Learn to Lead

September 27th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

—John F. Kennedy

What have you learned lately?

We’ve all heard that life long learning is the key to success. However, it can be easy to simply dismiss this as a trite saying. In reality, this adage has never been truer than it is today.

In the book The Coaching Manager, James Hunt and Joseph Weintraub point out that it used to be possible to spend the first 20 – 30 years of our life amassing all the knowledge we needed and then rely on what we acquired for the next 30 years of our career. That approach is no longer effective. I recently read an article that stated the only thing it takes to be the smartest person in the room is a smart phone. The author’s premise is that it is the ability to learn that is important today and we need to focus on developing learning workers not simply knowledge workers.

With the pace of change today, you must continue to evolve or your will be left behind. It’s not acceptable to rely on a strategy or approach that worked a year ago, let alone five years ago. If your not pushing yourself to consider and explore new approaches you will eventually find that your skills, and possibly your organization, have become obsolete.

Challenge yourself to stay curious. No matter how much you might think you have the answers, remain open to the ideas of others. Seek out the perspective of your team and ask them to suggest improvements. It’s also critical that you stay up on changes happening within your industry. Regularly read industry trade magazines and attend conferences where you can learn about what other organizations in your industry are doing.

Although it is important to learn from your staff and about your industry, it’s equally critical to learn from areas outside of your industry. Seek out key innovations from a range of industries and in the field of science. You never know when new technology or techniques in one industry might spark an idea for your industry and organization. Finally, continually study the practice of leadership. Challenge yourself to evaluate your leadership style and make any adjustments necessary.

The bottom line is that in order to be successful as a leader today you must keep learning. Upon earning a leadership position, if you adopt the attitude that you have arrived, it is only a matter of time before you realize that you are being passed up. On the other hand, if you stay curious and open to learning, you will have the flexibility necessary to adapt quickly and will likely discover ideas that can help you and your organization thrive in a chaotic business environment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take this week to learn something new.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Embrace Abnormal

April 19th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” —Maya Angelou

Are you hiding behind normality?

You have a choice to make. Either you can decide to play it safe and follow the crowd. Or, you can choose to embrace what makes you unique and the gifts you have to offer. Normality is a myth and success depends upon your willingness to affirm who you are and what you have to offer.

It takes courage to be true to yourself. As you step out and let the real you shine through, there’s always a risk that others aren’t going to like you. Even those closest to you might not agree with your beliefs or approach. However, no matter what you do there will always be someone that doesn’t care for you. The greater risk is living a life of mediocrity.

A seed of potential exists within every one of us.  Unless we’re willing to take the necessary steps to cultivate our potential it will never blossom. The first step is to become clear about who you are.  Discover your passions, values, and strengths so you understand the impact you want to make.

Once you have this foundation of self-awareness in place you can begin to develop your potential. Actively look for opportunities to use your strengths. Start sharing your desires with close family, friends, and colleagues to see what ideas they might offer for practicing your strengths. The more you experiment the more clarity you will have about what is a best fit for you. Additionally, you will continue to refine your strengths.

Accept that it’s okay not to be normal. The concept of being normal is a myth and only exists when people continue to feed the belief that we have to fit in to some popularly accepted norm. No body is normal. We are each unique with our own set of strengths, challenges, desires, and fears. Recognize that these are the things that make you amazing and embrace who you truly are. Then you can begin the path to happiness, success, and fulfillment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify three strengths you possess and share one of them with someone.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

Keep Moving Forward

March 22nd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

—Chinese Proverb

What are you doing to continue your growth?

Every year it seems as if the pace of change increases exponentially. In order to keep up, it’s critical to ensure you continue to make forward progress. There’s no such thing as standing still, you’re either moving forward or falling backwards.

One of the books I read in graduate school was We Are All Self Employed by Cliff Hakim. Hakim’s premise that we all enter into a contract with our employer, which can be revoked by either one of us at any time, had a big impact on me. There are no guarantees and we never know when our contract will come to an end.

Rather than worrying about if, or when, that day will come, you need to focus your energy on continuing to refine your knowledge and skills. Luckily there are many different approaches you can take allowing you to grow as quickly or slowly as you want.

One option you might explore is to earn a new certification. Whether you’re in HR, IT, project management, or health care there are often a variety of certifications you can earn to expand both your knowledge and skills. You could also choose to go back to school for a degree or simply attend a course that is of interest to you.

