What’s More Powerful Than IQ?

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You may have all the knowledge in the world, and your IQ might be through the roof, but unless you develop ways to navigate people and various personalities, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There are no guarantees, but one of the most significant indicators of how successful you will be is the level of your emotional intelligence. Being able to navigate the room in an emotionally intelligent way, is one of the keys to success. A few years ago, Daniel Goleman published a blog on this idea – I encourage to read it. He points out that the abilities that set stars apart from the rest of the group are: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social effectiveness.

Let’s break these down…

First, Self-awareness. To have an effective EQ, you must learn to have a strong understanding of yourself and regularly assess your skill sets. Take a full account of how these have changed and developed over a period of time. Don’t be shocked when you realize you are not the same person you were a year ago. Your skill sets will change, and new ones will emerge as you deal with new circumstances, problems and ideas. Here’s a tool that you can use to assess yourself. Every week, month, and year look at what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve been, who you’ve met and what challenges you overcame – then write a paper on it. This is how I do it, and it has been a great life tool for me over the years.

Second, Self-management. Here’s the funny thing about self-management, you may already think that you’re doing a good job, but the reality is you probably don’t see the full picture. The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to observe our behavior without bias. I always wonder what other people are thinking as I’m interacting with them on a team or project. Am I dominant? Can I lead? Do people trust me? Am I communicating clearly? All these questions and more are great to ask from people who you do life with and who you work with. These answers will help you manage yourself as you grow and develop as a leader.

Third, Empathy.  Here’s the deal with empathy, it’s not a pity party for the other person. It’s not about jumping in the, “I feel sorry for myself” crowd. No, empathy is about understanding what others are going through so that you can help them grow out of it. So learn to become empathetic towards others and their situations.

Fourth, Social Effectiveness. All these previous abilities are what build your effectiveness in social situations. If you assess yourself, manage yourself and demonstrate a high degree of empathy – you will be empowered in social circumstances. One more thing that needs to be added to your social effectiveness measurement, is your ability gauge the emotional temperature of a room or a conversation. By doing that you can understand what the situation needs. Once you gauge where people at an emotional level, you’ll have a better understanding of what needs to happen in the moment. This is also how effective leaders can contextualize their leadership for specific instances, and become the leader that the moment requires.

So don’t just rely on your IQ, it’s one thing to know everything and another to apply it in an emotionally savvy way.

Social Media Can Kill Your Potential

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, music.ly. The list goes on and on. Humankind has never been more connected, and as leaders, there have never been more ways to stay in touch with people. But it’s time we take stock of what social media might be doing to our potential. 

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study about the effects of social media habits on the moods of users. The research determined that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Additionally, countless articles have been written about “social media envy.” That is the idea that when we see only the best of others, their successes, perfect families, and lavish lifestyles we feel worse about ourselves. It’s a dangerous trap that I believe all of us have fallen into at one time or another. Watching others seemingly succeed so easily can produce crippling doubt about our capabilities and callings. 

So what do we do? Should we shut off social media altogether? No. Sticking our head in the sand is never the answer. Instead, we need to understand the truth about the platform and guard our minds against the lies we are susceptible to believing. 

The first lie is that we don’t have what it takes. Here’s the truth: you have exactly what it takes! Every passion, every dream…every goal and every vision you have was put there by God. Not only that, but He also gave you the talent and skills you need to make them a reality! It may take time to train and develop those talents. But God has a specific mission and destiny for you. He has a journey all planned out for you and has equipped you not just to survive it…but to thrive in it!

The second lie is that we should have already achieved success. First of all, what does success look like to you? Because here’s the truth: if you have already achieved the pinnacle of success, you’re not dreaming big enough! God is not on a schedule. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect by the time you’re thirty. He doesn’t expect you to fulfill your mission before forty. He gave you your entire life to do it! Why? Because it’ll take your whole life to do it – it’s that big of a mission! God’s plans for your life are that extraordinary!

The last lie is that we aren’t doing as well as other people. This is the lie that social media makes so easy to believe. Most of us probably have friends or family who seem to be “succeeding” more than we are. We begin to think we’re doing something wrong. We wonder if we’ll ever be “successful” like they are. Well, the answer is probably not. Why? Because you probably have different ideas of success. You can’t measure yourself against somebody else’s yardstick. God has a specific destiny for them. And He has a specific one for you as well. And they’re different! They weren’t meant to fulfill your mission. And you weren’t meant to fulfill theirs. So accept the truth: you’re doing just fine on God’s journey for you.

IF YOU WON’T PICK YOURSELF TO LEAD, WHO WILL?

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You can wait your entire life to be chosen by someone else to fill a role, hold a title, or sit at the end of a boardroom table. Or you can choose yourself. When I was 18, I was a sports broadcaster in one of the most competitive markets in the country. I wasn’t there just because I was talented. I was in that seat because I wanted it, and I took the initiative to make it a reality. 

I can safely say that more people like to talk a big game when it comes to change than to do the work necessary to make the change real. The most important test of a leader’s resolve is if he or she is willing to act on their ideas. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had to build the Apple 2. Oprah Winfrey took the risk of getting on TV. Billy Graham had to preach to a small group before he stood before thousands. None of them were great until they took action. 

Any Old Excuse Will Do

There will always be an excuse within reach. And there will always be someone around you willing to confirm your excuse as valid:

·      “I don’t have enough money.”

·      “I don’t have the right education.”

·      “I don’t know the right people.”

·      “I don’t live in the right city.”

Excuses are really ways in which people let themselves off the hook for the responsibility they should act. If divine design is true, then you have a purpose you must fulfill in the world. And that purpose is unique and specific to you. If you don’t make good on that purpose, you will miss out on the adventure that was intended to be yours.

Here are Five Ways You Can Start Leading Today

1.     Take a stand. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to lead. Act today.

2.     Learn how to be a great beginner. The risk as you grow and learn is you stop approaching life with the insatiable curiosity that allows you to see what isn’t true yet but should be.

3.     Take the risk. No leader ever feels fully prepared for what is ahead. If you did, you wouldn’t be leading.

4.     Commit to the outcome, not the process. The process will guide you, but don’t let it overshadow the outcome you want to achieve or the goal you want to accomplish.

5.     Allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t expect to get it right the first time—or even the second or third time. Just don’t stop moving forward.

None of the things listed above are out of your reach. The only thing keeping you back from leading right now is you. It’s time for you to decide: Will you let the doubts, questions, and hesitations hold you back from becoming the leader you want to be? Leadership is available to everyone. The only caveat is you must say yes.

THE JOY OF CONTENTMENT

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Sustained happiness and true contentment might be harder to find today than at any point in history. Studies claim that the average American sees between 5,000 - 10,000 advertisements every single day. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re not good enough, don’t have enough and that we need the next big thing.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a new iPhone or purchasing a new outfit. The struggle is finding the balance between enjoying those things and being content with what God has already given us.  Here are three results we can expect from finding contentment. 

First, contentment fosters a thankful spirit. When we continually want “more,” our attitude will always revolve around what we lack instead of what we have. However, when we find satisfaction in the blessings of God, we become thankful for all that He has given. So every additional blessing God gives us evokes even greater gratitude!

Second, contentment creates stability. As the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” If we never find contentment with where we are, we will continually be driven to new places in search of more. We will go into debt to buy the newest and greatest model of car. We will purchase over-priced phones because they boast updated features. Content people don’t  need to change for the sake of change which creates a more stable lifestyle.

Lastly, contentment encourages giving. When we focus on our need for “more,” we have less for others. People who are content with what they have will experience the freedom of giving away what they don’t need. If you are content in waiting to upgrade your iPhone, you have several hundred dollars you can invest into other people’s lives. The beauty is that through contentment you gain more than you could ever buy. As 1 Timothy says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

THE TED TALK THAT CHANGED MY THINKING FOREVER

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I’m a huge fan of TED Talks. I go there to be exposed to good thinking, great leaders, and new ideas. It was several years ago when I stumbled onto this particular talk about design thinking from Tim Brown. It’s based on his book, Change by Design. I highly recommend that you take the time to explore both. If you watch his talk, I’m almost sure you’ll order the book.

Tim began his career as an industrial designer. What he realized working with some very large brands around the world was that the same principles that drove his design thinking could benefit leaders trying to achieve a breakthrough in their leadership.

For example, Tim realized that creating a product within a company should include collaboration between marketing and engineering. Most of the time the engineers would dream and build the product and then, at the appropriate time, marketing would step in and figure out how to sell it. A better scenario is if marketing and engineering collaborated from the very beginning. Their individual thinking, biases, and assumptions could lead to a better final product that would achieve greater marketplace success.

He then took it a step further and realized that great design sources its inspiration from the accumulation of a variety of information points. It’s about assembling a lot of supporting ideas into a new, singular idea.

Design thinking is an approach to innovation and breakthrough that works. Shortly after becoming president at Southeastern, I faced a series of obstacles. Rather than just taking each problem apart and seeing it independent of the rest of the organization, I listened to leaders across the organization. Together with the executive team, we connected the best ideas into new thinking that led to unprecedented breakthroughs.

Great design is a blend of form and function. Those two characteristics and qualities should contribute to breakthrough and release the latent potential in your leadership and your organization. If you feel stagnate and stale, then I would encourage you to get familiar with the principles of design thinking and watch the world of possibility become very real for you and your team.

