The Right Question

January 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’ve been struggling.  I’m even struggling to describe what I’ve been struggling with.  I feel disengaged and yet overwhelmed with the onslaught of life.  Part of me wants to run away and another part of me yearns to dig in and go deeper.  My heart tells me I’m on the right path and my head tells me I’m walking that path all wrong.

On the way downtown the other day, I asked myself this question: What do I need to do/have/experience in order to have the emotional margin to lead well?  Turns out, this may be one of the most important questions I’ve ever asked myself.

The most important question

You see, I’ve found myself in a place we all find ourselves from time to time.  Or maybe more often than not.  I’d found myself in “the routine.”  Ever seen the move Groundhog Day?  Yeah, where every day is the same and just keeps repeating itself over and over.  My days seemed to be a spinning top of activity and no progress.  By the end of the day I’d be worn out but wouldn’t feel like I’d gotten anything really important done.

Feeling like you’re spinning in place is exhausting and terrifying.  I think most of us allow our minds to wander into thinking about how great things will be when…

  • when the kids are older
  • when I get that promotion
  • when we finally launch that product
  • when my spouse finally gets past this bad patch

Thinking that way ends up being sort of like eating candy to satisfy hunger.  It tastes good at first but doesn’t actually solve the real issue.  You just end up hungry again really fast and feeling sick from all that sugar.  So I asked the question.  In other words, rather than waiting until something external changes I started exploring what I needed in my life right now that would let me find joy and peace in the midst of my circumstances.

Asking this question can be a revealing and freeing experience.  I’m finding great contentment in the self-discovery of the question.  I’ve begun understanding things I only had an awareness of before. Things like Stephen Covey’s “first things first” principle.  Or why every great leader in history has spent a great deal of time alone.  Simply put – you can’t give what you don’t have.

This question has lead to applying new boundaries and disciplines to my life that have immediate effect and help me put some structure around the daily grind so it’s no longer a spinning top but an exciting dance.

As men, we face the danger of disengaging because of being overwhelmed.  Don’t allow the people you lead, at home or at work, suffer because you haven’t answered the simple question – what do I need to have in my life so I can give people what they need to grow.

So…what DO you need?

I’ve been toying around with Agile processes at my work and team.  There are a lot of aspects of agile that can help even sales teams run better.  I’d thought about how this could translate home, but until now haven’t done anything with that other than generally muse about it.

Bruce Feiler lays out a beginning for how I may begin trying to do this at home with my wife and kids.  I still think it requires a bit more fleshing out, but this is a great start.  I think the bottom line for me is that whether you’re leading at home or at work, you’ve got to diligently experiment in the pursuit of excellence.  Love principles, not processes and focus on results.  Check this video out.  I think you’ll find it enlightening.

The Cure to Insecurity

January 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

Insecurity is something we all deal with.  On some level, it is one of the core causes of all our oddities and quirks.  I’d even argue that the most confident, bold person you know still has a bit of insecurity lurking in their heart in some amount.  And unchecked, it can destroy the environments we are a part of.

insecurity

As dads, we see insecurity pop up in our kids as they begin to venture out of the shelter of our homes and into the real world.  When they find some exposure to the world that doesn’t think they’re amazing for being born, they can easily fall prey to attacks of insecurity.

Our jobs as fathers is to help our kids face that world and be able to have a confidence in themselves that is both based on something real and solid enough to weather the storm coming at them.

Honestly, it is a bit sad watching how some people go about this with their kids.  Generic praise like “You’re so amazing” and “You are just the greatest little fella.”  While there isn’t anything wrong with saying these things, there also is much right about it either.  In other words, if you don’t give your kids some concrete feedback on why they are amazing that is based on truth you’re creating a fragile shell that won’t last outside of your home.

Another version of this is what I call overreaching praise.  It’s where parents don’t know what to praise in their kids so they reach for everything.  ”Wow, you put your pants on better than anyone I’ve ever seen!”  Of course, this is a over-dramatized example, but you’ve heard it before.

