Thinking Possibilities

As leaders, one of the most important things we do is think.  We think about our followers, about mentoring and growing other leaders, about the future of our business or our team.
Our thinking becomes dangerous when we start thinking in terms of limitations. When we think in absolutes.  When we think with what’s called a “Lack Mentality”.
It’s been proven time and time again;  limited thinking leads to limited results.
When we think in possibilities however then answers and solutions come to us.
Ken Blanchard once said,
If you want to go places you have never gone before, you have to think in ways you have never thought before.
Possibility thinking leads to the creative.  It opens up new avenues and new solutions and allows you to be a more effective leader for your team.

Solutions Through Possibilities

Mr. Hollands Opus - Mr. Holland teaches musicIf you ever saw the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfus as music teacher Glenn Holland you would see an excellent example of this.  Mr. Holland is trying to write music and dreams of creating a world renown piece.  To pay the bills, he takes on a job as a high school music teacher and  faces challenge after challenge with the students and even his own child, who is born deaf.

Where others saw absolutes and insurmountable circumstances, Mr. Holland instead looked for possibilities.  His passion for music and his desire to share that passion with others led him to think of unique ways to make things happen and achieve success.  He finds creative ways to reach students and inspire them and even devises a way for his deaf son and other hearing impaired people to enjoy music through lights.
The end result was the lasting impact that Mr. Holland had on the people he influenced.  He led them places they didn’t think they could go.

How We Can

As a leader, the responsibility we have as well is to lead people where they don’t necessarily think they can go.  To do that, we have to be willing and prepared to explore possibilities and seek creative solutions in pursuit of our vision.
[snaptweet]When our vision and our passion join, we see hope.  But when we think HOW WE CAN instead of “CAN WE”, then we create possibilities to bring our vision to reality.[/snaptweet]

Here’s some things to help open you up to possibilities:

  1. Be a positive thinker –  Many think positive thinking is just sticking your head in the sand, but actually a positive thinker looks for possibilities.  They look for how they can get the best out of every situation.
  2. Remember WHY and HOW – Question things a lot.  Ask questions like “how can we be more effective?  How can we serve our customers more efficiently?  How can we improve our profitability?”
  3. Avoid the Impossible Thinkers – The consultants and experts that tell you it can’t be done, that its impossible to reach your goals or objectives.  There are always possibilities and we want to look for those instead of what we can’t do.
  4. Think “AND” instead of “OR” –  We limit our thinking by creating exclusionary choices.  We can do this or have that.  Why not look at how can we do this AND have that?  How can we improve customer service AND increase profitability?  Thinking that way helps us come up with creative solutions that are more effective for our organization.

What possibilities will you open yourself up to today?

Are You in a Zombie Workplace?

Okay, it’s a little dramatic but it also brings to light a growing trend in the business world today.
Crashing economies, cutbacks, layoffs, and uncertainty leads people to become less engaged in the workplace.
Last year, I wrote about a Forbes magazine article that quotes a Gallup survey stating that over 70% of U.S. workers are less engaged in the workplace.
If that doesn’t shock you, it should!  If you are a small business owner with employees, it should also scare you.

Your Business is in Danger

Engaged TeamAs a business owner, you are especially vulnerable to the consequences of dis-engaged employees.  Teams grow divisive; managers treat employees badly; employees treat each other and customers badly; office theft goes up; productivity goes down drastically.
These people come and they go, they do the 9 to 5, they grow through the motions and do the minimum work to get by, and are not fully engaged.
Everyone loses.
LEADERS are to blame.
Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership -John Maxwell

