I am an ESTJ.  I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert.  I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition.  I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler.  And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.)

Wikipedia:  The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

The MBTI was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It is based on the typological theory proposed by Carl Jung who had speculated that there are four principal psychological functions by which humans experience the world – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. “The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.”

16 different types

StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Get book) – My Strengths (Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer)

DISC Profile

Wikipedia:  DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centers on four different behavioral traits, which today are called: dominance, influence, support, and conscientiousness. This theory was then developed into a behavioral assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.

There are many different versions of the questionnaire and assessment. Some date back to the 1940s while others are more recent, more accurate, and more advanced.

Communication Style Assessment

 

Whether you are a manager of direct reports or not, I hope you’ll find this list helpful in understanding ways to get better.  Success doesn’t happen by accident.  Success happens by being intentional, and this list offers suggestions – no, essentials – for being intentional with the performance management process.

10 Essentials for Enhancing the Performance Management Process:

  1. Start with regular one-on-one meetings. It’s important to meet with your employees on a regular basis.  These meetings provide an opportunity to touch base on performance issues and other business and non-business related items.  You can read about the power of one-on-one meetings in a guest post I wrote for Matt McWilliams.  Several years ago, I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team, and it’s been helpful for my team members and for me.
  2. Set performance targets. It’s critical that employees have SMART targets.  Targets should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  At the beginning of each year, I sit down with my team members to set targets.  These targets align with our overall business objectives, and they also provide opportunities for individuals to grow personally.
  3. Quarterly review progress towards targets. It shouldn’t be a surprise at the end of the year when doing a performance evaluation.  I sit down with my employees once a quarter to review their progress in achieving their targets.  Doing this once a quarter provides an opportunity for my team members to make performance corrections that will help them meet or exceed their targets.
  4. Get feedback from others. I encourage my team members to ask for feedback from their peers.  And I get feedback from other managers and supervisors regarding the performance of my team members.  Before completing the annual performance management process, I meet in a roundtable meeting which helps to calibrate my overall assessment.  This meeting also provides extra insight into developmental action items I might want to suggest to my team members.
  5. Take time to write an honest and detailed assessment.  When I write evaluations for my team members, I want them to be fair, well-thought, and encouraging.  Writing this kind of assessment takes time.  I schedule time to carefully review the past year of activity.  I look at notes from my past one-on-one meetings.  I review previous results from the quarterly updates.  And I take into account comments shared by my fellow management team members.  A written record provides employees a tangible document to review as they seek to grow and improve.
  6. Meet with employee to review results. At the end of the year, it’s important to let your employees know how they have done.  Feedback provides information necessary to help them improve.  Feedback also keeps them doing the right things.
  7. Remember the good things. Make sure you praise your team members for the good things they have done throughout the year.  A pat on the back goes a long way towards encouraging the right behavior.
  8. Create a development plan correcting issues. As managers, it is our responsibility to help our team members succeed.  We have to give our team members help in getting better.  The performance review process is the perfect time to help employees get better.
  9. Discuss career progression essentials. Most employees want to know what it will take for them to get tho the next level in their career path.  It’s important to talk regularly to employees about their plans for the future.  What are their goals for the next 5 years or 10 years?  What do they need to do in order to be ready for the next steps?  These are questions that will help you help them.  Are their expectations realistic?  How can you help them?  The performance review process provides an opportunity to discuss essentials for career advancement.
  10. Do it again. It may seem repetitive, but you have to do it over and over and over again.  Doing this for only one year does not demonstrate a long-term interest in the performance of an employee.  Repeated year after year is essential to a successful performance management process.

Thinking About the Future

Mentoring

Cross-Training

Delegation

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates

Being a leader isn’t always easy.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Right?

If leadership stress, exhaustion, and inadequacy are common, there has to be a solution.

I’m sure we could point to many things that make leadership easier – getting more sleep, exercising regularly, reading, learning, and finding a mentor.  These are all valuable actions a leader can take to improve their leadership capabilities.  There another solution that too easily gets overlooked and sometimes misused.

Delegation is what I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about pawning off all the unpleasant tasks on someone else and acting as a dictator.  I’m talking about spreading out the work, so a leader and team can be more effective which will lead to less stress, less exhaustion, and a deeper feeling of adequacy and fulfillment.  Delegation is “the assignment of responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific activities (Wikipedia).”

