8 Things You Learn When You Hit Rock Bottom

I’m not going to say I have at anytime, hit rock bottom. Doing that seems to me as dangerous as praying for patience. Having had some low points in my life that felt like rock bottom, here are some things that I learned.
  1. It gives you empathy for those going through similar struggles.
  2. It gives you perspective that the only way to go is up.
  3. It clears your mind of the clutter and the noise that is preventing you from progressing.
  4. It helps you overcome the fear of action. (i.e. “What do I have to lose?”)
  5. It helps produce clarity to see what’s important.
  6. It helps to increase your resolve to change.
  7. It helps you realize things in your life you need to let go of.
  8. It humbles you.

J. K. Rowling said about her rock bottom moment, “I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Are there any other lessons you’d like to share?

Break Out of the Leadership Comfort Zone

Break-Out-of-the-Leadership-Comfort-Zone-Alli-PolinWe all like to spend time there: the Comfort Zone.  It’s the place where we are the most in control, we know our strengths, can minimize our weaknesses, it’s clear what’s coming around the corner, and we’re the experts on how to handle it masterfully.

Imagine, that before work every day, you eat the same cereal for breakfast for an entire year.  You love it; it’s your absolute favorite cereal.   It tastes good, it’s healthy and you know just the right amount to pour into your bowl even with your eyes closed.  The funny thing is, after a while, even your favorite becomes boring.  I hate to say it but maybe it’s not the cereal that’s become boring, but instead it’s you, living in a rut, that’s boring.

I may not have eaten the same breakfast cereal everyday, but my life in the Washington DC suburbs was definitely a predictable routine.  It was a busy cycle of kids, work, family, friends and I was constantly on the run as I made a daily valiant effort to get it all done.  In mid 2012 everything changed when I moved to the Australian Outback.  Talk about leaving my comfort zone!  The move enabled me to see life, work and leadership with fresh eyes.

Good news! You don’t need to be radical and move to the other side of the world to break out of your leadership comfort zone and move beyond the status quo.

Create Some Shake It Up Inspiration

It may feel awkward at first, but variation in your work “uniform” will actually give you, and your team, new energy.  Put on some silly socks, a bright tie or a vibrant shirt that you love.   Even small shake ups, when intentional, act as touchstones for our intention to be more open-minded, collaborative or just bring some lightness to an otherwise predictable routine.

Change Your Routine, Change Your Perspective

When we’re really stuck, the range of solutions available to us from inside of our comfort zone is limited.  Instead of staying in your routine, take a walk, drive a new way home from the office, go somewhere new for your afternoon coffee or hit the gym.  Focusing our attention outside of our heads and outside of our routines frequently shakes loose the inspiration we’re seeking.

Surprise Your Team

Leaders set the tone for their team and you may be unintentionally holding your team in the comfort zone with you.  Meetings are the perfect opportunity to surprise the team with new approaches to facilitate group discussion, brainstorming and decision-making.

Move beyond the status report to true interaction where people step up, share ideas and are accountable for collaboration. ~ Alli Polin Tweet this!

Action a Book

There are some amazing books on leadership out there – too many to read this week or this year.  For busy leaders, a great way to shift perspectives and grow their leadership wheelhouse is to read a book.  However, reading and having tons of ah-has are not enough to spark change.  Change happens when the ideas and approaches are put into action.  Stepping outside of the comfort zone and into new skills will mean failing along the way too.  Marry the failure with learning and the book has transformed from words on a page into leadership with impact.

Trade in Boring for Innovation and Adventure

Risk can be a scary word when we’re deeply entrenched in the comfort of the status quo.  As a leader, why should you foster innovation if you and your organization are successful today?  There are 100 companies right behind you and ready to undercut you on price for similar products and services.  Clients eyes glaze over after a while when the only differentiator is price.  Break out of the comfort zone and start with doing something different, not just making incremental improvements to today’s processes and products.

Create a Vision that Sparkles Like the North Star

Every leader needs to have a clear vision for what’s possible, the collective “why” for everyone’s hard work and effort.   Instead of sharing a vision that is bottom-line driven only (increase revenue) create a vision that connects to both hearts and minds.  How do you connect to hearts?  Leave the bullet points and PowerPoint at home and tell a story.  Stop hiding behind the comfort of statistics and charts!  Stories are the bridge to enroll, engage and inspire people to be a part of a compelling future.