Six Rules of Engagement

If you are a leader in your environment, here’s some things you can do to fix that and help prevent the zombification of yourself or your employees.
  • KNOW YOUR SELF – Too many times, people don’t realize THEY are the problem.  You have probably worked for a leader who blames lazy employees, ethnic, racial, or generational cultures, bad economies, and a myriad of other reasons for why things aren’t going well.  If you are a leader and your people aren’t following, YOU are the problem.  Fix it.
  • GROW YOUR SELF – This is how you fix it.  You can’t change them, you cannot change things like the economy or anything else beyond your control.  What you can do is change YOU.  Learn to become more optimistic, learn to develop the characteristics that you are seeking in employees.  When I was a manager, I used to brag about how I made a point of hiring people better and smarter than me.  That was so wrong.  I couldn’t possibly do it.  You attract what you are, not what you wish.  If YOU grow, you’ll find yourself getting the kind of people you desire.
  • KNOW YOUR PEOPLE– Connect with them.  It’s through relationships that people build trust, respect, and more like they are a part of things when they feel connected with you.  When you can answer the three questions everyone asks in virtually ANY kind of relationship, then you can connect and influence them and they will become engaged.  The three questions you must answer are:
    • Do you CARE for ME?
    • Can you HELP ME?
    • Can I TRUST YOU?
  • FOCUS ON THE STRENGTHS – Yours and the people you work with.  Focus on how you can best use the strengths they have to compensate for your weaknesses and help accomplish the company’s goals.  That’s what a TEAM is all about.
  • REWARD THE BEHAVIORS YOU WANT – Not a lot of people do this.  They spend more time rewarding they don’t like, but you want to spend time rewarding the behaviors you desire.  Empower people, trust people, encourage people to accomplish the things you want them to do.
  • TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION – when necessary; which is not the same as impulsive action.  Don’t react impulsively, take the time to think about the appropriate response and then take the action now.  People will respect you more for taking considered, decisive  immediate action than if you hem and haw or you are impulsive.

What are some ways you have seen organizations engage their employees?

Driving Through the Fog

If you have ever driven a car, you have likely had the experience of driving through heavy fog. 
Building a business, building a career, and building a life can feel a lot like that.  In fact, that’s precisely the problem for many people; they spend their time navigating through the fog.  
  • A businessman with no real direction who leaps at the next new thing to offer in the hopes for profits that turn the business
  • The person goes all in to the next scheme guaranteed to make them millions
  • The girl or guy who obsesses over the next person they think will truly make them happy.
It’s a mirage in fog.
Many people make decisions when things aren’t going well. They look for relief in the despair of the valley instead of waiting for the clarity that comes from being on the mountaintop. And when you’re experiencing the darkness of the valley, it’s always tempting to make changes that you hope will relieve the discomfort.  -John C. Maxwell

Finding Your Way Clear

Successful people have CLARITY.  The path is clear in front of them and they are joyfully on their journey.  And while they path may wind, the hills may seem steep, and the road gets rocky on occasion; they forge ahead with determination because they can see where they are going.  How do you achieve this clarity in your life or career or business?
[snaptweet]It’s not the problems that make YOUR life song so special, it’s the clarity you get when you determine to see your way through it.[/snaptweet]

Key Elements to Achieve Clarity:

  1. KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES – Know what you stand for.  Know what defines are the very core of your organization or core of your person  exactly what has to factor in to every decision you make and everything you do.  Honesty and integrity are key core values that you want to integrate into everything you do.
  2. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE – What are you driven to do, what do you want to accomplish.  Here’s a tip: if it takes more than a sentence, then you haven’t fully defined your purpose.
  3. VISUALIZE THE END OF THE ROAD – See where it is you are trying to go.
  4. KEEP AN EYE ON THE PATH IN FRONT OF YOU – That’s where you are going to encounter those rocky roads and if you spend all your time looking ahead, the roadblocks in front of you may stop you before you can get there.

Why You Are Stuck

Are you finding that something is holding you back from getting to where you want to go?  You know you need to find your place, but don’t seem to be moving any closer to discovering it.  Or perhaps you know what you want but can’t seem to make progress towards getting it.
If you are like most people, what you are going to find is holding you back is that you don’t want to do the things that you MUST DO in order to move forward.  In addition to doing what we LOVE to do, we also have to do many things we DON’T like to do.

It’s Called Discipline.