It seems rather simple.  Spread the work out.  Ease the load of the leader.  Use the leadership talents of others in the community.  And make the community happier.

Why is delegation so important?

Here are six reasons leaders should delegate:

6 Reasons Leaders Should Delegate

  1. Delegation relieves stress and overload on the leader. Leadership can be lonely, and it can be a heavy weight to bear alone.  Delegation disperses the weight, so the strain isn’t so great on any one person.
  2. Delegation allows leaders and teams to get more accomplished in less time. If a leader tries to do it all my himself, it will obviously take him longer.  “Many hands make light work.”  By getting more people involved, more can be accomplished.
  3. Delegation frees up leaders for other tasks. When a leader is overwhelmed, he will often miss out on other tasks he could and should be performing.  By delegating, a leader opens up time and energy for other priorities.
  4. Delegation buildings a better team. When a leader tries to do it all by himself, he demonstrates a lack of confidence in his team.  This will demoralize a team.  Delegation done right provides an opportunity to motivate your team.  It also provides an opportunity to develop the skills and abilities of team members which will ultimately lead to a better team.
  5. Delegation generates more success. When a leader gets others involved, he taps into the ideas and skills of other people who might otherwise be overlooked and underutilized.  When a team is used to its fullest, success is a natural byproduct.
  6. Delegation prepares for the future. A leader will not be around forever.  Eventually, he will retire or move on to another opportunity.  It is good stewardship for a leader to prepare the next in-line leaders.  Grooming successors is an essential part of delegating, and it’s the best way for a leader to leave a legacy.

If you want to overcome stress, exhaustion, and feelings of inadequacy in your leadership, it’s time for you to start delegating.

Educational opportunities

Keeping Our Teams Engaged Through Innovation

My Shark Tank Experience

What other companies are doing

  • ATT Foundry
  • Adobe Kickstart
  • Linkedin [in]cubator
  • Whirlpool
  • Ericsson Ideaboxes

A chance to brainstorm

Confirming Your Learning

  1. Why are regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports important?
  2. What is one thing you can do to encourage innovations among your direct reports?
  3. Name three (or more) things you can do to improve the performance management process for your direct reports.

Remember, you are not leading a team of robots.  You are leading a team of people.  Be intentional as you lead and manage your team!

Questions, Answers, and Contact Information

“Switching from one career to another can be scary, but it also can be a thrilling experience. Look at it as an opportunity to really go after what you want to accomplish in life and make a difference in the world. The key is to take small, conscious steps and prepare yourself for a successful transition.”

Jack Canfield

Today is a significant day in my career.  I officially start a new position as the head of a department responsible for providing building automation solutions throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Northern Delaware.  I’m excited about this step and opportunity to serve and lead at a greater level.  As I head into this new adventure, I’m working through a number of things I want to mark my leadership in this position.  Today, I’ve give you a glimpse into my head.

