Having It All Together … Right!

You probably know someone who seems to always have it together.  They are everywhere and in everything. To the naked eye they always seem to excel at everything they do.  

There is no slowing down! Is there a committee? They’re on it. Have an event that needs organizing? Ready to go! They are raising 55 children and spent quality time with each of them. Working two full-time jobs. Volunteer at the local shelter. Raising money to fight some disease. Writing a book. And have the happiest spouse in the world.

Social media amplifies this picture. Not only do we get descriptions but also vivid pictures of their perfect life, perfect children, perfect job, and idyllic state of mind.

In reality, there are parts of their lives that are neglected. That’s not a maybe, it’s a certainty. The picture we see, often filled in with our own perceptions, is a flawed photo.  I exaggerated the description above intentionally because that’s what we often do when we think about those high achieving types. We make them bigger than they are. Then we compare ourselves to them, imagining that they have everything in their perfect life while our lives are hollow shells full of meaningless events and a cesspool of problems.  It’s unfair!

The law of sacrifice cannot be violated

It’s also unreal.  The truth is that people who seem to have it together are not living perfect lives.  They may be accomplishing more than we are right now, but that’s not because they have it all together.  It’s not because they are necessarily more talented than we are; in fact, often they may be less talented.  And they have problems too, they just don’t share them around as much as some others do. THEY KNOW THAT EVERY THOUGHT THAT HITS THEIR HEAD DOESN’T HAVE TO HIT SOCIAL MEDIA!

Applying the Law

But what they really have that helps them succeed is an good understanding and effective application of the Law of Sacrifice.  As one of my mentors John Maxwell says, “You must give up to go up“.  You have to let go of some things in order to have other better things.

That’s a scary prospect for many of us and perhaps even a little depressing.  When we think about the Law of Sacrifice or giving up, we picture big things.  We can become a CEO but our family life is non-existent. If we want to make a lot of money we have to get rid of our moral compass.

Again, it’s that penchant for exaggeration.  And it’s also good old resistance helping us find reasons to not make any changes.

Simplicity in the law of Sacrifice

Even a time turner can't save you from the Law of SacrificeIn truth, the Law of Sacrifice is actually pretty simple. It’s all about priorities. Every single one of us has the same 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. Barring Hermione Granger passing down her Time Turner to us (which you can actually buy) we cannot change that restriction on our lives.

That being the case, we change what we can. If we can’t change time, we change how we invest our time. Most of what takes up our time aren’t major things, they are trivial things. Therefore, most of the sacrifices we have to make are not between two high priorities, but between a high priority and a low priority.

Giving Up Good for Better

You actually look at giving up lesser things in order to get greater things.  You sacrifice an hour of television time every day in order to read a personal growth book.  Give up a couple of free evenings each week to work on a master’s degree.  When you learn to really apply the Law of Sacrifice, what you are really doing is simply learning to

Say No to the Good So You Can Say Yes to the Best

My father excelled in the credit union business during his career.  He was President and CEO of several credit unions over the span of many years and also was a high demand consultant to credit unions nationwide for many years after that.  He was a pioneer in the industry. We have the largest ATM network in the country due to his efforts.

To get there, he had to spend long hours working. He gave up some evenings of watching TV to earn a GED and then a degree.  Yet, he was never an absentee husband or father.  He coached Drum Corps and Little League.  He was a Scoutmaster. We went on trips.  Dad was at dance recitals for my sister.  While there were sacrifices to reach the level he achieved the sacrifices were giving up lesser things to get those greater things.  He did not give up one great thing to achieve another. Was he perfect? Did he mess up the choices sometimes? Certainly. Yet he made the decision and honored the commitment.

Obey the Law and Love It

Know that you have to give up to go up. The Law of Sacrifice is alive and well and it is immutable.

Embrace that. While it sounds like you are being deprived you are actually being set free. When you apply the Law of Sacrifice and set your priorities it frees you from what isn’t a priority. When you shape your schedule around those things that are priorities, it frees you up to say no to scheduling lesser priorities.

Some laws are intended to provide liberty instead of tyranny. When you apply the Law of Sacrifice there will be hard choices to make. But the good news is that the choice is always yours.

do you have trouble finding clarity on your priorities? Not sure where to start? contact me today for a free discovery strategy session.

