Answering These 4 Questions Will Increase Your Future

“Asking the right questions is as important as answering them.”

BENOIT MANDELBROT

Being a leader in regular times can be a challenge. Being a leader in a crisis can be a complicated challenge. Successful leadership in regular times is hard enough. Trying to figure out what to do during a global crisis is CRAZY!

The best approach to embrace the current situation is to do what is right and ensure you protect your family, friends, and yourself. It also means doing what is necessary to increase your professional efficiency through leadership. But I think the biggest challenge is how we approach the future. Things aren’t going to be the same. 

I like what Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, said,

The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.” 

I believe he is right on. Questions will generate answers, and answers will generate our actions. I think most of us have some frustrations due to the situation; I know I have. You’ve probably have heard more angry voices in your head and in your ears than ever before. Again, I know I have.  

To help reduce your frustrations and to be able to take the stance of a healthy and efficient leader, here are four questions to consider to outline the future.  

What can I change?

Think back to all those things pre-COVID things you wished you could change or stop doing. Maybe you didn’t change them because you didn’t realize you wanted or needed to change. Maye you but didn’t have the commitment, courage, or energy to make it happen. Well, now’s the time. Normal is gone, Now is the perfect time to make new things happen!  

You must figure out what needs to change and how to effectively make the change happen!

How would you approach a new role in these times?

It can be hard to transition into a new role. Old vehicles wouldn’t do well well in new air emission eras. 

I spoke at conferences and events as part of my pre-COVID life. I haven’t spoken at a live event since February 2020. Everything now is virtual. I’ve had to learn to embrace the fact that you can’t walk through the audience and hug people and shake their hands. My daughter and her family moved to Athens, Greece. Since the beginning of February, my wife and I haven’t seen my son-in-law, daughter, or grandkids in person. 

With COVID positives seeing a surge and mandatory quarantines coming back into play in place, I don’t know when speaking in person will come back or when I will be able to see my grandkids.

If you were launching as a speaker right now, how would you approach it? If you had family out of the country, how would you maintain strong relationships?

Once you know the answer to those questions, I think you will understand your new approach and succeed.  

Existing leaders who think differently and embrace change will have a much better future than their counterparts. 

Where does the real momentum lie?

Momentum is the product of the mass and the velocity of an object. Here is a more simpler definition; strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events. It might feel like you have no momentum anywhere, but that won’t be true for most people. (If it is true—the problems are much deeper than a global crisis.) All of us have some kind of momentum going on. Maybe it is different than before, but it is happening.

For example, you might be focused on getting people back in the offices because that’s where you feel you historically had momentum. The concern is, we focus so much on the past that we become fixated on trying to re-manufacture previous situations that we miss the opportunity to look at things differently. A good example is remote workers. Due to being forced to have people work from home, many organizations have found that remote workers are more productive, have a stronger moral, and seem to be a lot happier working from home. Sure, there are challenges, but remote workers can be just as productive or even more productive when given flexibility.

You probably have momentum somewhere. Figure it out. Study it. Determine why that momentum is growing and the benefits and how to maximize it’s potential.

If you want to exceed your goals, fuel what’s growing, not what’s declining.

If you choose to stay where you are, soon, you’re staring out the window watching the future pass you buy.

Can I sustain the pace?

I’m running into so many exhausted and frustrated leaders right now. Look, I’ve been there myself. Most leaders look to mental time off or vacation to reduce frustration and improve energy. I that approach will never give you enough time off to recover from the stress and frustration. I believe time off can revise your energy and reduce stress temporarily. Here is another example. I am a member of my organization’s COVID Sub-Committee. Our fundamental role is to assist our employees in dealing with COVID related issues. I recently took a few days off. When I returned back to the work environment, the stress and frustration beat me there. I believe we need to take time off and continue to build relationships with family and enjoy the life we have, but time off isn’t going to change your unsustainable pace.

You have to consider how you approach and react to each situation, whether temporary or drawn out. Making necessary mental and physical adjustments to create a sustainable pace is the solution! 