9 Essentials As I Transition Into A New Leadership Role At Work

  1. Stay humble.  It’s important to understand the legacy left by my predecessors.  It’s also important to recognize the experience and knowledge of those around me.  I must lean on my team.  I can’t do everything, because I don’t have time and I probably don’t have all the skills that my team members bring to the team.  I must set up a pattern for delegation and empowerment, so my team feels like they are part of the solution and like they are prepared to take on a greater leadership role in the organization when the time is right.  How can I lift others up today?
  2. Stay positive.  It’s easy to let the stresses and challenges of our work bring us down.  As a leader in the organization, it is critical that I remain positive.  I can be realistic in the face of adversity and still be positive.  What was great about today?
  3. Stay grateful.  Obviously, I’m thankful for my new job.  I need to make sure I express my appreciation to those around me.  I want to continue my practice of writing handwritten thank you notes as I move into this position.  I want those around me to know how much I appreciate them.  Who do I need to thank today?
  4. Lead with integrity.  Be truthful.  Expect integrity from my team.  “Always hand out the credit and keep the blame.”  Dave Ramsey  Recognize, admit, and take action to correct my mistakes.  Get others to hold me accountable to leading with integrity.  Have a led with complete integrity today?
  5. Have fun.  “They don’t call it [work] fun for a reason.”  Have you ever heard that statement?  There is some truth to that.  Work will not always be fun.  There will be challenges and serious conversations along the way.  As a leader, I have the opportunity to make sure my team knows it’s okay to have fun while getting the work done.  How can I have fun at my job today?
  6. Keep serving.  Moving into a bigger leadership role does not remove me from the responsibility (and privilege) I have to serve my co-workers and my customers.  In fact, an attitude of service is important to having a correct perspective when it comes to your team.  I am not just advancing my career and providing income for my family; I am responsible for my entire team and their families.  I want to lead from a servant’s perspective.  How can I help my team today?
  7. Keep listening.  A successful leader listens and gathers facts before giving their input.  In the midst of a demanding schedule, I must make sure I take time to listen to my team.  Keeping my door open as much as possible and having regular one-on-one meetings with my team members will be two of the ways I practice listening as I move into this new role.  What is my team trying to tell me today?
  8. Keep learning.  Leaders are readers, and leaders are learners.  I’ll continue to plug into leadership resources to help me become a better leader.  Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I recently picked up two books which will help me as I transition into my new position:  The First 90 Days (Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels) by Michael Watkins and The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan (How to Take Charge, Build or Merge Your Team, and Get Immediate Results) by George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, and John A. Lawler.  What did I learn today?
  9. Keep stretching.  If you aren’t stretching and growing, you aren’t really living.  I look at this new career transition as an opportunity to stretch.  I don’t know what will happen in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, but I know that embracing the stretch will be critical to the success of my team and me.  Part of this stretching experience requires me to take action.  My leadership cannot be based on lip service; it must be based on action.  Actions speak way louder than words.  What do I need to do to stretch today?

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”

Harold S. Geneen

 

What am I missing?  What steps have you taken to become a better leader in your organization?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m honored to be the featured guest on The Answers From Leadership Podcast with Joe Lalonde.  My episode is titled Importance Of Stretching Your Leadership With Jon Stolpe.  I’d be thrilled if you stopped by and gave it a listen.  Click here (or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher).

Then stop by and let me know what you think in the comments.

ten-keys-to-achieving-excellence

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Pat Riley

Are you content with mediocre?  Or do you want to live a life that matters?

I chose the second option.

Living a life that matters requires intentional striving for excellence.

Yesterday, we talked about the nine things holding you back from excellence.  Today, let’s look at the keys to making excellence a reality in our lives.

10 Keys to Achieving Excellence

  1. Determine your priorities.  Take time to figure out your priorities.  List them in order from one to ten (or twenty).  For example, here’s an example of what your priorities might look like:  1) God, 2) Me, 3) Spouse, 4) Kids, 5) Health, 6) Job, 7) Family, 8) Friends, 9) Side Hustle, 10) Neighbors.  It’s important to know our priorities to help refine our focus.  If God is really my number one priority, my calendar should reflect this importance.  Making the first things first is part of becoming excellent.
  2. Get sleep.  Exercise.  Take a break.  Excellence requires the best of us.  We prevent ourselves from achieving greatness when we are worn out, exhausted, and out of shape.  Sleep, exercise, and rest will give you the energy to make excellence a reality in your life.
  3. Just say “No.”  Saying no to things that distract us from our ultimate goal is crucial to achieving excellence.  We must create margin in our schedules to pursue the things that really matter most to us.
  4. Get a coach.  A coach will help bring clarity to your life and will push you to excellence.  The wisdom and encouragement of a coach can take you to a whole new level.
  5. Find accountability.  Plug into someone who will ask you the hard questions and will keep you on track to achieve the goals you are pursuing.  Make sure you find someone who is dependable.  Accountability only works when you find someone who will be consistent in asking the tough questions.
  6. Plug into experts.  Who is already doing excellent things in the area(s) you are pursuing.  Talk to them.  Read their material.  Watch their videos.  Find out how they made it to the top of their fields.
  7. Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  If you want to be excellent, you have to put in the practice time.  If you want to be an excellent piano player, practice the piano every day.  If you want to be an excellent writer, write every day.
  8. Create a road map to success.  “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.”  I don’t know who said this, but it’s true.  If you want to achieve excellence, you have to put in the time, energy, and effort up front to map out your journey.
  9. Get off the couch and get moving.  Excellence will not come to you.  You have to go get it.  Stop being lazy.  Make your excellent dreams a reality by taking action TODAY!
  10. Keep going.  Don’t get discouraged.  Don’t lose momentum.  Get rid of the obstacles in your life, and press on to the goal for which you are aiming.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

If you want to live a life of excellence, it’s time to get going – NOW!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to achieve excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

the-nine-things-holding-you-back-from-excellence

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

One of my favorite movies as a teenager was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  It’s a teenage boy movie full of teenage boy humor.  I think that’s why I liked it so much.  I remember seeing the movie with a few of my friends, and the rest of the year we repeated lines from the movie to each other as we went about our activities.