If you work with other humans in any capacity (which we all do), you’ve witnessed insecurity at different levels in most everyone.  Whether it plays out as an overly aggressive person or a reserved, reluctant approach, insecurity not only holds that person back but the whole team suffers.  Insecurity is contagious.  It is frustrating.  It is hard on everyone.

The hardest part of this is that our natural tendency is to attack insecurity with either harshness or cliches.

Get over it!  Just do it!  Quit worrying about what other people think.  You just need to start working and stop over-thinking things.  Ugh!  Why don’t you get it?

You can do it!  You can do anything you set your mind to!  If you believe it you can achieve it!

Natural reactions, of course, are often wrong.  And they push insecurity further into the person by either confirming they are incompetent or creating internal skepticism of your obviously weak and foundation-less “motivation.”

So what to do?

Acceptance.  Acceptance is the real cure for insecurity. This is why people join with groups that are unhealthy. Stay in relationships that drag them down.

Acceptance is: letting people be who they are and loving them anyway.  Being able to appreciate someone as a unique and beautiful creation and that part of their beauty is their cracks.

Acceptance is not: letting people remain in their faults or believe they don’t need to work on them.  Enabling people in their bad habits and issues.

Feeling acceptance from someone gives us a pathway to accept ourselves. Not to think we don’t have weaknesses. Not to think we have it all right or are without gaps in our abilities. But to accept that being the complete package isn’t being perfect or “all together” but instead being in process and joyful in the journey.

Being o.k. with having flaws is one of the most appealing characteristics a person can have.  My wife and I have discussed many times what makes a woman attractive.  I have maintained before and will continue to do so here – hands down it’s confidence.  Not the cocky, look-at-me kind of confidence (which isn’t confidence anyway).  But the quiet, humble confidence that comes from having faced your demons, found the good in yourself and resolutely determined to lean into that discovery.

If we want to build a generation of people that can weather the storms of this world with grace and power, we have to arm them with something real to believe in.  The beginning of that is real acceptance.  Have you learned to accept yourself?  Really?  If so, I’ll bet you’re pretty good at accepting those around you.

Taking Time to Rest

December 18, 2012 — 2 Comments

Taking Time to Rest

Yesterday I was working from the house.  My oldest had a Christmas festival at school and I really wanted to go, so I stayed home.  (Hey, why can’t dad have a little bit of pre-school cheer too?)

My wife was working on Christmas cards while I was lost deep in my own thoughts nibbling on whatever tasty treat was nearby.  ”I think I’m going to take next week off,” I mentioned as an aside.  There was a pause.

“Like, off-off?!” she asked incredulously.

“I think so.  I’ll do some relaxing, reflecting and a bit of planning of course.  But I think I want to take the week off.”

“What brought this on?”  (Back story for you: This will make our 9th Christmas together and I’ve not once truly taken more than Christmas day off.  Last year I scheduled a conference call on Christmas Eve – in the morning.  It’s nothing neurotic, I just like what I do and enjoy making progress in my work.  Not a need to work but a genuine enjoyment of it.)

We talked a bit, but what it came down to was that I just felt like I needed to slow down for a week.  I’m not burned out.  Nothing is crashing around me.  Heck, in some ways I have a lot of reasons to ramp up next week to knock out some things I haven’t been able to get to in the normal work weeks.  But something inside me just keeps repeating…take some time to rest.

I’m not the best guy in the world to talk with about this topic.  Just sitting still is a skill that I’m terrible at (yes, it is a skill).  Taking time to rest for me most often ends up being a block of time I use to do a bunch of projects that have been waiting on me to have time.

Ideally though, shouldn’t resting be, well, restfull?

Knowing myself, if I don’t have a plan walking into next week it’s gonna be an epic failure.  I’ll either blow it by entertaining myself (not gaining the level of refreshment and energy I should from resting) or working on a bunch of things that aren’t “work” (thus not really resting at all).

