My kids hate being called my babies. Especially the ones that are taller than I am. I have a hard time explaining to my oldest that she may grow up and move away, but she’ll always be my baby chick. That is also true of people I’ve mentored over time.
I also hold my interns at my former employer in a special place in my heart. I confess that I follow their careers. I celebrate their successes, and mourn their losses. It is exciting to me to see those young people in my life whose lives I’ve touched grow up, mature, become more independent, and become leaders in their own right.
At first, they start out uncertain in the world, and what the world means. Then they start to figure out how things around them work and why they work. They learn when to push, when not to push. They set goals, and accomplish them. You see, I’m so proud of my chicks. My interns, my kids, my Girl Scouts, my employees, my Cub Scouts. So many people in life that I’ve worked with and mentored. So many more to go. For me, it is rewarding to see the progress, and where they go.
My oldest daughter is coming home from boarding school tomorrow for Spring Break. She’ll be here for two weeks. In the last year, I’ve seen her mature and grow substantially. She has become so independent, and strong. She’s mastered living away from home, at the age of 15. She’s joined the varsity horseback riding team, and has managed to do so many things in life already. She’s volunteered with Horse and Buddy as a sidewalker, and leader. She also built a sensory garden out there for her Girl Scout Gold Award project- a project which required substantial project management skills, and determination. But at the end of the day, she’ll always be my baby chick. Because she holds a special place in my heart.
Just like so many of the other people whose lives I’ve touched. Because it’s who I am.
Think of any influential woman you know. Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Ariana Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg. Now think about the words that are typically used to describe them. Pushy, bossy, bitch. The list goes on. Why are women called names? Seriously, why do we call women in leadership positions all of these names?
What’s worse is that it isn’t just men who call women these names, but other women do it as well. We cast judgement on one another for being a leader, for being assertive, or just doing our jobs some days. We get attacked from all sides, and we also attack each other like a bunch of vicious harpies.
When is the last time someone commented on Barack Obama’s hair? When’s the last time someone commented on Hillary Clinton’s hair?
Women in leadership positions have to walk a tightrope between being “ladylike” and actually getting their job done. That means making hard decisions, standing up for ourselves, and occasionally voicing unpopular decisions. It doesn’t make us bad. It doesn’t mean we should denigrate each other for doing what has to be done. Yet we do.
Why are women called names?
Why does our culture consider it acceptable to tear others down to raise themselves up? Women who are in leadership positions now have better opportunities than they’ve ever had before. Yet, we continue to attack them. Other women in leadership positions don’t reach out a hand and mentor one another. Instead we attack the other women who are in business as if they were trying to take our position. We attack each other because there must only be room for one female in the group, because there are so few women. Why?
I propose that we instead take a different approach. I propose that we stop calling women names, and attacking them simply for being ambitious, and getting the job done. Why don’t we take it as a challenge to mentor other women, and help them progress in their career? Let’s cheer them on as they succeed, and maybe even help each other out.
Knowing your limits can be tricky in the best of times. Figuring out delegating is an art that more people could learn. It’s not necessarily easier to start with to stop and figure out which tasks can and should be assigned to other team members. I am the quintessential problem child. I have piles of paper everywhere, that belong to different companies, and need to be handled all sorts of different ways. I also have endless piles of cookie paperwork that need to be done before the end of cookie season. Oh, and given that it’s March, it’s Tax Season- so time to get all of the tax paperwork together for various companies too. I’m hardheaded and I like to do things myself, of course. Because it’s easier that way.
Of course, it’s not really easier that way in the long run. Delegating is an art that needs to be mastered. You need to figure out what things you absolutely must do, and which things you can peel off. Some things might be routine paperwork that you spend hours doing. Chances are, if it’s routine, and repeatable, it might be easily delegated. There are a number of key questions you can ask to figure out what to delegate.
Which Tasks Can You Delegate?
- Make a list of the things you do each day, week, month.
- Which things do you have to do, and do you do best?
- Which items can be done better by a teammate, or subordinate?
- Is the task routine? Does it happen at the same time every week?
- Do you need make any active decisions each time you do the task?
Think about all of the activities you do, and figure out which ones you can peel off easily. What things can you give to someone else to make your job easier and better? At the end of the day, as you progress in your career, you’re going to have to delegate, and learn to work with others. Otherwise you will remain exactly where you are. Leadership is about leading others, and having them follow. You aren’t exactly leading if it’s a team of One.
Which tasks do you delegate now? Which other ones can you delegate?