In the movie, “excellent” was a word thrown around by Bill and Ted to describe anything they thought was cool, interesting, or fun.  If the movie had been made a few years ago, it might be called Bill & Ted’s Phat Adventure or Bill & Ted’s YOLO Adventure or something similar.

I like the word excellent or excellence.  Here’s how Wikipedia defines excellence:

Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance as measured e.g. through economic indicators.

Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front-runner in terms of products / services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target.

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes planning.  It requires repeated action.  And excellence means constant analysis and adjustment along the way.

I want to be known for going about life with excellence.  Despite this desire, there are several things preventing me from achieving excellence.

9 Things Holding You Back from Excellence

  1. Lack of focus – Excellence is impossible when our mind is concentrating on too many things at the same time.  I want to be an excellent husband, an excellent father, an excellent son, an excellent brother, an excellent grandson, an excellent friend, an excellent employee, an excellent boss, an excellent writer, an excellent speaker, an excellent coach, an excellent runner, an excellent driver, an excellent brewer, an excellent landscaper, an excellent reader, an excellent conference attendee, an excellent mastermind member, an excellent mastermind facilitator, an excellent Toastmaster, an excellent Toastmaster Area Director, an excellent missionary to Guatemala, an excellent leader, an excellent saxophonist, an excellent small group leader, an excellent youth volunteer, an excellent community volunteer, an excellent Eagles and Bears fan, an excellent Phillies and Cubs fan, an excellent Survivor fan, an excellent Amazing Race fan, and the list goes on and on and on.  Things things are great, but it’s hard to be excellent when I’m not focused.
  2. Lack of energy – Excellence is challenging when we lack energy.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by getting up at 4AM and going to bed at 11PM every day.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by working every day without rest.  In reality, my ability to successfully pursue excellence declines as I fail to recharge my battery by getting enough sleep and taking a break from time to time.
  3. Lack of time – Excellence won’t happen if we don’t have time for it.  I fill my calendar with activities, meetings, and “commitments” leaving little time for actions which will lead to excellence.
  4. Lack of clarity – Many fail to achieve true excellence in their lives, because they lack purpose, passion, direction, and overall clarity.  If you don’t know where you’re going, you will get their every time.  Too many of us go through life doing what others tell us to do instead of figuring out what we were meant to do.  We chase after things that don’t matter, because we don’t know the difference between “doing good things” and “doing the right things.”
  5. Lack of appropriate input – Excellence may never happen if we don’t get the right input in our lives.  If I want to become an excellent saxophone player, it won’t happen without the right instruction.  I won’t become excellent at playing the saxophone by taking lessons from a beginner drummer who has never even seen a saxophone.  And listening to podcasts about leadership will do little to help me improve when it comes to playing the saxophone.
  6. Lack of appropriate skill development – Excellence doesn’t happen with practice and intentional skill development.  Chances of becoming an excellent public speaker can be improved by listening to polished, professional public speakers, but I won’t become excellent at public speaking unless I work on my speaking skills by practicing, getting feedback, correcting my mistakes, and doing it again and again.
  7. Lack of planning – Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  I will fail to become an excellent marathon runner without a plan.  I’ll fail to write an excellent book without an idea, an outline, and a plan to get to the final product.  It’s nearly impossible to achieve excellence without intention.
  8. Lack of action – Excellence won’t happen by sitting on the couch.  If I want to run a 5K, I have to get off the couch and run.  If I want to write a book, I have to open my laptop and write.  If I want to dunk a basketball, I have to jump.  Excellence won’t come to us.  We have to go get it!
  9. Lack of repetition – Excellence isn’t a one time event.  Excellence requires repetition.  If I want to write a book, I have to write every day.  If I want to become an excellent husband, I have to work on it every year, every week, and every day.  Too many people miss out on excellence, because they give up after the first attempt.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

Come back tomorrow for thoughts on how you and I can make excellence a reality in our lives.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

What’s holding you back from achieving excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

THE LITTLE BOOK OF PERSONAL GROWTH (BY DAN BLACK)

Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.

