Leadership Moments
Weekly Leadership Insights

by Angie Morgan

In our workshops, we often teach professionals about the value of the “80% Decision” – in other words, there is no such thing as a 100%, perfect decision because we can’t predict the future, so we can’t predict the outcome. But if you can reach an 80% information threshold with your decision, then you should make the call.

This 80% decision-making formula has diverse applications – from business strategists, to Marines in combat, to people in the buffet line. The idea is simple and straightforward: Gather the facts and act.

Easier said than done, right? 80% of information doesn’t always settle with everyone. The perfectionists in our workshops always push us and ask, “Isn’t there a way I can do better than 80% to get a little closer to 100%?” Well, there might be … but that depends on how well you listen to your intuition. You see, our bodies can sense opportunities and threats before our brains can process them. How well you pay attention to your physiological responses to challenges can help inform your decision-making process.

So, can paying attention to your responses give you a decision-making edge? I would argue “yes.” So the next time you’re contemplating a choice, and you’ve went through a decision-making process, yet something still doesn’t feel right, use that to pay attention and truly listen to how you feel. Your gut instinct can be a powerful ally.

by Sean Lynch

Even after 25+ years of piloting commercial and military airplanes, I still enjoy looking out the window.  Whether I’m in the cockpit looking out front, or at a window seat in the back, the view from 35,000 feet gives you a different perspective.

It’s easy to get captivated by the view from ground level.  Things that are urgent, important, and overwhelming can consume all of your attention and prevent you from seeing the bigger picture.

Rather than spending all of their time at the ground-level directing, controlling, or managing, leaders empower people to successfully address day-to-day issues.  They make sure their team members have the tools, training, and information to work independently and autonomously.  Leaders identify and meet needs so that their team is able to focus on the work, serve the customer, or strive for excellence.

Leaders spend more time at 35,000 feet keeping their eye on the big picture.  They communicate to their team where they are going and why, and they craft a bold, clear vision to inspire team members to work hard together.  They constantly communicate their vision and connect everyone’s efforts to overall organizational success.

Take time to step back to understand the big picture.  If you spend all of your time at the nuts and bolts level, you run the risk of missing opportunities, or addressing challenges that you might have seen from 35,000 feet.

by Angie Morgan

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows …  But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”  Rocky Balboa

On a recent Friday night, I was flipping through TV channels with my son when we came across the opening credits for Rocky. I suddenly perked up – what a great opportunity to introduce him to some powerful life lessons:

  • Hard work requires self discipline
  • The key to success is perseverance
  • Even when you try really hard you might not win
  • After you get beat down, you have to get back up
  • Love is all you need (Ok … so he is 9.  He really wasn’t into the whole romance between Rocky and Adrian, but maybe one day he will find this storyline touching and sweet.)

I kept sneaking glances at him throughout the movie to assess his interest.  When the movie was over, I excitedly asked, “What did you think?”  His response:

  • Do you think that was real blood?
  • Punching dead cows is awesome.
  • Can I have a turtle?

So, not exactly what I expected, but it got me thinking that my role as a leader – whether as a parent, employee, or colleague – is to keep introducing life’s lessons with the hope that one day they will take hold.

I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has been inspired by Rocky and/or other movies.  I would love to hear from you: What movies have shaped your perspectives on how you should lead your life?  Share your answers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Leadstar.

by Angie Morgan

If you were to run a marathon, what would you do the day before?

Would you go for a 20-mile run?  Would you load up on junk food?

Probably not.  You likely would:

Prepare your gear. Fuel yourself for peak performance. Rest and focus on the task at hand.

We all have marathon periods in our work and in our life.  What are you doing to prepare for them?  Don’t overlook the importance of taking care of you – and your team – to ensure everyone is able to run at optimal speed.  We’re humans – not machines.  We can’t deliver exceptional results if we’re not physically and mentally rested.

A simple leadership action is to ensure that everyone around you, including yourself, takes a break this summer so you can come back and close out the year on a high note.  We all have aggressive 2014 goals, and we will all be in a position to achieve them if we are able to operate at 100%.

Do you have an ambitious Q4?  Why not schedule a leadership development workshop so your team can get focused and united on delivering exceptional results.  Reach out to Lead Star to learn more about how we can tailor a program just for you.





by Courtney Lynch

We are socialized to think that motion equals progress.  Yet as leaders, we must be cautious to fully value thinking just as much as doing.  Intentional action is a key part of leading well.  To act with intention we must first think deeply about what needs to be done.