Give yourself permission to still eat your cereal, wear your favorite tie and grab a cappuccino at your favorite Starbucks; just mix it up for some extraordinary leadership results.   

How has the comfort zone held you back from being an exceptional leader?  When have you been pushed outside of your comfort zone and what did you discover?

Are You Brainwashed or Drinking Too Much Kool-Aid? Leadership Starts With You!

Brainwashing & Kool-aid Over the years I have belonged to various associations and groups. I been also been in many peer groups, hired consultants and coaches, used multitudes of products and vendors, and even worked for some crummy employers. The years of this have recently caused me much pondering. I keep wondering why a person would stay with certain employers, or industry associations, even vendors …to their own detriment?

I know of talented professionals that work for horrible organizations, yet they never leave ..they just suffer. I know individuals that are going in debt because they believe a certain industry association will “save” them. I also know employees that work at companies that suck the life out of them, yet they never leave.

I had to wonder, was this some sort of brainwashing? Not intentional (I hope), but psychology does play a part in sales tactics. As I dug deep and thought about past meetings, events, companies I have been with, and conversations with peers, I discovered a few things that consistently reappeared in the behaviors of these organizations. I do not profess to be a psychology expert, but I consulted with some professionals in that area, that have confirmed my thoughts.

1. Labeling – Labeling is very powerful technique. It can be used for good and can be used as manipulation. For example I have heard associations collecting money from their subscribers say, “we don’t allow whiners here,” or “we don’t accept lazy people.” They may even say, “This is not a get rich quick scheme, you will have to do a lot of work.” All these statements seem innocent, and may actually be true, but what they actually can do is create a false reality. The reality is that if you continue with this association that you must not be a whiner, you must not be lazy, and you are super smart, since you are not being fooled into buying a get rich quick scheme.

In doing some research on labeling I ran across this site, pertaining to religion, yet still applicable, “Labeling attempts to dehumanize persons so that dismissing them or their opinions is much easier. Choosing not to address someone individually who has doubted the toxic faith, the [individual] places a blanket negative label on all who would disagree…” Whether in an industry association or with a mediocre employer, be careful and watch for labeling techniques that put down “non-believers” and dehumanize your decision making abilities. When describing outsiders as “bad”, they may be tricking you into thinking that you are a “good performer,” therefore one continues drinking the kool-aid and writing a monthly check to that association; or punching in for work at that mediocre employer.

2. Exclusivity – “You are the best of the best.” “You are the top professionals in your industry.” “You are the cream of the crop.” I have heard business owners at association events and association leaders say these words. At one event I was at, I heard this coming from a business owner who’s gross revenue was under $500,000. There were about 250 other business owners in the audience that, for the most part, had businesses under $1 million. I did not see any of the CEO’s I am familiar with, that have $10 million, $40 million, $60 million, and $100 million companies in the exact same industry. So how could this group be the cream of the crop? Well because they are the ones writing a check and who drank the kool-aid for this association. They are self-validating and rationalizing their behavior because they do not want to accept that they may really be among a bunch of low-achievers and are wasting their money. Be careful of exclusivity creating a false reality that cannot be substantiated.

3. False Hope – “Our new goal is to be a $10 million organization in 3 years and no matter what, we will achieve it.” “I guarantee that you will triple your income in XX or you can have your money back.” Replace the goals or the amounts, edit the wording, and I am sure you have heard this at more than one employer, association, or even vendor. Another form of this, is seeing massive testimonials of inflated growth numbers. I was at an event that had these testimonials and as I looked at the pictures and names, I laughed because the majority were not even in the association any more, because they did not find value, and I knew they were struggling or were still a small company. I do like testimonials, I am a firm believer that you need them, but they should be current and relevant. Many testimonials or pep-talking managers, will use fanciful words and big promises to raise false hope, that is if you just stick around and work real hard, you will be a part of something special …and you will make lots of money. While it is possible to make a lot of money, especially with focused hard work, the road from where you are to that destination is never as easy as you think.

