Leadership Means Facing Challenges Head-on

Leadership Means Facing Challenges Head-on

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Many would say if you’re in the leadership business, you’re also in the business of dealing with adversity. Regardless of where you are in your life and your career, I can promise you one thing; you will consistently be faced with challenges and obstacles along the way. In today’s post I will take a brief look at the beliefs that cause some to succeed where others fail.

Life isn’t easy, it’s not fair, and it’s certain to challenge even the best of leaders. You will face physical, mental, financial, relational, and resource challenges among others. Instead of beating yourself up or giving in, it is critical you develop the ability to learn from setbacks. In a nutshell, dealing with barriers, obstacles, and setbacks requires both attitude and aptitude. So, do you have the skills and perspective to thrive under pressure and to succeed, or will you implode when faced with a challenge?

Sir Edmund Hillary was unsuccessful on three different occasions in his attempt to climb Mt. Everest before his successful summit in 1953. People who lauded the praises of Sir Edmund’s ascent said, “You’ve conquered the mountain,” and Sir Hillary said, “No, I’ve conquered myself.” The bitter experiences of the three failed attempts did not hold back Hillary from a fourth one. With a focused vision, a clarity of purpose, a passionate outlook, and a great team, he pursued his goal and achieved it.

Anyone who has ever launched a new initiative understands the inevitability of running into numerous barriers over the life-cycle of any project.  The difference between those who succeed, and those who fail, is their perspective on how to deal with the barriers they encounter along the way. People often stumble over even the smallest of obstacles, while all too easily considering these routine speed-bumps as rational excuses for their failures.

Setbacks and difficulties are an inevitable part of life. While they will often challenge your skills and temperament, it is those who are willing to spend the time assessing the obstacles as they arise, and who refuse to submit to their various trials who will succeed. The ability to blow through barriers must become a passion if you want to achieve sustainable success in the business world.

I could certainly paint a more complex picture of what it takes to overcome challenges by citing esoteric theories, but the truth of the matter is the only thing required to get beyond barriers is to stop complaining about the challenges and obstacles, and spend your time solving problems & creating outcome based solutions. If my objective is to get to the other side of the wall, I don’t really care if I go over the wall, under the wall, around the wall or through the wall… I just care I get to the other side. While I might spend a bit of time evaluating the most efficient strategy for getting to the other side of said wall, it will ultimately be my focus on the tactical execution of conquering the challenge that will determine my success. A bias toward action is always a better path than falling prey to analysis paralysis. Generally speaking, there are only really two ways to address difficulties:

  1. You can either change the circumstances surrounding the difficulty, or;
  2. Change yourself to better deal with the circumstances or the difficulty itself.

You can deal with difficulties properly and leverage your experience (or better yet the experience of others) to enhance your confidence, or you can deal with them incorrectly and let them seriously damage your confidence, performance and ultimately your reputation. Following are 4 things to consider when setbacks do occur:

  1. Recognize: Be honest enough to acknowledge what has happened. Don’t hide from the reality of the situation at hand. Setbacks happen – don’t be discouraged, learn from them, deal with them, and move on.
  2. Learn: Turn setbacks into development opportunities by asking positive questions such as: What are the positives surrounding this situation? How can I make the most of this situation? What can I learn from it? What are the facts underlying this problem? How can I avoid this situation next time?
  3. Acknowledge: Setbacks are part of life – they happen to everyone. When they happen to you, it’s important to understand you are not being singled out. Don’t take it personally, deal with it, and move on.
  4. Perspective: View setbacks as a challenge to overcome rather than an issue or problem.

Just as a diamond cannot be polished without friction, neither can you fully develop your skills without them being tested by adversity. Use obstacles and failures as an opportunity to polish your skills. I think Winston Churchill said it best when he noted, “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Thoughts?

Misunderstood Aspect of Leadership

The Most Misunderstood Aspect Of Great Leadership

Misunderstood Aspect of Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

I was recently asked what I consider to be the most misunderstood aspect of great leadership; in other words, what makes great leadership great? What immediately came to mind is not only misunderstood, but it also happens to be the most often overlooked element of leadership, and the one which also affords leaders the greatest opportunity for personal, professional, and enterprise growth. If you want to become a better leader in 2013, I suggest you become comfortable with a leadership practice few are – surrender.

Why Leadership Development Fails

The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails

Why Leadership Development Fails

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Over the years, I’ve observed just about every type of leadership development program on the planet. And the sad thing is, most of them don’t even come close to accomplishing what they were designed to do – build better leaders. In today’s column I’ll share the #1 reason leadership development programs fail, and give you 20 things to focus on to ensure yours doesn’t become another casualty.