As you begin the second half of 2014, reflect on these questions:

  • Is this year turning out like I intended?  Why or why not?
  • What are my most significant challenges right now
  • What are my main priorities for the rest of the year?
  • What specifically do I want to accomplish between now and December 31st?
  • What do I need to stop doing in order to maintain focus?

To create next level success, we must have next level vision.  Clarity of vision comes from clarity of thought.  High caliber thinking takes quiet time and space away from the pace of day to day doing.  It can feel slow, but ultimately it’s a powerful accelerant to success.  As you reflect on the challenges you are currently experiencing, keep in mind that if you want to expand your capability to overcome them, you have to expand your thought process.  The same way of thinking won’t get you past persistent challenges.  Better ideas, better perspective and better leveraging of the lessons you’ve learned are needed to advance.

Keep thinking to keep succeeding in ways that are enjoyable and valuable to you.

by Sean Lynch

I was recently in a business that does an extraordinary job of setting customer expectations.  They clearly define their product offering, so you know what you’ll get.  Then, employees work to ensure that you have a great experience.  This company is at the top in its industry.

My experience reminded me how important expectations are for leaders and leadership.

Where do you set the expectations for your team?  Do you even set expectations?  Setting expectations low from the start might seem like a guaranteed way to keep everyone motivated and happy.  Low expectations may make people feel good, but they aren’t getting the team any closer to excellence.  And, achieving small, easily attainable goals doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment.  Low performers on your team may be able to keep up.  Your high-performers probably aren’t working to their potential and may start looking for challenges elsewhere.

Do you clearly communicate performance expectations up front?  Don’t assume that since people have worked at the company for 20 years, or they attended training, or they spoke to so-and-so, that they have a clear understanding of what they should be doing.  Communicate expectations upfront to get everyone on the same page.  Then, follow up.  Make sure everyone understands your expectations.  Don’t let people expend time, effort, and resources working in the wrong direction.

As leaders, we achieve success through others.  Give your team a clear picture of what success looks like, so they can always act in ways consistent with your intent.

by Courtney Lynch

Leadership can often be painful.  The toughest choices we make as leaders connect to people and outcomes we really care about.  When you have to make a challenging choice that impacts the people you lead, keep the following in mind:

  • There’s never a perfect way to deliver bad news.  Leadership is not about being perfect; it’s about influencing outcomes and inspiring others.  Bad news is never welcomed.  Bad news delivered honestly, and with as much compassion as possible, is often a critical step to achieving progress.  Leaders don’t always make people happy, but they can always treat people with dignity.
  • Delaying a difficult decision often leads to more pain.  When you know what you need to do, set about doing it.  Challenges between people rarely get resolved without work, friction, and candor.  A timely decision followed by reasoned action is the first step to moving past a challenge.
  • Work hard to communicate your decision with care and compassion.  Be tough on standards not on people.  When someone fails to meet expectations, or a significant change must be communicated, or a consequence has been experienced, emotions run high.  Hold yourself accountable to expressing care and concern when engaging in difficult dialogues.  Unchecked anger can quickly alienate others.
  • Awareness of why you feel what you feel helps to minimize the drama.  Explain your feelings to yourself before you try to explain them to another person.  With professional disagreements, the more you understand and harness your emotional responses, the better you’ll be able to make the choices necessary to achieve positive outcomes.

Take comfort in the fact that most progress worth achieving requires discomfort.  This is particularly true when we experience challenges in our relationships.  The more challenges you experience, the more you’ll need to be accountable to demonstrating leadership.

by Sean Lynch

On a recent client project, I was fortunate to spend time with an insightful, front-line manager of a revenue-generating unit in the company.  He was frustrated, because his organization was tasking him with additional requirements that seemed to make it harder for his group to generate revenue.  He did not understand how these requirements supported the hard-working people on the front line.

How supportive are you to other people, or departments, in your organization?  Our individual success isn’t solely dependent on our efforts.  Our organization’s success isn’t solely dependent on the success of our department.  We are part of a team and need the whole team to be successful.

Too often, we bury our heads in our own little world and think that it’s all about finance, legal, operations, human resources, or compliance.  But, all of these functions must support one another to make the organization as a whole successful.  Occasionally, we need to pick our head up to make sure we are contributing to the larger effort.