6 Ways to Turn Dreams into Reality

Steve Jobs will go down in history as the Henry Ford of our generation. His vision for technology changed the way we interact with each other and the world around us in ways I'm not sure he even fully understood. It's hard to believe the iPhone turns ten this year; it's even more difficult to imagine life without one.

When the iPhone was first announced, the world did not pay attention. In fact, most people dismissed it. The business world was overrun with Blackberry devices, tactile keyboards, and flip phones. It was not that uncommon to see people carry two devices: a cell phone and some type of personal data device to manage calendar, email, etc. There wasn’t even a marketplace of apps yet. What you got on the iPhone was what you got.

Steve dared to suggest the role of the phones in our pocket would be less about calling people in the future as it would be about providing a computer in our pocket that would allow us to make calls if necessary. The critics said the price was too high, there wasn’t enough demand, and no serious business person would consider such a “playful” device.

IGNORE YOUR CRITICS

If there was ever a lesson in modern life to ignore your critics, it was Jobs’ relentless pursuit of a personal computer in your pocket and his resulting success. Even he didn’t fully appreciate the revolution he was setting off, but he knew the possibilities were limitless if he stayed true to his vision.

You have a dream inside you. All of us do. It’s easy to ignore it. In fact, most of the world is engineered to encourage you to set aside your dream for the safety and security [sic] of corporate benefits, big mortgages, and status symbols. And I want you to ignore and reject the distractions all around you which are intended to discourage you from the pursuit of your dreams.

Dreams are fuel or your soul. Until you are determined to turn your dreams into reality, you’ll never be able to become the full expression of your divine design. The challenge is: are you willing to hang on to what you know is possible until it is a reality? I want to encourage you to do so. The world needs you to release your genius and accomplish and deliver on the unique solution that is yours to offer.

LET ME SUGGEST SIX WAYS TO TURN YOUR DREAMS INTO REALITY

1.           Write them down. I remain convinced that when you get your ideas and dreams out of your head and onto paper, you have a greater propensity to see those dreams become reality. I don’t care how you do it. It can be an actual pen and paper, a note on your smartphone of choice, or a voice note.

2.           Review them often. Life gets busy. In the process of doing life, it can become easy to let your dreams slip away. Then you wake up thirty years later and realize you never acted on what you knew was a unique and special opportunity intended just for you. Create a recurring reminder, print out your dreams and put them on the wall, or find someone who will hold you accountable to action.

3.           Believe your dreams are possible. The only difference between someone who dreams and someone who turns their dreams into reality is the willingness to believe you can cross that great divide. Only you can make this decision. And you have to make it every day.

4.           Be patient. We live in an instant society. I still remember dial-up internet. You had to wait for that funny sound to connect you to a tunnel which would then usher you into the world wide web. And once you were connected, you had to keep your fingers crossed no one picked up the phone, or you didn't get kicked off the network for some reason. Life is iterative. It doesn't matter how long it takes to turn your dreams into reality; it matters that you do it.

5.           Develop a 30-day action plan. I know you’re probably thinking you should develop a 90-day plan, annual plan, etc. All of those are good in theory. But no battle plan survives the first shot fired. The same is true for long-term planning. Have some specific milestones you can reach for in the immediate future. Work toward those. Then regroup and plan the next 30 days. Do this consistently, and you’ll surprise yourself just how much you can accomplish in a short period of time.

6.           Celebrate the small wins. Small wins always lead to bigger wins. Important things take time to develop and always come with unexpected challenges. Just think about how the relationship between Microsoft and Apple has evolved over time as each of them worked out their own vision of how they would work together. When you cross a milestone, remind yourself how far you’ve come and reconnected with why you started down this path in the first place.

MAKE IT TRUE

You are what you believe is possible. You are also your biggest critic. As you cultivate the life you want to live, make sure it’s aligned with your dreams and gifts. Your divine design is not an accident. You are a solution to something significant in the world. But will you allow yourself to believe you are capable of accomplishing what was designed for you to accomplish in the first place? Only you can answer that.

There will be ups and downs. Remain grounded in who you are, how you see the world, what dreams you want to pursue. That’s what will ultimately lead you to a place of contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

I’m grateful Henry Ford created the car and the process to make it possible for every American to own one. I’m grateful Steve Jobs make it possible for me to turn a piece of glass into a way to engage the world around me in new and unending ways. And I’m grateful you are bold enough to hang onto your dreams until they become reality, too.

REFLECT: What dreams capture your imagination? What steps are you taking toward them today? If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be? What would have to be true to turn your dreams into reality? Do you believe you can? Why or why not?

Why Relationships Are the Currency of Life

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Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

There is a leader on my team who is what I call a "relational entrepreneur." He is one of those guys who knows everyone, and everyone knows him. There isn't someone he can't get to, even if he has to connect two or three people he does know until he finds a connection which opens the door.

He is incredibly valuable to the team and Southeastern University. Our ability to continue to grow and expand our non-traditional learning opportunities, on-campus experiences, and overall influence is impacted by our ability to tap into a network who can partner with us to drive things forward. This team member understands and practices good relationship habits, and it pays off for him and other again and again.

Part of what makes him so successful at building, growing, and sustaining relationships over time is the systematic follow-up process he has in place. He's worked this out over a long period of time and has it down to a science. The system itself is less important than by his personality and the type of people in his relationship economy. It's more important that he has a system in place.

You might think his system is just about finding and starting new relationships. That's called prospecting, and there is only a short-term value in such an approach. This leader's approach begins with prospecting and extends through a substantial learning about the individual over time—so much so he can deliver relevant, timely, and specific information on a regular basis moving forward. And as he has invested in these relationships, they also invested in him.

WHY DO AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS MATTER?

·             Because people connect with people. Relationships are about people connecting with people—not books, seminars, or podcasts.

·             Because leadership is about relationships first. You can do all the right things, but if you don’t do relationship well, you will be less effective.

·             Because influence is not programmatic but diplomatic by design. You can’t tell people what to do without authority. But if you build trust with another person, it will boost your capacity to influence them even if you don’t have authority over them.

·             Because collaboration drives innovation. Two minds—especially of different professional disciplines—always uncover untapped opportunity. Your best ideas will always be perfected when discussed with others.

·             Because interdependence trumps individual capacity to achieve anything. At the root of your desire for relationships lies your understanding of your need for others. You must become vulnerable and lean into the strengths of the other person to fully maximize your ability to cultivate your success over time.

INVEST IN THE RELATIONSHIP ECONOMY

Authentic relationships are rare which is why they are so valuable. So many times, you meet people who are just interested in talking about themselves or burdening you with their problems. I’m not talking about the times when you are in need. I’m talking about the times when people are consumed with what matters to them, and they conclude others should be concerned with the same things.

Cultivate is a great word when you think about relationships. While many people use the word cultivate with slightly different meanings and contexts, I can tell you it means to invest, grow, and develop over time. That sounds like an excellent strategy for establishing, building, and growing authentic relationships over time.

Authentic relationships require a long view, just like investing for retirement. But before you jump head first into cultivating relationships, let’s outline the rules of engagement.

A FEW THINGS ABOUT AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS

·             They are based on respect for humanity. The individual is the primary building block rather than a personal agenda.

·             They are driven by a desire to connect. Human beings were designed to be in relationship with one another from the beginning.

·             They are grounded in the unique realities of the other person. You must accept people for who they are rather than who you want them to be.

·             They are others-focused rather than self-focused. Good friends don’t make it all about them.

·             They are propelled forward through meaningful interactions and encounters. You must add value to the other person; otherwise, you’re wasting their time and yours.

The greatest investment you will make will not be in your education, profession, or even your retirement plan. Those are all good things, but they are not the most valuable assets you will accumulate in your life. Those things come and go. What you are worth on paper, the size of your house, the brand of your cloths, nor the logo on the front of your car are as valuable as the people in whom you invest your time, wisdom, and experience.

RELATIONSHIPS—SPEND AND INVEST WISELY

Relationships are the currency of life; you should spend wisely. Projects come and go. Houses are lived in for a period of time. Jobs are held for only a season. But the people you choose to pour into are the ones who will carry you in their hearts and minds forever.

You can tell a lot about someone by attending their funeral. The stories people tell about you are the evidence of the deposits you made in them. I've learned not to judge someone by the number of people who attend their funeral but the quality of stories shared by those who did. Your ability to influence others is greatly impacted by your skill at building and growing authentic relationships over time.

Everyone wins when you invest in others.

CHALLENGE: List the top five authentic relationships in your life right now. What are you doing to add value to their lives? How can you begin to practice the principle of authentic relationships today?

 

Start Thinking About Your Thinking

I’ve always admired people who believed they could accomplish something so big it seemed impossible. These people started with the intent to turn their dreams into reality. Along the way to success, they ignored the fact it might not work.

Henry Ford built a car before anyone knew they needed one. The Wright brothers learned to fly when the ordinary person was content with just about any other mode of transportation. And Elon Musk dreamed about electric cars people wanted to buy—and even autonomous driving—while the rest of the driving population was fueling up their 16 miles per gallon SUVs.