John C. Maxwell

When I was a child, my parents measured my growth by marking my height on the door frame of one of the rooms in our house.  I could see growth happening, because my mark kept getting higher on the wall.  I eventually passed my mother.  Then I passed my father.  And eventually, my mark on the wall was over 6’5″ above the floor.

When it comes to my height, I stopped growing many years ago.  But this doesn’t mean I stopped growing.  I still pride myself on my appetite for personal growth.  I read books.  I listen to podcasts.  I watch educational videos.  And I hang out with smart people.  I participate in these activities to make sure I keep growing.

Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident.  If you want to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say), you have to be intentional.

Today, I’m excited to announce the release of Dan Black’s new eBook, The Little Book of Personal Growth.

In the short book, Dan unpacks the meaning of personal growth, and he provides a road map for helping readers create their own plan for personal growth.  The book outlines the five stages of personal growth.  Then Dan unveils the ten core benefits of engaging in regular personal growth.  He discusses the components necessary for personal growth.

Dan does a great job recognizing that we have different learning styles.  He describes nine methods readers can use for their own personal growth.  And finally, he walks readers through a simple step-by-step process for developing a personal growth plan that will take you to higher heights on your personal growth chart.

If you are looking for a power-packed, concise read that will push you higher on your personal height chart, you should check out The Little Book of Personal Growth.  Click here to get your copy.

How tall are you?  What are you doing to help yourself grow?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

(Please note:  I received a preview copy of The Little Book of Personal Growth for free as a gift from Dan Black in exchange for my pre-purchase of his new eBook and for my agreement to participate on his launch team for this book.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life and your personal growth.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The Little Book of Personal Growth by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

5 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUTLEADERSHIP WHEN THE DRESS CODE CHANGED

I was shocked last week when my boss forwarded an email to me from our area manager indicating that the dress code for managers and salespeople in our area was being relaxed for the summer months (June 1st thru September 30th).  I am no longer required to wear a tie Monday thru Thursday during this time period.  In his memo, our area manager stated that he had reconsidered his long-held stance on more formal attire after reviewing the acceptable social norms in the industry.

Ties have been a requirement for managers and salespeople for years, and I honestly did not expect this news.

Thanks to my area manager’s memo, I learned somethings about leadership:

5 Things I Learned About Leadership When The Dress Code Changed

  1. Leaders requires flexibility.  Our area manager could have kept things the way they have always been.  Instead, he adapted.  Flexibility in leadership keeps your business headed in the right direction especially when business currents change directions.  Don’t get so stuck in your ways that you miss opportunities to take your organization to a better place.
  2. Leaders lead best when they give and take.  Our area manager gave into a long-standing “tradition”.  In return, he got more respect from his team.  There are trade-offs in business when it comes to leadership.  If you want to take your leadership to the next level, learn to make these trade-offs.
  3. Leaders must be aware.  Our area manager was paying attention to the industry, and he noticed that ties were no longer the norm during the summer.  If you want to be a great leader, pay attention to what is going on around you.  Visit your customers.  Watch your competitors.  Learn.  And learn some more.
  4. Leaders understand how the little things matter.  A tie is a little piece of fabric that hangs around ones neck.  It’s a simple thing, but it meant so much to many of the employees impacted by the simple change to the dress code policy.  If you want to become a better leader, find ways to impact your employees through simple actions.
  5. Leaders listen.  Employees have been asking for a relaxation of the dress code during the summer for a few years, and our area manager listened.  If you want to improve your leadership, take time to listen to your team.

While my ties will miss getting out of the closet the next few months, I’m happy to give my neck a break.

What’s the dress code at your place of employment?  What changes would you like to see in the dress code?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

ONE WAY TO BECOME A BETTER COACH FOR YOUR TEAM

A month ago, I attended the Foundation Leadership Program with 22 other colleagues from North and South America.  (To read more about my experience, click here.)  It was the best week I’ve had in my 20+ years with the company.  One of my biggest takeaways from the experience relates to how I coach others.

Coaching others isn’t about giving the answers.

Coaching is about helping others discover the answers for themselves.

I’m a fixer, so I naturally want to dive in and figure out the exact steps necessary to overcome a challenge.  Here’s the problem:  Our team members don’t need a fixer.  They don’t need someone else to do the work for them.  They don’t need someone to do the thinking for them.  When we as leaders jump in to fix things, we take away valuable opportunities for our team members to think for themselves and to take action.