Here are some thoughts on how to be more supportive.

  • Realize we are all on the same team.  Many organizations become segmented, or operate in their own silo.  Customer service doesn’t talk to operations; maintenance won’t talk to sales.  In our leadership development workshops, it is surprising how quickly a congenial group of employees from the same company can become competitive and focused on self-interest.  We might be doing different jobs, but we should all be pulling the wagon in the same direction.
  • Reach out to someone across the hall, or across the country.  Why not?  Take the initiative.  Offer to help.  See how others are addressing challenges.  Network.  There are a million good reasons to reach out.
  • Understand how your actions contribute to the success of others.  Regardless of our role, our work probably supports someone else’s ability to succeed.  Human resources provides the organization with quality people.  Safety helps us work without injury.  Front-line, revenue-generating employees can strive to meet the standards of their support folks.  By understanding how our actions contribute to the larger effort, we are able to make meaningful contributions.

Before you just implement, task, require, or demand, ask yourself, “How supportive am I?”

by Angie Morgan

“Shallow men believe in luck.  Strong men believe in cause and effect.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

I find that the harder I work, the luckier I am.  I call this “smart luck.”  And, to me, smart luck is better than dumb luck because I have more influence over it.

After all, dumb luck is just random.  For example, winning a few bucks in a scratch off lotto ticket is dumb luck – it can happen to anybody who buys a ticket.  Sure, you can increase your odds by purchasing more tickets.  But you have little control over the outcome.

Smart luck, however, you cultivate.  Your odds will always be better when you work hard – whether that’s running a race, leading a business unit, applying for a promotion, or interviewing for a new opportunity.  The effort you exert will always influence the outcome.

If you’ve ever considered yourself unlucky, challenge yourself and ask “What type of luck?”  If you have zero dumb luck, welcome to the club! But if you have zero smart luck, this is your chance to be accountable to actions you can take to increase your chances so you can win at work and in life.

by Courtney Lynch

For most of human history, high wage earners worked fewer hours than those who earned lower wages.  The “leisure class” was a term reserved for those with greater resources.  Today, tradition is changing.  While overall work hours have fallen, wealthy workers have begun to work longer hours than lower wage earners.  Americans with a college degree work two or more hours each day than those with less education.

There are many theories that attempt to explain this shift.  Economists will say it’s the “substitution effect.”  Higher wages make time off more expensive.  Why take a vacation when you could earn another week’s pay?  Social science will tell you that work is now more enjoyable than ever for well-educated professionals.  Plus, societal norms have shifted.   Time for leisure was once associated with power and prestige… today, if you have idle time others are likely to view you as less important or even lazy.  After all, today’s fast-paced professional culture sends a clear message that it’s best to be busy.  In many organizations, extra hours logged on the job are a badge of honor and source of pride.

As a leadership development expert, I am routinely asked questions about pace, productivity, and best practices for delivering results.  I continuously review studies, data, and insights on what makes a person effective as a leader.  I also get the benefit of meeting dynamic high performers through my client work.  By questioning norms and challenging habits, I constantly seek answers and solutions.  Today’s high achieving professional is caught up in a myth that “more” is often the answer to how much work needs to be done to achieve greater success.  One of the most significant challenges I see top performers facing is they don’t know when they have completed “just enough” so that their success stays enjoyable, fulfilling, and sustainable.   Motion does not always equal progress.  Is it possible that you are over valuing “doing” at the expense of “thinking”?  The more complex the challenges you face, the more time you need to reflect and innovate.

At Lead Star, we know that habits and instincts are powerful drivers of behavior, but often they can get in the way of being an effective leader.  Are you working endless hours out of habit?  Instead of relying on focus, decisiveness, and innovation to expand your impact, are you just racking up hours doing more of the same?   If you find yourself feeling inauthentic, unfulfilled or simply exhausted, I encourage you to take a step back and examine your work habits:

  • What could you stop doing out of habit (perhaps      checking email every five minutes, doing “one more thing” before the meeting      while others wait for you, or putting work first always)?
  • What can you intentionally start doing (consider taking      a Thursday morning out of the office to spend time reflecting on      challenges and potential solutions, exercise to increase your energy level,      dedicate time to activities that bring you joy, etc.) to live a fuller,      richer life?

Be open to the fact that the counterintuitive answer to how to achieve more might require slowing down.  Maybe those leisurely aristocrats of the past were onto something…..

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