Your Response is Everything

August 30th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” —Aldous Huxley

How are you responding in life?

We all know that life is full of high and low moments. One moment you’re feeling on top of the world and a few days, or minutes, later something happens and you feel like you’ve taken three steps backwards. Charles Swindoll famously said “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react.” Your response in these moments is critical to your success and happiness in life.

Responding to challenging situations is a choice. When faced with something difficult, most of us simply fall back on an instinctual reaction driven by the fight or flight part of our brain. In that moment we often feel threatened which triggers our ingrained behaviors to take over. This rarely produces a good outcome.

The first step is to remain calm, which is a lot easier said than done. Research has shown that under stress our field of vision shrinks to 30 degrees. We are literally stuck in “tunnel vision” which prevents us from seeing the situation clearly. However, if we can take a few deep breaths and remain calm, we give ourselves a chance to step back and objectively assess the situation. We can distinguish the facts of the situation vs. the assumptions we might be reacting too.

Once we have slowed ourselves down, we can determine how we want to respond. Our focus needs to be on what we can influence in the situation. It’s quite likely that there are many factors we can’t influence. Rather than wasting time complaining about those factors, choose to take action on what you can influence. While you can’t control what other people will or will not do, you can choose the tone and words you want to use when you respond to them.

It can be difficult to deal with challenging situations that aren’t unfolding the way we want them to. You can choose to react in a way that attempts to control the situation and the people involved or you could decide to complain about how powerless you are. Neither of these responses is helpful.

When you choose to remain calm in order to step back and assess the situation, you can take action in the areas you can influence and you won’t feel powerless. Although the outcomes may not play out the way you want, your approach will create the confidence and resilience you need to weather the inevitable peaks and valleys that life brings. Then, even during the challenging moments, you can honestly say that you are happy.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one strategy you will use to help you respond more effectively.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Inspired Leadership

January 4th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” —John Maxwell

What’s feeding your leadership?

Great leaders are driven by passion. A longing to make an impact in the world and for the individuals they serve. They aren’t in it for the power, prestige, and money.

The elements of successful leadership have changed in the 21st Century. Leadership is no longer about power and issuing directives. Having a sense of meaning in work is becoming increasingly important to employees. This is especially true for the Millennial generation which will account for 50% of the workforce in 4 years. Success is dependent upon an organizations’ ability to adjust their approach to leadership.

You’ve likely developed goals for the New Year, which you believe, will help your organization succeed. The question is whether your vision will inspire your team. You won’t be able to achieve your vision alone and without a team of inspired individuals, your organization will never fulfill it’s potential.

What impact is your team or department making? How does their work make a difference in the lives of others? Your ability to articulate this bigger picture for your team will make the difference in whether or not they are energized, excited, and engaged or simply going through the motions.

Finally, step back and ask yourself why you decided to become a leader. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, states “Inspired leaders think from the inside out.” Leadership is about making a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether it’s through the product or service your team delivers or through helping your team grow and develop, you need to remain focused on who you are there to serve. Once you are inspired, you will find it much easier to inspire your team.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Define whom you serve as a leader and the impact you want to make in their lives.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC



Leaders Grow Leaders

September 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” – Jack Welch

What are you doing to develop others?

Success as a leader is about working through others, not getting things done by on your own. This is one of the most challenging and critical transitions for a new leader. If you fail to develop your team, they’ll be unable to meet the challenges of today’s evolving business environment and you’ll find that your career will stall out.

Business today becomes more complex every day. You need to challenge your staff to continually refine their current skills while simultaneously developing new ones in order to prepare them for rapid change. It’s important to challenge your team’s perspectives as well. Don’t allow them, or yourself, to become complacent with the status quo. You’re either moving forward or backward, standing still is not an option.

You also need to build a leadership pipeline within your team. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on your replacement. Consider other leadership positions within the organization your staff that might be a good fit for your staff.

Additionally, don’t fall into the trap of withholding development in an effort to protect your position. If you don’t develop your staff and delegate effectively, you’ll never find time to develop strategy and participate in key projects.

The bottom line is: if you want to grow yourself, you have to start by helping your team grow. Only then will you have the time to develop higher-level skills yourself. Without these skills and an opportunity to demonstrate to senior management what you’re capable of, you’ll find yourself passed over for one promotion after another.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one person who could potentially step into your role and delegate a key task to help them grow.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC


Common Sense Doesn’t Exist

October 28th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” —Albert Einstein

What makes you think common sense is so common?

I recently came across this quote and it speaks to a personal belief I have held for several years. Common sense does not exist!  In my opinion, when we say something is “common sense” we are implying that the concept we are referencing should be understood by everyone across the world. Frankly, this isn’t very realistic.

Everything we know to be true, or better yet believe to be true, we have learned at some point in our life. Whether we were taught by our parents or teachers, or simply learned through life experience and making mistakes, we acquired the knowledge somehow. For example, you most likely learned not to touch a hot stove because someone either explained to you why you shouldn’t or you discovered it for yourself the hard way. Now imagine someone from a remote village encounters a hot stove for the first time. If no one explains that it is hot, he or she wouldn’t know they it will burn them.

Whenever we make a statement that someone lacks common sense we are essentially make a judgment about them. We assume they’ve had the same life experiences we have and learned the same lessons. More importantly, we’re also assuming we have the correct perspective about what is right and wrong. Therefore, if they don’t do it the way we do it, they must be wrong.

You can imagine the trouble this might cause. If we walk around assuming our perspective is always the right perspective, our ability to remain open to different ways of approaching things will be severely hampered. This makes it very difficult to work effectively with others. 