This Multitasking Leader Comes to a Screeching Halt

About few years ago, my son and I were driving home from a Boy Scout meeting.  We turned through an intersection and proceeded a few hundred yards forward when I looked down to change the radio station.  At the same time, the car in front of me decided suddenly that they wanted to turn right into a parking lot and hit their brakes.  Lots of noise later, they have a beat up rear-end and my car is totaled.  Thankfully, no one was hurt. 

A Do Everything World

woman trying to multitask with two phonesWe all do it.  Folding laundry and watching TV.  Driving and changing the radio station.  Texting on your smartphone while talking to an employee.  Sitting in a meeting and sending an email.  Trying to do more than one thing at the same time because we don’t think there are enough hours in the day.  It’s called Multitasking and it is the biggest time waster of all!

Wait“, you might say, “multitasking is a critical part of functioning in work and life today!  How can you say that it is a time waster?

Because it is. The evidence is mounting and irrefutable.

And you need to stop.

The Overwhelming Case Against Multitasking

A multitasking leader may argue that multitasking is essential. You think you need to be able to do multiple things at once to get everything done. Too many hours per day are already spent at work, so you may believe that if you don’t multitask that you will spend even more time and get few things done.

But numerous research studies suggest that actually the opposite is true. It is BECAUSE you are multitasking that you aren’t getting things done! Here are some of the more recent studies and the conclusions they have made about why multitasking is detrimental.

  • You are MORE EASILY DISTRACTED. (Stanford Study)
  • Your MEMORY GETS WORSE. (same as above)
  • You become more ANXIOUS AND DEPRESSED (Plos One)
  • It actually makes you LESS EFFICIENT AND LOWERS PRODUCTIVITY (JOEP Vol. 27 Issue 4)
  • Evidence shows more mistakes are made when multitasking instead of focused work.

Your Bad Multitasking Self

The idea is that if we are multitasking then we are working on multiple things at the same time, juggling everything and keeping things going.  

But that’s not what happens.  In most cases what happens is it simply means that you are doing multiple things badly.

It doesn’t help that multitasking is encouraged by many employers today.  First, many companies advertise jobs where they specifically state in the job requirements that they want someone who can effectively multitask.  I guess my question is, how exactly do they measure that?  

Secondly, with layoffs and streamlining, employers tell the survivors they must learn to do more with less, which unfortunately includes less staff.  But not less work.  While they don’t explicitly say it, they expect you to pick up all the slack and still do it within the same time frames.  So your choices at either to put in twice as much time or “multitask”.

You are not Multitasking

multitasking in WindowsFurther, understand that what you are doing is not actually multitasking.  

It is actually just task-switching.  

What it reminds me of is the Microsoft Windows operating system on computers.  Early versions of Windows offered a way to jump between tasks. You could still only run one thing at a time, but you could jump between applications.  That was called task-switching. It wasn’t until later versions where Windows would allow you to actually run multiple applications at the same time.  

What we do when we allegedly multitask is the first one – we are simply task-switching.  Problem is, we aren’t a computer with an operating system designed to do that, so we have a lot more trouble than Windows did jumping from one task to another.  And that’s saying something.

Proof that multitasking takes longer

We are actually designed to focus on one thing at a time.  Again, lots of research to support this.  Health Magazine cites a 2013 University of Utah study that found the better you thought you were at multitasking, the worse you actually were.

However, you may believe you are an excellent multitasking leader. As I have presented this information to groups in the past, there many in the crowd who, despite the overwhelming evidence, maintain that they are an excellent multitasker.

Let’s put that to the test

This test is derived from Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking

Part 1

  1. multitasking leader test part 1Get out a sheet of paper and lay it down so it is wider than it is high (landscape style).
  2. Draw four lines across the paper. 
  3. Get someone to time you on this. On the first line write “multitasking is a thief“. On the second line write the numbers 1-21. Record the time it took you to do both tasks one after the other. It should be about 30 seconds or less.

Part 2

  1. multitasking leader test part 2On the next two lines you will do the same thing, again being timed. 
  2. This time, you will write a letter on line 3 and then a number on line 4, then back to line 3 and another letter and then a number on line 4.
  3. Do this until done. Record your time.