Another approach is to seek out a new project to work on within your organization. Look for an opportunity that will allow you to play to your strengths yet challenge you to apply them in either a new way or in a new domain. Gaining exposure and working with a different area of the business or industry will not only add to your knowledge base it will make you better at your core responsibilities.

Looking to challenge yourself to learn how to handle difficult situations more effectively or enhance your people management and/or influencing skills, then you might want to work with a mentor or coach. He or she can help you step back and consider different perspectives as you navigate challenging situations. This is also a great strategy if you are looking to develop and implement a vision for yourself and/or your team.

Finally, you could choose to pick-up a new hobby or read a book about a new topic that appeals to you. Taking the time to develop a new skill or read about a new topic will challenge you to use your brain in new ways. Again, you’ll probably find that through this experience you make connections back to your professional life, which will make you a better employee.

Change is inevitable but growth is optional. There is nothing you can do to stop it, yet you don’t want to allow yourself to get passed by either. Challenge yourself to learn something new this year and keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one strategy you are going to implement in 2015 to grow.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

One Day at a Time

January 5th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” —Abraham Lincoln

What steps are you taking each day to create the future of your dreams?

We’re almost a week into the New Year and if you’re like most people you’ve probably fallen off track already with your resolutions. Frankly this is normal. The key is not to give up and to reset your expectations of making a perfect transition.

Bottom line: making a personal change is hard. Recent research has determined our brain is actually very elastic. So the popular adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, simply isn’t true. Although we’re very capable of learning new things and making changes in our life, it doesn’t happen easily.

Significant change whether starting an exercise routine, eating better, starting a business, or changing jobs contains inevitable ups and downs. Successful navigation of these challenges is dependent upon your ability to maintain a high level of energy and focus. This level of enthusiasm can only be sustained if the change is important enough to you. Focus on the areas that are truly meaningful for you and create a compelling image of what it will look like when you achieve your change.  This vision will keep you moving forward when the road gets tough.

Once you have a meaningful purpose and clear vision of what success looks like, approach the change one day at a time. Identify steps you can take each day to move forward and don’t get discouraged when you fall short or step backwards. You’re human and every path to change is full of twists and turns. Simply pick yourself up and make progress the next day.

One very true cliché is, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”.  Making the decision to take action and move forward will have a positive impact on your life, regardless of whether you ultimately reach your goal. It’s never too late to begin taking positive steps toward living the life of your dreams and you’re worth it! Make 2014 a year you look back on as a turning point in your life. Contact me if I can assist you in achieving your dreams. I’d be happy to partner with you on your journey.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take each day to move forward with your goals for the year.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker M.Ed., PCC

 

 

Life Requires Flexibility

October 27th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

“Your level of passion and aliveness is directly proportional to the amount of uncertainty you can live with.” —Tony Robbins

 

How flexible are you?

Life is full of twist and turns. The more you’re able to flex and adjust course when you hit life’s natural detours the more successful you will be.

Flexibility has never been one of my strengths.  While I’ve definitely gotten better over the years, I’m sure those closest to me would say I still have a long way to go. My natural personality leads me to focus a lot of energy on planning for the future. While there are some definite advantages to my inclination for planning, life rarely plays out just as I planned.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Every moment presents you with an opportunity. Even when something doesn’t go as you had planned, there is something you can gain from that moment, if you stay open.  

The distractions and detours of life might be just what you need. If you stay open to making the most of the present moment you might find you have an opportunity to learn an important lesson or appreciate a new experience that you would have otherwise missed.

The key is to strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the moment. It’s important to identify what you want to accomplish and the steps you need to take to get there. At the same time you need to allow for adjustments along the way. If your focus is too narrow you won’t recognize when you are being tugged to consider a new approach, which just may be the key to your success.

Time for this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Each day this week, focus on allowing yourself to flex from your plan when necessary. You just might be surprised by the opportunities that present themselves.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Started Now

June 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Don’t wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” —Napoleon Hill

What are you waiting for? Are you expecting the perfect opportunity to drop in your lap?

I bet you’ve been contemplating a change in your life but you’re holding yourself back because while you wait for the “right” moment. Whether you’re looking to change jobs, start a business, go back to school, get involved in your community, or take your team in a new direction there is no such thing as the perfect time.

In my experience many people struggle with the desire to do everything perfectly, as have I, which is a damaging mindset. Positive psychologist Tal Ben-Sharar distinguishes between the perfectionist and optimalist in his book In The Pursuit of Perfect. Perfectionists believe the path from point A to point B should be a direct and smooth path. When they experience the inevitable bumps in the road they become defeated.

