Coaching Us To Do The Right Thing

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog appeared first at Forbes.

When you do something right, do not seek recognition for it.

That was the essence of a comment that Dean Smith made to John Feinstein about not wanting to be remembered for helping to desegregate restaurants in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1958. Feinstein, an author and sportswriter for the Washington Post, had covered Smith for years and got to know the man personally.

Remembering Smith for NPR on the occasion of his death, Feinstein noted how Smith entered a lunchroom with a black man who was a member of Smith’s church. This was a risky move for a young coach to do in the segregated South, and years later Smith’s pastor related the incident to Feinstein. When Feinstein recalled the story to Smith, the coach was disappointed that his pastor had noted it. When Feinstein pressed Smith as to why he would not be proud of his actions as a young man, Smith replied, “John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing, you should just do the right thing!”

Far be it from me to disagree with Coach Smith but I believe it is important to recognize people for doing the right thing. A self-effacing character such as Smith who won two NCAA titles and made 11 trips to the Final Four never wanted a fuss made about him, even asking the University of North Carolina not to name the arena in his honor but rather for the players. In this instance UNC did override Smith’s request.

Smith was a righteous man who stood up for causes larger than himself politically and as a coach for his players. He radiated integrity and so remembering him now for the good things he did is a way to honor his memory. Reporters around the nation hailed Smith as a good coach but an even better man. President Obama, who awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, noted Smith’s triumphs on the court but also cited his involvement in Civil Rights, his recruitment of UNC’s first black players and his 96% graduation rate.

Now is also a time to remind us that we do live in a world that is shaped by good men who do good things. Too often if we focus on the news we learn more bad than good in terms of conflict between people, nations and religions. Digesting such evil day after day it is easy to fall into the trap that evildoers outduel the righteous.

Very often I am asked in interviews about the sad state of the world, specifically the fact that there seem to be too few role models or good leaders. I always disagree. Certainly those who make headlines are executives who make mistakes that end up costing their companies millions. Daily we witness the gridlock that paralyzes national and state politics because elected officials favor partisanship over governance. It is easy to turn cynical.

That said I try always to mention the good example of leadership we have all around us. Everyday we see men and women of good intention struggle against the odds to do what is right for their businesses or their organizations. These are people who teach by their example. Like Dean Smith they don’t seek recognition; they seek to make a positive difference.

For that reason remembering a man such as Smith who did the right thing is to hold a light up against the darkness. In doing so we illuminate a path forward where good deeds are noted, not to the benefit of patting people on the back but for the reason of reminding the rest of us that we can do better because good men and women show us the way.

Learn more about leadership from John Baldoni in his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

Announcing New Courses for February

We’ve added several new course this month that you’ll want to check you, covering leadership, sales, software and more.

Transform Your Organization with the Executive Checklist with James Kerr
Learn how to better set your organization’s direction and manage change. In this course, taught by veteran expert management consultant James M. Kerr, you’ll learn to develop a strategic plan, engage your employees and help create your company’s vision for the future.

Creating a Networking Lifestyle to Grow Your Business with Guy Dunn
If you’re looking to improve your career, your focus should be on others, not yourself. In this course, you will learn how to take a strategic approach to networking. You’ll learn how to create a networking plan, execute specific action steps and ensure timely follow-up that gets results.

A Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence with Morag Barrett
There are certain situations that bring on stress and cause you to perform at less than your best. In this course, global executive coach Morag Barrett will help you increase your self-awareness, recognize your emotional triggers and control the situation to keep you on the path to success.

Sales Onboarding – Keys to Success with David Leaver
As top sales management consultant David Leaver will tell you, sales onboarding is not a one-time event. Learn a powerful framework to help your sales professionals connect learning to growth and create effective execution to win more sales.

Final Cut Pro X: Beginner with Sean McKnight
Learn the basic video editing skills for Final Cut Pro X. This course will teach you the basics and includes a set of media files to allow you to edit your own version of the project created by the instructor.