The word gets a bad rap.  We think discipline and we think of visits to the principal’s office leaning with our hands on the desk while a wooden paddle crossed our hindquarters a few times for errant behavior.
Yeah, I’m aging myself with that one.  Not that it ever happened to me or you! (right!).
But the word discipline takes it root in instruction and order.  Jesus called his followers disciples, because they received instruction, learned order and self-control.  We need that in order to move forward and succeed, because it gets us past the barriers of things we don’t want to do or fear doing.
Let me emphasize here:  I am as guilty of this as anybody.  I will not tell you that I have mastered this.  Like you, I am fighting this battle every day.

No Job is Perfect.

I LOVE what I do!
I love the opportunity to get up and talk before groups of people, to share knowledge with people, to help them improve, to help them grow.  But there are parts of the job that I don’t particularly care for.
But I have to do them anyway.

Frog Legs?  Yeah.  But the Whole Frog?

We are all going to have things that we dislike doing, but we are going to have to do them in order to move ahead.  Your success comes from doing it anyway; as Brian Tracy says,
You have to eat the frog!
Identify those things that are particularly distasteful or that you dislike and DO THEM ANYWAY!
Zig Ziglar says when we do the things we need to do when we need to do them, the day will come when we can do the things we want to do when we want to do them.

Actions Steps to Success

  1. DO UNPLEASANT THINGS FIRST.  Do them before you do anything else.  There is a psychological aspect to this.  By doing things you don’t like first and getting them out of the way, it provides a relief factor that allows you to be more effective the rest of the day.  In addition, any thing else seems pleasant by comparison.  It also gets them done.
  2. DO NOTHING ELSE UNTIL YOU COMPLETE THE MUST-DO TASKS! Even if it means you just sit in your chair and stare.  Don’t do anything else until you accomplish the things you don’t like to do.  This is a tough one but it’s where we learn discipline.  If you are faced with the prospect of doing something you don’t like or just sitting there all day staring into space, which are you going to choose?  Even if you initially choose staring into space, you will tire of it quickly and break down and do the unpleasant thing.  When I was a kid, like many other kids, I didn’t want to eat my vegetables.  My parents made it clear I was not leaving the table until I did.  I was faced with the prospect of getting it over with and going to watch Batman on TV or just sitting there.  It didn’t take me long to break down and do it.
  3. REWARD YOURSELF FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING.  You want to provide a positive impact for making the right choices and doing the right thing.  It provides motivation and makes doing the things you don’t like to do that much easier.  Some argue you should also provide consequences for not doing it.  Timothy Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week and other books, shared that if he didn’t get things done during the day, he would intentionally wake himself up at 2 a.m. and force himself to work as a consequence.  I think simply not doing anything else is consequence enough.

What about you?  What do you do to practice discipline and accomplish things you don’t like to do?

Measuring Up

As we enter a new year, have you assessed where you are and where you need to go?  Has success been eluding you?  Are you where you thought you would be at this point in your life?  It’s a common feeling.  So don’t let it hit you hard because you are not the only one thinking that way.
A lot of times its just a little change in focus that can make the difference for you.  There is a secret to it and here it is.


Albert Einstein said,

“try not to be a success in life, simply try to be a person of value.”  

How do you be a person of value?  You do what John Maxwell says;

if you want to feel valuable, add value to other people.

The more you focus on adding value to other people on a daily basis, then you don’t worry so much about where you are or whether you are measuring up because you are making a difference in the lives of other people.  It also makes you change you way of measuring.  You define success differently.

Adding Value

So here’s a few steps you can employ to help move in that direction and add value to other people:
  1. LOOK LOCAL FIRST. A lot of times people worry about what’s going on elsewhere on the other side of the world but there are a lot of things going on right now in your own backyard where you can make a difference.  Your home, for instance.  Adding value to your spouse or to your children.  Adding value to your co-workers in the office or your boss.  Adding value in your daily encounters with other people as you go through the day; the people who work in the grocery store, the people who handle your dry cleaning.  All of these people are looking for someone to add value to them and you can be that person.
  2. CARE ABOUT PEOPLE.  Focus on what you give to other people and that will make a huge difference in the world.
  3. EXPRESS GRATITUDE.  Express gratitude to people for what they have done for you.  To the person who takes your money at the grocery store, express gratitude for the work they do.