You should find that A) it took you much longer, B) you likely made a mistake, and C) it was more stressful.

The Conclusion

In summary, you suck at multitasking.  

And so do I and so does everyone else.

So, if you were doing something else while you were reading this, stop.

Now leave your comments and thoughts.

Okay, now you’re done.  Go back to that other thing.


What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Do you really need to be sold on the importance of communication in the workplace (or anywhere for that matter)?

poor communication leads to the dinosaurs missing the ark with the quote "Oh my God, was that today?"This is one of my areas of passion. My degree is in Organizational Communications and it included an intensive study of a real organization to observe and comment on its communication practices.

No matter the organization there were two things I see in common in regards to communication.

  • One is that we tend to think our organization is great at communication.
  • The other is that we think that until we discover it’s not. We discover it either through a Communications Audit or through trials we experience because communication breaks down.

And it will break down. Trying to stay lean and agile while also fostering growth inevitably leads to breakdowns in communication. We must know where the breakdown occurs and why in order to fix it.

Why Communication Breaks Down.

1.We Think Our Communication is Totally Clear

You, me, everyone of us approach any situation from our own personal point of view. When we are communicating with others, what comes out is not just words. It is also background and knowledge, experiences, and viewpoints. So we talk with words and phrases and sometimes even abbreviations and acronyms that make perfect sense to us but are meaningless to others.

“I don’t know why you don’t get it, I’m made it as clear as can be!”

Been there, done that. Probably you have too. I’ve been on the other side of that too.

Think about how to express the thoughts without the use of jargon. Also think about how your point of view translates to others.

2. Making Assumptions

Along the same lines as clarity is making assumptions.

We assume they understand.

Or that they have the same knowledge set we have.

We may even assume that the other person or people have a certain mindset. I know I have spoken before groups where I made the dangerous assumption that they would be antagonistic. The opposite turned out to be true.

Check your assumptions before initiating conversation. Better yet, ask questions that help clarify or eliminate assumptions you have made.

3. Taking Too Long to Communicate Our Message

You ever get directions from someone who over-explains? They just kind of ramble on and on; usually providing side stories and details and minutiae. It can be hard sometimes to remember or understand the main point of the communication.

Why do people over-explain?

Strangely, I couldn’t find a lot of scientific research on this. I’m sure it’s there, I just didn’t find it. However, I did find plenty of insight on some possible reasons.

  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling Misunderstood
  • Lying

Another strong reason is that many people feel uncomfortable with silence. So when there is a period of silence they feel they must fill the gap and so they talk even more.  Good negotiators know this and often use it as a tactic – the rule is generally the last person to talk loses.

Become your own talented negotiator and seek for win-win communication. Be brief and to the point.

Then shut-up and let them ask for more. If they don’t, they are likely satisfied with the answer. If they do, you get the chance to provide more information for better understanding. Win-win.

4. Not Taking Long Enough

The flip side of taking too long is when we don’t give enough information. This can sometimes be a sign of deception but more often than not it is a sign of what I call “auto-complete”.

We sometimes get a thought process going in our heads that we then start putting in audible words. What happens is that the thoughts in our head complete and our mouth can’t keep up. The result of auto-complete is that the conclusion and sometimes entire thoughts get lost. We THINK we were complete and we were, but only in our minds.

If you have a tendency towards this one way to combat is to ask your audience to confirm their understanding. More specifically, ask where they got lost. That allows you to go back and complete out loud what you completed in your head.

5. Rapid Growth

When an organization experiences a high rate of growth in a short period of time, often effective communication channels become the victim. Usually they weren’t communicating that well to begin with but when you are small it doesn’t seem to matter as much. As growth occurs and more people are thrown in the mix, the lack of designed communication systems becomes glaringly obvious. Conflict abounds, productivity slows, sales get lost, and chaos ensues.

The best fix for this is prevention. At the first signs of growth, be intentional about implementing formal communication systems. I’m not talking about a phone system, I’m talking about making sure there are practices in place to ensure that information is getting shared with the right people. Have a plan yet also be prepared to modify it often.

If you wait until it actually becomes a problem, then you end up having to bring in someone like me to help you repair it. Like everything else, fixing is more expensive than prevention.