Keeping motivated when going after a huge task or goal can be quite challenging. Add in a lack of maturity, discipline, or other problems, and keeping motivated can be nearly impossible. A few examples that come to mind are helping girls in my troops finish their Girl Scout Silver Awards, helping girls finish their Girl Scout Gold Awards, and selling thousands of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. In other parts of my life, those goals are things like obtaining a certain number of clients in a particular amount of time.
Notice that in each case, there is a clear, measurable goal. It is easy to know if you have sold 2000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, if you are keeping track of how many you’ve sold. It’s easy to measure how many paying clients you have- if you just count up how many clients requested hours in the last week. The key is being aware of how many you have, and how many you still have to go. If you know that you have sold 1500 boxes, and have two weeks to go in the sale, it’s pretty easy to figure out just about how many hours of cookie booths you’ll have to do to get to your goal.
Once you know where you are, you have to decide- what is it going to take to get to the goal? How many more cookie booths am I going to have to do to get to this goal? How much more marketing? What else needs to happen? Sometimes, it’s easiest if the person who is asking isn’t mom or dad, but rather an objective third party. In the business world, that could be a mentor, or a manager, or a team leader. In the case of a Girl Scout Silver or Gold Award, it’s having an advisor who asks what you’ve done, and what you still need to do. They don’ t need to do it for you, but just remind you of the goal periodically, and check to see that progress is being made.
Keeping motivated is almost as simple as setting a goal, and measuring where you are in progress towards achieving that goal. If you have someone nudging you along, it’s even better. Sounds simple, and it really is. It’s just a question of just keeping on track until you reach the goal.
Can you do it? What are your goals? Are they clear, and measurable?
Projects can be extremely easy to start. Following through and keeping focus can be extremely difficult, no matter what the project is. In my life, the project is starting two new businesses concurrently. It’s also Girl Scout Cookie season, which is crazy in this house. For my daughter, the goal is getting to over 2000 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies this year. She’s also working on getting to the Gold Level in Gymnastics for next year, and I’m nudging her towards doing some tournaments on the NASKA circuit. All of these things take time, perseverence, and keeping focus.
The path to success is really not smooth in any way. In fact, it’s pretty bumpy, and some of the potholes could fit an elephant. In order to succeed, you have to work on keeping focus, and sticking with it even when things get really hard. Some days are really dark, and nothing seems to go right. In the case of starting a new business, there are lots of potholes, and sometimes they have rattlesnakes in them. The key is to keep at it, and work on keeping focus. It can be done.
It’s a lot like the Little Engine That Could - keep telling yourself “I think I can”. Eventually you will get there, and have a successful business. Or in the case of my daughter, she will have sold over 2000 boxes of cookies, or 3000 or whatever her goal was. Because she kept chipping away at the problem, until it went away.
Most achievements in life are like that. They are a question of having a good idea, and sticking with it and keeping focus. Some achievements are pure luck, and a few others are brilliance. I’m not arguing that creativity, brilliance, and luck don’t also play some role, but you’ll never get to experience those, if you don’t keep your nose to the grindstone.
I’m pretty sure that by now, most people have heard that the south is snowed in, and have been having a field day with the cars stuck on the roads, and the pictures that went viral on the internet. I posted one of them above. The roads are a mess, and let’s be honest, we’re snowed in. My advice at times like this is to take time to enjoy the snow.
Here are some things you can do to take time to enjoy the snow:
- Spend the time with your family
- Build a fire
- Cook something special that you wouldn’t have time to do otherwise
- Write some blog posts
- Get taxes and paperwork done
- Play a board game or cards with the kids
- Build a snowman
- Take a long, hot bath
There are so many things that you can do, that don’t involve getting out on the road and driving places right now. Take advantage of them, instead of going stir crazy!
As for me, I’m filling out camp applications for this summer, making summer travel plans, writing a series of blog posts for this blog, Extension of You Home Care, and HappySchools. I’m studying for my CSA (Certified Senior Advisor) exam, and spending time with the family. I’ve also been teaching my children how to build a fire, and keep it going.
What about you? What are you doing during the snowy weather?
Most people would not exactly classify my life as sane, sedate, or calm in any way. I constantly have new problems thrown in my general direction. Tonight, my youngest was being defiant about eating his dinner with a fork, and was leaving spaghetti hanging out of his mouth. I was able to convince him to use a fork when I gave him the option of sitting on the floor eating, or use the fork. The next hurdle was when he decided that the fork was OK- as a shovel so he could hang spaghetti out of his mouth. So, we pulled out the camera, and encouraged him to hold on so we could get a picture, to be shown for his 5th grade graduation, and eventual wedding slideshow. Strangely, he decided to start eating in a more proper manner. I could have screamed at him, and gotten defiance. Instead, I chose to approach life creatively.