These men all had one thing in common: They believed the impossible was possible. They saw something in their minds that was as real as gravity, and they believed it was only a matter of time before what they believed became a reality. Failure was not a deterrent but rather a step forward.

It would have been a lot easier just to let the thought, dream, and ambition dissipate into the wind. But these leaders choose to see the world differently. While their critics were unable to anticipate the demand for what these men were creating, they never let that influence their thinking.

This represents something I believe is the foundation of success: If you master the ability to do this in your life and leadership, it will change your trajectory and propel you higher than you ever thought possible. Those who dare to do what I’m about to tell you will, indeed, soar throughout life—even if they fail more often than they succeed.

WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT? LET ME TELL YOU.

You need to start thinking about your thinking. Your mind is where success begins. I know that may sound like a strange, but it’s true. You must give yourself permission to believe what you see in your heart can become a reality. How you view the world makes an incredible difference in how you approach it.

If you believe the world is limited, then you will never live to your full potential. If, however, you believe the world is unlimited, you will operate from an abundance that will give you the confidence you need to push forward even when the way forward isn’t clear. The times when I struggled the most almost always could be traced back to how I was thinking about whatever I was facing.

When I first arrived at Southeastern, there was a lot of unrest. I could see so much potential when so many thought the best years were in the past. I refused to believe that and never let it enter my mind. Instead, I approached each conversation as a piece of the puzzle. As I put more pieces of the puzzle together, the opportunity in front of us became clearer.

Changing an educational institution is even harder than you might imagine. Put executives, scholars, and administrators together, and you have a recipe for a dog fight most of the time. Highly educated and successful individuals don’t usually respond well to being told what to do. So, if I ever hoped to move the needle and realize the potential that was so clear to me, it wasn’t going to be through force or will. Instead, I needed to open their minds to new ways of thinking.

OPEN YOUR MIND AND UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL IN FIVE STEPS

The task of thinking about your thinking is easier than you might think. Like anything new, it will take time before this becomes a habit. But it will change your life and what you believe is possible.

1.           Create space for personal reflection. This may be in the middle of a noisy coffee shop or at the edge of town. It doesn't matter. Just find a place where you won't be distracted for an extended period of time.

2.           Write down one thing you want to accomplish in the next 90 days. There is something powerful about writing something down. It creates clarity and suddenly becomes more attainable.

3.           Identify what would have to happen to make it possible for you to deliver on your goal. Don’t edit your thinking. Just write. Try to include as many steps as possible.

4.           Determine how your thinking or perspective needs to change. As you record the things that have to take place for you to accomplish your goal, pay attention to your inner critic. Therein lies your biggest obstacle. Let go of old thinking.

5.           Commit to delivering on your goal within a given timeframe. When you declare you will do something, life seems to organize itself in such a way that makes the impossible possible.

TURN WHAT YOU BELIEVE INTO YOUR REALITY

Once you start to build this practice into your life, you’ll understand how powerful it can be when you release your mind to believe the impossible is possible. This discipline has helped me elevate my influence and cultivate success in every situation and circumstance of life. It's impacted my marriage, parenting, spiritual formation, and professional life. There isn't a part of life you can't impact when you start thinking about your thinking.

If you’re curious why some people find a way to succeed no matter what they face, now you know. It’s because they choose to see the world differently. Life is really what you make it, and it all starts with your thinking. Don’t let the opinions and objections of others inhibit your ability to follow the notions, hunches, and ideas that will lead you to places beyond what you believe is possible today—and give you the ability to turn your beliefs into reality

REFLECT: Is your thinking holding you back? If you could accomplish one thing in the next ten days, what would it be? How would your thinking need to change to find the strength, focus, and energy to make it true?

What (Almost) No One Will Tell You About Productivity

Photo by tigristiara/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by tigristiara/iStock / Getty Images

One serial entrepreneur told me his life story over coffee. As I listened to him, it occurred to me this might be the first person I've ever met who doesn't need to sleep. I didn't know how he was able to get so much done. When he paused, I took the opportunity to find out how he was able to do so much when I was struggling to keep up with my leadership responsibilities at the time.

He smiled and pulled out a pocket calendar from his jacket pocket. (This was before the smartphones. And just to confirm ... technology didn't invent calendars. They existed well before any digital option was ever dreamed up.) As he flipped through the pages, I could see how each day was filled with names, times, and relevant details. I'll never forget what he told me. He said, "Everyone has the same 24 hours. If you want to live into your full potential, you have to learn how to manage your calendar."

I must have looked a little puzzled because he kept talking. He went on to explain how every Sunday night he would decide how what he was going to do every day of the week. Of course, the unexpected came up from time to time. But he knew what had to be done, who he needed to engage with, and when it needed to happen. That was how he ensured he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish.

His advice seemed so obvious. But I had to admit my calendar was driving me rather than the other way around. I was trying to find a way to stay awake more hours and get by with sleeping less. I had mastered the to-do list, but it never occurred to me I needed to translate my to-do list to my calendar.

BOOST PRODUCTIVITY BY TRANSFERING YOUR TASKS TO YOUR CALENDAR

Like many people, I would end the day with more open tasks than daylight. And even burning the midnight oil on a semi-regular basis didn't keep me from going to bed guilty about all the things I hadn't been able to check off my list. Not to mention how I would feel when life would throw a curve ball like an employee announcing his or resignation, a flat tire, or the unplanned trip to the dentist for a persistent toothache.

I committed to myself in that conversation that I would take the time and effort to translate my to-do list onto my calendar to ensure I was realistic in the commitments I was making. I also wanted to align how I used my time with the things and people required to be successful. It's not enough to want something. It's not enough to define what you want and how you'll get there. What matters is what you do which translates directly into how you spend your days, weeks, months, and years.

This advice is often overlooked or undervalued in the productivity conversation. In the midst of the gadgets and gizmos, the software and apps, and the services and subscriptions is a fundamental flaw: Absent of translating your projects into the hours and days that make up your week, you will forever be chasing lists you can't complete, tasks you'll never find time to accomplish, and relationships you won't be able to find the time to foster.

The truth is you and I can find time for the things we believe are most important. Therefore, if you can't find the time, you need to honestly assess how important that task, project, goal, or person is to you. Doing this will help use your calendar to drive your success rather than let your calendar drive you.

LET ME OFFER YOU SEVEN STEPS TO GET STARTED:

1.     Block out an hour every Sunday night to plan the coming week. Don't look at it as taking time away from your family. Instead, look at it as a way to find more time to give focused attention to your family throughout the week.

2.     Place your most important meetings and milestones on the day they need to occur. Take a proactive approach. If you don't, the problems and challenges of others will put you into a constant reactive state.

3.     If you can't find a day or time for one or more things on your list, assess if you can defer or delegate the task, meeting, or milestone to someone else. Everyone has limits. Successful people acknowledge theirs and use them to empower and equip others.

4.     Block out 15 minutes at the start of your day to see if any adjustments need to be made. This is less time than you're wasting now by not having a clear plan.

5.     Block out 15 minutes at the end of your day to take inventory of your progress and review the coming day. You might have to change your habits, but you'll leave the office with a clear head and be ready for your family when you get home.

6.     Spend 30 minutes every Friday recording the most important things you learned, pushed forward, or accomplished in the previous week. I'm not suggesting you write paragraphs and novels. Just use bullet points in a blank document. You'll be surprised what you accomplished as you look back over time.

7.     Block one day every quarter to review the previous quarter and the coming quarter to ensure they are in alignment with your annual goals. Alignment is the key word. Start with your annual goals and work backward until you know what needs to happen every day, week, month, and quarter to deliver on those annual goals.

If you follow this plan, you'll tap into the most important productivity secret known to humankind: The one who sets the calendar always accomplishes what's most important, urgent, and critical for success.

Everyone has the same amount of time to work with every day, month, and year. Successful people pre-decide how they'll spend their time to ensure they maximize their productivity and intentionally deliver on the commitments and goals that matter most.

REFLECT: Look back at your calendar over the past four weeks. Did you drive your calendar, or did it drive you? Where did you get off track? How can you get off track? What are you willing to change to make the most of the time you have?

How Productivity Elevates Your Leadership

Leadership has a funny way of putting you in positions that stretch and expand you. If you haven't had that experience, hang on. It's coming. Just like there are seasons of growth and seasons of momentum, there are also seasons of reflection and resets.

I believe life and leadership operate in cycles. Each phase prepares and ushers you into the next. Since a leader never arrives at a point of perfection, the process constantly challenges you to growth and development. Leadership is not something to be conquered as much as it is a lifestyle to adopt.

When you're stuck, it means something likely needs to change within you and your leadership to start moving forward again. This is a telling sign that growth is already taking place within you. The key is to become aware of these moments and give yourself space to think in new ways and consider new or different approaches with the hope of unlocking the potential that is right in front of you.

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM THE FRONT SEAT OF A CAR

Teaching your children how to drive is not for the faint of heart. Even if you give them a pass on learning how to drive a stick shift, it still seems to be one of those experiences that relate you in one moment and nearly sends you over the edge in the next. One of the most important lessons I tried to convey to each of my children is this: Driving is a series of course corrections.

Leadership is a lot like that, too. You must expect and anticipate to adjust over time. You are always tweaking, adjusting, and adapting to ensure you are optimized for growth and success. It's never ending. And this is precisely why productivity is so critical leadership.