4. Ticklers – A tickler is something that provides just barely enough value, whether real or imagined, to keep you clocking in for work at that mediocre organization, or paying big sums of money to that industry association or vendor. Often that value add, is just a small thing to make you feel like you are now getting the value.  The truth was that with a little research and self-evaluation, the value really is probably not worth that much.

Most people need to fill that need – to belong to something. They worry that they are going to miss out on something. Don’t be a company that has to go in debt to pay money to a association providing false hope, at the detriment of your own company or its employees. Don’t sacrifice your personal success because the “CEO” of a long-time failing company suddenly has a vision, yet no way to achieve that vision.

Life is too short to waste. If you want to be a leader: practice personal leadership, set and achieve high goals, associate with successful people, execute religiously …and get to work. Leadership starts with you! Your success starts with you …and there are not many short-cuts in life.

The Urgency For Good Leadership

Leadership“There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today, and to live most fully today, we must do that which is of greatest importance. Let us not procrastinate those things which matter most.” This message from Thomas S. Monson is eloquently said, yet it is advice that has been received over and over from leadership figures for years. The concept has been a said a million different ways, and yet it has taken me years to fully comprehend the deep significance in my leadership and personal success.

There are a lot of businesses still struggling in this economy. There are still a lot of good people without jobs and a lot of good people struggling personally and financially. There are people working long hours for little pay and struggling to make ends meet.

With that said, there is something that really breaks my heart and cuts me to the core. It boggles my mind and I struggle to comprehend the reasoning. I can only come to a conclusion that people are emotionally broke. The problem I am referring to is the unwillingness to become greater today, for a better tomorrow. I talk with a lot of business owners and employees of businesses that know things are not peachy. Yet what are they doing to improve their ability. Do they read books, to overcome their weaknesses and find answers to their problems? Do they read blogs of experts that teach tidbits of clues on a million topics of self-improvement? Do they make goals and plans and actually stick to those plans?

It breaks my heart that I can see the capacity of individuals, that they cannot see in themselves. So instead of a book, instead of a blog, instead of goals, instead of asking for help, instead of preparing for the future…….they “do their job,” go home, and “veg.”

The world needs good leadership, our nation needs leaders, our businesses need leaders. Leaders and managers that have a hunger and thirst for knowledge, improvement, and execution. These are the people that will get ahead, these are the people that will understand, these are the people that will have a brighter future – because, “There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today”

So, now that you’ve read this article, how are you going to use this information to create urgency and preparation for a better tomorrow?

Please take a moment and share your ideas in the comments section below, share this with your social media friends, and subscribe to receive A Slice of Leadership notices, and occasional leadership advice, articles, tips and freebies.

Achieving Success with Personal Leadership

Personal LeadershipThe world is full of recipes for success, but many times we forget that success comes from within ourselves with work that we do. I would even claim that success is mainly about attitude. When you have the right attitude, you focus on the right things, obstacles are there to overcome, you feel better and work more efficiently. I am sure you know what happens if you have a bad attitude: nothing seems to work at that time. Here are some questions for you to ask to become more successful through your own attitude towards other people and life. Even though you may not have answers to every one of them, thinking about these matters will already take you towards your personal success.

Am I sure that those I love, feel loved by me? 

Love is the all-healing force of the world. Too many couples go days, weeks or even months without showing each other their love. Everyone wants to be loved, but even more everyone wants to love.  Any bad day will become better when you love someone so that it shows. And do not limit your love just to your spouse; tell your parents, best friends or to any other people that you love them and see the difference in your personal success!

Do I feel grateful every day for having whatever I have or get today?

Every day when I go to bed I thank for at least three things. It really lifts up your spirit to be grateful for what you have or you got that day. And do not limit it only that; thank for what you are going to get also! You can be brave and thank beforehand for what you are going to get. Try it out for one week and see how it changes your thinking. When you face hard times, it is much easier when you are thankful for other things that you already have. And if those hard times will not kill you, they will make you stronger and that is something to be grateful! Thanking beforehand for what you will get will set your mind towards getting that thing.

Have I done my best to avoid unkind acts and words?

Think only positive. There is nothing to gain by revenge, doing bad acts, saying bad things or even thinking bad things about anything. You are what you think, so if you think well, you are good. And people judge you by what you do, so if you do unkind acts, people think you are bad. So, do yourself a favor and avoid all bad acts, words and thoughts. That will promote your personal success by being the person, who everyone wants to hang around with.