So I’m going to spend a little time this week thinking about how I can be intentionally restful.  That sounds weird to me, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it.  I want to rest and be still.  But I want to let that stillness have a deeper impact on me than just mindlessly getting through a week.  I want to have a chance to allow myself to be refreshed, to reflect and to gain some deeper energy and insights that will help me be a better dad and person.

Growing as a dad, leader, individual doesn’t always have to be about going, doing and stretching.  Maybe sometimes it’s about not doing any of that and instead just letting yourself observe the deeper things of life from a position of stillness.

Do you take time to be still?  And are you any good at it?  I’d love to get any feedback from you on how to do this because I’m a complete rookie!

Momentum. Our lives naturally develop momentum. The question is, are we creating momentum in the direction we want to move or are we allowing life to push us along? Like a fast moving river, there is momentum that will carry us. Unless we learn how to skillfully use that momentum to get where we want to go it is going to be a dangerous ride that often ends badly.

River's Momentum

In a previous post, we started talking about how to get steam behind our ideas. Big ideas require the help or participation of others.  Ideas run into walls when they aren’t introduced skillfully because we have a tendency to resist others pushing us in a direction we didn’t choose.

Seeing with their eyesToday, we’re going to talk about how to begin the process by Seeing with Their Eyes. I want to admit right up front that this is one I struggle with.  My task oriented, strongly opinionated mind just doesn’t naturally slow down and see how the wake I create affects others.  Habits can change, however, and while I’ll never be as empathetic as my wife I am working on getting better.

Point is, whether you want to help your kids grow into amazing men and women or you have a vision for a project that could help your teams have a banner year, there is a there is one subject we’ve all got to become an expert on – the people we lead. The way you move someone begins with knowing what makes them move. Obvious, I know. But then again, how many times have we begun excitedly pushing forward our agenda only to have it fall flat because we hadn’t think about how others would perceive it?

Cherie and I try to make sure we pay attention to our kids love languages. It’s how someone best receives and gives love. If you don’t know their language, you may be showing them love in a language they don’t “speak” and the relationship suffers. Both of us are heavily physical touch people with each other and our kids. We love to hug, kiss and just generally be close. (That doesn’t translate to people other than my wife and kids, though.  i.e., please don’t give me a lingering hug or rub my back.  Just sayin’.)

Caleb was easy to figure out – he was and is just like us in his love language. When he watches TV, he wants one of us literally at his side. He asks for family hugs and wants me to hold him while we read together. Then there was Logan! For a while, I was having a hard time figuring him out. We worried that he felt left out or disconnected. He’d play alone, leave the rest of us to actually go upstairs and be by himself or literally just lay down in his bed. I tried to engage him by playing with him and he’d seem like he liked it for a while and then just stop interacting with me and play alone. Caleb would come in and I’d try to play with them both and Logan would yet again either leave or just almost ignore us. This really bugged me for a while because I couldn’t tell if it was just a more solitary personality or if he really felt like somehow we weren’t pursuing him the way he wanted to be pursued.

One day I took Logan with me to run a few errands. Because of schedules with naps and how much Caleb likes to come with me whenever I leave the house, I usually either only took Caleb or both of them. But that day it was just me and Logan. An interesting thing happened. He talked. Normally a pretty quiet kid, Logan talked with me all the way to the store…and in the store…and on the way home. And I noticed something else as well. When we did get home he seemed to be more engaged. When we played, he wanted to be a part. He was also more interested in the hugs and kisses we so loved to give out. What happened? I realized we were witnessing the playing out of a different love language…quality time. My Logan just needed to know that he was worth singling out. That I wanted to spend time with him specifically. Now, we try to make sure he gets the quality time he needs and as a family we have more momentum toward becoming the kind of people who know and love being together.

Knowing people at the level where I can see these kinds of things isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it’s outright hard:

  • Time. This level of knowledge requires investment and there’s limited time in the day.
  • Emotion. To dig in at this level requires strong emotional strength and maturity. This can get messy at times.  And to be honest, I don’t always handle it well.  My attitude can tend to be a bit like a drill instructor.  This is an area of real growth for me.
  • Chemistry. What if you don’t really want to get to know someone because you just don’t mesh with them? Either you have a lot of baggage in the relationship or you don’t mind working with them but just don’t want anything other than that?  It can be hard to see the benefit of getting to know someone you don’t really love being around anyway.

Andy Stanley said something that helped me begin to better handle issues like this. Not all things are problems to be solved. Sometimes things we see as problems are, in fact, tensions to be lived with. In other words, there are tensions in life that are good to maintain. In this case, the tension lies in balancing the real constraints of our time, energy and connections with others with the equally real need for our leadership to be guided by a deeper knowledge of those on our teams. I think of it like an equation. This may be overly simplistic, but let’s say we have 2 variables – Constraints (time, emotion, chemistry) and Investments (in more deeply knowing others). Here’s how they may play out:

  • Constraints – Investments = Lost potential
  • Investments – Constraints = Burnout
  • Investments / Constraints = Enduring Impact

Choosing to invest within the constraints we have on our lives will give us an edge on becoming the best dads and leaders we can be. I’m still figuring all this out myself, but here’s a few things I’ve learned so far. First, don’t mistake the level of depth you have to have with each person. In the context of the story above all I had to do was:

  • Be aware enough to know there was a disconnect
  • Be intentional enough to try something different (make sure my trip was done when I could take him alone)
  • Observe his reactions
  • Adjust or Replicate based on my observations

In the context of work, as you interact with your family and teams, be observant. Try different words, activities and approaches. Experiment and see what works. For me, simply being aware of these people has altered the dynamic and provided the effects of deeper relationship. And like all things you learn in life, failure is not only inevitable, it’s may even be good. Sometimes failing can be the opportunity to go to someone and apologize. When they see you’re willingness to be humble and admit wrong or failure, you become more human to them.  (Done this more than once and recently…)

A few words of caution here. If you decide to undertake this because you hope to learn enough about people so you can change them for your goals or so they’ll be more likely to do what you want them to – please DON’T. You learn about people because you care and want to lead them well. If you get that out of whack the only thing you’ll leave behind is a mess.

Take Action:

To do this you’re going to have to create a plan. If you were going to do this without one you would have already. Having a plan provides structure to your activities. It gives you something to measure against. Something to optimize. If you have no structure and you win or lose it is very difficult to know what caused the result and how to adjust or replicate in the next interaction.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Intentional touch points with those you lead and an agenda in those touch points.
    • Kids: dates, spontaneous donut runs, dinner time, bedtime routine, etc.
    • Teams: “walking the halls,” daily/weekly meetings, team huddles (spontaneous or planned), taking different people to lunch, outside events, etc.
  • Have accountability. If you were one of the 2% that had the internal discipline and force of will to accomplish the goal, you would have already. Share your desire, plan and concerns with some one. And then be accountable.
  • Ask questions. Always look for opportunities to take questions one level deeper to know the person. Learn not just what they are doing or thinking, but why? How did the get where they are? What do they want and why?

I heard it once said that if you want to like something more, learn more about it. Knowledge creates interest. The more you learn about the people you lead, the more interest you will have in them. And when you know more and are more interested in those you lead, the more momentum you’ll gain with them when it comes time to take them somewhere. A side benefit of this is having a greater perspective and appreciation for what is really important. If we kept in mind the real ultimate goal of legacy (adding value to those we lead) how many of our arguments would we let go? Or “chances to teach” would we see as just nagging? How much more effective could we be by seeing with the eyes of those we lead?

True Fans

December 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

A while back I was reading a blog post by someone I follow and the post asked this question: How would you define a true fan?

True Fans

The question really hit me and I spent some time thinking about it.  This was my response:

I’m not sure how I’d define true fan. It’ll probably change over time. But I think the answer lies somewhere around people that see the masterpiece in me. Kind of like what Michelangelo meant when he said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” He saw the masterpiece even before it was sculpted. And really, don’t our fans in a way help “sculpt” us? True fans are those that “see” you and stick around because they love watching you become who you were designed to be.