PRODUCTIVITY IS DESIGNED TO:

  • Focus your mind. When you know what's most important, you know where you spend your energy.
  • Provide a criterion to determine how to process what is coming at you. Everything can't be urgent and important.
  • Give you permission to say no or yes based on a variety of factors. There is a tremendous freedom in knowing what to say yes and no to in the heat of the moment.
  • Enable you to move forward with confidence. You must have a way to process what’s coming at you and decide to act, delay, delegate, or disregard.

Without productivity, nothing gets done. Or worse, you try to do everything which never works out. Do you know what happens when you have one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat? Eventually, you lose balance and fall in the water.

INCORPORATING PRODUCTIVITY INTO YOUR LEADERSHIP WILL ELEVATE:

  • Your conversations. If you aren't clear, your team won't be either. That will diffuse energy across good people rather than focusing energy toward a common goal.
  • Your coaching. If you're putting the right things in the right order, then you know how to help each member of your team grow.
  • Your assessments and measures. There is a popular leadership principle that surmises what gets done are the things which are measured.
  • Your planning. Sometimes delaying an activity or objective until later frees up your time, creativity, and energy to focus on what's most important today. This can have a rippling effect across your team.
  • Your results. When you predetermine what needs to be done, you are much more likely to deliver on the things you say are most important. This is critical for your leadership.

PRODUCTIVITY REMOVES THE EXCESS AND KEEPS THE ESSENTIAL

I'm intrigued how the minimalist movement is asking people to reconsider if more is fundamentally better. While I'm not interested in learning how to live in 95 square feet, I’m interested in stripping away the unnecessary parts of my days, weeks, and months to make sure I can deliver on the commitments I've made to myself, my team, my board, and the University at large.

When I was younger, I never wanted to prune anything from my goals or life. I believed that doing so would make my world smaller. Then I realized, like many leaders do, that such thinking is naive. The older and more experienced I become as a leader, the more I realize clarity and focus naturally identify the excess in my life. It's up to me to determine what to do with that.

Excess is the root benefit of productivity in leadership. It's about identifying what needs to be shifted, removed, or eliminated entirely to ensure your share of mind, energy, and effort are channeled to the things, people, and opportunities which will have a material impact on your ability to achieve your leadership goals. It's a paradox of sorts. To gain, you must let go.

There is a lot of comfort in being busy as a leader. Sometimes it can feel like you are a mile wide and an inch deep. The temptation is to get too far into the details and lose the altitude necessary to keep seeing what's ahead so you can continue to inspire others to dream big and achieve great things. But you must resist that temptation on all fronts. 

Control and comfort are an illusion that stand in the way of your leadership development. Growth and success are anything but things you can control and or expect to make you comfortable. That's what adventure is all about—taking you beyond what you think is possible.

While productivity isn't a magic formula and certainly doesn't guarantee success, it provides an approach to help you keep moving forward without getting sidetracked and stuck along the way. Productivity will elevate your leadership if you commit yourself to it. It won't happen overnight, but you will see its impact over time in how it shapes your thinking, commitments, and capacity to deliver substantive results that have a meaningful and material impact on you, the people you lead, and organization you represent.

CHALLENGE: Where is the excess in your day? What is holding you back from getting rid of the things holding you back? How can you adapt to the changing realities of your life to ensure you regularly course correct and stay on track for success?

5 Easy Ways to Increase Your Productivity Today

Everyone has the same amount of time. No matter what position you hold, your title, or even your level of influence, no one gets to demand or dictate more than 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and 12 months in a year. It is a constraint that governs every person on the planet.

So, if everyone has the same number of minutes, hours, days, months, and years, why do some people seem to be able to accomplish so much more than others? That’s a question I’ve asked myself for years. Even when I think back on the times when I felt the most momentum, I always seemed to run across someone who was able to get more done in less time than I could. That just motivated me to keep pushing myself to become better, faster, and agiler.

The good news is there are more tools and services available to you today than ever before. From smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even smart watches, technology has democratized processes that would have required an entire support team to accomplish just a decade ago. Add to that a variety of services from virtual receptionists, travel agents, and assistants along with automated services to schedule appointments, handle transactions, and even manage inventory, one person can operate like a multi-million-dollar enterprise with the right mix.

BUT HOW DO YOU NOT GET LOST IN ALL THE OPTIONS AND START BEING PRODUCTIVE?

I believe it begins and ends with the commitments you make to yourself and others. A commitment is something you shouldn’t take lightly. It’s a decision you make about how you’ll use your time, energy, and ingenuity to accomplish an initiative that is key to your success.

The commitments you make will ultimately drive your time. And if you don’t intentionally make commitments, life will provide those commitments for you. If you’ve ever felt like life was dictating your schedule rather than you, you know exactly what I mean. Sometimes that’s unavoidable because life is full of surprises. But often you find yourself flapping in the wind and at the mercy of everyone else when you aren’t clear on the commitments you are making to yourself.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A COMMITMENT? LET ME EXPLAIN: 

  • A commitment is clear, precise, actionable, and measurable.
  • A commitment is a promise to yourself and others about the outcome you intend to deliver.
  • A commitment is something you will either complete or not.
  • A commitment is how you derive the power to decide what is important and what is urgent.

You can't dive into the productivity conversion until you know your commitments. Productivity is based on efficiently and effectively accomplishing your mission, project, or goal. Efficiency doesn't matter if you aren't clear or committed to delivering on your commitments. But when you are clear on your commitments, it becomes much easier to drive your daily experience rather than let your day (and the commitments of others) drive you.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You were created to solve a specific problem in the world. But it’s up to you to develop that talent and gift and apply it in ways that ensure you live to your full potential. That means you need to align your commitments with your definition of success. Now that you have your commitments in order, you’re ready to utilize productivity as it was intended.

HERE ARE FIVE WAYS YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY TODAY:

1.     Predetermine what success means for you. Pull out a sheet of paper, open a new document on your laptop, start a new note on your phone and document success. Until you have clarity around your destination, you won’t be able to fully appreciate how productivity can move you forward.

2.     Identify what needs to happen to make your success true. Once you identify your intended destination, work backward. Clearly, outline every milestone you need to accomplish. This will remove the guesswork from your day to day decisions.

3.     Evaluate available tools and services. This is important. Don’t evaluate tools because you think they are cool. Choose tools and services that will help you achieve your milestones more efficiently and effectively. Otherwise, you’ll get sidelined by the shiny objective syndrome.

4.     Measure everything. One of the things I appreciate the most about technology is how easy it is to measure just about everything I do in a day. From my work out to the amount of time I sit or stand in a day, it can be easily measured. This means I have better data that tells me how I’m using my time which will ultimately help me make better decisions. Warning: Once you start doing this, you’ll never be able to stop. Information is power, and your time is your most valuable asset as a leader.

5.     Adjust at regular intervals. Don’t adjust every day. That’s not enough time to collect feedback and make an informed decision. Take one day a way and evaluate the week that just happened and the week is that is coming. Determine how what you did and will do will ensure you meet your milestones and ensure you reach what you’ve already defined as success.

Leadership doesn’t have to be complicated. It should start with a framework that helps you build and utilize a process that will ensure you consistently identify and deliver on your commitments. Productivity should fuel your journey and ensure you stop “running out of time” and start “creating time” for the more important things in life.

This is your life. How you choose to spend it will determine the life you live and the legacy you leave behind. A leader who never has enough time hasn’t done the work necessary to define success, outline commitments, and measure and adjust over time. Don’t let that be you. Do the things that light you up inside and set the world on fire.

CHALLENGE: Make three to five commitments you can deliver on by the end of the following week. Do everything possible to accomplish every one on your list. Decide on a day where you can reflect on your progress, and determine how you’ll repeat that process again for the coming week. Do this until it becomes a habit.

4 Reasons Why Discipline Trumps Productivity

I've always admired doctors, especially those who deal with trauma. They never know what situations they will encounter. The only thing they can count is when a trauma patient arrives, they must be focused, clear-headed, and determined to achieve one goal—stabilize the patient.

A trauma physician isn’t there to address systemic, chronic issues. They aren’t there to address psychological challenges. And they aren’t there to make selective improvements of any kind. A trauma physician exists to keep the patient alive.

Even if you’ve never experienced a trauma situation before, you’ve likely seen one of those medical reality TV shows. The ambulance arrives, the paramedics roll the patient in reading off stats to the doctor, and the hospital staff is preparing for whatever treatment the doctor might deem necessary. The doctor has seconds to determine the course of action, and his or her assessment and resulting actions will have a significant impact on whether the patient lives or not.

At that moment, emotions are running high. There are a number of distractions, opinions, and ideas swirling around. But only one thing matters in that moment, what does the doctor want to do? More important, what will stabilize the patient?

Now that is a stressful situation.

THE GOAL IS TO KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING.

Few people will ever know what it’s like to be a trauma doctor. And I pray that you never have to experience what it’s like to be a trauma patient. There is, however, something important you can learn as you reflect on what determines success in those critical moments—focus.