Leaders Stop Trying to Be Efficient

Leaders: Stop Trying to Be Efficient

Leaders Stop Trying to Be Efficient

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Let’s cut right to the chase; stop focusing on being efficient – it’s a waste of time. Nobody other than perhaps you really cares how efficient you are, but everyone cares how effective you are. Not only do they care how effective you are, but they also care about the effectiveness of those whom you lead. It’s important to remember leadership is a people business, and people are messy. Leadership has little to do with how neat and tidy things are, but everything to do with how successful you are at scaling effectiveness.

Efficient vs. Effective – there is sometimes a very big difference between the two. So much so, that I’ve really come to cringe every time I hear the word efficiency. It’s not really that there’s anything wrong with becoming more efficient, but far too many executives major in the minors when it comes to efficiency. Stop focusing on optics over outcomes. Don’t worry about how you look, worry about the results you produce.

Let me ask you a question – Have you become so efficient that you’ve rendered yourself ineffective? At an organizational level, have you focused so much on process improvements and incremental gains that you’ve failed to engage people, and seek opportunities to be disruptive? Are you efficient or effective, or do you know?

I really don’t have a problem with increasing efficiency so long as the tail doesn’t start wagging the dog. If you’re a baseball player who has beautifully efficient swing mechanics, but you can’t hit the ball – who cares? If efficiency starts diluting productivity rather than increasing it, something is woefully amiss.  This is more than an issue of semantics – it’s become a systemic problem with many individuals and organizations. Here’s the thing – process in and of itself was never engineered to be the outcome, it was designed to support the creation of the right outcomes.

If you’re not tracking with me yet, ask yourself the following questions: Do you send an email when you should make a phone call, or worse, do you hide behind the phone when you should be face-to-face? Even worse yet – the leader who sends a message by proxy when it should have been delivered personally. Do your sophisticated screening processes do such a great job of filtering they blind you to new opportunities and critical information? If your desk is so clean you don’t have anything to work on then you might be focusing on the wrong thing – it might be time to make a bit of a mess (see Leadership Is About Breaking Things).

What I want you to recognize is sometimes the least efficient thing can lead to the most productive outcome. A great example of this would be carving out time in your already too busy schedule to mentor someone in your organization. Clearly this endeavor will take time, and may not yield immediate results, but the payoff organizationally, relationally, culturally, and in terms of future contribution can be huge.

As I’ve said many times before, things don’t always have to boil down to either/or types of decisions – not everything must end-up on the altar of sacrificial decisioning. With the proper perspective and focus it is quite possible to be both efficient and effective. Efficient process can enable effective resource utilization. The two concepts can co-exist so long as the focus remains on the proper thing – results. Smart leaders don’t just focus on moving the needle, they focus on moving the right needles, at the right times, and for the right reasons.

Bottom line – check your motivations. When you ever so efficiently cross something off your to-do list has it moved you farther away from, or closer to, putting points on the board? Better yet, are the items on your to-do list even the right items to begin with? Lastly, I’ll leave you with this reminder – leadership is not about how many emails, memos and transmittals are sent under your signature – it’s about relationships, service, and engagement.

Thoughts?

Twitter

Fresh perspective is found beyond the realm of the routine – extraordinary results occur outside the norm. #Leadership

Social Media for CEOs

Social Media For CEOs: I’ll Frame The Debate – You Decide

Social Media for CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

As a chief executive, as a leader, you have one primary responsibility: to lead. I’ve always said the greatest testimony to the value of leadership is what occurs in its absence – very little. Don’t believe me? Examine any aspect of business where performance is suspect, and you’ll find leadership is suspect as well. So my question is this: Are you leading when it comes to social media?

10 Reasons Talent Leaves

10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You

10 Reasons Talent Leaves

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Have you ever noticed leaders spend a lot of time talking about talent, only to make the same mistakes over and over again? Few things in business are as costly and disruptive as unexpected talent departures. With all the emphasis on leadership development, I always find it interesting so many companies seem to struggle with being able to retain their top talent. In today’s column, I’ll share some research, observations, and insights on how to stop the talent door from revolving.

Twitter

#Leadership Tip: Don’t fear being proven wrong – fear being thought to be right when you’re not.

The Disconnected Leader

The Disconnected Leader

The Disconnected Leader

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Even though few would dispute the value of being an engaged leader, many still do not practice what they preach. The harsh reality is great numbers of leaders continue to operate in a vacuum by sequestering themselves away in the corner office and attempting to lead from afar.  Trust me when I tell you that being out of touch is never a good position to find yourself in as the CEO. I rarely come across leaders who couldn’t benefit from being more meaningfully engaged on both a broader and deeper basis, and hope that today’s post will encourage you to do just that…ENGAGE.

I have consistently espoused the value of walking the floor (hat tip to Tom PetersMBWA), dropping in for meetings on an impromptu basis, proactively engaging key stakeholders, and any number of other items that focus on raising your awareness. Don’t think span of control – think span of awareness.