6. Emotions

Our communication needs – in fact it must have – emotional content. Emotions provide meaning and emphasis to what would otherwise be just words.

The danger of emotions is when we let them get away from us. Either we are so passionate about our message that we get over-excited or more commonly we allow someone else’s words to emotionally charge us.

Actor and Martial Artist Bruce Lee addressed this while instructing a young student in the movie Enter the Dragon.  He tells the student to perform a kick and then criticizes his lack of emotional content. When the student, upset at the criticism, tries again, Bruce chides him that emotional content and anger are not the same thing.

We need emotion to create connection. The wrong emotion or too much emotion prevents connection.

If you are the speaker, make sure your emotion matches the meaning. If you are the listener, try to keep yourself from reacting emotionally at least until you are sure the message is complete. Carefully consider the point before you emotionally react to it.

7. Ego

ego gets in the way of effective communicationPeople who need power will use information as a power source. The purpose of poor communication or a lack of communication is intentional then in order to keep it to themselves. He who has more information than others holds the power is the belief.

There is also a certain ego boost in being the one “in the know”. Obviously, you are revered if you know more than everyone else, right? Right?!

Ken Blanchard says that when people get caught up in their ego it erodes their effectiveness. The combination of false pride and self-doubt gives a person a distorted image of themselves. The result is a very self-centered and self-driven world where you are simply a tool to reach their purpose.

To communicate with the ego-driven person, focus on providing facts. Offer solutions, Give alternatives. Offer cooperation or invite participation. Avoid anything that would seem like a personal attack or assigning blame. Give appropriate compliments. That will help keep the ego-driven person from reacting emotionally.

If you are on the receiving end of communication from the ego, focus on the facts of what they are saying. Ask questions. Don’t allow the strong emotional content to overwhelm you. Try to get specific action items and make sure they are fully understood.

8. Insecurity

Similar to ego, when a person harbors insecurities they tend to communicate less. Either they are not sure of themselves, not sure of the message, or both. Not sharing the message is highly preferable to sharing the message and risk the threat of being criticized or reprimanded.

Reinforce that you value them and the information they have. Ask for their opinion and more importantly thank them for sharing the information. The idea here is to make sharing information more rewarding than the perceived threat.

9. Inconsistent Message

We can be as guilty of this as well as be the victim of this. This is especially a critical point for leaders. Your message must be consistent.

Want buy in to your vision? Communicate it consistently and constantly.

Looking to encourage the team to a performance goal? Measure and report it consistently.

That means you need to be sure of what that message is. If you don’t know, neither will they. This is primarily where this becomes a problem. When a leader is not really sure of what the vision is or where the goal should be, it’s tough to communicate that consistently.

Make sure of your message and then be intentional about it’s communication. Have a plan.

10. No Common Ground

For your message to reach an audience, they have to be able to understand how it relates to what they already know. This is the common ground.

Common ground is personal. Find elements of the message they can relate to. If you are communicating a sales goal, relate it to how it affects the organization AND how it impacts them directly.

Who do you remember as a great communicator? What made them great? What would you duplicate if you could in yourself and others?

Share your thoughts here or write me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com.

And while you’re writing me, ask for a FREE copy of my e-book “12 Skills that Make You an Extraordinary Listener”.


Oversimplification Can Be Dangerous

I Can’t Believe They Tried This!

Reading an article in the Huffington Post recently, the author tried to simplify the definition of a popular buzzphrase used in the corporate world.  The term was “Employee Engagement”.  They said simply that it was the new way of saying “Internal Communications”.

Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!

Making it simple is not always helpful.  In this case, it could be fatal!

The article was titled The Growing Importance of Managers in Employee Engagement by Gail S. Thornton.  Now Gail is a communications professional, so I can understand her tendency to classify it as a communications issue.

illustration of a Boss talking with employees

Employee Engagement – More Than Communication

And to be sure, excellent communication is a critical part of fostering employee engagement.  But it’s not the only thing.  To focus just on that component of employee engagement is similar to just relying on your belt buckle to hold your pants up; without the belt it’s not going to be very effective at accomplishing the mission.

Communication is the promise ring of employee engagement, but caring is the diamond.  Leaders must communicate, but the communication rings hollow if they don’t truly care for people on their team.  I know lots of great communicators who don’t really care for the people in their organization; communication is just a tool for manipulation.