Leadership requires focus, too. While all leadership experiences are different, one shared experience that is true is there exists an infinite number of competing realities in life that have the potential to detract you from your goal, objective, or intention.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: The goal is to keep the main thing the main thing. That was good advice in communications theory, and it’s good advice in leadership. The number of initiatives, projects, and priorities that flood your inbox, calendar, and mind only increase as your leadership platform expands. That means you must be vigilant in keeping the main thing, the main thing in every meeting, every commitment, and every day.

What makes a trauma doctor excel is the discipline he or she develops during their training that helps them close out any distractions and focus on the most critical pieces of information to quickly arrive at a course of action. What will make you successful and productive as a leader is not mastery of the productivity conversation but the discipline to stay the course no matter what comes your way?

DISCIPLINE IS NOT A POPULAR WORD FOR SOME.

I get it. In a culture that values individual expression over everything, discipline often gets rejected as an outdated concept. Some perceive discipline to mean that I must conform to your expectations. For a soldier, that is true. But that’s not the type of discipline I’m talking about. I’m talking about the type of discipline that keeps you moving in the same direction until the objective is achieved.

I would suggest discipline is what leads to endurance. And the true test of leadership doesn’t come in the short game. Leaders must have the discipline to stay in the game longer than anyone else to ensure the mission is accomplished. The only way you can do that is by disciplining your mind and body to ensure you stay on task.

There is a difference between discipline and productivity. Productivity is a set of actions you take to prioritize your day, tasks, and goals. Discipline is the commitment to stay focused on the initiatives you set out to achieve from the very beginning. You can be productive and not be disciplined. But you can’t be disciplined and not be productive. This is why discipline must be part of your formula for leadership success.

Let me give you four reasons why discipline trumps productivity

1.     Discipline is a commitment to a specific outcome. Productivity is a set of actions, but those actions don’t necessarily drive your direction.

2.     Discipline is a contextualized process defined by your intended outcome. Productivity, without context, is just busy-ness.

3.     Discipline aligns your decisions with your actions. Productivity only works for you when your behavior and words match.

4.     Discipline reveals the clarity you have about what you believe is most important. Productivity can keep you from moving forward if you aren’t sure where you want to go.

THE DISCIPLINE OF LEADERSHIP BEGINS AND ENDS WITH YOUR THINKING.

I know it sounds strange to suggest at this point that thinking–what most perceive to be a passive activity–is worthy of a mention in a conversation about discipline and productivity. Nevertheless, what you think impacts what you believe, and what you believe influences your actions. So, if you have a productivity problem, the root is most likely a discipline problem that originates in your thinking.

If you’re clear in your thinking, then you’ll know the areas and things about which you have or need discipline. And if you’re disciplined, then you’ll understand how to apply the principles and practices of productivity to ensure you effectively and efficiently deliver on your commitments, goals, and outcomes. This is true whether you are a trauma doctor in the ER or a recent college graduate just getting started.

Your thinking is driven by your why; your level of discipline is driven by your what; your level of productivity is driven by your how. If you're out of balance, you will be ineffective. If you're balanced, you will be unstoppable.

REFLECT: Are you disciplined about how you approach life? What about your leadership? Are you busy being productive, or are you disciplined about delivering on your commitments and outcomes? What needs to change in your thinking to change your level of discipline and your application of what it means to be productive?

The Productivity Trap and How to Avoid It

I can't believe it's been ten years since the iPhone debuted. I still remember wondering if I needed a piece of glass in my pocket. And if I did have one, I wasn't sure I would know what to do with it. I know what the skinny guy with rimmed glasses was telling me about it on TV, but I just wasn’t convinced at first.

I know it's hard for some now even to remember what life was like the day before the iPhone launched. The whole idea of thinking about a phone as a computer was a truly foreign concept. And the word apps was shorthand code monkeys and computer geeks used to refer to what everyone else called applications. And applications required a box and a CD-ROM; there was no “app store” to search and download. (Just writing that makes me feel old.)

But that single shift in the marketplace ushered in what eventually became the definitive marker of a new economy—apps and mobile services. Today, we can’t imagine our lives without it. And if there is one invention that moved the conversation forward around productivity, it is, indeed, the smartphone.

THE PURSUIT OF BETTER, FASTER, AND MORE EFFECTIVE

Nothing has done more to drive productivity to the top of every leader’s mind than technology. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, or laptop, the pursuit of better, faster, and more effective seems so seductive and enticing. And if you’re not careful, it will consume you.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the chatter surrounding productivity. If that word is in the title, I’m probably going to read it. Like many, I have this insatiable appetite to learn about every tip, trick, and short-cut someone else has discovered to help them get more done in the same or less amount of time.

But I must admit, even I consider productivity to be, in large part, “leadership candy.” It tastes really good, but it’s not necessarily the best contribution to a healthy diet. It satisfies for a short period, but it always leaves you wanting more.

I think the productivity conversation has always been a hot topic. But technology has helped bring an entirely new spin and intensity to the subject. Where productivity once meant efficient and cost-effective ways to scale, it now means hacks you turn into habits that help you do and achieve more.

There is a catch though. It’s that the pursuit of productivity can turn an admirable effort into a complete and total distraction. I don’t need to try every app someone else is excited about. I don’t need to read every article from so-called gurus to discover I’m just one habit away from living the life of my dreams. And I certainly don’t need to assume doing more is equal to better.

THE PARADOX IS THE PURSUIT OF PRODUCTIVITY CAN REPLACE ACTUALLY BEING PRODUCTIVE.

If you’re consumed with trying new things, always evaluating your workflows, and constantly searching for what’s next, you diffuse your energy and creativity. You will, as a result, spend your time shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than solving the complex problems you face. Productivity is a means to an end—not an end in and of itself.

I’m sure some would disagree with me on this. I'm not suggesting I don't want to be open to being exposed to new ideas or ways to accomplish common, regular, and everyday functions. My track record of adaptability and agility is well documented. That doesn't mean I haven't wasted time, money, and effort chasing the illusion that one app is going change an outcome. Unless the new app, habit, or hack is unique and specific to a core function of what you need to do, it’s likely just about preference.

HOW TO AVOID GETTING STUCK IN THE PRODUCTIVITY TRAP

Let me suggestion five questions to ask yourself the moment you feel the urge to chase something new:

  • Is there something broken about how you are currently approaching a task, project, or event? When something isn’t working or needs to function differently, that’s a great opportunity to evaluate your options. When that’s not the case, you risk losing momentum.
  • Do you have the time to explore another way to approach or handle something that is already working for you? Be honest in your assessment. It’s OK to put off something less important for a time when you have more margin. Important and urgent are two different things.
  • What is the opportunity cost to change? The cost of change must be less than the cost of staying the same.
  • What is the expected pay off? Define what you will be able to do that you can’t do now. Be specific in how this change or adaptation will help you achieve your goals.
  • Does this change, if applied, have short-term or long-term implications? Cadence is important. If you disrupt your flow, it can impact your progress. Momentum is hard to create and easy to stop.

If you ask and answer these questions honestly, you'll be able to determine whether or not exploring some new productivity suggestion will be worth your time, effort, and energy. There is nothing wrong with learning something new, but there is also nothing wrong with staying the same. The point I want to get across is learning how to be more productive is a great thing, but chasing productivity as if that were the essence of leadership is an illusion and a potential waste of time.

Time is both your greatest asset and liability; there simply isn’t a way to create more of it. So be wise with the time you have and make the most of it, which is what being productive is about anyway.

REFLECT: Are you chasing productivity, or trying to resolve an obstacle or challenge that is costing your time, money, and opportunity? How much time do you spend each day tinkering with things related to being productive rather than driving toward goals, outcomes, and results? Is the time and money you are investing right now to be more productive profitable? Why or why not? And how is that informing your habits moving forward?

Why Goals Are So Important for Leaders

I’m old enough to remember life before Facebook. I know it’s hard to imagine the world where you can’t catch up with friends you haven’t seen in years by simply searching for them or scrolling through your feed. And to participate in their life, you had to do more than simply press "like," share, or comment.

It hasn’t been that long since you had to call, write, or email someone to stay connected. One of the things I find interesting is how many college students and other millennials have a hard time distinguishing between reality and “Facebook reality.” There is, indeed, a difference. You can expect people will put their best foot forward on social media.

They are going to use the right photo filter, give you the highlight reel of their life, and carefully curate their never-ending wisdom. Why do they do this? To communicate to you they have it together, are someone you should admire, and secretly hope you want what they have just a little more than your own life.

But guess what? That “perfect life” isn’t quite so perfect. And putting something on Facebook doesn’t make it true. The same is true in other areas of life, too. Take leadership for example. Many people would consider themselves a leader, but not everyone who says they are a leader can provide the evidence to verify their claim.

TALK ISN’T ENOUGH

You must have the actions necessary to back up your claims. Otherwise, you have bought into your own PR, and that is a dangerous thing to do. Goals provide a built-in accountability system to ensure you align your decisions with your commitments.

If you want to become indispensable as a leader, then deliver on the goals you set out to accomplish. When push comes to shove, true leaders get the best opportunities. Why? It isn’t because they are necessarily the smartest, fastest, or most successful. They get the best opportunities because people recognize they have the drive and commitment necessary to carry the ball across the goal line

I hear a lot of people talk about leadership. Everyone seems to be an expert these days. You can find leadership advice just about everywhere. But like Facebook, just because someone says it’s true doesn’t make it true.