Microsoft Excel 2010: Advanced with Robert Devine
Challenge yourself and maximize your skills in this advanced course for Microsoft Excel 2010. You’ll learn the full functionality of UserForms. You’ll also learn how to connect to a database and format and fit database records to a worksheet.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6: Intermediate with Tim Walker
Learn to combine creativity and complexity and produce professional videos. In this course, you’ll learn editing techniques to help you tell a compelling story that gets attention. To sharpen your skills, this project-based course will have you create an intro video, photo montage, short documentary and a commercial.

Enjoy!

The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself before You Say Anything

Marshall Goldsmith has twice been recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50. This blog first appeared on his website.

Conflict is an unavoidable part of our lives, whether we’re CEOs, entrepreneurs, parents, spouses, engineers or ditch diggers. In some cases, conflict stimulates us to accomplish great things. It can also drag us off course, eroding our relationships, stalling our careers and keeping us from becoming the people we want to become.

So which conflicts are useful and which are counter-productive? As an executive coach, I’ve been helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior for more than 35 years. My experience with great leaders has led me to develop a simple formulation, one that can help you avoid pointless skirmishes and help you take on the challenges that really matter. Follow it, and you will dramatically shrink your daily volume of stress, unpleasant debate and wasted time.

I phrase it as a question:

AM I WILLING
AT THIS TIME
TO MAKE THE INVESTMENT REQUIRED
TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
ON THIS TOPIC?

It pops into my head so often each day that I’ve turned the first five words into an acronym, AIWATT (which I find appropriately rhymes with Say What?). AIWATT doesn’t require you to do anything, it merely helps you avoid doing something you’ll regret.

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘I don’t need to repeat a simple question to know which battles are worth fighting.’ But I believe that all of us – even the most brilliant and successful – need exactly this kind of help. In my new book Triggers (Crown, May 2015), I make the case that relying on structure – even something as simple as the AIWATT question – is key to changing our behavior.

Why? Because in every waking hour we are bombarded by people, events, and circumstances that have the potential to change us – the triggers in the title of my book. We often fail to appreciate just how much these triggers affect us, and how difficult it is to fend them off without some kind of support.

AIWATT is just one of the tactics I suggest. Of course, it isn’t a universal panacea for all our interpersonal problems, but it has a specific utility. It’s a reminder that our environment tempts us many times a day to engage in pointless arguments. And, it creates a split-second delay in our potentially prideful, cynical, judgmental, argumentative, and selfish responses to our environment. This delay gives us time to consider a more positive response.

Let’s look at the question a little more closely.

“Am I willing” implies that we are exercising volition – taking responsibility – rather than surfing along the waves of inertia that otherwise rule our day. We are asking, “Do I really want to do this?”

“At this time” reminds us that we’re operating in the present. Circumstances will differ later on, demanding a different response. The only issue is what we’re facing now.

“To make the investment required” reminds us that responding to others is work, an expenditure of time, energy and opportunity. And, like any investment, our resources are finite. We are asking, “Is this really the best use of my time?”

“To make a positive difference” places the emphasis on the kinder, gentler side of our nature. It’s a reminder that we can either help create a better us or a better world. If we’re not accomplishing one or the other, why are we getting involved?

“On this topic” focuses us on the matter at hand. We can’t solve every problem. The time we spend on topics where we can’t make a positive difference is stolen from topics where we can.

Like closing our office door so people hesitate before they knock, asking ourselves, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” gives us a thin barrier of breathing room, time enough to inhale, exhale, and reflect before we engage or move on. In doing so, we block out the chatter and noise – we make peace with what we are not going to change – freeing ourselves to tackle the changes that really matter in our lives.

You can learn more about becoming a better leader at Marshall Goldsmith’s SoundviewPro course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Eight Signs You Discount The Value Of Your Time

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

I have a bulletin board at the door of my office containing several items that would probably appear strange to you, but keep me focused. Some items come and go while others have a more permanent place. One is the memorial program for the recent funeral of a friend who unexpectedly died at 53. Another is an adorable “brochure” that one of my daughters created for me to use several years ago. One item that seems to always stay posted is a chart I picked up at a trade show many years ago that charts how financially valuable one’s time is at work, based on 244, eight hour working days per year. Here’s an example:

If you earn $40,000 per year:

  • Every hour of your work time is worth $20.49
  • Every minute is worth .3415
  • In a year, one hour a day is worth $5000

Every time I see this chart I am quickly reminded that I can not allow my day to be filled with activities that don’t give me a solid “return on investment.” When I do waste time, I frequently force myself to do the math on just how much that lack of intention cost me, and how I could have used those financial resources to support or grow my business, or just provide for my family. You can see the actual chart here.

