Why 75 Is The Single Most Important Number You Will Ever Need To Lead

What?

75%?

I have been in the leadership business for over 40 years and have worked with thousands of leaders, and I have found people consistently struggle with the same three things:

Time;

Making Decisions; and,

Energy.

 Well, Ladies and gentlemen -Drum roll-  here for your leadership pleasure is the 75% solution:

Time:

A great friend of mine, Hugh Culver, used to speak a lot about time management. The first time I met Hugh, he gave me productivity advice that I started using immediately following the workshop and still use to this day.

 Hugh made the point that, as leaders, we should not schedule more than 75% of the available time in our calendars.

 If you jam your calendar full of back-to-back appointments, you will never have time to deal with all of the things that you need to do, from the inevitable emergency to walking around talking and checking in with team members to going to the bathroom.

 read more about time & millennials

Decisions:

One of my all-time favourite leaders is General Norman Schwarzkopf. He is best known as the Commander of all the Coalition Forces during the 1st Gulf War, and he said that the quality of your decisions would not increase beyond knowing 75% of the available information.

 His point is that at a certain point, you have all the information you need to make a good decision. Trying to gather more information will seldom improve that decision. In common parlance, avoid analysis paralysis.

Learn about making good decisions.

 Energy

Have you ever pushed yourself to your maximum discomfort and physical ability threshold?

Once you hit that threshold when your mind believes you are done, your body only uses 75% of your energy.

Special Forces soldiers know that when you think you are done, your body can still do 25%—40% more. Humans are evolutionarily designed to have energy in reserve, so when you are trying to run down a mammoth or escape a sabre-tooth tiger, you feel you have nothing left to give. You still have a reserve, hopefully enough to either escape or bring dinner home.

Learn More about Sabre-tooth Tigers

3 Things You Need To Do So Your First 90-days Aren’t Your Last Days

So you have been hired as a CEO or other senior role.

First, you must understand that your job is to achieve the organization’s strategic goals.

As the person holding that position, you must demonstrate superior management skills and leadership expertise to connect all facets of the organization to the mission through open, honest and transparent communication.

First 90:

I am not a massive fan of the 90-day plan, but you better understand what you will do today when you show up for that first day of work.

Here is the focus of the first 90 days of your tenure will be to establish a solid base from which you can achieve your strategic goals by gathering information and setting a solid leadership tone:

1. Before Day One: The first step is to get over yourself and commit to the organization you have chosen to lead. It would be best if you devoted time to becoming familiar with the organization and its situation through informal meetings with the Board Chair and Executive Committee.

2. People: Attend to the fundamental “people processes” and leadership basics of getting to know your new team and identify items requiring immediate attention or ongoing legal issues. After confirming that these have been adequately addressed, turn your attention to team evaluation, its performance and team building.

3. Your Boss’s Priorities: Your most important relationship is with your boss. Review recent business and reports, the status of the strategic objectives and most importantly, establish parameters of your authority.

Read about Partnering with your boss.

How:

  1. Listening: Talk with (and listen to) everyone, starting at the top and working down through the organizational hierarchy. These conversations will build credibility and relationships with key individuals, staff, and stakeholders.

Read about using silence to listen better.

2. Assessing the Staff team: This includes evaluating the team members and organizational structure relative to meeting our goals. It would involve time with team members to understand their history, focus, roles, and what is on their minds.

Do not feel compelled to resolve structural problems within 90 days, but assess the issues. Your new staff team may be fragile and would naturally be worried about a new Boss. Be on the lookout for team members who may require careful attention or those who are, perhaps, no longer fully committed and consider performance management plans as needed.

Priorities:

  • Easy Wins: Addressing the easy, noncontroversial activities, which can be fixed quickly and successfully, will make an essential statement about trust and leadership.
  • Get Out: Interacting with colleagues and stakeholders will increase your credibility but not neglect the business.
  • Communicate: Change is difficult. So, for even the most minor changes, consider a change management plan that would clearly and consistently communicate the change to those impacted, including those who may have only minor interest.
  • Set the Stage: People will oversee your activities; perceptions are essential. To those watching, time spent on an activity will signal its importance and set an example of work ethic.

