Archive for April, 2013

Today’s the day to spend some time with yourself, reflecting.

Answer the following questions to help you explore the results of focus:

Have you ever finished several separate mid-size tasks in succession to one another? What were they and what was accomplished in each one?

When you focused on and finished these tasks, what effect did it have on you, on others, and on your company or organization?

What influence or trust did you gain from your peers for finishing these tasks?

When you finish tasks well, how can that build trust with others and create momentum to open up future possibilities for you?

The quality of the time you spend on these questions will define the quality of your answers, which in turn will affect the quality of your results.

As always, you will get out what you put in!

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As we begin week four of our month on Focus, let’s consider the fruits of being focused.

Focus allows you to see through all the other stuff, the every day events that some might consider distractions, but what we really know to be simple, every day life, and continue to forge ahead toward your goal.

Focus allows you to keep going, even when things get hard and you want to quit, because you know the feeling of satisfaction that awaits you at the other end…when you have accomplished your goal.

Think back to what you may have read about the 1936 Olympics. Most of the world was focused on race issues, pitting white athletes against black athletes. Jessie Owens did not allow himself to get caught up in the rhetoric; he focused on running his race.

As he entered the Munich Stadium, Swastikas were everywhere; the stadium was filled with white spectators…including Adolf Hitler. As we know Hitler and his contemporaries viewed blacks as less than human, inferior to whites in every way.

If this was not a moment fraught with distraction and stress, I can’t imagine what would be.

What did Owens do? To be sure, he felt the weight of the moment. Win or lose, he knew there was risk regardless of the outcome.

While we can’t know what he was thinking, we need only to read the stories to know what he did. Jesse Owens rocketed out of his starting stance and flew past the competition to take the Gold in the 100-yard dash. He did the same in the 200-yard event. He also won the long jump and ran the lead leg for the 4 x 100 relay.

Clearly, Owens retained his focus on what he had set in front of himself, rather than allowing himself to become distracted by the loud and very obvious controversy. He achieved his goals; he earned respect; he brought hope to others.

While our situations are certainly less dire, we are still often surrounded by a wide variety of other issues, people, and situations attempting to grab out attention and divert our focus.

Effective leaders block out the noise, fear, and anxiety, choosing instead to retain their focus and move confidently in the direction of their visions, goals, and dreams. When you do this, when you display this kind of focus and courage in the face of adversity, you earn respect, give others hope, and build momentum.

What do you need to do this week to focus on your “100-yard dash”?

What benefits will you reap when you remain focused in the face of distraction and move confidently in the direction of your vision?

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Happy Friday! Time for your Friday ritual.

Are you like many, so excited to have made it through another week that you rush into the weekend without giving it much thought? Or do you take the time to thoughtfully plan ahead, considering the attention some of your relationships might need, or the rest or reflection time you might need? I’ve been working at this, since we started this journey together in January. I don’t always get it just right, but I am much more thoughtful about my weekends these days, and what I can do to think ahead and plan for the next few weeks, as well.

This weekend, my plans are to rest and prepare for a couple of big events coming up in the next couple of weeks. Of course, there will be play time, as well; one cannot not have play time with a six-year old!

While I did get my flowers planted, I didn’t make it to the nursery for the lavender, and I could freshen the mulch in my beds. I have some fine-tuning to do on the keynote presentation I will be making on Wednesday during the Women in Leadership Luncheon put on by the Mid-Ohio Valley Chamber of Commerce. That’s going to be a fun event! The theme is What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, based on the best-seller by Marshall Goldsmith. In addition to my presentation, we will offer a self-assessment on global leadership for the attendees to work through and discuss; great tool for increased self-awareness and potential growth and change opportunities in the future. In the afternoon, we will have a panel of successful women in various stages of their careers who will share their stories of points in their career where they stumbled and had to learn new behaviors to support their growth to a new level of their work.

If you haven’t read this book, and you are feeling stuck in your work, I recommend you pick up a copy; the answer may be quite plainly spelled out in the book!

There are, of course, a number of other things going on these days, but these are the big rocks for my weekend.

How about you?  What’s on your weekend list?

With our attention turned to “focus” this month, what has changed for you in how you look at and plan your time?

Who will command your time and attention this weekend?

What activities will you fit into the weekend?

What planning or preparation do you need to do for the coming weeks?

Have a great weekend, and I’ll “see” you Monday!

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This has been a fast week for me. What about for you?

What benefits have you experienced from identifying and removing distractions this past week to stay focused on your project?

What do you need to do to maintain this kind of focus over time?

How could being this focused increase your production and fulfillment at work?

I encourage you to really spend some time with these questions and your journal today.

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How many projects are you currently working on? Today, let’s focus on just one.

Pick one and recruit some others on your team, or within your organization, and strategize how to get it done. Then, ask each person to write down all their thoughts about the potential distractions that could keep you from completing the project. Share everyone’s list of potential distractions, then as a team discuss how you can eliminate or protect yourselves from the distractions.

As a team commit to the actions defined above and to remain focused on the project until it is completed. Agree to a plan and move forward.

First step: Name the project.

Second step: List the names of the people you will recruit to help you.

Third step: Describe how they can help you.

Fourth step: Take action!

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Step back in time, briefly, and think of a time when you were focused on a task and then became distracted. Now, get out your journal and write about what happened. Describe the circumstances and the factors that led to the distraction.

With this new level of awareness, what recurring factors easily distract you when working on tasks or projects? What are your top three most frequent reactions?

Awareness is the key, so now that you are thinking clearly about your most common distractions, you can develop a system that will allow you to manage them.

Depending on what your distractions are, your management system may be about starting some new behaviors, stopping some existing behaviors, or implementing new behaviors.