Whether you work for yourself or for an organization, there is no question that there is a cost associated with not placing a high value on your time. If not financial, it might be in diminished quality of relationships, a lack of personal well-being, or just the sinking feeling (and fact) that your most important things aren’t getting done.

Here are eight signs that help me recognize I am discounting the value of my time… and not making a wise investment of these critical resources:

I accept interruptions as the normal mode of work. Whether the interruption is physical (phone or email) or mental (thoughts of unfinished tasks or other things I need to do), there are steps I can often take to create an environment where my higher priority tasks actually get accomplished. I can move to another work area, shut down my email, or just take a second and write down the thoughts that keep hovering around me like pesky gnats. Unfortunately I sometimes foolishly think I can keep all those thoughts in play and still stay focused.

I am too available. Don’t get me wrong. People sometimes need my attention immediately, but if I always drop everything at a moment’s notice, they come to expect it. And once they are trained that way, it’s hard to break the cycle.

I don’t put filters in place. In our book, Getting to It, Todd Musig and I discuss the use of filters in screening out unwanted interruptions or distractions. Simply put, decide what you will allow to interrupt your work BEFORE the interruption actually occurs. What phone call, email, message, or face to face interaction are so important that you would pause work on your highest priorities to handle?

I don’t create an effective task list. If I just haphazardly make a list and don’t prioritize the items in light of which ones will most move my work forward, it’s easy to get “check happy” and just start plowing through the list, finishing the mundane and unimportant. A more effective approach for me is to ask myself, “If I only got 3 things done today at work that are most aligned with my purpose and goals, what would they be?” With those three in mind, I build my day around them.

I don’t share my current work activities with others. A favorite moment in one of my training programs is when I work with those who are so frustrated with their boss or coworkers because they keep piling on more work. When I ask them if those bosses or coworkers know exactly what they are currently working on at the moment, the answer is usually, “Well…no.” If we don’t communicate what we are working on that is of value to the organization, the team, or to our own personal success, why is it a problem for them to want to fill our schedules with less important tasks? Even in my office I let Belinda know what I am working on so she can make a more informed decision about when to interrupt me…or not. For a more detailed strategy for sharing your work priorities with others, check out my CARD Techinque.

I don’t put limits on meetings or activities. I hear you screaming, “But Jones I am not always the one in control!” True, and for those situations you can only reflect back to the previous point and remind people that your current work is important and you need to get back to it ASAP. For those other events or meetings where you do have influence, reflect on the time needed for completion and plan with that deadline in mind. I’ve also found that if I tell others of my desired time limit, they will often work just as hard to meet it. Don’t tell them and…. you might as well be burning money. For more about the value of limits, click here.

I let multitasking rule my day. The starting and stopping process alone is like throwing money away with all the lost mental resources trying to regain focus. When I define what “done” looks like for a task (or at least how far I can take it with the information or resources I have available), and then work to that objective, I get so much more of value accomplished.

I’m too lazy to get away from distractions. When I first started writing this blog I had multiple messages vibrate on my phone and a number of notifications light up on my tablet. I hadn’t looked at any of them, but my mind was racing with the thought of, “I wonder who the message is from?” After checking the messages, I moved my phone and tablet out of eyesight, and turned my phone to silent. If I’m working on a new training concept or a keynote address, the last place I need to be is at my desk. There are just too many visual reminders that I could be doing something else. If I see my time as valuable, I’ll make other arrangements to get the right work done.

A poem I read many years ago highlights the incredible value each moment has if used wisely:

I have only just a minute, Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

But it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

-Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, check out his SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.