What can I do today to make the world better place?

All of us can do something to make this world better place for everyone, every day. What have you done or what are you going to do today? As you well know: what goes around comes around.

Have I helped anyone less fortunate?

You can read this, so for sure you are doing better than many other people in this world (many of them cannot read, do not have Internet, etc.) so what can you do to help less fortunate people? Giving is the start of receiving process…

Have I done and reviewed my personal success plan?

Better tomorrow is earned today. So, have you done and reviewed a good, sound personal success plan for better future? You have very limited time in your life, so you better use it wisely. Have you written personal mission statement? Have you set goals for this and next year? Have you identified your roles in your life? And did you write all that down and review it regularly so that you stay on the track?

What worthwhile I have yet to accomplish?

What is your dream? Are you working towards it? Did you know that only difference between a dream and a goal is that are you working towards it? What is out there something that you really want to accomplish? Have you done a road-map and are you walking along it? Many dreams can come true if you just work persistently towards it.

What wonderful memories do I have?

If you want to dwell in past, you should then dwell only in good memories. Get rid of bad memories by writing them down, learning whatever you can from them and then forgetting them. Enjoy the feeling of good memories and make bad memories tools for learning and getting over them. Only good memories are of value to you (bad memories have value in teachings, not in memories itself).

Does my integrity hold as well in public as in privacy?

Are you living a double life? If yes, then quit it. The reason is that if you live your life by any other rules than by your internal ones, you will have conflicts and loose energy in thinking what should you do in each situation. Establish yourself ground rules that you can live by in every situation. And review those rule, if needed. Deny those activities that do not suit your integrity and go full with the ones that are in inner peace with you.

Each of these questions are big ones and you can easily find many books to help you on your journey. Only thing you need to bear in mind is what you really want to achieve and keep on working towards it and one day you will succeed for sure!

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Achieving Accountability With Talk of Infidelity

AccountabilityAccountability – I consider myself an expert on accountability and execution (I did write a book on it…), but recently I received a lesson in accountability that I will never forget. Each week after I do my weekly planning, I determine my 3 most valuable goals for the week and I then send these goals to my “personal performance partner,” in some circles this would be called an “accountability partner.” Mine is both a friend and a colleague. Each week he performs the same routine and sends his goals to me. We do this to keep each other accountable. So a couple days after sending my goals for that particular week, he sent me an email and asked me how I was coming on my number one goal for the week. That week was a very busy week, and I responded with this message:

“I have not done it . I got busy with a bunch of other things. I need to do it …so much to do. I am going to try and do it tonight.”

Two hours later I received a lesson in accountability that I plan on using over and over. This is what my accountability partner said:

“I don’t like the word ‘TRY.’ What would your wife say if you would have said ‘I will TRY to be faithful to you?’ Either make it your number one goal or don’t, but don’t try to fool yourself, as your smarter than that! Commit my friend!”

I almost fell out of my chair. I was stunned and laughing at the same time. I had never seen this tactic used in accountability. So do you think I completed my goal that week…..um, hell yeah!

Accountability & “Try”

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience, and it was not so much about accountability, it was actually about the word “try” and my ability to get goals done. There are so many distractions in life that take us away from achieving what is important. No one knows this better than a leader. We could have a number one goal for ourselves, a number one for our organization, a number one for each department or region, etc… Juggling these can be difficult

The particular goal for that week was not a very pleasant goal, but was necessary for the future security of my family. It took a lot of time, in a week that I did not have much time. I was up until the wee hours of the morning one day completing this goal, and while I was tired the next morning, I felt a lot better than if I would have excused my goal away and rationalized the non-completion of it. I learned two lessons from this experience: First that when something is really important to me and the “why” is big enough, that I will move mountains to complete my goal; and secondly that no matter the circumstances, I usually do have the will power and energy to make sure I complete my goal. It might not be easy, but focus can bring about amazing successes.

I have worked on accountability with many business owners that very easily rationalize the non-completion of their goals. With some, no matter how much I try to bring accountability into the goal completion, they will just make excuses for all that they did not get done. Usually though we have the power to overcome the word “try.” Sure there are valid reasons sometimes, for not completing goals, but many use these for what they really are, lame excuses.