For example, if your distractions are emails, phone calls, and unexpected visitors, perhaps you could create a different environment for yourself to work in, uninterrupted. Log-out of your email. Turn off the ringer on your phone and/or send it straight to voice mail. Close your door — with a “Please do not disturb” sign on it.

I worked with someone once who used “traffic lights” on his office door to let his co-workers know if it was ok to enter his office. If the light was green, he was working on things that wouldn’t be negatively impacted by an interruption. When the light was yellow, he was interruptible if the issue was really important (he defined what that meant for him and his team). If the light was red, that meant he should be interrupted ONLY if there was imminent danger of death and destruction! Of course, this system took some educating within his team, to understand what the lights meant and how to determine if what they were about to interrupt him with was really important in the grand scheme of things, or was important only to them in that moment.

So, what is your plan for retaining your focus and dealing with common distractions? Develop a plan that will work for each of your most common distractions. Once you’ve mastered the top three, refocus your attention on the next most common distractions. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how much more focused you are and how much more control you have over how you spend your time, rather than how you may fall victim to distractions.

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Wow! We’re already into week three of our fourth month on this journey! Time flies…

What does clear focus do for you and your team? When I work with teams, I begin with team building (have to have a foundation of trust before anything else of significant value will happen), and once we have that foundation, we work on where the team is headed — defining and clarifying what their vision is. Then I walk them through plotting out the steps they will need to take to achieve their vision, how they will measure their progress along the way, and how will they hold themselves and each other accountable for their individual and team commitments.

As they begin to move forward, they will develop momentum, but they will also be dealing with the rest of their lives, which creates some distractions, both at home and at work. It’s critical they remain focused on the end game. Clear focus eliminates distractions, unifies activity, and guides decision-making.

When your focus is diverted, all kinds of things will come into your path to get you and keep you off track. You will find competing goals and your team mates will be pulled in other directions. As the leader, you must be the reminder, relentlessly keeping the team focused on your shared vision, championing that vision, and celebrating the work your team is doing and the milestones it is achieving along the way.

Think back to the Cold War. There were several different schools of thought about the approach we should take with the USSR: Befriend them and seek common ground; divvy up territories — giving them control of Eastern Europe and parts of Asia; others said they must be defeated at all costs.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher agreed with the final approach — defeat them at all costs. Our leaders had determined that the USSR having any significant control beyond its own borders was not an option that would be good for the rest of the globe. Each took a specific approach. Reagan framed it as a struggle between liberty and suppression. Thatcher focused on unraveling socialist policies at home and abroad. Together, they focused the resources and willpower of half the globe toward crushing communism.

What do you think would have happened if they didn’t have a laser-sharp focus on these issues?

What distractions threaten to sway the focus of your team?

What can you do — daily — to unify your team’s attention and activities?

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.   ~Alexander Graham Bell

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It’s somewhat warm, humid, and rainy as I write this, and I am so looking forward to this weekend.

My plans are to rest and play… mostly! And, yes, there will be some work. On my business, on Empowerment Mentoring, on Women in Leadership Luncheon prep, but mostly fun.

I have flowers to plant in my boxes out front. Need to hit a local nursery to replace a few lavender bushes that didn’t make it last year (there’s always a risk when you buy them at 80% at the end of the season and they are totally root bound in their containers!). And on Sunday, will be the highlight of my weekend: An afternoon with a good friend, lunch, shopping, and painting. Yes, I said painting. We are going to a place called Uncork and Create for Mimosa Sunday. I’ve never been, but you go and paint a picture, and while you paint you may enjoy a glass of wine and snacks…if that suits you. I’m just really looking forward to the girl time and creative outlet. Don’t get me wrong, though…this activity will push me out of my comfort zone. I’m not a “visually” creative person usually. My creative juices normally flow along the lines of words, ideas, and concepts. So, I truly welcome this opportunity to get outside myself for a bit and see what happens.

Oh, and it looks like I’ll be spending a week in June, in Guatemala with John C. Maxwell, and a number of my fellow John Maxwell Team Members, teaching transformational leadership! How’s that for the opportunity of a lifetime? I’m more excited than I can say, and as you can imagine, there’s a lot of work to do to prepare for that!

Now, it’s your turn. What’s on your list?

Who really need your attention this weekend? You? Family? Friends? People you’ve not yet met?

What really needs your attention this weekend? Is it projects, rest, relaxation…?

What thoughts do you have about the level of focus you are applying to your life?

What’s in store for you this weekend, next week, and in the coming weeks? Are you taking the steps to set yourself up for success and fulfillment?

Have a great weekend, and I’ll “see” you Monday!

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It’s time to get your journal out. Take some time today to reflect on what you’ve learned this week, and especially about the benefits of focusing on and improving a specific skill. Consider, also, the affect on your relationship with the person (people?) you reached out to for help.

How could your efforts in sharpening your skills, and building stronger connections, impact your production and effectiveness at work? What’s the impact on the larger organization — beyond just your role and your team?

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Now that you’ve defined the skills necessary for success in your current role, and are actively working to sharpen at least one of them, let’s think about who can help you.

Who do you know who can help you deliberately develop the skills required in your role?

While you surely have an extensive network and a long list of contacts, create a list of specific people who are key players with respect to your position. Designate each one based on expertise and associate their names with the skills from the list you created yesterday. Think of them as your “inner circle” with respect to sharpening your skills in this job.

On a piece of paper, make two columns. In the left column, list your top ten skills, one per line. In the right column, list the people you identified above who can help you with each specific skill on your list.

Contact at least one person on your list today to help you with something specific.

You know, people are flattered when we recognize their skills and abilities; they want to know that others recognize their talents and competence. You can win in two ways with this exercise: First, you sharpen your skills, and second, you will likely develop a stronger connection with the people you reach out to.

What are you waiting for? Get started…

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