 

Develop the Long Plan

As you do what I suggest, share your findings and thoughts with the Board as a sounding board and to receive advice and guidance.

As you close in on the 90-day mark, develop a strategy and craft your plan to lead and achieve our strategic goals and results.

Food Glorious Food – The Most Underrated Of All Leadership Tools

With the holidays over, I find myself thinking about food.

Family Dinners.

Staff parties.

And the many times that food contributed to my success as a Leader.

Leaders Eat Last

This phrase was recently made famous as a Simon Sinek book title.

But it isn’t a new concept; leaders eating last has been the standard of victorious armies for eons.

It is when the most senior leaders of a unit only eat when all privates and corporals have eaten.

Leaders eating last accomplishes two crucial leadership functions:

  1. It is a physical expression of servant leadership. Leaders care that the troops have eaten.
  2. It allows the leader to test and correct the supply chain. Is the food hot, healthy and is there enough?

It would be best to understand there is a problem than your company’s lowest paid or ranking person does.

 

The Soldier’s Christmas Dinner

The Soldier’s Christmas Dinner is a tradition where the soldiers are given the day off from their duties.

This is possible because the officers and sergeants cover their duties and serve dinner.

It goes back thousands of years and is still in practice today.

It is a simple, thoughtful thank you and an appreciation for past and future service.

It recognizes that there would be no need for officers and sergeants without soldiers.

Final Thoughts For The Holidays

Share a meal with your team.

Give your people as much time off as possible over the holidays.

But inevitably, someone will still have to work … so call or visit each office between Christmas and New Year’s to tell those working that you appreciate their duty & service and wish them the best.

This season, be thankful for your people.

You have a job because they are good at theirs.

10 Solutions To Stop Good Objectives From Going Bad

So many objectives – so many failures

That’s the refrain of leaders everywhere.

The business objectives they need to meet to be successful in their jobs are taking longer than planned, costing more than budgeted or failing outright.

Why do good objectives go bad?

My clients say the ten most common mistakes that cause their good objectives to go wrong – and the coaching solutions I helped them with to solve these costly problems.

Mistake No. 1: Not Assigning the Right Manager. Typically, more time is spent fighting for resources than finding the right person to lead. Too often, managers get picked based on availability, not necessarily skill set. This is a severe mistake as more projects failed because of the wrong manager than could ever be blamed for lack of resources.

Solution: Choose a manager whose skills best match the requirements of your objectives.

Mistake No. 2: Failing to Get Everyone On Board. Too often, objectives fail because they don’t get enough support from those affected by and involved in the project. Usually, the manager:

  1. It didn’t make clear what everyone’s role was.
  2. It didn’t describe the payoff when the objective was achieved.
  3. It didn’t tell how each person’s contributions would be evaluated.
  4. Failed to generate a sense of urgency.

Solution: The project manager should start by calling the team together and delivering a presentation about the objective and its importance to the broader organization.

Read More: How to Communicate

Mistake No. 3: Not Getting Executive Buy-in.

Solution: A ship without a captain soon runs aground. Somebody at the higher levels of the organization needs to own the objective and be personally vested in its success.

If the objective isn’t crucial to your boss, ask yourself why it should be meaningful.

Mistake No. 4: Putting Too Many Objectives on the table at One time. Most managers think that they can start and work on every objective at the same time. In reality, multitasking slows people down, hurts quality and, worst of all, the delays caused by multitasking cascade and multiply through the organization as people further down the line wait for others.

Solution: A good first step to stop productivity losses is to reduce the objectives you are working on by 25 percent. Though counter-intuitive, reducing the number of open projects increases completion rates.”

Read more about priorities.

Mistake No. 5: Lack of (Regular) Communication. Communication is the most crucial factor of successful objectives; without regularly communicating, the project will fall apart.”

Solution: Schedule time each week to review progress and stick with it. Regularly scheduled meetings and communications processes help to keep everyone on the same page and work flowing.

Mistake No. 6: Not Being Specific with the Scope of the Objective. Any objective that doesn’t have a clear goal is doomed. Mission creep is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your project. If not handled properly, it can lead to cost and time overrun.

Solution: Define the scope of your project from the outset and monitor the project by continually asking if our work is contributing to the objective’s success.