I suggest we ask the question, “how can I create a sustainable pace?”  In my personal approach to eliminate burnout, I make constant adjustments to achieve this phrase:

lead today in a way that you will exceed tomorrow.”

Most leaders lead in a way that will make them struggle tomorrow. We all have to work more hours, which affects our diet, reduces our exercise time and our ability to build our relationships. However, our desire is to find a sustainable pace heading to successfully achieve your personal and professional goals during this crisis and beyond.

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

Moving forward, ask yourself: what changes can I make to ensure I exceed expectations in this current crisis and beyond? 

Your answers and resultant actions to these 5 questions are critical to your future success. We have to change, and we must maximize our momentum. Think about stopping a train and what effort it takes to get it moving again. The changes we make will determine our ability to lead others through this time of crisis and change.

9 SAFETY CULTURE QUESTIONS WE NEVER THOUGHT WE WOULD HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES

When considering the last few months, if we had been given a glimpse of this crazy year ahead of time, we would have thought the world had gone mad.

I feel It probably has.

There has been a significant change in the safety professional’s approach to influencing the workforce and leadership in safety. For some, organizations have a healthy and sustainable culture indicating that the only need is to reinforce the culture and look for continuous improvement. But for most safety professionals, organizations either; don’t have a safety culture in place yet, or the current culture is not strong enough to sustain a consistent, safe workforce. 

While we can’t approach safety the same we have done in the past, we have to ensure our current safety culture is continuously building up strong through our leadership and employees. 

I recently thought about this and came up with 9 questions I believe we need to focus on to ensure the workforce’s safety in this current situation. 

  1. Do your employees feel comfortable with COVID-19 protocols and procedures put in place?
  2. Is safety still a core value, or is the entire focus on revenue?
  3. Are your employees still stopping work when they feel unsafe? 
  4. Do your employees still feel comfortable approaching their colleagues if there is an unsafe condition or situation? 
  5. Are the employees exhibiting safe behaviors?
  6. Are people managers still engaged in the safety process?  
  7. Is safety integrated into every conversation? 
  8. Are your employees under pressure and more inclined to take shortcuts? 
  9. Is the leadership team thinking differently? 

I encourage you to ask yourself these questions first. Ask your team, the workforce, and leadership what their thoughts are and develop an immediate implementation plan to address the shortcoming or redesign processes. The answers to these questions will determine the plan as we advance. 

Your ability to ask questions will hlp determine the path forward.

“The ability to ask questions is the greatest resource in learning the truth.”

Carl Jung

CHURCHILL LED WITH COURAGE IN A CRISIS, SO CAN YOU

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.”

C.S. Lewis

On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became the prime minister of Great Britain in a time known as “Britain’s darkest hour.” The former prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, had tried to reason with Adolph Hitler, but he failed. Europe lay devastated before the German Wehrmacht. Nothing could stop the onslaught of the Germans racing across France. At last, in desperation, the British parliament turned to the aging Churchill. Many British people had already resigned themselves to defeat. But, in a series of speeches, Churchill roused the nation. In one of his most famous speeches, he declared,

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

WINSTON CHURCHILL

We know how this story ends. Britain and its Allies stood up to the “fury and might” of the enemy and defeated the Germans.

In an ideal business world, we don’t face great life-and-death crises, as Churchill did. But in this current COVID-19 crisis, I think many, if not all, businesses, are facing a similar situation as Great Britain and as a result, leaders are in a similar situation to Churchill.

As we continue in this current crisis, it is critical leaders dare to make the most difficult decisions in their lifetime. Until Britain faced its greatest crisis, its citizens did not feel the need for Churchill. But when they had nowhere else to turn, they finally placed their hope in him. Occupying a corner office does not take courage. But facing the COVID-19 crisis requires every ounce of a leader’s courage. The problem is many in leadership positions suffer from an acute absence of courage. A successful leader’s tenacity to tackle their most significant issues must include courage. 

