Colin's Blog

Knowing How to be a Good Leader Isn’t Enough

real-world-experienceThere is a significant difference between knowing something and being able to put it into good use. Many educated individuals have degrees from colleges and universities, but if they don’t have any real world experience, even the best grades might not help them land the job they want.

This has to do with what some people refer to as the difference between ‘book smarts’ and ‘street smarts.’ While information and education is important, until you get out into the real world and put that knowledge into practice, you won’t gain much real, workable wisdom.

As you continue to focus on your leadership skills, as you work to improve yourself as a leader, you may be reading books and gathering information. This will provide you with a lot of knowledge about how to be a good leader, but that won’t make you a good leader.

You still need to transfer that knowledge into action.

For example, you may have read that mentoring those who work for or with you is vital to successful teams and being a quality leader. You may go out and check on some of your employees, tell them they’re doing a good job, and then return to your office thinking you just exhibited quality leadership skills. You didn’t.

Mentoring is about helping people learn and grow on the job. It’s about sharing some of the knowledge you’ve gained through your years of experience. Many business managers are afraid to share their knowledge because they believe that will reduce their advantage over their colleagues or team members.

It doesn’t. It actually strengthens the team. Will certain people attempt to take advantage of your mentorship for their own gain? That’s certainly possible, but the stronger you become as a leader, the further behind you’ll leave them anyway.

Absorb the knowledge that you gain and the information you access when trying to improve your leadership skills, but don’t forget to put it all into practice. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.

Stillness

“Dear Colin. I constantly find myself overwhelmed at work and unable to concentrate. I find that I cannot relax my body or mind and therefore my work performance has slipped. What can I do to find my focus and increase my productivity at work?”

Practicing the art of stillness will bring focus, improve your work motivation and help you more consistently put forward the 100% effort into your most important activities and outcomes. Stillness is a conscious, fluid movement that with practice brings greater harmony between your mind and body. It is achieved and experienced when we totally channel your consciousness and stay open to the gift of each experience – when we release our story and let go of being attached to what is happening to us. Embrace what is most important in this moment of time – stillness.

Healthy Recipe of the Month:
Avocado & Shrimp Spring Salad

avacado-shrimp-saladCLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Most of us believe that multitasking is the way to get things done. On the contrary, we now know conclusively that our brain can only truly be focused on one complex task at a time. One habit that you can work to break is performing more than one task at a time.

To achieve complete stillness, give your attention to relaxing your mind and your body. With practice and discipline, stillness will lead to a calming, dynamic mindfulness that will allow you to channel your full attention to the task and desired outcome at hand.

The first aspect of achieving stillness begins with breathing exercises. Stop whatever you are doing and actually listen to your heartbeat and the depth of your breathing. Then deliberately slow yourself down and begin to take a deep and gentle breath. Hold your breath for a brief moment and then release it slowly in a long exhalation. Continue this until you have slowed your frantic pace to a quiet pause.

The second part of stillness is being able to let go of any contradictory or competing thoughts, judgments and opinions that are going through your mind. Think only of how you are going to attain your next goal or break through your next obstacle. After a few minutes of deep breathing and focus, your mind and body will become more relaxed. You will find that you have gained/regained clarity and will be focused on the next task to be tackled.

Take a few moments. Stop what you are doing to listen to and watch this short video.

Where do you find stillness? Capture this sound or image and give yourself permission to shift to a ‘state of stillness’ each day. Take five minutes more than once a day to access stillness and locate your focus.

PS.
If you are looking for even deeper examination of stillness, watch this interview with Eckhart Tolle.

Avocado & Shrimp Spring Salad (serves 4-6)

avacado-shrimp-saladThe Holbrow Group – Healthy Recipe of the Month

I am very proud and happy to introduce our daughter Katie to readers our monthly newsletter. Katie is very health conscious and is joining The Holbrow Group as our Wellness Consultant.

Her first recipe (which Katie and our family has devoured on more than one occasion is…

  • 1 1/2- 2 pounds shrimp, peeled, cooked and diced
  • 3 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 2 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro
  • Juice of 1 medium lime
  • Salt, to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl. Stir gently so that the avocado doesn’t turn to mush. Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before serving. The longer it chills the more the flavours marinate.

3 Strategies to Improve Your Leadership Skills

whistle2For every improvement that you want to make in your life, there are going to be a dozen different ways to go about making them. Depending on who you ask, you could get some powerful advice, or just lukewarm platitudes.