Mistake No. 7: Providing Overly Optimistic Timelines. The intentions are noble, but missing deadline after deadline will only lead to distrust and aggravation.

Solution: Add a buffer — some extra time and money to your project.

Mistake No. 8: Not Being Flexible. While you may think of your plan as the bible that leads you to your goal, listen to new information and suggestions that come up along the way.

Solution: Step back and take a fresh look at the overall project, review how things have gone so far, and how you can improve.

Mistake No. 9: Micromanaging Projects. New managers commonly treat their job as an enforcer, policing the team for progress and updates.

Solution: Set expectations from the start that there will be regularly scheduled updates to advise the status and progress expected and encourage them to vocalize any issues.

Read more about micromanagement.

Mistake No. 10: Not Having Defined Success.

Solution: The first thing a manager should do is to ensure what will be considered a successful completion of the objective. Understanding what success looks like ensures everyone walks away satisfied at the end.

Can You Name the 9 Essential Qualities of a Leader?

There are many schools of thought about the role of a leader. What are the essential qualities of a leader? What are the must-haves?

Well, I have three distinct opinions.

What makes a great leader?

  1. A leader taps into their team’s talents to achieve results.
  2. A leader’s role is not to engage their team but to achieve their mission by motivating and inspiring their people.
  3. A leader does not run a country club; they lead people to achieve something more significant than they could ever achieve as individuals.

The essential qualities of a leader

We also know that each leader should have a mission. Often, there are overlapping qualities between leaders in any industry and for all kinds of teams. For example, their mission is to create a cohesive, effective team in almost every case. Their mission could be to inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in their team.

But one thing is for sure, regardless of the exact details of their mission, there are certain qualities a leader must have to achieve them.

Here are the nine qualities of a leader they must tap into to lead effectively and in line with their goals.

Be Creative

Leaders must be creative and unafraid to take creative risks. Creativity allows competency to move to excellence. It is the spark that captures peoples’ attention and builds a cohesive whole.

Know the Structure

Leaders know and understand the structure of their organization. But they also know when to move beyond the boundaries of these structures. While we all work within parameters and limitations, a great leader knows not to let structure slow the process. Knowing the structure enables you to guide others to work within it effectively.

Use Your Intuition

Intuition is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. And emotional intelligence is one of the cornerstone qualities of a leader. Use your insight to sense what others are feeling and thinking so you can respond to them with understanding.

(We discuss more why emotional intelligence is critical to becoming a better leader in this post.)

Be Committed

A leader is committed to success. One of the qualities of a leader who leads effectively is that they can articulate that vision to the team. Then, they can also move and inspire the team toward the goal.

Be Human

Employees value humble and selfless leaders who don’t hide behind authority. The best leaders are those who aren’t afraid to be themselves. They respect and connect with others and inspire loyalty.

Be Versatile

Flexibility is the ability to be not overly attached to how things are ‘supposed to be’ and allows you to respond to events that will inevitably come up.

Have Fun

A light touch and a laugh balance out the seriousness of the task at hand and the team’s resolve and contribute to results and retention. When appropriate, levity can go a long way to energize your team members and promote a positive team environment.

Discipline

Discipline is the ability to choose what one pays attention to and consistently model leadership. It’s one of the qualities of a leader that, by demonstrating, they can also inspire in their team.

Focus

Do not take your eye off your objectives … a leader achieves results!

(On the topic of results, take a look at this post next: The Last Thing You Need Is Another Leadership TED Talk: 3 Tactics That Leads To Action & Results)

Develop these qualities of a leader in yourself.

When you read through this list, chances are you mentally checked off some items. Maybe discipline and focus are two of your strong suits as a leader. But chances are, there are also some qualities of a leader you would like to work on developing in yourself. In that case, we should talk. My one-on-one coaching is for new or uncertain leaders who need help finding their way forward. Please read all about how it works here.

Did you like reading about the qualities of a leader?

Here are three posts to read next:

This post was first published in 2017 but was updated in 2021, just for you.

Want To Lose Your Job … Manage Your Boss! Learn the 6 Actions To Partner With Them Instead

This article was originally published on May 17, 2018, and has been updated. 

How often have you heard “managing your boss” or “managing up?”