Churchill said it best;

Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

WINSTON CHURCHILL

I recently completed a John Maxwell course on courage and identified 4 of the most significant benefits of having courage. John had several benefits he listed, but I feel these four benefits will encourage you to build your courage.

COURAGE IS FEAR

Writing this article put me in a position to define the word courage. In my search for a distinct, yet reality-based definition, I found a quote from Nelson Mandela that explains it best:

 “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

NELSON MANDELA

In other words, courage is not an emotion (like fear); it’s a practice—an act of will. Courage is what we demonstrate when we feel scared about taking bold action but do it anyway.

As with my Peloton bike workouts, the more I practice courage in the face of fear, the stronger I become, which will prepare for even bigger crisis down the road. Courage is crucial to our leadership because the more courage we show courage, the more influence we have. 

COURAGE ENABLES YOU TO MAXIMIZE THE POTENTIAL IN YOU AND OTHERS

Leadership requires courage. You cannot lead unless you find a way of developing and generating courage in yourself and then “encouraging” others.

COURAGE LETS YOU BE HEARD

William Brown said, “People don’t follow titles, they follow courage.” When people increase their courage, others are more willing to listen and act. 

COURAGE PROPELS YOU TO REINVENT YOURSELF AS OFTEN AS NEEDED

You have the power to leave the familiar In a time of crisis, Leadership is not for the fearful, it requires courage.

The best words to sum up my intent is through the words of Thomas Edison’s during his last public message delivered during the depths of the Great Depression:

Be courageous! I have lived a long time. I have seen history repeat itself again and again. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has come out stronger and more prosperous. Be as brave as your  fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!”

THOMAS EDISON

The True Test of Leadership Is The Ability To Grow

“The truest test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis”

– BRIAN TRACY

The sun is so hot on my face as I lay in the warm sand with the breeze blowing across my body. As I open my eyes, I see nothing but blue skies and the shimmering crystal clear water. I hear the sounds of seagulls, waves crashing onto the shore. I stand up and can feel the warm sand between my toes as I walk back to my chair and reach for my umbrella drink………………BUT wait, what is that? I hear a siren. All of a sudden I shake my head and realize I was daydreaming and the siren brought me back to the reality of the crisis we are currently experiencing.

With the extended voluntary and required lockdowns, I am sure many of you find yourself daydreaming, just like I did. But in this time of crisis, we need to focus on growing our leadership to ensure we take care of our people and those around us. 

The crisis we are currently experiencing is about the people we lead and their families. As I think of topics to write about, I realize we cannot be validated as a leader if we are not committed to to continual growth.

I’ve identified 9 ways to grow your leadership.

It’s about others

There is a great deal of fear, anxiety, and even anger going around. Remember that we are all humans. Regardless of your position, you are experiencing some of the same issues your team is experiencing. Look for ways to recognize other’s anxiety, concerns, and frustrations and find ways to reach out and show compassion.

Focus on what you can control

Don’t waste time and energy on issues you can’t control or influence. Focus on actions that produce value for your team, customers, organization, and your family.

LEAD don’t react 

Determine the direction to go and take your people there. Don’t be reactionary. Be intentional. Lead your people.

Leaders are transparent

The people you lead want to know what’s going on and how it will work out. It doesn’t matter if you believe this is overblown or the most significant health crisis in the world. Leaders define the stories that people tell themselves. Be intentional in your transparency to your team.

Identify new customer needs 

Talk to your customers. Find out how this crisis is impacting them. Are there new services or products that you can offer that are helpful at this time? Be flexible and consider all options to make your services more value-added to your customers.

Innovative solutions and partnerships

If your business is slowing down, can you share employees with a company that is temporarily picking up? Be creative.

Communicate 

Communicate encouragement, hope, and solutions. Talk to your employees, customers, and suppliers. In times of crisis, people want two things: Accurate information and empathy. Some people lean towards information. Others lean towards compassion. But give both. Communicate frequently, repeatedly, and openly. You aren’t likely to communicate too much, but it’s easy not to communicate enough.

Embrace the change

With the current crisis, change is inevitable. Look for ways to improve. People are expecting changes. We are in a time to implement change, especially if it brings more value to your customers, employees, or business.

Take care of yourself 

Get enough sleep, eat right, and be grateful. Remember to breathe and move your body. Limit exposure to the anxiety of others, especially news and social media.

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

YOU WILL PAY A PRICE WHEN LEADING IN A CRISIS

“Great leaders are never stress-free,struggle-free, or failure-free.”

UNKNOWN

There is always a cost to leadership. When leading in this time of crisis, leaders must step up more than ever. However, the price of leadership will be much higher. Leading in a crisis is like a car engine, if you ramp up the RPM’s past the red line for too long, you are probably going to blow the engine. For many, ramping up our leadership means working longer hours, engaging in stressful situations along with making tough decisions. I know this can be hard and raise your anxiety, but you are what your people need NOW! 

So how can you lead in this crisis and maintain the sanity needed to be successful? 

Lean on the wise

If you think everything depends on you, then I believe you own too much of the burden. Maybe you ultimately have the full responsibility for the outcome, but that doesn’t mean that you must operate alone. Reach out and seek advice from those you trust and admire. We all have a mentor or two that can give you information and provide ideas and suggestions.  

Vent to those you trust

Leaders in high-stress situations need to talk to people outside their circumstances. As the pressure increases and the anxiety mounts, conversations with a trusted friend, counselor, or coach will help you reduce stress, anxiety, and regain a clear perspective on the situation. The result of doing this, is renewed energy and a drive to attack what’s ahead.

Increase your physical wellness

We think of stress primarily in emotional terms, but it has a significant physical component as well. Rather than getting less sleep because you’re so busy, make it a priority to get more sleep. The same is true for physical exercise—running, swimming, biking, etc. My wife and I purchased a Peloton bike in November. The investment in this bike has been the best thing ever in reducing our anxiety and building up my mental and physical strength. This has resulted in my ability to maintain the energy required to make difficult decisions and address difficult situations. 

Elevate your spiritual well-being

The most significant power for leading in chaotic times comes from above. It is tempting to spend less time reading the bible or praying when there are so many demands for our time. However, these practices are crucial to gain the wisdom, perspective, and peace that we desperately need. Remember the words of Martin Luther:

“I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours in prayer.”

MARTIN LUTHER

I doubt I have said anything you don’t already know that many of you could add more information to clarify my knowledge. Still, as I continue to deal with the current crisis and cope with the extreme change in life and work, I am looking for ways to recharge and re-evaluate my self and improve my leadership. I hope this will help you do the same.

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

EMBRACE THE CRISIS AND BECOME A LEADER IN DISRUPTED TIMES

All disruption starts with introspection.”

Jay Samit

With all the chaos and craziness going on, we can choose to be the leader we are called to be or not. We are the ones to encourage and communicate the hope, safety and the future of those we lead. The current disruption has upended EVERY life. You have to decide to embrace the disruption; no one can make it for you. 

So if you choose to embrace it, how do you become a person who can effectively lead through this disruption?

Resolve the fact things are not the same. 

It is ok to admit things are not the same. Conditions seem to change every hour. But we must realize we cannot swim in a lake of calm waters when there is a storm causing rough seas. Denial won’t lead people. The world we live in is fundamentally different then it was a month ago. 2020 will go down in history as a year of worldly change. It’s a new beginning. For better or worse, we are at a turning point. We can accept that or deny it. Our lives are disrupted, which has flowed right into our families, jobs, and businesses. Look, things are not the same as they used to be, and there is no going back. Instead, we must embrace change and look for new approaches to lead differently.

Ask yourself, When I look back, what will I see?

The decisions we make and the interactions with family, friends, and our staff will define our leadership and impact people who count on us. Leaders speak into a crisis, and they encourage and point to hope and faith. We are given a platform; how we use it will determine the future. Leaders must speak, and leaders must lead. When we are on the other side of this crisis, will you be proud or disappointed of your actions?  

Lead in sacrificial service toward others. 

Some organizations emerge from a crisis more energetic and more ready to succeed than they were before the crisis arrived. The difference that separates them from companies that fail is PEOPLE. Leaders who believe leadership is about others will empathize, engage, motivate, and support their people, resulting in respect and commitment. The truth about leadership is it does not exist for the leader, but the led. Leadership is not about YOU! Serve others through your actions, and they will serve you.

“Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Things will never go back to normal. We are too far into this crisis. We must identify new ways of achieving our goals and create a vision that inspires hope and encourages our people to succeed. We are in the middle of recalibrating, reprioritizing, and reminding people of the need to embrace the crisis. Embrace the disruption, and you will be on the path to lead successfully.

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

LEADING PEOPLE IN A TIME OF CRISIS

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading today.”

Abraham Lincoln

The world is in unequaled times with the COVID-19 crisis. The history of the world has experienced many different types of crises throughout the ages. But, anyone reading this blog has never experienced what we are going through now.

The current worldwide situation has poured out anxiety, worry, and uncertainty. I’ve heard John Maxwell say, “there are no two consecutive good days in the life of a leader.” Admittedly, that statement got your attention. Think about the day before your organization enacted the “Crisis Management Team” or began developing policies and procedures that shook up and changed everything you’ve were doing. What was the day like before that?. Maybe you accomplished several goals, perhaps you made the most substantial sell of your career, or were promoted! I’m sure you and your significant other or family enjoyed a beautiful sunny day where enjoyed a great dinner, or maybe you got pizza and ice cream for the family.

There are no two consecutive good days in the life of a leader.”

John Maxwell

Then you wake up the next morning and – BAM, everything you know has been turned upside down, and you are put in a position to lead through a crisis! We are all in it now.

As you grow in your leadership, you are given more responsibility, and that responsibility results in you facing more challenging and demanding decisions. Those decisions may be cut and dry, but in this current crisis, I would expect many leaders are experiencing the most difficult decisions in their LIFE! The most influential leaders in the world are put in situations where they are being advised of many new and unknown situations and conditions and are being forced to make decisions that affect the lives of people and the future of business and society!

The truth about leadership is it does not exist for the leader, but the led.

Denis Baker

The truth about leadership is it does not exist for the leader, but the led. Leaders are principally unnecessary in times of peace and tranquility. In those cases, a manager will suffice. But when people face a seemingly insurmountable problem or crisis, they instinctively look to leaders to lead the way. John Maxwell says, “a leader is one that knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.” True leaders are those who can move people from where they are to where they need to be. They are problem solvers and help people see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So how should we lead in frightening times?

  1. Be visible. When times are challenging, leaders need to be seen and felt. It’s not the time to retreat and try to figure things out behind closed doors. You must put yourself forward as someone that people can talk to or turn to when their fears overwhelm. People want a leader that knows where they are going and shows them how to get there.
  2. Make the horror concrete. Abraham Lincoln said, “A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”. Max Dupree said, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”—that means acknowledging what’s going on around us. WE cannot lead through a crisis if we’re unwilling to recognize people are scared, or that the situation is frightful.
  3. Brighten the mood.  Point beyond the fear to a brighter day. Remind people of what the Psalmist said: “Nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” Leaders must communicate to their people the hope on the other side of the situation.
  4. Be cautious with predictions, but lead the path forward. Don’t communicate an ending or way that won’t take place. When leading people, look beyond the crisis, but don’t predict exactly how things will work out. The simple truth is you don’t know, and that’s okay. You’re not a predictor of the future, but rather an examiner of the current times.  People don’t expect you to know the future but get them there. Clear communication will give people the energy and hope to engage in the necessary activities. 

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

Max Dupree

We are in a time desperate for strong leadership. Government, businesses, churches, and families are all facing huge problems that only influential leaders can take on. If there was ever a time for your leadership to make a lasting contribution, it is NOW!

Will you rise to the challenge?

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.