AUTHENTIC LEADERS GET RESULTS

As I’ve heard and said many times, “The proof is in the pudding.” What makes you a leader is not the location or size of your office, the nameplate on your door, the title on your business card, or your parking space at work. What makes you a leader is you know how to empower people and consistently deliver on key commitments and initiatives.

Goals are important to leaders because they provide the evidence necessary to build trust with those you want to lead. We’ve all worked for someone in a leadership role who just didn’t have it in them to direct a team toward a common goal. They’ve tried, but they never seemed to get the job done. Meeting and delivering on your goals will instantly set you apart and tell others you can, in fact, lead in a way that drives results.

In the end, results are what matters. You push, pull, climb, and fall all to have the chance to meet or exceed the goal that is in front of you. More important, your job as a leader is to deliver on that goal by empowering and equipping people to live up to the potential that is already within them.

The leaders you remember will be the ones who helped you accomplish things you didn’t think were possible. That didn’t happen by accident. Someone recognized the potential in you to do something significant, but that wasn’t just a personal growth exercise. That need was identified because a leader took a goal and broke it down into actionable steps. Then he or she looked across their teams and decided who was the most likely to complete the milestones and deliver on the outcomes necessary to accomplish the goal.

GOAL SEPARATE THE “WANT TO” FROM THE “CAN DO”

Most people say they want to accomplish big things in their life. They want to make a difference and create change in the world. I’m so inspired by the dreamers I encounter. Whether it’s with a group of pastors, college students, or entrepreneurs, it’s hard not to get inspired by what other people believe is possible.

At some point though, that dream must turn into an action plan. A great action plan has a series of goals associated with it. If you can meet those goals, then you have a shot at turning big dreams into reality. And that's what it takes to truly leave a legacy that matters. Hope can inspire, but actions get results.

You will build your reputation as a leader on the results you achieve. And the quality and size of those results are in direct correlation with the quality and size of your goals. People who accomplish big things in life didn't do so by accident. It was intentional because they decided to be disciplined about setting goals, and they held themselves to meeting those goals.

Leaders are predisposed to a goal-oriented life. It’s in their DNA and is the fuel that will propel them from now to next. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t rocket science either. You simply have to want to achieve your goal more than maintaining your sense of comfort.

In the end, it all boils down to how committed you are to what you say you want to accomplish. Be fearless and relentless in your pursuit of the things which matter most to you. If you do, you'll find a way to set and meet big goals that will result in a life of significance, meaning, and success.

CHALLENGE: Are you the leader you believe yourself to be? What goals have you set and delivered on that you can point to as evidence to support your claim? Be someone who does what they say they will do. It will transform your leadership and the people around you.

What to Do When You Miss Your Goals

Photo by SolStock/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by SolStock/iStock / Getty Images

I remember learning how to ride a bike. I started with training wheels and became very confident in my ability to balance and control myself. I could operate the bike as intended without much fear or thought. When the time came to take the training wheels off.

The bike itself had not materially changed. It was still the same bike I had been riding all along. Only now that the training wheels were not there, the fear of what might happen made me nervous and anxious. I swallowed hard, threw my leg over the bar, and started to move forward just as I had done hundreds of times before.

It wasn’t three seconds before I fell over along with the bike. I got back up, brushed my knees, hands, and elbows off, and tried again. I can’t say I didn’t fall a few more times, but it didn’t take long for me to get back to the same level of comfort I had when I had training wheels.

Looking back, I realized something I hadn’t considered at the time. Part of success is falling. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you’re not comfortable falling, you’ll never get comfortable riding a bike. The same is true for leadership. If you’re not comfortable making mistakes, you’ll never lead to your full potential.

TAKE THE TRAINING WHEELS OFF YOUR LEADERSHIP.

Setting and meeting goals is a lot like learning to ride your bike without training wheels. Expect to fall over, and find the energy to try again. Here is what you need to remind yourself when you miss your goals:

·      Everyone misses goals. If you don’t think successful people miss goals, then you need to spend more time with successful people.

·      You are more than your performance. Don’t get failure mixed up with your value as a human being.

·      A missed goal is an opportunity. It exposes a weakness which allows you to consider the goal from another perspective.

·      Reassess, adjust, and try again. The discipline of setting and meeting goals overshadows the times when you set a goal that later becomes unnecessary, irrelevant, or even inaccurate.

I meet so many leaders who are scared—in every sense of that word—to make a mistake. They live in constant fear of fumbling all over themselves. I also get to meet some of the most successful leaders in modern history. Want to know the difference? The former doesn’t want to make a mistake while the latter knows making mistakes and missing goals is part of life and leadership.

BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN IT’S A BIG GOAL?

It's one thing to recover from a missed goal that only affects you. What about when you miss a goal, and it changes the lives of real people? If a sales manager doesn't meet a financial goal, sometimes it means staff changes. If an operations manager doesn't control expenses, it sometimes means significant budget cuts at the most inopportune time. And if a CEO consistently underperforms to expectations set by the Board, it sometimes means new leadership is on the way.

This is what separates—as some say—the men from the boys. You can’t lead with one foot on the clutch and one foot on the gas. You should put yourself out there, take a stand, and adjust and adapt as life comes at you.

HERE IS WHAT I TELL MYSELF IN THOSE MOMENTS:

·      I’d rather leap and fall than be left behind. No one accomplished something great without taking a risk.

·      I’d rather lean in than lean out. The abundant life comes with ups and downs. You can’t have one without the other.

·      I’d rather reach toward something than try to avoid it. You’ll accomplish more when you stretch yourself beyond what you believe is possible.

·      I’d rather explore uncharted territory than stay between the lines. Life is an adventure. Say yes!

MISSED GOALS ARE OPPORTUNITIES IN DISGUISE.

It’s strange to me that some people believe failure is not tolerated in life. My leadership stance is if you're not failing then you're not trying hard enough. If a breakthrough is a goal, then you’re going to go places you’ve never been, do things you’ve never done, and try things you've never tried before. And you’re not going to win at everything nor are you going to be good at everything.

I would suggest a complete reframe. A missed goal is not a referendum on your personality, commitment, or determination. It is an opportunity to try again. And if you are willing to try enough times, you’ll eventually get it right.

You can’t enjoy the benefits of breakthrough without collecting a few scars along the way. Missed goals might sting, create interruptions in your pre-defined plans, or even embarrass you a little. So, what?!

Life is more than just a moment. In the end, you want to know you’ve left it all on the field. So, take the training wheels off, set some goals that will stretch you, and, if needed, get back up after you fall. Do this enough, and you’ll find your zone and lead into the fullness of your divine design.

CHALLENGE: What goals did you miss in the last week, month, or quarter? Why did you miss them? What will you do differently next time? What did you learn about yourself and your leadership in the process?

How to Set Goals (And Meet Them)

It was exciting to watch the football stadium be built on campus. I remember seeing the plans, talking to the contractor, and running through all the necessary phases of preparation. Then I remember when we broke ground. That’s when it became real.

As the foundation was set and the building continued, I would occasionally wander over on the site, put my hard hat on, and just walk around. There were lots of different people doing lots of different things. But every person knew exactly what needed to be done, by when, and to what standard or specification.

When the stadium was complete, you could no longer see the evidence of all the interstitial steps. You only saw a football stadium. It was simply amazing. And none of it would have been possible if every person was not clear about their role, what was expected of them, and when they need to get what done.

That was a very complex construction effort masterfully simplified through goals, milestones, and progress marks. You can make setting goals complicated or simple. I prefer to keep things simple. My rule of thumb in leadership is complex things must be simplified. That's the only way to turn big ideas into actionable next steps.

THIS IS A GREAT FRAMEWORK TO USE AS YOU SET YOUR GOALS.

  1. Be abundantly clear about your desired outcome. If you’re not sure what success looks like, you won’t recognize it when you get there.
  2. Outline all the key milestones that must happen to achieve your desired outcome. This isn’t fun, but it’s necessary to work. Time spent planning is time well spent.
  3. Define the deliverable. Every milestone has a deliverable. It's vital you understand what that is so you can lead with confidence.
  4. Assign dates to every milestone. Everyone has the same amount of time; the difference is in how you use it. Without milestones, you’ll never know if you’re moving forward, backward, or sideways.
  5. Breakdown each milestone into a series of steps. Remove all ambiguity in reaching your milestones. This will take planning and patience, but the payoff will be worth it.
  6. Assign a date and owner to each step. Due dates are built in accountability measures to give feedback on when, where, and how we need to adjust over time. And even if you own every step, attach your name to it. 
  7. Put this into a format that can be easily referenced and quickly reviewed at least once a week. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on paper or electronic. Just make sure it’s somewhere readily accessible that will allow you to review often.

THE REAL SECRET IS IN HOW YOU HOLD YOURSELF OR OTHERS ACCOUNTABLE.

Your project or desired outcome may not need anyone other than yourself to complete. Even if you are the only one involved, you still need to find a way to hold yourself accountable. My suggestion is this:

·      Write down what you need to accomplish on Sunday night. This gets you focused on what needs to happen in the coming week.

·      Make sure you break it down into clear, actionable steps. Broad statements aren’t helpful. Be specific.

·      Schedule those steps on your calendar. If each step doesn’t make it to your calendar, it highly likely it won’t get done.