Leadership is vital to success in business operations today. Those who aim to boost their leadership skills place themselves toward the top of the colleague heap. Some who don’t may get ahead, but their success will likely be short-lived, tumultuous, or full of negative experiences for them and those around them.

There are plenty of strategies that you can use to boost your leadership skills. Three of them are:

  • Reading
  • Hiring a coach
  • Attending seminars

Reading

There are about as many leadership books as there are people striving to become stronger in their business roles. The key is to find the right materials. You can ask leaders who you admire what they read, you can ask a coach, or you can search your local bookstore or go online to find the most highly rated leadership books and pick up a few.

It’s a good idea to choose a book that challenges you. Anything that essentially tells you what you want to here will not inspire change and it’s the change that you need in order to grow.

Hiring a Coach

Leadership coaches work with their clients, either one-on-one or in small groups, to find out their strengths, to uncover their weaknesses, and determine the best way to help them become leaders of tomorrow.

Not all coaches are worthwhile, though. Like books, you should do your homework, read reviews and testimonials, and find out who other people whom you admire used.

Attending Seminars

Leadership seminars can offer some useful information and inspiring ideas to help you challenge yourself. They plant seeds and may even encourage group discussions, role playing, and more to give you an opportunity to tap into the leader within, make mistakes with your peers, and learn from them.

No matter what strategies you use (and it’s best to use multiple ones), always keep working on those skills. As with anything else in life, the more you use them, the better you’ll become at them. In this case, you’ll become a better leader each and every year.

The Overused “Leadership” Term

leadershipNo matter where you turn these days, you likely hear the word ‘leader’ or ‘leadership.’ There is so much emphasis that is placed on this term that it’s easy to realize just how overplayed the word has become.

This can affect a lot of people, and it can have a direct impact on a company or organization’s success. That’s because true leaders have the capacity and capability of helping others, encouraging others, and guiding them to achieve their personal or organization’s goals. They are mentors and that has a direct impact on the morale and success of any company.

When the term ‘leader’ is overused, it’s the result of some groups of people (companies, small business, organizations, political representatives, and more) wanting to extoll the virtues of leadership onto those who don’t deserve it. It’s a sort of badge of honor and since the term itself is associated with such positive and marketable skills, more and more people talk about their ‘leadership’ characteristics, or traits.

While many people may possess some leadership qualities or characteristics, this doesn’t mean that they are leaders. It’s important to keep that in mind when you’re focused on improving your own leadership skills. Just because you’re a good mentor, for example, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to inspire others or build a team structure properly to help your organization achieve its goals.

In fact, even though you will notice more than half of business professionals, political figures, or others are bestowing the label of ‘leader’ upon themselves, fewer than 10 percent are actually going to possess the knowledge and skills to be true leaders.

Leadership isn’t something that you’re born with, contrary to popular belief. It’s a skill and talent like any other. It takes time, effort, and patience to allow yourself to become a stronger leader, to learn the skills to strengthen yourself, and to polish those newfound abilities.

Avoid falling into the ‘leadership’ term trap; when you are a true leader, you won’t need to talk about it; success will be your calling card. In order to get there, you may need to rely on leadership coaching to guide you along your path.

3 Signs You Need Leadership Coaching

business-womanNo matter what position you have within an organization, if you are in charge of achieving goals and guiding other people (such as being a manager or supervisor), then you can be considered a leader. However, just because you’re holding a position in which you’re in charge of others, that doesn’t make you a leader by default.

Leaders are defined by their actions. In most organizations and companies throughout the world, you can separate people into two categories: managers and leaders. There are leaders and followers, but that’s for a different discussion.

Managers and Leaders

Managers are people who tell others what to do. They keep people moving and in line. They will generally understand the organization’s goals and be assigned certain tasks that they then need to figure out how to get done with the personnel that he or she has on hand.

Managers will generally make most of the decisions for their employees or personnel. They don’t make it a habit to delegate.

Micromanagers are a subset of the manager type and they will generally hover over every single person working for them. They will want to know every detail about what’s happening and they will generally slow down the productivity process.

Leaders are those who inspire others, who assign tasks and then step back, allowing their personnel to find their way and devise their own solutions to those tasks. Leaders mentor those who work for him or her and build a strong team atmosphere.

If you aim to become a true, strong leader, or if you think that you already are, here are three signs that you still need leadership coaching:

You have a high turnover rate. When people leave your team or organization quite often, something is not working properly. Turnover is not only costly, it’s time consuming as well. While there is only so much that you can do if the company isn’t treating its employees right, leaders can still reduce turnover rates.

You’re disciplining team members. If you find that you have to bring employees into your office to sanction or discipline them, you’re not leading. You’re managing. Mentoring is the way to go for leaders and that’s the most effective way to help them grow.

The goals are not being met. When you don’t achieve your goals, or the organization’s goals, sometimes it’s that the goals weren’t realistic, but it can also be that you didn’t lead properly.

When you accept leadership coaching, you will learn some of the best ways to lead and that will have a direct impact on your team, on achieving goals, and on your organization as a whole.

Healthy Ways to Open Yourself Up to Criticism

open-mindedAccepting criticism is one of the toughest challenges that people face, whether you’re talking about in the corporate world, in school, or even at home. There are two basic types of criticism: constructive and destructive (positive and negative).

Just because someone is telling you things that you need to improve, things that you’re not doing right, that doesn’t make it negative. Any criticism that provides you with an opportunity to learn and grow from it should be considered positive.

Being open to criticism is vital to the process of growth, change, and improvement. Many of us learn, through the years, especially childhood, to close ourselves off to criticism. We’re told “don’t listen to what that boy has to say,” or “Pay no attention to those people. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

As a result, we end up closing ourselves off to future criticism. Sometimes angrily so. The last time a coworker, your boss, or even your spouse criticized something that you did, what was your reaction?

Did you get angry?

Did you defend yourself?

Did you tell them that they’re wrong?

Creative types, such as writers, are often subjected to criticism constantly. It could come from teachers, fellow writers, and even readers. It’s the writers or artists who open themselves up to criticism that grow the most, who will improve their chances of success. It’s the ones that believe they know best, that the other people just don’t know what they’re talking about or are jealous who end up stuck where they are, with no ability to truly improve.

Opening yourself up to criticism.

The most important thing that you need to do to open yourself up is to remind yourself that you’re not perfect. Even if you’re the leader of a company that you built from the ground up, you’re not perfect.

The moment that you think you’ve got it all figured out is the moment you place yourself at risk of being brought down, and of failing ultimately.

Wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “I will accept criticism with a smile and open mind.” Repeating this every morning will work wonders to help that mentality set in.

Next, any time that you find someone criticizing you or your work, note your reactions. If you find yourself defending your work, stop and step back. Thank the person for their opinion and then set the work aside, and the criticism, for some time. Come back to it when you are calm.

Take a look at the criticism from an unbiased view. Does it make sense? Can you agree with it? If not, then you don’t need to heed it. If so, you will be able to grow from it.

Finally, take a few moments at the end up your day to reflect on any criticism that came your way. Discard anything that isn’t going to help you and hold onto those that could offer you an opportunity for growth. When you sleep with those thoughts, you’ll wake up feeling rejuvenated.

Once you begin to open yourself up to criticism, you’ll feel like a brand new person because in every day, there are usually many opportunities to be confronted with criticism, and that many opportunities to become even better than yesterday.

Building on First Impressions

Networking is an effective tool that can lead to a new business relationship and opportunity. Now that you have gained the attention of your new prospective client the next important step is to build on the first impression you have created and solidify a meaningful business relationship.*

The first time you meet or speak by phone is a test of ‘how’, what you’re selling fits their needs. Within seconds of starting the conversation, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanor, your mannerisms, and your tone.

First meetings are extremely important to you and your clientele. This can happen in-person or via a web-linked/telephone call. Your aim is to solidify your relationship and ask all sorts of questions to uncover their needs and challenges.

Here are some of the items you need to prepare in order to create a favourable impression.

  • Be curious: Gain knowledge and show your genuine interest in the organization and the person you are speaking to. Note the questions below as places to begin the dialogue.
  • Be patient: Resist the temptation of telling them about your organization and yourself until you have become more familiar with their needs and how you can possibly help them.
  • Be yourself, be at ease: The best way to get their business is to show them who you are and why you believe they need your business solution.
  • Be on time: Punctuality is one of the most important components of every business. Being on time is essential. If the meeting is in-person, show up early and gain a sense of the company culture by picking up on the energy level around you.
  • Be present and show yourself, appropriately: Even if its a phone call, dress yourself up. You are more likely to sound and act professional when you are dressed for the occasion.
  • Be open and confident: It goes without saying that good manners and polite, attentive and courteous behaviour will help to make a positive first impression.
  • Be engaging: Conversations are based on verbal give and take. It will help you to prepare questions in advance such as the ones included in this newsletter.
  • Be believable and convey your passion: Show them why you believe in your service or product and how their organization will gain by adopting it into their business. Being able to convey your point of view with impact and authenticity is key.

Here are some powerful questions to prepare for your first post-networking meeting:

  • Where is the company or organization headed?
  • What are its accomplishments and challenges?
  • If there is one thing they need to move ahead, what is it?
  • What will make your potential relationship be in alignment with the company culture?
  • How will what you are selling positively impact and benefit the ‘buyer’?
  • What do they most want to ask you?

We invite our readers to watch the enclosed video and consider how the 7 Cs will enhance your impression and build clarity in the business relationship, right from the beginning.

*Readers are encouraged to read our May, 2014 newsletter “Networking for Business”

What You Can Learn through Feedback

constructive-feedbackAny time that you get feedback, it’s an opportunity to learn something new. You may not like some of the things that you hear, but if you understand that you’re not perfect and that there is always room to improve, then you should be willing to embrace that feedback.

There are essentially two types of feedback: positive and negative. Positive does not mean that you’re hearing things that people like about you or that are extolling your virtues and negative feedback doesn’t mean that people are picking on you.

Positive feedback is something that provides insight, valuable information that can help you learn and grow.

Negative feedback is something that gives you no real, tangible insight. There’s nothing there to help you improve.

For example, positive feedback could be:

You sounded firm during your last lecture. The students responded, but I felt that you could have expounded on the topic a bit more.

You stand aside and let others discuss the problem and only step in and lead once a solution has been presented.

In both of these examples, they provide the listener with something to think about, to chew on, and to help them get better at what they do.

Negative feedback could be:

I really didn’t like what you said. It was stupid.

You shouldn’t just stand there with nothing to say.

These don’t offer much of anything. The first is really just an opinion and we all should know by now that you can’t please all the people all of the time, so there’s no point in trying. The second example didn’t offer anything more than observing what the person was doing (standing there with nothing to say).

Accept feedback from all sources. It doesn’t matter whether it’s coming from your parents, a spouse, your boss, or even the janitor in your building. If someone takes the time to provide feedback that you can use, listen to it. Digest it. Try to determine what the person is saying to help you.

Ignore the negative feedback. It won’t help and wasn’t intended to. It’s only meant to try and tear you down.

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Executive Coaching

whistle2You’ve signed on for some executive coaching. That’s a great first step, and in order to ensure that you get the most out of it, there are some things that you should keep in mind.

Bear in mind, too, that not everyone works the same way. That’s what offers some of the challenges to any attempt to improve your own skills and experiences; when you focus on a one-size-fits-all approach, you will be missing out on some wonderful aspects that could make your experience unique and truly beneficial.

Three tips that will help you make the most out of your unique executive coaching experience are:

  • Learn to accept feedback.
  • Make time for the coaching.
  • Set realistic goals.

Let’s dissect these three tips in more detail.

Learn to accept feedback

Being able to accept that you don’t have all of the answers is an important part of improvement. When you have trouble accepting feedback or criticism from someone, then you’re more likely to be closed off to improvement.

If you have trouble accepting feedback from others, then you need to find a way to open yourself up to that, otherwise this executive coaching will not serve you any real benefit.

One way that we can open ourselves up to accepting feedback from others is to control the ego. Set your pride aside and accept the fact that there are many things that you can improve on, and that’s why you’ve called on the assistance of an executive coach.

Make time for the coaching

If you hire an executive coach, or your supervisor has set this in motion, and you don’t have time to meet with the coach, then you’re not going to gain much from the relationship. You need to be able to devote your full attention to the executive coach so that you listen to what he or she is telling you.

Trying to rush through the sessions will lead to missed opportunities. Make enough time for each coaching session; it may even be beneficial to schedule an extra 10 minutes before and after the scheduled session so that you can ponder the things that you’ve learned or done during the previous week.

Set realistic goals

Many of us have the common problem that we don’t set realistic goals for ourselves. When it comes to executive coaching, if you don’t set realistic goals, or goals that you can actually measure to determine if you achieve them, then you will feel disappointed with the end result.

Any coaching, be it executive or otherwise, is a process of time and will. If you set unrealistic goals, you will be more likely to give up on them when it becomes clear that you won’t achieve them.

Following these tips will help you make the most of your executive coaching experience.

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