On the other hand, the optimalist realizes that life is a journey that is full of twists and turns. She understands there will be many ups and downs along the path and that each detour provides an opportunity to learn. Rather than getting frustrated the optimalist enjoys the moment and what it has to offer. She trusts in her ability to adjust to the situation and keep moving forward.

In reality now is the perfect time. If you struggle with perfectionism, I challenge you to embrace the attitude of the optimalist. Any action you take will present opportunities and risks. While it’s important to understand what these are don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. The key is to get into action. Simply identify the first thing you need to do and begin moving forward.

You just may surprise yourself about the impact you’re capable of making. More importantly, not matter what happens you won’t regret having not taken a chance.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one simple step to move your idea forward. Contact me today if you want a support partner for your journey.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

Where Will You Lead in 2013?

January 13th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision.”  —Theodore Hesburgh

What’s your vision for your team?

It’s the time of year when many teams and organizations are establishing goals for the New Year. This is your opportunity to chart a new course that will significantly move your team forward and provide the level of service your customers need. The question is, are you prepared to make that leap or would you rather sit safely within your comfort zone?

Leaders move their teams beyond the status quo. They understand that in the business world you are either moving forward or moving backwards. It’s no secret that the pace of change in business continues to accelerate each and every year. Additionally, the needs and demands of your customers are continuously evolving. You may be providing wonderful service today but if you allow yourself to sit back and rest on this accomplishment it won’t be long before you are no longer meeting your customer’s expectations.

The evolving demands of customers demand a similar evolution within your business. You may hire a new employee this month to fill a particular role, but I’m willing to bet that by this time next year what you need from that role will have expanded. Success in this environment hinges upon your team’s ability to continuously evolve their skills and abilities.

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe people resist change. Change is natural and something we experience everyday. However, we have a tendency to get comfortable and fall into a routine. Unless we have a compelling desire or reason to make a change, we aren’t likely to do so. In order to help individuals step out of their comfort zone, leaders need to clearly articulate why the change is necessary while describing a compelling picture of the future.

Step back from how you are doing business today and consider the opportunities available to you. What do your customers need? What new technology will enable you to make an impact in a way you couldn’t previously? If you removed the biggest obstacle encountered by your team, what impact would that make? Use these broad questions to encourage your team to get creative about what is possible.

Finally, consider what accomplishment you’d like to celebrate in 2013.  Imagine it’s December and you’re looking back on one of the most successful years in the history of your organization and you’ve been featured in the Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal.  What have you accomplished?  What impact did you make?  How is the world better because of your team’s hard work?

Don’t perpetuate the status quo. Make the commitment to create a bigger vision and build something great with your team. If you do, 2013 just may be your lucky year!

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify how your team can make a significant leap forward in 2013.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Stretch Yourself

December 9th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

“The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.” —Jim Rohn

What are you going to accomplish in 2013?

I’m willing to bet I got your attention with this question. As 2012 comes to a close it’s natural to begin considering what next year will bring. However, I urge you to consider a more important question, who do you want to become in 2013?

A popular adage states that “change is inevitable but growth is optional”. I’ve always liked this statement as I believe change is the only constant in life. However, I contend that in order to be happy and successful in life, growth is not optional. Goals give you something to shoot for and provide the extra boost of motivation to help you fight through the inevitable valleys of change. However, I would encourage you to take a different approach to setting your goals for 2013.

I’m willing to bet that you have been taught to write SMART goals. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand SMART goals! Goals written in this format (Lose 20 pounds in 3 months) are not only boring, limiting, and may leave you disappointed. What if you only lose 15 pounds or it takes 6 months? Sure you’re grateful for the lost weight but it is likely that you will feel a little let down as well. Instead, consider replacing the SMART goal format with the following four step process.

First, gain clarity about your Intentions.  Why are you setting a goal?  What is important about this change for you?  Rather than focusing on losing 20 pounds or increasing revenue by 25% it’s more meaningful to focus on your desire to run around the yard with your kids or to expand your business and serve a new market.  These intentions tap into the higher purpose of what you are looking to accomplish and generate enthusiasm.

Once you are clear about your intentions and have identified a host of options, it is time to define what Success will look like for you.  Create a mental image of what you will be doing once you have achieved your goal.  Who are you with? How are you feeling?  What will be the first indication to you that you have achieved your goal?

The third step is to consider all of your Options and possibilities.  Don’t limit yourself to one strategy.  What strategies could you implement that will get you closer to running around the yard or expanding the business?  Come up with as many ideas as you can and resist the urge to judge what will or won’t work.