·      Conduct a mid-week progress check-up. This will give you a chance to course correct along the way.

·      Reflect on your progress at the end of the week to evaluate your effectiveness. Celebrate your wins, recalibrate the rest, and discard what is no longer important.

THIS MAY SOUND OVERLY RESTRICTIVE OR NOT EVEN DESIRABLE AT FIRST.

I know this can sound like a lot of work. I get it. But it’s vital that setting and delivering on your goals becomes part of your leadership. If not, you'll end up being one of those leaders who talk a big game but never delivers on what he or she says. That will, over time, undermined your credibility and could lead to your unseating.

Like any habit or discipline, it's going to take a tremendous amount of cognitive effort at first. It is going to be uncomfortable and unfamiliar, especially if you aren't used to setting and meeting goals for yourself. But the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.

You will be surprised just how much you can accomplish if you focus your thoughts and energy on a short-term goal. Don't believe me? Look no further than final exams in college, last-minute sales pitch opportunities in business, or election season in politics. When you focus your efforts and are clear about what you want to accomplish, you can advance with a momentum others only dream about.

MOVING FORWARD WHILE STANDING STILL

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of setting and delivering on your goals is overcoming the temptation to do a lot of things but remain unsure if you are making any progress. In the absence of clarity, your only option is too busy yourself doing a lot of things. That doesn't necessarily mean they are the right things.

Most of the time leadership feels like you’re standing still. It isn’t until you look back and see the big picture when you realize all the ground you’ve covered in a short, concentrated period. But you can’t do that without goals and your ability to track your progress against those goals.

That’s exactly what it was like for me while building the football stadium. There were weeks and months when it looked like nothing was happening. But that wasn’t true. Progress was being made every day.

Without a project plan, you only have your intuition to lean on. And institution can’t be your singular measure of progress. Removing the ambiguity of success and providing clarity around what’s next will ensure you arrive at the place you intended to in the beginning. The right goals will ensure you maximize your divine design in leadership and life.

REFLECT: How do you set goals? Is it an effective approach? Where did you learn those habits? Evaluate your current approach and determine whether you need to make any adjustments.

Goals Point to Where You’re Going

You can spend your life waiting for something to happen, or you can create the life you want. Everyone gets the same number of months in a year, days in a month, hours in a day, minutes in an hour, and seconds in a minute. The difference is how you spend that time. That will determine how your life unfolds and the legacy you will build.

I never took a formal class in how to balance a checkbook. That was a skill I was supposed to learn from my parents or on my own. Goals are treated in much the same way. It’s rare to find a formal class on how to set and deliver on your goals. Instead, you are supposed to just learn how to do that from watching others or learning as you go. The truth is some do and some don’t. And those you don’t are sorely behind in achieving the things that are most important to them.

When you are in elementary school, your goals are set for you. You have no input on your class schedule, teachers, subjects, etc. As you move into high school, you begin to make more decisions about your classes and schedule to ensure it aligns with what you need to prepare yourself for college.

Then when you get to college, you get a tremendous amount of freedom to set your days, classes, professors, and more. But once your formal education is over, you are on your own for the most part. In fact, it’s almost like starting over in some ways.

When you begin your first real job, it’s likely to be well-defined. You’ll know exactly what is expected of you, and your goals will be set for you. But as you progress through the ranks, choose to go out on your own, or take on more complex assignments, you’ll realize that more and more is left up to you to determine where you go and how you get there.

Some thrive in this environment while others don't. I don't believe that setting goals is natural. Different people do have varying levels of drive and ambition. But the discipline of setting and delivering on goals is an acquired skill that anyone can develop over time.

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO HAVE GOALS?

·      You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re headed, it will be impossible set the right goals.

·      You have to define what success means. If you aren’t sure about the outcome you want to achieve, then you won’t have goals in place to move you toward a particular outcome.

·      You have to write them down and track your progress over time. If you can’t track your progress, you won’t be able to make critical decisions in the moment or determine whether or not you are on or off track to meet your goals.

If you don’t know the three things outlined above, then it’s going to be difficult for you to set goals. If you don’t set goals, you’ll be subject to the ebb and flow of life which can leave you feeling like a bouncy ball rather than a rocket ship. And if you can’t measure your progress, you’ll never have the confidence to persist in a direction until you have delivered on your goals.

Goals are a built-in accountability system to ensure you end up where you intended, when you wanted to be there, and having accomplished what you set out to do in the first place. Life rarely gives you a map. Most of the time you are simply using a compass and your gut to move forward. Goals become the waypoints in your journey that keep pulling you forward and give you confirmation you're headed in the right direction.

GOALS ARE MORE THAN CASUAL RESOLUTIONS.

One of the traditions around New Year’s Day is setting goals for the year. Most people do this casually. I’ve learned there is a nugget of truth in the things that people articulate in their annual resolution exercise. Most know they need to stop and start doing certain things, but change is hard.

You need goals. Not a year from now. Not tomorrow. But today. And tomorrow. And next week, month, and in the years to come. If you're not setting goals, then you're not maximizing your potential as a person or as a leader. That means you're leaving something on the field. That has to stop. Otherwise, you’ll continue to produce similar or diminishing results.

If you want to change your future, set the right goals today. Do the hard work. Take time to plan. And hold yourself to following through and staying the course. The discipline of consistent execution is sorely undervalued in an instant culture. I hear a lot of people talk about making change—in their life and the world. But lasting change doesn't just happen by accident. It's a daily decision to keep moving in a direction until your mission is accomplished.

If you're serious about wanting to live into your full potential and fully activate your divine design, then you must become serious about setting and delivering on your goals. This is a key subject for anyone I mentor, and it's something you must decide for yourself. Do you want what you want bad enough to set goals and do the work necessary to make those goals true? If not, then you're not serious about accomplishing the things you say you want.

I want to be a world changer, and I bet you do, too. The best way to ensure the seconds, hours, days, weeks, months, and years I spend will lead me to where I want to go. Stop skirting the obvious. You have the power to be and become what you desire. Goals will get you there, but you must take the time to define, set, and track your progress against them.

CHALLENGE: What are your goals? Can you rattle them off the top of your head? Are they written down? If not, write down what you want to accomplish in the next 24 hours. Determine what must take place. Then resolve to do it.

Choose Yourself and the Adventure Before You 

The weight of carrying the expectations of others can be overwhelming. Whether it’s your parents, spouse, friend, boss, or pastor, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of layering what other people want for and from you on top of what you want for and from yourself. In fact, it’s easy to get lost in all the noise and forget what your voice even sounds like.

I see this more often than I’d like as I meet with incoming freshman. While I can’t meet with every freshman one on one, I can meet with them in small groups throughout the year. This gives me a chance to stay in touch with their interests, needs, and passion, and they get to hear from me what I believe will be important for them during their time at Southeastern University.

What never ceases to amaze me is how many students carry with them the expectations of others—especially their parents. I'm not here to judge or cast blame on anyone. I believe most parents have the best of intentions in setting their son or daughter up for success. But sometimes their zealous efforts can become so deafening that it never allows their child to learn to hear and trust his or her voice.

If you lose your sense of self, you'll never fully appreciate the uniqueness that is in you. Each freshman I meet possesses a certain level of genius. I'm not talking about genius in relation to some academic or scientific score. I mean the capacity to do something important and significant that will impact the world in a tangible and measurable way. But if you don't know how to distinguish your voice from the voice of others, you'll end up chasing the dreams of someone else.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE YOUR VOICE

·      Commit to consistent periods of self-reflection. You don't have to hike to the top of a mountain and meditate in silence for days on end to develop the discipline of self-reflection. You can do this in the car while you're driving, on your morning run, or simply in the quietness of the evening before you go to sleep.

·      Ask and answer–Why? Motivation, intentions, and expectations will reveal more than just information alone. Many people like to fancy themselves to be purely pragmatic when it comes to decision making, but no decision is void of emotion. The answer to this question will tell you a lot about yourself and your relationship to a situation, circumstance, or person.

·      Trust your instincts. If you squash your voice long enough, you’ll teach yourself how to suppress it. If you find you have lots of filters that leave you paralyzed with fear or lost in self-doubt, it’s a good sign you haven’t learned to trust your instincts. Nothing is wasted, even bad decisions.

·      Give up the need to always please others. This is a tough one for the people-pleasing crowd. It’s especially complex when someone tries to earn the approval of someone else. You must learn to believe in yourself. You are already good enough.

SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CHOOSE YOURSELF?

·      It means you recognize there is a plan and purpose for your life. You were not created by accident. You have talents, skills, and abilities that, when combined, will transform you into a powerful agent of change.

·      It means you desire the self-discovery that can only come from the adventure. You will learn the most about yourself and life when you step out of your comfort zone and into the world of possibility. This is a conscious choice you must make every day. It’s easy to stay on the sidelines.

·      It means you discipline yourself to recognize the difference between someone else’s unfulfilled dreams and your divine design. Stay true to yourself. Don’t live through the disappointments or dreams of anyone but yourself. I don’t believe most people do this intentionally. I honestly think most people don’t even recognize it when they do it.

·      It means you say yes. Life rarely forces you into a situation. You must say yes to release the power to move forward and live a life of significance, meaning, and purpose.

THIS LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT.

