Personal Leadership Strategy

I’ve noticed a trend over the years of coaching executives that seems to be on the rise, despite all the growing research that indicates negative return.   This trend is the ‘pride’ that comes with a lack of sleep. “Oh I only need four hours.” “Well, I used to exercise when I was a Sr. Director, but now as VP, I wake up and hit my email. I work until about 1 (am) to meet my global direct reports and to respond to global clients, and then I’m up at 4:30 (am) to meet with my folks in another time zone… or up at 5 to tackle this open issue…” You get the picture.

If I try to counter these amazing super-creatures with data that points to:

  • Decreased quality of decision making from depletion of fuel and resources to the brain (sleep being one of them – the time for brain repair and information integration)
  • Setting energy-sapping precedents for direct reports & the organization. No matter what you say, they do what you do; thus increasing the stress and guilt in the workplace (culture killers)
  • Increased health risks by increasing the stress hormones in the body which can lead to diminished brain functioning and increased risk of heart disease (along with a myriad of other diseases that are now linked to stress and lack of sleep and renewal).

These are but a few of the consequences of lack of sleep. But, it doesn’t matter. They smile politely and proceed to explain how very important their role is and why it is THEY who must solve the worlds problems.

And.

Yes, there is a reality of huge responsibility, of details, of ‘on call’ duties and of decision making that must happen as you increase your role and scope within the organization. And there is a way to fulfill those responsibilities in a way that doesn’t kill you or your family or your organization.

Strategy

You wouldn’t run a multi-million or billion dollar organization without a strategy. Every day when you decide to – once again – burn your candle in all directions, you are making priceless choices. You may not acknowledge it, but you feel it deep in your belly, in your chest, in your shoulders that seem to carry the tension of the world.

Create a strategy for your life and your leadership and you’ll know what to say yes to and what to say no to – and when you take a detour, it will be CONSCIOUS, not reactive.

Strategy consists of a mission, values, vision, strategic drivers/focus areas, goals and objectives. What are yours…for your leadership? For your life? Are you ready to live on purpose?

Strategy, at its basic level, follows these key components:

VALUES – What’s important to you? What drives your decision-making? What causes you anxiety when you DON’T act on it? Where are your internal conflicts? (high-ranked values of family and achievement may cause conflict as you struggle between work and home). Look at where you spend your time and money. These are clues of what you value…and if you don’t like what you see, that also indicates what you value.

MISSION: What are you about? What, in the midst of all action and choices, do you exist to be? (Consider it your brand) For example, I’m about living and helping others to live rich, full lives with meaning and heart, to unfold lives that make the world a better place.. I’m about inspiring others to live that way as it is for them. In all I do, is my mission represented?

VISION: What’s the view that you want to set for yourself? Do you want a specific position or role while living creatively to spend time (being present!) with your family and those who matter to you? Do you want financial independence? Do you want to live in a way that inspires others? Do you want to do it with renewal and vitality? What do you see for yourself when you allow yourself to dream a little?

STRATEGIC FOCUS AREAS:

What fuels your vision? What are the 2-4 key focus areas that, if you worked on, would lead you closer to your vision in the next 12-24 months?

Stay open. Instead of saying, “sleep more than 5 hours a night is impossible”, set a vision for yourself that INCLUDES ‘well-rested and fully fueled’ and commit to no less than 6.5 hours a night. Then, you will make choices to do it.

For example, if you want financial independence, you know that there is effort that goes into that. A few strategic focus areas may include: Exploit business opportunities that exist now. Create and live to a defined budget. Fuel myself so that I’m up for what comes my way. (by the way, that includes SLEEP).

GOALS/OBJECTIVES:

Create 1-3 specific, measurable goals for each of the focus areas. Measurable, so you’ll know when you’ve achieved them and can check off milestones along the way – or adjust so you get back on track.

ASSESS WHAT YOU NEED:…to fulfill the goals. Do you need skills? Help? (i.e. personal trainer, coach, cleaners, personal assistant, a better executive assistant, financial advisors with new specific expertise)

Now…CHOOSE. Keep this strategy in front of you. In each moment, choose consciously. Ask yourself, “Is this taking me closer or further away?” “Which of my values are being met with this decision?” “Is this a conscious detour and if so, how will I prevent it from becoming the ‘norm’?” “If I resist saying ‘no’, even though I know it’s the right thing, what is at stake? What am I truly saying no to? What am I avoiding?” “Am I acting out of short term relief (versions of fear) or out of vision (courage)?

Yes, it sounds great on paper. And. I guarantee you that if you COMMIT to this process, you will notice positive change in your life.

The key is, when you are making decisions CONSCIOUSLY, you feel less drained, you are less scattered, you are living with focus and clear about your boundaries. No apologies. Just living life on purpose. THAT’s a significant shift for those who are watching you. Because remember, they will model what you model, not what you say.

And those other changes in your life? Like, oh, I don’t know …. SLEEP? RENEWAL? Maybe this article helped put you to sleep. 😉 If so, I’m grateful.

Dismissing What You Can’t Control

Many of you are experts at strategizing, scenario planning, thinking about and peering into the future. All of this talent and work is to help prepare your organization for what may come and to equip your organization for success.

What if I told you that this strength, when over-exercised and carried over to many aspects of your life, is actually not helpful? That what you are rewarded for and what is reinforced in you, is taking you away from the most important – and only – time available to you: current reality?

Like you, I need to carry out forecasting and strategizing to keep my business viable. And, I find that when I’m under stress, I do this in many aspects of my life and in overdrive. It’s my attempt to feel a sense of control when control is unattainable.

“What the mind can’t control, it tends to discount. Brush over…past.” (reference)

As I work with my clients (and myself!) I am watchful for this condition of ‘mind churning’ over the future. We focus ‘out there’ and discount the ‘here and now’ because…why? It’s boring? Not what we signed up for? Can’t figure out? What are we brushing over because we’re fearful, anxious of having no control? Revenue streams, market conditions, human feelings, needs, wants. Are we brushing over conditions within ourselves that we don’t like? Don’t know how to handle?

How many times have I listened as executives tell me that the people side of things just frustrates them? It’s a huge distraction? I have heard CEO’s and CFO’s discount the true value and human function of Human Resources. Perhaps it’s because people functions can’t be plugged into a spreadsheet to explain their full value. And that leaves some people uncomfortable. So, it’s dismissed.

When I explain that the bulk of a senior leaders’ time should be spent in developing people as well as creating strategy for revenue, they politely listen, then gently tell me, ‘Yes, of course. And, my job is to keep the company running’. And. When we look at keeping the whole organization running, we are, in fact, talking about people. People are unpredictable and hard to figure out. Forecast people?! Good luck with that.

“What the mind can’t control, it tends to discount. Brush over…past.”

True control is the ability and the courage to be with what is. In present time. Present being. To truly SEE current reality. When we look ‘out there’, not HERE, we’re looking out from false grounding to something that doesn’t even exist.

When I work with groups on strategy, they often want to start ‘over there’. Absolutely, vision is a very important aspect. And after vision, let’s get really clear on current reality. Only then can we properly map the way between ‘here and there’.

Work together to establish a vision for your people. Then, get clear on all aspects of the current reality; the measurable and the gray. Become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Listen deeply. Allow the information to settle in. Especially when it makes you uncomfortable. Then, and only then, will the best course of action reveal itself.

Don’t worry; you’re still a genius with all this listening, waiting, and seeing. There’s a place for your strategic capabilities. But know, the nuggets that you’ll see in the here and now will guide you to where you need to go.