When things aren’t going right, and people aren’t behaving, the only person you can really control is yourself, and your reaction to them. They may be stomping all over boundaries, and that isn’t right. Somehow you have to influence them to do what you want them to, and control your reaction to them. Sometimes, it requires a thick skin, and creativity. I’ll say it again- you can’t force someone to behave appropriately. You can, however influence them to do the right thing, or do what you’d like for them to do.
When you encounter a problem, stop, and think about it. Sometimes a little bit of creativity, and flexibility will make the problem go away. Tonight, it was getting my son to eat, while using his table manners. Some days, it’s about how to get a customer to buy our service, or get a client placed. Not every situation is the same, and trying to treat the situations as exactly the same will end in failure. Approach life creatively.
What about you? What problems have you had to solve creatively?
Leadership is many things. One of they key attributes of Leadership is following through. Do what you say you will do. Show up on time, every time. Be there when someone needs you. Follow through until things are done. Get the job done. Fully done. Be trustworthy, so that people will know that they can rely on you and follow you. Without following through, people will not trust you, and will not follow. Very simple. Follow through consistently. Enthusiastically. Regularly.
The downside of following through is knowing when to say no. Don’t accept challenges, or work that you know that you cannot do. That is very hard to do. Refusing to do things that you cannot or will not do is a requirement though, because you won’t be following through on those things. If you fail to say that you can’t do something, then you are setting people up with false expectations that you will get the job done, when clearly that isn’t happening. Don’t let this happen to you.
Do what you say you will do. Don’t do what you say you will not do. Very simple. Not so easy to follow through on. Leadership is following through on that, though.
Can you do it?
Being consistent is important to me. That means being consistent across all facets of my life, and being the same person everywhere I go. I don’t have a “work persona”, “home persona”, “church persona”. It also means that I live my beliefs every day, and try to follow and allow them to guide me in everything I do. I’m living my values. Are you living your values?
Does living my values mean I’m a perfect person? Nope. I’m not perfect, and I don’t pretend to be. I am a Christian, so my values tend to be somewhat liberal, Christian values. I try to make business decisions that reflect those values. I do things like paying my employees more than the market rate. And I offer benefits, in a field where no benefits is the standard party line. How much do I really need to make off of each client? How much do I need to make to really be comfortable? I ask myself a lot of complex, and hard questions on a regular basis.
Do you ask yourself hard questions? Do you ask yourself why you’re in a particular career? Does that career reflect your values? Do you make business decisions that reflect your values? Or do you compromise? How does that sit with your soul? How does that sit with your beliefs? Is it congruent and consistent?
Do you volunteer in the community? Do you give back? Do you give back in a way designed to reflect your values, or do you do everything for yourself? How do you think God views that? What about your family? For me, that means volunteering within the community. It means doing volunteer work with my children.
Realize that your actions speak your values over and over again, no matter what you say. It is how you live, how you live, and what you do that reflects those values. I’m not here to tell you that my beliefs are the only right ones. I’m just here to encourage you to live your life in a way that is productive, and congruent. Be true to yourself. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself, and in your skin in a way that no-one else does.
I try to be absolutely consistent about follow through, so that people know exactly what they are getting with me. No surprises about who or what I am, or how I’m going to react to a certain situation. Can you say the same?
Quite simply, are you going where you want to in life, in your career? What have you done about it? Have you made a plan to get yourself to where you want to go? do you have a range of goals, both smaller and larger? You only live life once, so you really don’t get any free do-overs. What you are doing now matters, because it will impact what you do in the long run. In the infamous words of one of my favorite authors- Begin with the End in Mind.
In the last year, I’ve made a point of analyzing my life, and changing many aspects of it from stem to stern. It’s not that I have managed to accomplish everything yet, and it is certainly a work in progress. My goals in the past year were to finish my concentration, MBA, and figure out what I wanted to do with my career. I also wanted to get more exercise, to become more fit and lose some weight. I succeeded in all of the above, and at some things more than others. For instance, I didn’t manage to get nearly as much exercise as I would have liked. But I did get my MBA, start 2 new companies- my new career, and finish my concentration.
What about you?
How are you doing on your goals?
What are your goals?
Are you going where you want to?
Do you know where you want to go?
Think about it for a few minutes. Sometimes we don’t even know where we want to go. The goal is just “Better”, “Faster”, or “Promotion”. What do those things really mean, and what are the implications for each of them? Chances are if your goal is to get a job, you have some idea of what things would make you happiest. Money is great, more money is always fun, but past a certain point, will it really make you any happier? Will the job make you happy to show up each day? Or will you feel like your soul is crumbling away and dying a little bit each time.
What about you? Are you going where you want to?