As leaders, we need to give our team members the opportunity to learn, to think, to take action, to succeed, and to fail.

To effectively coach our team members, we should use the GROW Model for handling the discussions with our team members.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the GROW Model:

The GROW model (or process) is a simple method for goal setting and problem solving. It was developed in the United Kingdom and was used extensively in corporate coaching in the late 1980s and 1990s.

There have been many claims to authorship of GROW as a way of achieving goals and solving problems. While no one person can be clearly identified as the originator, Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore all made significant contributions.  Max Landsberg also describes GROW in his book The Tao of Coaching.  Other similar models include collaborative helping maps in family therapy and Gabriele Oettingen‘s WOOP model.

This is what I learned in my leadership program:

  • G stands for Goal.  When coaching your team members start with the goal.  The goal may change as the discussion moves along, but it is the starting point for your coaching discussion.
  • R stands for Roadblocks.  It’s helpful to identify the things that are standing in the way of achieving your goal.
  • O stands for Options.  What options does one have to overcome the roadblocks that stand in the way of achieving the goal?  When discussing the options, it may become obvious that the goal needs to be re-calibrated.  When the goal shifts, we have to go back and look at the roadblocks standing in the way of achieving the new goal.
  • W stands for Will.  Is your team members willing to take action on the identified options?  If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to the drawing board (or end the discussion).  If the answer is yes, the discussion transitions into action.

Who are you leading?  Maybe you are leading in your business or place of employment.  Maybe you are leading in your community.  Or maybe you are leading in your home.

Whatever the case may be, it’s time for you to help your team members GROW (or STRETCH as I like to say).  Learn to become a better coach, and discover a path to greater success among those you lead.

What methods have you used to help your team members tackle their problems?  What step(s) do you need to take TODAY to help your team members?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re looking for more ways to STRETCH yourself, sign up TODAY for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge:

KNOW YOURSELF

Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

Ann Landers

How well do you know yourself?

You have lived with yourself your entire life.  You should have a pretty good idea of who you are and what makes you tick.

In reality, many of us don’t really know all that much about ourselves.  We look in the mirror to make sure our hair is styled nicely and our face is clear of any major blemishes, but we too often fail to look deeper.

Getting to know ourselves takes time, energy, and perhaps some expert advice.

Two weeks ago, while I was in Chicago for a leadership development program, we spent the better part of a day getting to know ourselves better.  Before we can lead others well, we must learn to lead ourselves.  And self leadership starts with self discovery.  As part of this process, each of the participants in the program had to take the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index).  I’ve taken this assessment before, so it was not a surprise to me that my results showed I am an ESTJ.  I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert.  I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition.  I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler.  And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.

Here’s what the report had to say about me:

ESTJ Snapshot
ESTJs are logical, analytical, decisive and tough-minded individuals who use
concrete facts in systematic ways. They enjoy working with others to organise
the details and operations well in advance to get the job done. Although the
descriptors below generally describe ESTJs, some may not fit you exactly due to
individual differences within each type.

Decisive
Direct
Efficient
Gregarious
Logical
Objective
Organised
Practical
Responsible
Structured
Systematic
Task-focused

My MBTI results report had a lot more to say about who I am, how I tend to behave, and how I may need to adapt to potential pitfalls in my behavioral preferences.  I learned a lot as a result of going through this assessment.

A couple of months ago, I did the Strengthsfinder 2.0 self assessment which helped me see my top five strengthsHarmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer.  My friend, Rusty Pang, recently helped me see how these strengths help to describe who I am:

“When I interpret your strengthfinders results in your personality, I see a consistent, reliable person who is a studied peacekeeper. You don’t like it when two or more people are in conflict, so you rely on your training and knowledge to fix the problem directly or create a system to promote cooperation.

Rusty’s feedback was right on.  I am completely stressed out by conflict.  I want people to get along, and I want to find ways to bring resolution to situations where people don’t get along or don’t see eye to eye.  When I can’t make this happen, I become restless, I lose my appetite, and I struggle to sleep well.

Learning more about yourself is more than taking a self assessment test, but this kind of tool can start you down the right path.  Here’s a list of a few self assessments, you may want to try to learn more about yourself:

  1. MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index) – To take the assessment for FREE, click here.
  2. DISC Profile – To take the DISC personality test for FREE, click here.
  3. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – To take this assessment, you have to purchase the book to get the code required to access the test.  Click here to get the book.