That answer has really stuck with me.  Especially lately with my family and teams at work.  I’ve had several experiences in both lately that have reminded me how important it is to have true fans and to be a true fan of others.  (Sometimes those experiences have been very humbling…something I need from time to time.)

There is an idea about having 1,000 true fans for your product/company and how achieving that can launch your company into very profitable territory.  But when you change the context a bit – from building a company’s revenues to building a person – I believe the number of true fans it requires to be transformative dwindles significantly.  All the way to just one.

At Home

There is nothing revolutionary or new about saying a child’s parents should be their truest fans. More at stake is the gut check I have to ask myself – is there anyone that believes in and cheers on my kids more consistently and energetically than me?  More importantly…

How about when they have an “off” day?  

When my kids look back on their years under my roof, will the thing they remember be how I made them feel special, capable, safe and encouraged?  Will they tell their wives and friends that looking back they always got a sense that no matter how bad things got I was always in their corner with love, acceptance, discipline, coaching, encouragement and time? And what about my wife?  Does she know that when all else fails and even she doesn’t believe in herself anymore that she’s got a rock solid fan in me?  When she is going through one of the hard times that this phase of life brings, does thinking of me and our relationship help give her the strength to carry on?  Do my kids see that dynamic in our relationship?

Being a true fan of my wife and my boys can seem like a natural thing because it resonates with me emotionally.  I think all moms and dads would answer that question with something like, “Of course!” Beyond feelings, however, I have to ask myself if I behave like a true fan to them.  When I look at them, do I see what they could be at their best?  Reacting to them at their worst, do I react out of a place that says, “Whoa!  This isn’t you!  You are an amazing, loving, fun, (fill in the blank with appropriate descriptions) person!  What happened that sidetracked you like this?  Please let me help you get back to who you really are.”

At Work

In thinking about teams and how to build, motivate, streamline, improve, retain and accelerate them, I think it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that teams are just people.  We all know that in dealing with people, there is a simple truth that the first and most basic need a person has is to be accepted and believed in by another person.

But knowledge doesn’t equal execution.  When we’re planning out strategies for how to get our teams to move faster, do better quality work, be more committed or work more efficiently – do we start with asking ourselves if we are fans of the people on those teams?  I’m not talking about being buddies with them.  They don’t have to have warm fuzzies with us or have been to our home and know our kids’ names.

Instead, do we at our core see the greatness inside those we work with and want to see that greatness come out to the light of day? That is the heart and soul of great execution on strategy. You may be able to plan great strategy for teams but if you aren’t true fans of those on the teams the strategy will fall short.

What to do next

Discussing the idea is great, but the only thing that matters in the end is what we do with it.  Here’s what I’m doing.  I’m going to make being a true fan an intentional activity in my schedule.  This won’t be the right thing for many of you, but I like routines.  I use a tool called RoutineTap.  It is simply a web app that allows you to define the things you’d like to develop into habits and track your action on those activities over time.  The idea is simply that if you define a goal habit and begin actually tracking it you’ll tend to do more of it.  Here’s what got added to my personal reporting: “Who was I a true fan of today and how?”

I figure if I’m constantly asking myself that question it will help me keep that at the forefront of my mind as I interact with the people around me.  And that can’t be a bad thing.

How about you?  Have you ever experienced having a true fan?  Have you ever been a true fan to others?  What were those experiences like and how did they help “sculpt” you?  What are you going to do differently to make being a true fan something more intentional?

OK, so it has been a little silent here for a while. At first I just got busy…then I just got lazy…and now I’ve learned a really valuable lesson.

Don't be lazy

The reality is that I was busy and I did need a break. But reality has a way of being hard to pin down. Wasn’t it also a reality that building this blog was part of my goals? Isn’t digging into the lessons I’m learning by writing about them urgently important both for me and my boys?

Like the management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” I tweaked that a bit and found that in life at home and at work,

What isn’t scheduled isn’t consistently done.