My advice to CEOs, regardless of whether you’re running a start-up or a Fortune 500 company, is to go see things for yourself. I think you’ll find your view of the world will change dramatically when you validate impressions based upon your own observations, as opposed to sole reliance on what you read in a management report, or what you hear third or fourth hand in a meeting. Think about it… when you’re sitting in front of the board, on an analyst call, providing testimony, talking to the media, or speaking at the annual shareholder meeting, wouldn’t it be great to actually know what your talking about as opposed to interpreting what someone else has told you?

So the real question is this – how does a CEO get to the point of being so disconnected from operations that he or she just doesn’t have a clue? The reality is that there are any number of reasons why this can happen, a few of which I’ve noted below:

  • The Optimistic CEO: I have met a number of CEOs that simply choose to view the world through rose colored glasses. They will believe what they want to believe regardless of what they hear or what they observe. Even in the worst of times they believe nothing to be insurmountable. While optimism is generally a great quality for a CEO to possess, there is a point at which unbridled optimism can disconnect a person from reality.
  • The Arrogant CEO: These CEOs believe they can will their view into reality in spite of circumstances, situations, or events. The arrogant CEO doesn’t value the input of line and staff management. These CEOs see management opinions as inconsequential, unless of course, they happen to be in alignment with their own beliefs and opinions.
  • The Unaware CEO: These CEO’s will take any report or piece of information at face value. These CEOs are overly trusting, and often politically naive. They fail to seek clarification, validation, or proof supporting the information they have been fed. This is a very unhealthy state of mind for a CEO hoping to survive over the long haul.
  • The Fearful CEO: These chief executives hide in fear of making a mistake, revealing shortcomings or inadequacies, or in an attempt at managing perceptions. CEOs guided by fear often suffer from indecision and analysis paralysis. The worst thing about a fearful CEO, is that executives who refuse to make decisions and take risks will transfer that thinking to others within the organization. Leadership is a contagion – good or bad. Oddly enough, the biggest sign of a fearful leader is when a leader fails to engage. Leaders who avoid personal interaction, or shy away from social media for all the wrong reasons are likely fearful leaders.
  • The Disconnected CEO: Unlike CEOs who understand how to leverage time and resources via delegation while remaining connected to management and staff, the disconnected CEO does just the opposite. They have reclusive tendencies which cause them to often completely abdicate responsibility and remain disconnected from management. Sticking one’s head in the sand will not make the circumstances of a particular situation go away, rather that type of thinking will likely on exacerbate the issue.

If you’re a CEO with clouded vision and desire to change the view from the top, it is critical that you maintain open lines of communication through a variety of channels and feedback loops. All good leaders maintain a connection and rapport with both line and staff. Furthermore, savvy CEOs are always working to refine their intuitive senses. A good CEO demands accountability and transparency. They challenge everything of consequence. They understand that acceptance of general statements and ambiguity, or blindness to hidden agendas will only contribute to limiting their vision.

If you’re a CEO and you haven’t personally spoken with your top customers, suppliers, vendors and partners, you’re doing yourself and your company a great injustice. If your CFO handles all communications with your banking relationships, and your Chief Investment Officer handles all of your investor relations, you’re flat out missing the boat. If your CMO is making all of your brand decisions there will be h*ll to pay down the road. Moreover, in today’s litigious and compliance oriented world where the CEO is no longer out of reach, it’s just plain smart to take a more hands on approach. Remember that there is a major difference between delegating and abdicating responsibility. I think President Reagan said it best: “trust but verify.”

Let me be very clear; I’m not suggesting that you become a micro manager or that you stop delegating, I’m simply suggesting you do the job the way it is supposed to be done. Great leaders champion from the front – they are not disengaged invisible executives. As the CEO you are the visionary, influencer, champion, defender, evangelist, and you must have a bias to action. You can be none of these things as a recluse.

Engaged leaders are very visible and very active leaders - they question, listen, assess and react. I can promise you one thing – leaders who don’t have a clear read on the pulse of the organization, won’t have a healty pulse for very long.

Thoughts?

Leadership Why Talent Is Overrated

Leadership – Why Talent Is Overrated

Leadership Why Talent Is Overrated

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Talent, in and of itself, is highly overrated. While not all leaders will develop their talents and abilities to the same level, all successful leaders more or less begin with the same foundation. Here’s the thing – most foundational elements of leadership require no skill or talent whatsoever. Clearly the difference possessed by all great leaders is they continue to refine, develop and build from their foundation – they understand leadership is not a destination; it’s a continuum.  The best leaders combine attitude, effort and skill, but of the three, skill is the least important.  When in doubt, always choose attitude over aptitude. In today’s column I’ll share 6 leadership characteristics that require zero talent or skill.