I’ll never forget what a friend told me once. He said, “I want to live a life that someone else wants to write a book about.” I know that can be taken to mean many things. But if you knew this person, you would understand it was said with pure intentions.

What I think he meant was he wanted to be true to himself and his calling. He believed that by living that way it would inspire others to do this same in their own life. And that's the multiplying effect making the right choices can have in your life.

It’s impossible to go through life and not have an impact on the people around you. The unknown places and spaces of life is where you’ll find some of your biggest opportunities for impact. That’s where the function of choice comes into play. You must decide the life you want to live and the legacy you want to leave behind.

No one else can live your life. In fact, I need you to say yes to your adventure—not mine or anyone else’s. You are your own person. Live into the fullness of the person you were created to be, and reach for the things that light your soul on fire. It’s the only way to avoid a zombie-like experience where you are left wandering through the expectations of others hoping to find yourself somewhere amid all the noise.

The choices you make will determine the life you live. Say yes to yourself and the adventure that awaits you. And in the meantime, soak up all you can. There is much joy, abundance, and blessing awaiting you. All you have to say is—yes.

REFLECT: What do you need to say yes to? Whose voice has been governing your decisions? What would have to be true to live the life of your dreams? How are your choices setting you up for that?

When Is It OK to Delay a Decision?

There are certain choices you must make. Whether it’s deciding what to eat when you’re hungry, where to sleep when you’re tired, or what to wear for the occasion, those are simple, straightforward, and everyday decisions. You make them so quickly and succinctly that you don't even think about them.

But what about those not-so-everyday decisions such as if the job opportunity in front of you is the right one, the person you’re dating is the one you should marry, or how will you approach retirement? Those decisions have implications that are deep and wide. They demand careful thought and attention, but a delay for too long will likely result in the opportunity passing you by.

There is a certain school of leadership that believes action is always better than inaction. While I would generally agree with this, there are times when stepping back, building time in for reflection, and even waiting out the situation to evolve further can be a wise choice. I know you probably think I'm inconsistent. I can understand how it may seem like that. But I can assure you I'm not.

SOMETIMES “NOT NOW” IS A LEGITIMATE CHOICE

I remember when the kids were young, and they desperately wanted a new video game that was being advertised; they wanted it right then and there. Of course, your concept of time as a child is a little different than that as an adult. Even waiting a day can seem like an eternity.

They wanted it bad. I got "the pitch" every time I stepped in the door. I have to give them credit for their tenacious attempt to persuade me. But the problem was it was close to Christmas. It didn't make sense to buy that for them at that moment when my wife and I could wait a month and make it part of our Christmas list.

They didn't think my reasonable explanation of the proximity of Christmas was a very good one. While that was hard for them to understand, eventually they accepted the fact that I wasn't going to buy it for them on their timetable. (And just so you know, we did get it for them for Christmas, and they loved it as much as they would have had I bought it the moment they asked.)

WHEN “NOT NOW” IS A GOOD DECISION

This can be a tricky one to figure out because you must be sure your intent is not to avoid a decision but to delay it. Here are some tips you can use to distinguish the difference between the two:

·      You don’t have all the information you need. I’ve made most of my mistakes rushing to a decision. Take a deep breath and make sure you have all the necessary details you need to make the best decision.

·      You don’t have everyone involved in the decision on board. Leaders lead people, not projects. You build people when you get their input on how to approach or accomplish something.

·      You don’t have an immediate consequence for delaying the decision. Even if it’s an important decision, the lack of an immediate consequence gives you some space to process, reflect, and decide.

·      You need to resolve another matter first. If the fuel line in your car is leaking, the fact you need new tires isn’t relevant. Until you fix the fuel line, it really wouldn’t make sense to replace the tires. Prioritization is important.

·      The situation is likely to resolve itself on its own. Many young leaders try to inject themselves into a situation when they need to wait to see if it will resolve itself.

The difference between avoiding a decision and choosing “not now” is key for you to understand. Avoiding a decision is not accepting responsibility for what is in your purview of leadership. Choosing “not now” is a strategic decision that, when carefully applied, can be a very effective leadership tactic.

HOW TO HANDLE A “NOT NOW” DECISION

·      Consider the contextual clues surrounding your decision. Context is key. It's important that every leadership decision is made within the context of the decision itself.

·      Record notes about your decision. Don’t think you’ll remember all the details. Write it in a notebook—paper or digital. This will help you reference again at some point in the future.

·      Set a time to review the situation and your decision at some point in the future. Don’t expect you will just remember it. You’ll forget. The best way to handle this is to put a date on your calendar with yourself.

·      Be clear with your logic with anyone else it involves. This is key to ensure you have alignment with the people around you, especially if they hold an interest in the situation itself.

So the answer is yes, it’s OK to delay a decision. A decision of “not now” can be just as effective and empowering as a yes or no. Just choose that option wisely; otherwise, you’ll fall into the decision avoidance trap.

REFLECT: Can you make room for a "not now" decision in your leadership? Is there something on your proverbial desk right now that you are rushing toward a decision when you just need to decide to say "not now"? How can you distinguish between "decision avoidance" and choosing "not now"?

How to Reduce the Friction of Making Decisions

The choices you make will determine the life you live. That was drilled into me by every mentor I’ve ever had. I try to carry on the tradition by telling those whom I mentor today the same thing.

Sometimes making a choice seems more difficult and complex than it should be. Every time you try to decide, you have this gut feeling you’re not ready to decide or you’re not sure which one is the right decision. So, you decide to postpone making the decision until you have more time to think about it, more information, or better insight into what you hope to accomplish.

It’s easy to spot this behavior when you see it. I call it “decision avoidance syndrome.” Please know this is not an actual medical diagnosis, and I’m not a therapist. But leading people can feel like therapy sometimes. And this is one of those times. When your desired outcome becomes avoiding the decision at hand, you have decision avoidance syndrome.

THERE ARE SEVERAL REASONS WHY “DECISION AVOIDANCE” SETS IN:

·      You fear the consequences of a particular decision.

·      You don’t’ have enough information to make a decision.

·      You don’t’ want to be accountable for a decision that may result in a not so ideal outcome.

·      You are a decision avoidance ninja whose entire goal is to avoid making any significant decision.

The struggle is real. I get it. Some days I just want to stop “adulting,” too. Life can get rough at times, and it can certainly be unforgiving. But a leader leans into outcomes and accountability rather than avoids it. Every decision has a consequence. If you’re going to lead yourself and others, you need to get comfortable with sometimes you’re going to make the right decision and sometimes you won’t. (The good news is most decisions aren’t fatal—even if it seems like it at the time.)

But I think there is a much more fundamental reason why leaders avoid decisions, and I believe this is the heart of the matter. It’s hard to choose anything without clarity around what you want to take place and where you are headed. That sounds simple and trite, but it's true. It's hard to measure progress when you don't have any intended outcome outlined. (And if you're intended outcome is to drift through life avoiding the tough decisions, then you'll never experience the adventure that is right in front of you.)

Lack of clarity creates friction when it comes to deciding on anything. You must know what you want to determine where you need to go or what you need to do next. And that means picking a direction and marching toward it until the battle is won and the war is over.

SO HERE IS HOW TO REDUCE THE FRICTION OF MAKING A DECISION:

·      Accept the reality that every choice brings with it some degree of friction. Decisions are catalysts that tease out and reveal if what you say matches what you do.

·      Make regular time to plan. It’s the only way to have clarity around where you are, where you’re headed, and what it will take to get there. Whatever time you invest in this will be worth it.

·      Outline (on paper) what you want and when you want to achieve it. Those milestones will serve as focus points for you as you make the long journey of leadership.

·      Review your situation with a mentor. I would be remiss to not include this one. I can’t state enough how important it is for leaders to mentor and be mentored. You can’t do life or leadership alone. Period.

·      When all else fails, pull out a blank sheet of paper and create a decision tree. Follow each possible decision to its logical end. I call this back of the napkin logic. But it works. (Just make sure you grab a few extra napkins. It always seems to take more space than expected to get to finish the exercise.)

THE PARADOX OF DECISIONS AND LEADERSHIP

The paradox is you’ll find energy in your ability to choose and decide. Action creates momentum. There is time to mull over an idea, and there is time to act. Just go for it. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you might make a decision from which you could never recover.

I just have to say after decades of leadership I may have only seen that happen two or three times. It's hard to make a decision that's fatal. So don't allow fear to inhibit your ability to find clarity and lean in to whatever change you want to see take place in your life, job, community, or world true.

Leadership isn’t all glitz and glamor. The truth is everyone else is looking to you for guidance and direction. They will take their cue from you. If you avoid choices, they will too. And that behavior will have significant ramifications on culture and your ability to achieve the outcomes you desire.

I'll offer you one last piece of advice. I'd rather you make the wrong decision than making no decision. Again, criminal or unethical behavior is far beyond the scope of what I mean. But leaders who have a bias toward action are always stronger than those who don't. So, err on the side of doing rather than on the side of avoiding. You'll be a stronger leader, and the people around you will have more confidence in you.

CHALLENGE: What decision do you need to make that you’ve been avoiding? Commit to yourself to resolve the issue and make a decision. Evaluate how clear you are on where you’re headed and budget the time necessary to get a game plan in place.