I failed to live my life and instead got caught up in letting life happen to me.  How many times have you let that happen?  Projects that seem to languish.  Strategies that sit stale.  Amazing ideas that wither up and die on an idea board.  Words that are meant to be said.  Games meant to be played.  Tickle fights dreamed about.

Vince Lombardi once stood in front of a group of seasoned veteran football players and held up a football.  ”Gentlemen, this is a football.”  Coach Lombardi was well known for his fanaticism on the basics.  Blocking and tackling.  Master the basics and you’ll win.  It’s time for a little more Lombardi in my life.

So I’ve begun compiling my list of basics.  What are the things that must be in my life and get done every day for me to get where I want to be? This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here is a part of mine:

  • Daily download with my wife
  • Dinner & play time with the kids
  • Personal development (reading, meditation, courses, etc.)
  • Writing
  • Workout
  • Planning the next day/week

Blocking and tackling in my world. There is more and some of this can look different from week to week. But these things are daily. Not options to think about or get done if I can. These get planned to the exclusion of other things. You may note that my daily work isn’t in this list. That’s intentional. Maybe you can relate, but I’ve found that daily activities of my work just sort of happen. I don’t have to remember to close deals, create new opportunities, create account growth strategies and keep tabs on projects in production.

I may not post every day, but I will be writing every day. And if I can find the strength to keep this up, little by little I’ll build a life that was worth living.

Do you ever get caught in the trap of letting life happen to you? What do you do about it and what is your basics list?

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

Shannon L. Alder

Mr. Mom

My amazing wife has given birth to three boys. With each one I’m amazed at what a woman’s body can do and even more daunted by the kinds of torture a woman can handle. Forget male strength. Women who carry babies, deliver them and then choose to do it again – that’s powerful. (Or as my wife says, temporary insanity.)

We’ve always been so appreciative of the fact that she’s gone through all three experiences without any “damage.” No stitches or surgery. Yeah for healthy mommy and babies! Then a few weeks ago she began to notice that she had a slight bulge and some achiness. She put it off for a while thinking it was no big deal and I pressed her to go into the OB and have it checked. Better safe than sorry with the woman you love!

Finally, she relented. That’s when we learned she had a hernia. The kind that are mainly gotten by two types of people – men lifting heavy weight and 80 year olds. Seriously?! My wife works hard at home and in her workouts, but I haven’t seen her doing any power cleans lately. (Though I’m sure there are more than a few times she’s wanted to do a shot put with one of our kids.) Apparently Mason, our latest addition, finally pushed her body over the limit. I immediately put it on the calendar to spank him as soon as he’s old enough for me to also understand a tongue lashing.

Payback for Birthing Experience

It’s the day after his birthday.  Felt like that was only fair.

Of course we looked around to find out what kinds of alternatives there were to hernia surgery, but only found quackery (eat herbs!) and delay (it’s not that serious – you can just wait). So last Friday she went in for outpatient surgery.

Side note: she texted me while waiting in pre-op, “Literally sitting amongst 5 elderly with walkers. Feeling good :-/” (I let her know she was definitely the hottest chick there!)

All of that backstory is just to say that for the past week I’ve been playing double duty as Mr. Mom and the Working Guy. It has been really tough at times and overwhelming almost the whole time. But as we round the corner of the 1 week mark for my double life I’m sitting in my local Starbucks at 5:30 AM (to get some quiet since my 3 year old wakes up at 6 AM!). Two things are running through my head this morning.

  1. Gratitude and amazement at the powerful woman I live with. This is what she does day in and day out?! I’ve been at it for a week. A…week. I need some alone time, a date night and some kind of spa package. (Not to mention a vasectomy.)
  2. Reflection on what lessons I’ve learned in all this.