I believe we have the power to define our future, and overcoming our mental blocks and excuses is necesary to bring about a future that looks the same way we imagine it to be.

Accountability Takeaway’s

1.   Find yourself an accountability partner that cares as much about your success as you do. Help to keep each other accountable for each other’s goal completion.

2.    Reading. My favorite book on accountability, and one of my favorite books period, is The Oz Principle, by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, Craig Hickman. I highly recommend reading this book, it will change your outlook on the meaning of accountability. This book is so important to me that my child will read it when he is old enough to understand it. So this is not a frivolous recommendation.

3.    When you find yourself making excuses for not getting goals done, think twice on if you really have the power and energy to complete it. Don’t give in to excuses. Focus, make a plan, and make it happen.

4.    When you find yourself failing on goals, review the reasons or the “why” to determine if it is strong enough to motivate you to action.

5.   If all else fails, compare your own “try” to something really bad and is against your values, like …infidelity.

On last thought. My accountability partner really knows me. He knew that I was making excuses and letting other things get in the way. It was not that I was not accomplishing things. I was accomplishing a lot of things, but I was ignoring my number one. Make sure you have a good enough relationship to get this serious in your accountability efforts, otherwise your good accountability intentions could backfire.

So, now that you’ve read this article, how are you going to use this information to bring greater accountability to your goals?

Please take a moment and share your ideas in the comments section below, share this with your social media friends, and subscribe to receive A Slice of Leadership notices, and occasional leadership advice, articles, tips and freebies.

A Successful Leaders Guide To Getting Lucky

Successful LeadersHave you ever been envious of successful leaders? Have you ever wondered why all the good things happen to them? Have you ever questioned yourself and thought, “why can’t I be as  lucky as those successful leaders?” Do you wonder why good things happen to those successful leaders and why good fortune seems to follow them around?

The Secret of Successful Leaders

Well, I will tell you the secret of successful leaders …they get lucky because they do the work to create opportunities that appear to others as luck. Yeah, it is not really luck is it. Shamrocks, rainbows, and rabbit feet will not make successful leaders. Luck comes from creating opportunies that come to us as we get out of our comfort zone, take risks, and do the work that is necesary to create those opportunities.

I realized this week that as hard as my personal success plan is for me, there was something I still was not doing. I was not getting out of my comfort zone and creating opportunites. My personal success plan is hard for sure. I have a ton of goals and they require a large amount of discipline and focus to achieve. But therein lies the problem, I am doing a bunch of things, but very few of them require me to get out of my comfort zone, they just require me to work harder. There is no doubt that they will make me better, but “better” has never really been good enough for me.

A Successful Leaders Takeway to Creating Luck

So I challenge all you leaders, wheter you consider yourself a successful leader or not, to dig deep, figure out what you want to achieve and what opportunies you could create by stepping out and doing one thing everyday that will help to bring greater success. Keep at it, keep at it, and sooner or later, you’ll get lucky too, because as Elmer Leterman said, “Luck is what happens when preparation, meets opportunity.”

So, now that you’ve read this article, how are you going to use this information to create “luck?”

Please take a moment and share your ideas in the comment section below, share this with your social media friends, and subscribe to receive A Slice of Leadership notices, and occasional leadership advice, articles, tips and freebies.

The Ultimate Personal Success Plan

Success PlanThe blogosphere is currently flooded with information on goal setting and New Year’s resolutions, but lets be honest, goal setting is not enough to be successful…you need a plan. At the beginning of 2011 I wrote about my 2011 Personal Success Plan.  I had a many wins and some losses in my 2011 goals, but overall, I am a better person and I achieved a lot more because of my plan. This year I have made a number of changes to help guarantee a successful 2012. The changes are not just aesthetic, but in how I manage my success, execute on the goals, keep motivation, track progress, and hold myself accountable.

Ben Stein beautifully said, “The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this:  Decide what you want.” This image to the left serves as the basis for stating what you, “want out of life”, or more specifically, what you want out of the year.  I value this document because it serves as a singular focal point to all I want to accomplish in the year (Read on to receive a template for yourself). Each of the parts are important to the success of the whole. I suggest you open up the image in another window to lok at as you read.

The Success Plan

The first part of the success plan is this success plan document. This is a Microsoft Word document that holds everything that is important for defining my goals. I will not use this document for tracking, but for defining and planning. Tracking comes later. Here are the parts of this “defining” document:

1. Annual Vision

I debated on what to call this section, but ultimately decided it was almost like a mini BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). It was not a definite goal, because goals ultimately define what your overall success looks like.  It is a statement that is meant to define what I will become and what I will look like when I complete all my goals. It serves as the inspiration to WHY I’m doing this and WHAT I will become when I am successful. It is written as if it already happened, setting the mental image and motivation for the hard-work ahead.  My vision statement for 2012 is “2012 was a launching-point for a better future and a better me. I have set positive habits for the future that will make me a better father, a better husband, and a better friend. I have strengthened my professional reputation as an innovative, solid, and proven leader and I have become more spiritually in-tune and financially stable.”

2. Mission Statement

Developing a personal mission statement takes some time, but once you have it, it will serve as a guide for all your actions. I feel it is important to state this on the personal success plan because it is my “code of conduct” and guides me as I execute and as I come to problems throughout the year. Leaving this out leaves a big hole in the plan. My personal mission statement is, “I will not accept status quo and as such will seek after that which is efficient and effective in all areas my life, but never at the expense of my relationships.  I will focus on that which is important versus that which is critical.  I will be teachable and will strive to always learn new things that will help me reach my full-potential.  I will act with Integrity at all times and will treat others as they would like to be treated.  I will look for the good in all I experience, and remember all the blessings that I have been given.” Take the time to develop your own, it will be well worth it.

3. Values (Areas of Focus)

My values are actually listed in 2 places, for 2 different reasons. In my mission statement I actually list values that are important to me. You do not have to do this, but you can. These values are more guiding to my life. Right above my mission statement I list the values that I will be focusing on in 2012. These could be called my areas of focus. My focus’ for 2012 are: Relationships, Spirituality, Intellectual Stimulation, Financial Success, Physical Wellness, Professional Growth, Giving Back, & Renewal. These help me to categorize my lower-level goals into groups that are easier to track and help me to see how everything fits together. The image is meant to remind me that everything contributes to the whole of who I am and who I want to become.

4. Lead Measures (Goals)

Lead measures are something I talk about in detail in my book. But basically they are smaller goals that predict the success of a higher goal. In my case, the higher goal is my annual vision. The beauty of a lead measure is that, assuming you set the right lead measures, when you complete them, you will have accomplished your goal. My lead measures are organized according to my areas of focus. They are all written as if I was in the future looking back. They are positive and stated what I have accomplished, not what I want to accomplish. Kind of the same thing but a mental difference.

5. Vision Board

Below my lead measures is a small vision board with images that remind me why I am doing these goals. I did not change this over last year, because my focus areas are the same. I know a lot of people put a crazy amount of effort into this part alone, but for me it is a mental reminder of the what is important in this plan.

6. The Reward (The Clincher)

This is probably the biggest change to the plan this year. One of the problems I saw with this plan was motivation. The thrill of achievement sometimes just isn’t enough, even for those like myself that are motivated by achievement. So the reward concept was brought in. It took me a while to come-up with a reward that would be motivational enough to keep me going, but a trip to Europe or Asia is what did it for me. There was one other problem with the reward. You see the vision accomplishment could be subjective. I don’t necessarily have to complete ALL my lead measures to accomplish my annual vision. So I am going to have to prove myself to a board of 4 people. I am going to have to keep records and track my progress. My “board” will consist of a financial expert, a business expert, a relationship expert and one other wild-card.  Only a unanimous decision will result in the reward. This is a kind of kick-in-the-rear, motivation also. I have to be a success in others’ eyes, not just my own.

Some Important Steps in Creating Your Success Plan

1. Take time to make sure the goals are right for you and what you want to accomplish. It took me over a month to nail down all my goals.

2. Talk to others about your goals. I have a personal performance partner that spent loads of time questioning me and helping me to narrow and define my goals better. The best thing I did was have a meeting with my wife to talk to her about my goals and get her feedback. Some of my goals changed because of that meeting and she is now vested in my success and we worked out some details to the execution that I had not thought of. Depending on who your goals touch, will determine who you should talk to.

3. Push yourself. I told a friend the other day that I felt like a very small person about to climb a very big mountain.  I am scared of my goals. Once that fear came on, I knew I had pushed my goals far enough to make me a much better person. I know they are all achievable as well. If you are not scared of your goals, you are probably not reaching far enough, and therefore you are limiting your capacity to grow.

Execution & Tracking of your Success Plan

I spent a lot of time setting up the processes to make sure that nothing will prevent me from hitting the ground running when I start. I am using a service at http://www.sendrecurring.com/ to schedule emails and text message reminders to myself and to my wife for certain things we need to remind ourselves to do. Until everything becomes a habit and second nature I want to be bugged about it.

The next and most important thing is I let my personal performance partner or accountability partner know about my goals. He will push me, make sure I am on track and not let me waiver. I will be sending reports to him on a weekly basis and we talk on a weekly basis via phone on the goals.  We also email each other on a daily basis regarding important weekly and daily goals or things we are struggling with. I am doing the same for him. This type of relationship is really important to the success of a plan that pushes your comfort level.

Success PlanThe last thing I needed was a system of tracking and measuring my progress. Everyone has to do what is best for them on this.  Some people like to track things on paper, not me. I am in front of the computer most of the time, I prefer typing and I like charts and graphs and percentages and other hard data to look at. I thought about using Excel, but it was going to be too much of a pain. I use Outlook all the time, and while I will be using it for task management and calendaring, it is not good for managing goals and running reports. I ultimately settled on a software program called Goal Enforcer (http://www.goalenforcer.com/).

Goal Enforcer is a mind map based program that’s sole purpose is Goal Management. There are a couple reasons why I chose it. First is because it allowed me a quicker method of inputting (or really importing from excel) my goals. When all my goals are broken down into daily tasks and weekly tasks and unit based tasks I had 3,448 tasks for the year just involving my success plan.  That does not include other things I do. Using excel I was able to knock all the goals into a spreadsheet in a couple hours and import that into Goal Enforcer.

Success PlanGoal Enforcer  integrates with Outlook tasks and beautifully setup all my tasks for the entire year on the appropriate days. It also imports from Outlook, so I can complete my tasks in Outlook and it will update Goal Enforcer.  It also allows me to email a report from within and save it to a remote location, which is good for me as I travel a lot.

Because I have some sub-goals that are daily, resulting in 366 circles under a task, I will not be using the mind-map very much. Instead I will be using the tree view. The tree view allows me to quickly click tasks that are done, update the percentage, if it is that type of goal, and easily add notes or logs to the task. I will be using this daily and weekly in my planning sessions. I can also attach files or website links to a task if I am using another type of log or agenda for something. It is reasonably priced and you can get a free demo and purchase it from http://www.goalenforcer.com/.

Another thing to prevent barriers was I systematized and created processes and checklists for various tasks such as my daily planning agenda, my weekly planning agenda and my social media strategy.

This was a long post and a lot to take in, but I believe there is not anything more important to do for your success, than to develop your own 2012 Personal Success Plan.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

If you would like a blank 2012 Success Plan to work your own plan, subscribe the the Slice of Leadership list on the top-right side of this page. I am happy to provide my Daily Planning Agenda, Weekly Planning Agenda, and Social Media /Personal Branding Checklist for those that would like a copy. Just subscribe and request it in the comments below.

I hope that everyone has the most successful year in 2012 that they have ever had.

Resilience – Part 2

I had not planned on posting any more on this topic, but I had such a huge response to the Leadership Resilience post.  Then a good twitter friend, Tanmay Vora @tnvora, sent me this video below, I had to share it.  I can’t think of a greater example of resilience then Nick , @nickvujicic, http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org.  Watch the video below and think about what lessons you can learn from him on resilience in your own personal life and in your leadership life.

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts below.

What a 2-Legged Dog Taught Me About Leadership Resilience

Several years ago I was in Argentina on a mission for my church.  On one particular day I walked down a dirt road in a small town called General Castex, located in the Las Pampas region of Argentina.  I spotted an animal at the end of this street, but could not figure out what it was.  It was walking on 2 legs, but did not appear to be a 2 legged animal.  As I got closer to the animal, I stopped and gazed in disbelief.  It was a dog, but no ordinary dog.  This dog had lost the use of both its hind legs in some kind of accident, but strangely enough, it was not immobile.  It actually had learned to walk on its front 2 legs.  When it walked, it would bring the back-end of its body high in the air and walk on its front legs.  It could go up and down steps and across the not so even terrain of a small Argentine street.