Finally, decide how you will hold yourself Accountable. Based upon the picture of success you defined and the options you identified, what strategies are you going to implement? When do you plan to implement your strategies? How will you hold yourself accountable and who else will you ask to hold you accountable?

Now is the time to begin thinking about 2013 and how you want to grow. Imagine it is December 31st 2013 and you are recapping the year, what do you hope to see in your life or career?

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Get a jump on 2013 with a clear intention of what you want, picture of success, and a set of strategies to hold yourself accountable.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Invest in Yourself

October 14th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

—Benjamin Franklin

How are you investing in yourself?

There are many ways you can choose to invest in yourself by adding to your knowledge base. Whether you attend a seminar to develop a new skill, challenge yourself to read a new book every month, attend a course at your local community college, or go back to school to earn a degree, you are making the decision to invest time, energy, and money in order to reap the benefits of a better future.

In life you are either moving forward or moving backward. Every day you can make the choice to learn and challenge yourself to get a little better than the day before. You don’t have to be working towards a big and lofty goal; you simply need to be striving to be a better version of yourself in some way. 

The alternative is to sit back and become complacent with the status quo. I’m not talking about being content (more on that in a future article) rather I’m referring to the belief that everything is perfect the way it is which causes you to resist any attempt for things to change. When you fall into this mindset and struggle to maintain your current reality, you actually begin to slip backwards. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize it is happening until it is too late.

Choosing to spend time developing your knowledge and skills is an investment that can never be taken away from you.  Once you’ve earned that degree, gained new knowledge, or acquired a new skill, it will always be with you.  A former client recently shared with me that she had just graduated from college. She made the decision to invest in herself by going back to school while working full-time and raising two children.  It wasn’t easy and she considered postponing her schooling on more than one occasion but she persevered none the less.

No matter what happens to her career, she will always have her degree and the experience of accomplishing her goal. While the degree is extremely valuable, equally important is the life lesson she learned along the way. She has showcased her ability to work through challenging times and come out on the other side. Regardless of what happens in her career nothing can take away either her degree or the confidence she has gained.

A new year is right around the corner and it is a great time to be thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2013.  I encourage you to set a learning goal for yourself.  What topic do you want to learn more about or what skill would you like to acquire?  Maybe this is the year you finally take the big step and go back to school.  Regardless of what your goal is, make sure 2013 is a year in which you are moving forward instead of backward!

Time for this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one thing you would like to learn in 2013.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

Look Forward

October 7th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

 

“A leader’s job is to look into the future and see the organization not as it is, but as it should be.” — Jack Welch

Do you have a vision?  What are you doing to prepare your team for the future?

As a leader you must have a vision for where you want your team to be in the future.  You need to determine what success will look like for your team in the next 3 – 5 years and actively prepare them to meet those challenges. If you choose to focus solely on the “here and now” your team will be destined to play catch-up.

In the classic leadership book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner identify the four most admired attributes of leaders.  Through decades of research the attributes of Honesty, Competence, Inspiration, and Forward Looking have been selected most frequently by followers when asked what they admire in a leader.  Additionally, Kouzes and Posner point out that the first three attributes align with the characteristics of “source credibility theory”; expertise, trustworthiness, and dynamism; which determine whether an individual is perceived as credible. 

Therefore, they assert the only thing that sets apart a credible leader from a credible person is vision. You might be in a position of leadership but if you don’t have a vision for how to evolve your team to meet future demands, you are simply managing the current state.  While this might be an important aspect of your role it will not prepare you and your team for success in the years to come.

Discipline yourself to take time each week to think about the future.  It isn’t necessary to clear your calendar for a day. Simply start small by scheduling a couple of hours of uninterrupted time each week so you can decompress and think creatively. Consider where your industry is headed and what your customers will need in the future. Once you have a sense of what the future might hold, think about how your organization or team can set themselves apart. What will put you on the leading edge of your industry?

The next step is to create a compelling picture of the future. Change can be difficult but contrary to popular belief I don’t believe people naturally resist change. However, they do experience fear of the unknown.  In order to diminish the unknowns, paint a vivid picture of where you are headed and the benefits of bringing your vision to reality.

After your picture is complete it is time to communicate, communicate, and communicate again in order to bring the picture alive for your team. As soon as you think you have communicated enough, you are in trouble. Finally, expect setbacks. Your vision won’t become a reality overnight. Simply reiterate the picture and help your team regroup and push forward.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Carve out two hours this week to explore where your industry will be in 3 years.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC