Live the New Year with Intention

Even if you don't believe in New Year's resolutions, the start of a new year is a good opportunity to look back at the prior year. What worked? What didn't? What must you do differently to be in a better place?

I do both the New Year's resolutions and the end-of-year analysis and there are two things that I always resolve to do more of: sleep and reading.

Since I, like many others, have too many things to juggle, sleep is the first thing I skimp on. And although books and reading feed my soul, heart, and mind, there's never enough time to read enough. So every year I resolve to do better...and I do, for a short time, then unfortunately revert to form.

Picking-up Life Is Good, The Book: How to Live with Purpose & Enjoy the Ride by Bert and John Jacobs has given me some insight into how I can hopefully do better this coming year.

I need to live life with intention. I need to focus on the positive in my life, simplify the rest, and be selective where I spend my time.

Although I'm good at getting things done and being organized, since I spend so much of my time in front of my laptop, I tend to stay there after hours too...and for no good reason. I no longer keep Facebook or Twitter tabs open, which has helped a bit, but it's still too easy to just find busy work at the computer. I finally realized this last week when I should have been getting ready for bed—or reading—but instead was staring at my screen, sure there was more I needed to do before shutting down (there wasn't).

Bert and John had a similar realization about e-mail and being plugged in. They were raised to appreciate optimism and learned to appreciate simplicity, which they consider one of the superpowers that helped them succeed. After realizing that all the e-mail they received and had to respond to kept them from getting ahead, they gave up on e-mail altogether—and others adjusted. And although they do not encourage us to be that extreme, they do encourage discipline with e-mail and social media and being conscious of where time is spent.

So I need to live life intentionally and unless there is a reason to be in front of my laptop or have my phone near me, to just walk away and instead read those books and/or get that sleep I need. Being aware will hopefully make the resolution stick this time.

Is there something you've been struggling with? If you were more intentional about time spent and choices made, how would it help you overcome the struggle?

Values as a Means to Success

I've been a fan of Stan Slap since reading his take on culture in his book Under the Hood (which I wrote about here and here). Now having just finished his other book, Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers, I am more of a fan and wish all managers were required to read his work.

In this book Stan makes the case that managers need to become leaders to live and work by their values, which will lead to their lives being more fulfilled and also lead their teams to success.

As per Stan, most managers are required to live by the company's values when at work, which if opposed to their personal values, leads to disengagement and less than their best. To circumvent this, leaders need to recognize what their values are and learn to enroll others in this vision.

Unlike managers who want staff to work harder, leaders want them to live better. They do this by painting a picture of the Better Place they can take staff to (their vision), where all will be better off. 

For this to work, leaders need to be consistent and honest at all times so as not to lose their followers' trust. This trust is what allows staff to believe in the leader, his values, and his vision and they are constantly observing and judging him to determine if this trust is warranted. 

Stan takes you through exercises to help determine what your top three values are and how to apply them with your team, your organization, and in your personal life. He also shares anecdotes of companies both large and small that work this way, demonstrating how this positively impacts both morale and the bottom line.

With his book, Stan has painted his own Better Work Place, one where everyone can safely bring their best selves and values to work and be respected and rewarded for this. It's a place I'd gladly follow him to.

What's the Better Place you've been searching for? Do you know what your top values are?

Leading with Passion

Joe Plumeri, former CEO of several financial companies including Willis Group and Citibank North America, is not what you'd think a finance CEO would be like. As he explains in his book The Power of Being Yourself: A Game Plan for Success by Putting Passion into Your Life and Work, you have to start with being true to yourself and always be driven by passion.

Joe, raised in Trenton, New Jersey, gives us insight into the upbringing that lead him to have these values and to be the type of CEO that in addition to caring about the bottom line, cares about inspiring and knowing his team. He's the kind of CEO that gets on stage without a script, speaks from his heart, and isn't afraid to show emotion and even cry to share and inspire others.

Joe is also not afraid to admit his mistakes and to learn from them, and use them to grow and inspire himself and others. He shares the hardships he and his family suffered when they could not save his son Chris, who had struggled with anorexia and drugs since the age of 13. 

The book shares Joe's eight down-to-earth principles, explains them, and even gives you questions in the appendix to help you apply them. As inspiring as the whole book was, I want to briefly touch on two statements he makes:
  1. Bad culture starts with the absence of a common vision.
  2. Emotion plus purpose equals passion.
Given how much I read and write about culture, reading Joe's statement on culture was a light bulb moment. Yes, there are many other reasons why a company has a bad culture (some of which I've written about), but as he points out, people want vision and purpose and when they are not given that, that void will be filled with fear and other negative emotions.

And if you combine purpose with emotion you get passion. That is why you need to put passion—not emotion—into your life and work, since passion is driven and meaningful. We all need a reason to get up in the morning and we all need to feel part of a larger good. Joe shows us that this is possible in any industry and at any level.

What is your purpose? And are you being true to yourself?

Political Savviness as a Leadership Trait

Politics to me were the equivalent of a four letter word and all bad. But I've come to realize they are just the way things get done and only become the bad variety (e.g., games and backstabbing) when the culture is bad. 

Bonnie Marcus, author of The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, takes it a step further and shows how becoming politically savvy is necessary to get ahead and stay ahead.

As Bonnie explains and experienced herself, women can be "blindsided" by being passed over and/or not hired if they're unaware of the unwritten rules (aka politics) of the place. 

Although Bonnie has a whole toolkit of how to become more politically savvy, it really boils down to two parts:
  1. being aware of your unique value proposition and able to promote it;
  2. being aware of how decisions are made, by whom, and what they care about so you can frame your value in mutually beneficial terms.
Part of the second step is strategically networking and getting a sponsor, but the start is paying attention to the flow of influence around you. Observe who gets his way and how he does so. Whom does everyone turn to for input? What are the people who are getting ahead doing differently? 

And if you know what you have to offer and who influences what, you can figure out how you can help them so that they can help you.

As Bonnie points out, being politically savvy is a necessary leadership trait: how else can you advocate for your team and ensure they get the resources to succeed if you don't have the political influence and relationships in place?

Bonnie wrote this book specifically for women since as I can attest to, most of us just cringe at the mention of politics, but the advise is equally applicable to men.

Are you politically savvy? If not, can you think of someone who is, so you can start observing and learning from them?