Once you have the results from these types of assessments, it’s extremely valuable to sit down with a coach or expert who can help you interpret the results to get the most of your self learning.  Here are a few people I recommend you check out if you are looking for assistance in interpreting your results.  They can help you learn more about yourself:

  1. Rusty Pang  In his own words:  I’m a big believer in people and systems. Over the years, I have developed a system to identify, understand and empower individuals to be their best selves. Entrepurpose is how I’ve scaled the belief that everyone can know and live their purposes.”
  2. Chris LoCurto  From Chris’ LinkedIn profile:  “For over a decade my goal has been helping people and businesses to become the strongest and most effective they possibly can. I work with entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals focusing on business, leadership, teams, personality styles, and life.”
  3. Lily Kreitinger  From Lily’s site:  “As a Certified LifePlan Facilitator I help individuals grow and thrive by following a tried and true discovery process to the life they were meant to live.”

Once you learn more about you, you’ll be in a better position to lead yourself and others.  What’s stopping you?

Have you taken any of these assessments?  What were the results?  What other suggestions do you have for getting to know yourself better?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A FULL HEAD, HEART, AND BELLY

My head is full.  My heart is very full.  And my belly is pretty full too.  This is how I feel after an intense week of leadership development.

Last week, I spent my time at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL (just outside of Chicago) with 22 other Siemens leaders from around the world.  It was such an honor to be included with such wonderful company.  My peers came from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and we gathered for an exclusive leadership development course.

It will take a while for me to fully digest my experience, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:

  1. Teamwork can take you far.  As part of the experience, I was put on a team with five other participants.  We had the opportunity to work together on several assignments throughout the week, and I’m happy to say we were successful because we learned how to work together making the most of the different talents and skills we each brought with us.
  2. Being present is essential to get the most of our experiences and conversations.  We spent a lot of time learning to listen, learning to be assertive, and learning to coach.  These things are not effective if we are not fully engaged with others.
  3. Not everyone has my behavioral preferences and personality tendencies.  I must learn to be aware of how others recharge and respond to situations.  I must also learn to adapt my behaviors to lead more effectively.
  4. Getting feedback from others is crucial to helping me grow.  Before I left, I had several people from my office give me feedback through a 360 degree feedback survey.  I also received feedback from my teammates throughout the week.  Receiving feedback from others isn’t always easy.  It requires humility, open ears, and a willingness to analyze, adapt, and accept.  The feedback I received was encouraging and eye-opening.  It provided an opportunity to look in the mirror and discover more about me.
  5. Transparency opens the door to team growth.  Within a few hours, my team shared aspects of our past that influenced our leadership and life up until this week.  The stories shared led to more stories.  The stories bonded us together in a way I hadn’t expected.  By the end of the week, I not only had a team of colleagues – I had a team of friends and personal cheerleaders.  I now have people in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States who I grew close to me.  I know I’ll be able to connect with them when I have a leadership issue I need to navigate.
  6. My leadership will only get better when I let others lead.  I have a natural tendency to take on more than I should.  I fail to delegate and to pass off leadership to my team, because I want to make sure things are accomplished at my standard.  If I don’t let others lead, I’m doing a disservice to them, to me, and to my company.  As I head back to work today, I’ll be looking for ways to let others lead.
  7. I’m excited for the future of my company.  In my 20+ years with the company, I have never experienced this type of training.  I had the chance to rub shoulders with the up and coming leaders in the company, and they have so many great ideas which will propel our company forward into the future.

These thoughts only brush the surface of my experience last week.  I left the week exhausted.  I’ve spent a lot of time in silence since I left the resort on Friday afternoon.  My head is full with ideas and questions related to how I will implement my learnings.

My heart is full, because I had the opportunity to dive fairly deep into the lives of several new friends.  The coaches along with my colleagues left me feeling valued and accepted.

My belly is full, because they kept feeding us.  Thankfully, I hit the fitness center four of the five mornings I was at the resort.  This week I will get back into a more healthy and normal routine.

If you want to STRETCH your leadership, you need to invest your time and energy (and maybe some money) into yourself.  This week was all about making that investment, and I’m so excited to move ahead with the new tools in my tool belt.

When was the last time you invested in yourself?  How did you STRETCH as a result of this experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.