I don’t know who decided this would make your life easier, and there are plenty of reasons “managing your boss” isn’t the right way to go.

    1. As someone who has been the Boss, I find it quite disrespectful.
    2. Regardless of your relationship with them, there is a vast power differential tilting toward your Boss.
    3. Most employees don’t realize the relentless pressure their Boss deals with, and you are just one more pressure—get over yourself!

That might sound harsh, but hear me out.

There are ways to build a better relationship with your Boss that doesn’t involve managing them.

So, what can you do?

Partner with your Boss!

You and your Boss are involved in a dynamic alliance which calls on both of you to partner in achieving your goals.

Before we move on to ways you can be a better partner to your Boss, let’s find out how well you’re partnering right now.

How well do you partner with your Boss?

Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions:

      1. Do you and your Boss share information, stories and tasks? (Y/N)
      2. Do you feel you’re playing on the same team? (Y/N)
      3. Do you have a joint interest in the goals you are trying to achieve? (Y/N)
      4. Are you and your Boss strongly aligned in the pursual of goals? (Y/N)
      5. Do you associate comfortably in an informal setting? (Y/N)
      6. Do you know where you stand? (Y/N)
      7. Would you say you work well together? (Y/N)
      8. Do you trust your Boss? (Y/N)
      9. Does your Boss trust you? (Y/N)
      10. Would you say you are currently “partnering with your boss”? (Y/N)

Total # of “Yes” answers ____

How did you do?

8–10 “Yes” answers: You have a solid partnership with your Boss. Focus your attention on ways to improve it.

5–7 “Yes” answers: Working together could be more productive and pleasant. Focus on deficits in skills, differences in work styles or management approaches. Then find answers to help improve them.

1–4 “Yes” answers: Your partnership with your Boss needs work. Focus your attention on issues of work style, trust, skills, and ethics. You will probably want to build a plan to approach your Boss about resolving some problems together.

6 Tips for Partnering With Your Boss

If your partnership with your Boss could be improved (and let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement), you won’t want to miss these tips for partnering with your Boss.

1. Try to understand your Boss.

You need to understand your Boss and their working context:

    • Goals and objectives
    • Pressures and issues
    • Strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots
    • Preferred work style

Then, you need to do the same for yourself!

2. Don’t try to reform your Boss.

Your Boss is human with strengths and limitations, so it’s a far more productive approach to build on strengths rather than trying to remedy limitations.

3. Build on strengths.

One effective way to support your Boss is by keeping them doing what they are good at.

4. Focus strengths on things that matter.

Strengths matter, but their real value only comes when applied to the things that matter.

Start by asking, “what do they need from me to perform?”

5. Find what works.

This is not about “crawling” to the Boss.

It would be best to start with what you consider the right thing to do. Find ways to communicate these to your Boss and have them accepted.

6. Build your relationship.

Build your relationship based on regular, open communication built on trust, respect, and understanding.

When taking these steps to build a better relationship with your Boss, you will also want to deal with your frustrations about being overloaded.

How to Avoid Being Overloaded or Having Your Time Wasted

Your Boss is paying your cheque; asking you to do work shouldn’t be a surprise or considered illegitimate.

What is not legitimate is an overload or waste of your time.

If you feel it’s come to that point, here’s what to do next:

    • Tell your Boss when you are reaching the saturation point.
    • Make her aware of the consequences if she tries to overload you, “Yes, I could get that done by then, but that would delay this….”
    • Don’t say “yes” to everything your Boss asks. Negotiate!
    • Ask your Boss to prioritize when they give you a list of tasks.
    • When asked to do something, get details and, if possible, say you’ll get back to her or take a look at it.

Then:

    • Work out what the job involves.
    • Find out who else could be affected.
    • Go back with an answer, “Here’s what I can do.”

Something to remember.

Your Boss is your Boss, and you will never win in a power struggle with them. If you think you can do better: get qualified, apply for the job, and give it a shot!

But in the meantime, building a better relationship with your Boss and partnering with them instead of managing them is a great place to start.

LEARN MORE

Join the Free First Session of the Better Leader Inner Circle

and

Discover the eight tips to building a better partnership with your #1 stakeholder

… your Boss

 

 

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