Any time you catch yourself invoking the concept of common sense, stop and reflect on where you are coming from. Consider how you acquired this perspective and the knowledge you are basing it on. Ask yourself how your perspective would change if without that particular experience. Next, try to understand where the other person is coming from and how their experiences have informed their perspective.  Once you’re able to step back and challenge your own perspective you might find that your beliefs just aren’t so common!

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one thing you believe is common sense and challenge your perspective.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

We Choose Our Leaders

March 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


“The led must not be compelled; they must be able to choose their own leader.” —Albert Einstein

Is your influence based on your title or the respect you’ve earned from your employees?

Leadership is something you earn and not about your title or power. I have no doubt that you earned your position but this alone won’t make you a successful leader. If you want to build an effective base of influence you need to earn the respect of your staff.

One of the most ineffective approaches you can take as a leader is to issue edicts and bark orders at people. This type of leader doesn’t value the opinions of his or her staff and isn’t concerned about the challenges they might be facing. He or she doesn’t permit the team to ask questions in order to understand the direction they’ve been given. The philosophy of this type of leader is that people don’t need to know why; they simply need to follow the orders. This approach might get people to jump and do as you say in the short term, but this isn’t leadership.  If you operate based upon this philosophy, you are a mediocre manager at best.

Individual employees are the ones that actually choose who they will follow. While they may have little influence over who gets promoted into a leadership position, it is up to them whether or not they will openly follow you. Instead of tolerating your orders they may choose to leave the company or transfer out of your department.  If enough members of your team choose to do so, you may find yourself in quite a bind and your leader will begin to question your ability.

However, your staff may employ more subtle strategies to assert their independence. It’s possible they will choose to ignore issues or problems they encounter which could end up costing the company significantly. Or, they may decide to do just enough to get by. If everyone on your team operates in this fashion, you will soon realize there isn’t anybody there to pick up the slack and work extra hours when you need them most. Regardless of how this dissension manifests itself, if no one on your team is choosing to follow you then you aren’t truly a leader.

Make it a priority to cultivate the respect of your staff. Treat them as the important people they are. Remain open to their questions. Rather than shutting them down, give your employees an opportunity to express their frustrations and concerns.  If their issues can’t be addressed, help them to understand why and support them in adjusting to the changes. Finally, when making process changes, don’t simply dictate what they must do. Get their input regarding what they think will work and then make the best decision you can.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step

Identify one opportunity this week to give your staff a chance to ask questions in order to understand why a change needs to be implemented.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

Get Out of the Way

November 27th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Have you chosen the right people?  Do you stay out of the way and let them do their job?

As a leader, your success is determined by the success of your staff. One of the most important decisions you can make is who you hire.  Pick the wrong person and it can have a negative impact on your team’s dynamics and productivity.  However, making the right selection is only half of the equation.  You also have to empower each individual to fully utilize the talents and skills they bring to the team.

When faced with a hiring decision look for people that compliment you and the rest of the team.  You need someone that will bring talents, skills, and perspectives that don’t already exist on the team.  This will challenge all of you to stretch outside of your comfort zone and try new approaches.  Your team may experience more disagreements than if you hired someone that thinks just like you, but it is worth the reward.

Once you have hired a new team member, get out of their way.  Spend some time getting them up to speed with their role and how your organization works but give them the latitude to get their hands dirty and experiment.  Trust their judgment and be willing to try approaches you wouldn’t typically use.  Don’t criticize them for making mistakes, rather use them as opportunities to learn and make adjustments.

The key to all successful teams and organizations is engaged employees.  If your staff believes that you don’t trust their judgment, they won’t be committed to you and what you are trying to accomplish.  Provide them with opportunities to use their strengths and contribute their ideas to make improvements. You will find that they will naturally give you everything they have and go above and beyond their normal day-to-day responsibilities.  With this level of commitment the possibilities are endless.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify where you can give your team more authority to make decisions.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC

On the Job Training

September 18th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


“The only real training for leadership is leadership.”

—Anthony Jay

Are you learning from your mistakes? Do you challenge your own perspectives?

I have worked in the field of leadership development for over 10 years facilitating training on concepts like motivation, delegation, coaching, giving recognition, developing a vision, and managing change.  It’s important to provide training for new leaders in these areas as they typically haven’t been taught about them in the past.  However, it is a leader’s ability to apply these concepts that make the difference.

It isn’t realistic to expect that you can attend a training session on coaching or delegation and magically be able to apply those concepts perfectly. Each concept requires new thought process and skills that only become habits with time. As you attempt to apply these skills you are bound to make mistakes. The key is to learn from those mistakes so that you don’t repeat them.

To be a successful leader, you need to learn continuously. In our hectic work environments you can get stuck moving rapidly from one task to the next. However, if you don’t take time to step back and reflect on your experiences you aren’t maximizing the learning experience. Each time you complete a task, project, or discussion take some time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t.  Armed with this knowledge you can readdress the situation and/or approach it more effectively in the future.

Another important strategy is to find a mentor or coach you can discuss challenging situations with. You need someone you can trust and who will be objective.  This person should challenge you to consider different perspectives so you can learn from every situation.  Even if your perspective is ultimately correct, your ability to develop influence as a leader is dependent on your ability to see the perspectives of others. 

Whether you’re a first-time leader, just promoted to the next level of leadership, or an experienced leader moving to a new organization, I encourage you to take your success seriously. Becoming a leader is similar to getting married or having your first child.  People will share several tips and keys to success, but you can’t truly appreciate what it is like until you get in and experience it for yourself. Recognize that you don’t have all the answers and take time to reflect so that you can learn from your experiences.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify a trusted and objective person to challenge your perspectives.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., ACC