 

As I’m letting the past week settle in on me, gratitude sets in again. Putting down a quick list on paper:

Being Mr Mom

In case you can’t read that, the list is:

  1. I have awesome kids!
  2. Stay at home moms are super-heroes. Seriously.
  3. I need to bring my wife flowers more.
  4. Spontaneity is important, but more often experience follows preparation.
  5. Routines are great – until they suck.
  6. Routines are important – and you should break them.
  7. My kids are the most important investment in my portfolio
  8. Leading kids demands humility and greatness

There’s so much here for us! The lessons of gratitude, planning, intuition, connection, servant leadership, humility, internal greatness and the power of little gifts have so much to offer us as dads and leaders. Maybe I’ll do a series on each of them one day, but for now I’ll have to ask you to make the connections.

Let me know if you have some ideas on the connections here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Have you ever been a Mr. Mom for more than a day or two? What did you learn? If you haven’t been yet, I suggest trying out an experiment where you do it for a week. (Though you shouldn’t have your wife get a hernia for this experiment.)

I love the story by Mark Twain about Tom Sawyer convincing other people to whitewash a fence for him and pay him for the privilege.  How in the world was he able to get them to do that?  No matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t get my friends to cut my lawn for me.  Show me the dad that knows people well enough to have this kind of leverage with his family and I’ll show you a man who has enormous power both at home and at work.

Convincing others to join your movement
Photo Credit: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Experience for me is more like this: My wife and I were talking one night, just doing the daily download we try to make a habit, and she began telling me about her frustrations with motherhood.  She wanted to get things done but the kids just seemed bent on preventing her from accomplishing anything.  As she shared this with me my mind immediately went into command and control mode.  There was a problem and I could solve it!  The next day I spent a few minutes creating a structure for her day and strategies during each period for how she would keep the kids from preventing her progress.  There were room times, book reading times, group cleaning sessions and carefully coordinated opportunities for play.  It was perfect!

That night I told her that I’d worked on her issue and had a solution.  We walked through my plan and I explained all the many sides of the approach.  I told her how to train the kids to dutifully comply with the new schedule.  I was eloquent, smart and passionate.  Then I saw her expression…

 

Bored Wife
Photo Credit: HBO

So how can we go from a great idea we have to getting our families and teams to own them? Leaders who get steam behind their ideas have learned to S.T.O.P.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to dive deeper into each of these and see if we can’t flesh some of this out.

  1. See with their eyes.  The key to all buy-in is in learning to ask good questions.  In the beginning you’ve got to ask questions that get you involved in their worlds.  Dad, this means making sure you instill habitual conversation points with your kids and your wife. Leaders, this means having intentional lines of communication with those on your teams.  When you come alongside your families and team members you see what they value and can better implement change that matters.
  2. Talk with their words.  Any communicator knows that words have power.  But do you know which words have power to the person you’re talking to at any given moment?  Dad, you’ve experienced that moment when you explain something to your kids with words that are over their head.  Eyes glaze over, mouths slightly open…and the moment’s gone.  Inside the walls of your home or the office, you have to know how people speak to each other in order to maximize your connection.  And that means spending time with them.
  3. Ownership – give it away.  Dad, when your kids are feverishly attempting to get something done – who came up with the idea 99% of the time?  Yup…they did.  Obviously, the reason people go above and beyond the requirements of their job to accomplish a goal or complete a project is because they find value in it.  Look closely enough and you’ll more than likely find that they either initiated the project or help shape the goal.  So when you identify the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be realized, ask for help in designing the solution.  Offer up something for their minds to latch onto.  Break their existing perspective on something indirectly so they can begin processing this new idea.  Then engage them in a quest to mutually discover what the “new normal” should be based on the expanded view of the world.
  4. Push the credit to others and own the blame.  Most leaders don’t get massive buy-in the first time they try.  Like any relationship this depends on trust.  But if you learn to freely give away credit and take responsibility when things don’t go right, each time you go after buy-in you’ll get a cumulative effect from previous experiences.  

So if you’ve either failed to gain momentum in a previous effort or are about to start something that needs other people to succeed, make sure you S.T.O.P. to speed up.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What are some ways you’ve learned to build excitement and action around your ideas?