[snaptweet]Communication is the promise ring of employee engagement, but caring is the diamond. -Paul Simkins[/snaptweet]

When a leader cares and communicates with care, real meaning is brought to the communication.  The communication involves listening a lot more than talking.  It involves open pipelines where people are free to speak up and speak out.  When that happens, people feel they count and are counted on.  That’s when engagement is possible.

There are other factors as well; such as knowing when to empower and when not to, refusing to be a rescue boss, providing guidance, making expectations clear, and creating a safe place to fail.

[snaptweet]Saying that employee engagement is simple is to assume your employees are simple.  They’re not. And neither are you by the way. -Paul Simkins[/snaptweet]

Communication is an important factor of employee engagement, but don’t go thinking that it IS employee engagement.

What factors do you consider when you look to create an engaged workplace?  How do you decide what to communicate and when?

Double-Dose of Leadership

John C. MaxwellWe had the benefit at the 2014 L2:Learn-Lead simulcast to hear from John C. Maxwell twice.  He opened the proceedings, which I documented in the post Why Leaders are Learners – Part I, and then closed it with another talk.  This was an excellent close for many, who left raving about what they learned from this.  I did too!

Leaders are Learners By What They Ask Themselves

John emphasized that the first place he looks to ask questions is to ask questions of himself.  The questions we ask ourselves direct us — and sometimes re-direct us — to keep us focused on our vision and goals.  They help us determine if we are improving, if we are making an impact, and if we are truly leading.
Asking yourself questions on a regular basis helps keep the main thing the main thing.  It keeps us from majoring in the minors and getting lost in the details.  It helps us maintain a big picture view.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

1.  Am I investing in myself?
When we take time, energy, and money to invest in our own growth, we prepare ourselves to lead more effectively, to be a more productive contributor, and primarily to unlock more of the potential in others.
[snaptweet]It doesn’t get any better for my people until it gets better for me.[/snaptweet]
This requires DAILY, INTENTIONAL growth.  I call it being a 1%er.
[snaptweet]Focus on growing yourself by just 1% a day.[/snaptweet]  That seemingly small 1% compounds quickly and soon you find yourself doing great things before you realize it.
Three Investment Indicators
  1. MY SELF-IMAGE – How do I perceive myself?  Do I truly believe in myself?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
  2. MY DREAMS – Do I have BIG dreams of what I want to achieve?  Are they scary and yet exciting?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
  3. MY FRIENDS – The Law of Environment kicks in here.  Are the people around you encouraging and uplifting?  Do they challenge you?  Do they add value to you?  Are you able to encourage, uplift, challenge, and add value to them?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
We will only invest in ourselves if we can honestly rate ourselves high in these areas.
2.  Am I investing in the right people?
  1. Do they influence others?  Who do they influence?  How many do they influence?
  2. Do they have potential to grow?
  3. What is their attitude and competence level?
  4. Chemistry Factor – Do they fit into the formula?  Do I like them?  Do others like them?
  5. Passion Factor – Do they have a genuine passion for what they do?  Are they motivated?
  6. Character Factor – Do their character traits fit in with the character traits I desire for my team?  Are they grounded?  Trustworthy?
  7. Values Factor – Are their values compatible with the team or organization (or my) values?  Critical to have this for the right culture within your team or organization.
[snaptweet]Culture eats vision for lunch![/snaptweet]
  1. Team Work Factor – Are they able to fit in and perform well as part of the whole?  Or are they a lone wolf?
  2. Support Factor – Are they supportive of other team members and organization objectives?  Can they support and complete me?
  3. Creative Factor – Can I count on them to seek out creative solutions to challenges?  Can they find possibilities out of impossibilities?
  4. Options Factor – Can they give me options?
  5. Ten Percent Factor – Can they give me the last 10%?  All the fruit is in the last 10%.  Can they stay for the harvest?
3. Am I genuinely interested in people?
Leaders see more than others see and see before others see.  Do I really care for others?  If so, I can use my advantage to add value to others.  If not, I will only use it to add value to me.

Where did you find yourself on this?  What questions do you ask yourself regularly?  Do you set aside time to think?

Add your thoughts and comments below.