I snapped a picture (which I can’t seem to find) and knew that there were a hundred lessons to be learned from that animal.  But the primary one ……is resilience.  Resilience is the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.

I have often felt bent, broken, compressed and stretched as a leader.  I am not aware of too many leaders who have not.  Particularly at the level of start-ups and small business, the stress and problems can be too much for some to bear.  I know of hundreds of small business owners that struggle in one form or another.  Their lives are tough, they sleep little, they work a lot, their families suffer, and sometimes they wonder if it is really worth it all.

I have been there many times, and while I would like to say that those things are behind me, I know that my trials are most likely preparing me for something more difficult.  Only time will tell.   

I can’t say I have all the answers, but I’d like to share a few thoughts I have on how to foster resilience in your own life.

  1. Cling to Your Spiritual Side – If you are religious, cling to that.  If your “religion” is to get out in nature, do it.  In tough times I think we need to feel the hope that there is something, someone, or some force out there that can assist us.  It helps us to feel peace and to gain perspective.  Sometimes in the whole scheme of things, our trials really are insignificant.  The peace and perspective that is gained from spiritual renewal can help us logically think through problems and bounce back bigger and better.
  2. Learn – Reading and learning about others who have struggled, and learning ways that I can improve myself have been one of the most rewarding effects in my life.  It has also helped me find out-of-the-box answers, and better perspectives for many of my problems.  Sometimes I am the problem and I need to learn how to better myself, sometimes it is an operational or communication issue.  If you notice a weakness that you or your organizations has, don’t wait, buy a book, take a class, and start gleaning knowledge from others that will prepare you for life’s “bends”.
  3. Ask For Help – Entrepreneurs and leaders tend to have a built in pride gene that is hard to turn off.  I think it is just as important to accept help, as it is to help others.  Asking and accepting help, requires humility.  There are so many professionals out there that are more than willing to share their insight and offer assistance in many ways.  Get out there and ask for help, the worst thing that someone can say is “No”. 
  4. Manage Yourself – Manage your time, manage your energy, and manage your communication.  It is easy to get into bad habits when one is going through a hard time.  This could be bad eating habits, bad sleeping habits, bad time management, focusing on things that are not important, and poor or short communication to those who are central to your success.  You probably need every resource you can muster.  Don’t waste it by falling into common stress traps, which will work against you in bouncing back.
  5. Focus But Keep Proper Perspective – Stay focused on the problem.  Few problems go away by ignoring them.  It may require a lot of work that you do not enjoy, but things will not get any easier if you can’t bounce back, so you have to focus on the problem and not deviate.  But while you are focusing, keep proper perspective on other important things in your life.  If you work really hard to bounce back or solve a big problem, but in that time you completely ignore your family, or ignored an important part of your business or an important customer, then all you have done is fixed one problem and caused another.  You are not any better off.  Communicate with others about your problems and explain what your plan is.  Focusing does not mean you have to ignore everything else.
  6. Persist – I can’t imagine how how many times that dog must have fallen before it was able to balance itself and walk on 2 legs.  If it had just given up after a few falls it would probably have been dead.  Keep getting up!  Sometimes answers come in the final hour of struggle.
  7. Know When To Call It Quits – This may seem to counter the post, but we are talking about leadership resilience.  Sometimes you need to know that the effort to fix a problem isn’t worth it.  Maybe it will require too much money or too much time, whatever it is, you need to know when let an initiative die and move onto bigger and better things.   Bouncing back may just mean moving on.


Warren Bennis, a great organizational consultant and author once said “The leaders I met, whatever walk of life they were from, whatever institutions they were presiding over, always referred back to the same failure – something that happened to them that was personally difficult, even traumatic, something that made them feel that desperate sense of hitting bottom–as something they thought was almost a necessity.  It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.

I hope that iron can enter all our souls so that we can be more resilient in our lives and leadership capacities and ultimately achieve all the goals we have set for ourselves and our organizations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experience, or comments below.