Author Archives: Paul LaRue
In virtually every organization there are people who seem to never learn or grow. Oftentimes we classify them as disengaged, subversive, or troublemakers, and look to dismiss them.
I have realized throughout my career there are a fair number of people that have slow learning curves which takes them a while to learn the fundamentals of their job. Yet I have been amazed at how many have blossomed over time into solid team members and even became strong leaders in their own right.
What was the cause for the transformation? They had a growth curve similar to a bamboo tree.
When a bamboo tree is planted and watered it doesn’t sprout for the first year, or the second. Or the third. Or the fourth. It takes five full years for the typical bamboo plant to finally break ground.
Once it does, it is actually one of the fastest growing plants in the world, sometimes growing at a rate of 35 inches in a day.
What is the cause for this tremendous growth?
In the course of the four-year period of seeming nothingness, the tree is growing a complex underground network of roots. These roots are so vast and extensive, that if you were to uproot a grown tree you would find it difficult to do so because of the root system.
It’s roots store all that water and nutrients, and create a myriad of conduits to support the rapid growth of the tree when it’s time has come.
And when the tree has come to full maturity, it possesses a denser strength than brick or concrete and a higher tensile strength than steel.
Sit back and think of the people in your organization that don’t seem to be growing. Are they working hard? Listening? Are they staying loyal, staying put with your company?
These people might actually be growing under the surface in ways you may not notice. These could be future impact players who, with the right combination of water and nutrients – training, encouragement, and entrusted responsibility – could shoot up from their place and make their presence known.
Just because we don’t see anything happening on the outside – stellar performance, heads nodding in agreement, skills being mastered in our timeframe – does not mean your people are not learning and growing. They may very well be developing some strong roots underneath.
Invest your time into everybody. Don’t be prejudiced by the outward displays of growth and performance. You just might discover some people ripe for rapid growth.
People that will be strong as steel – or a bamboo tree – in their value and loyalty to your organization.
As with many leaders, what the current pandemic, economic conditions and social unrest has brought to challenge our leadership bandwith is – to use a word that is now cliche – unprecedented.
And with the tsunami of situations to navigate through comes increased demands on our time, mind, body and spirit.
The need for us to be more, for more people, is most likely at an all time high in our careers. Yet while we generally are able to rise to the current needs, we must not neglect probably the most important need of all,
Remembering the needs we individually have in order to be effective, healthy and thrive.
The ability to balance our self care with leading by serving others is at a crisis of sorts. Because, as stated by an Accenture article, leaders are having to meet Now instead of thinking of Next (and forgetting for the most part Never Normal), we are reaching a frenetic pace that can eclipse our own physical and mental abilities to meet every need.
The urgency and complexity of meeting economic shortfall, pivoting to a digital platform, and ramping up new skills and competencies – while still being able to conduct the “usual” tasks associated with our roles – threatens to create short and long-term physical and mental issues. And we’re only starting to see the tip of the iceberg as to these symptoms.
It’s imperative for leaders to be able to identify and meet our own needs so we are able to elevate our ability to meet these new challenges. Here are a few tips to ensure you meet your own needs as well.
- Take a personal inventory weekly. 15 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time at the beginning of the week is enough to allow you to think and assess what you need. Write down those things you know you need to do this week – eat better, exercise, read, spend family time. Then determine to block off that time for those aspects you need.
- Set aside time to STOP. Whether it’s a schedule break or just a 5 minute breather, it’s essential to pause, and even STOP for a few minutes and walk away. This allows your brain to rest, your body to relax, and your perspective to get a clearer vision of what is going on.
- Schedule breaks throughout the day. I’ve known some people who before covid occurred used to take a number of breaks, some even every hour to walk around the office. The have generally been happier, more productive and healthier as their level of stress was lowered. Your own needs may vary, but taking a few of these breaks can actually help you be more efficient.
- Schedule time to end your day. Whether your day runs a normal workday length or needs to go longer due to various demands and/or activities, you need to have a time built in to cease working and tend to yourself and your family. It’s so easy nowadays to run work activities up until you retire at night, but it allows no time to decompress and meet the needs of those in your household or yourself. Make sure you quit at quitting time.
- Schedule time to learn and pivot. With increased demands on our time, we may tend to push aside time to pivot and learn the platforms and skills needed for us to grow, be more productive, and leverage technology to make our efforts more enjoyable. Schedule that time to learn where you will be most attentive and have the least distractions. You may find you have ample time to grow after all.
- Know when to work more. Unfortunately, sometimes the days must go long. If you know ahead of time that a particular week will be heavy, or certain projects are bearing down towards a deadline, make sure those key days are blocked off to allow yourself the ability to go longer, whether it’s an earlier morning or a later evening. Knowing ahead of time that you are taking that time frame to accomplish a goal will give you a refreshed and energized focus to complete the task.
- Schedule your vacation. There are many leaders who are backed up with vacation time and haven’t accessed some extra time off. While part of that might be the hesitancy to travel amid the current pandemic, that should not prevent you from taking a week off. Vacation time has probably never been more essential as it is now. The importance of taking your vacation rises with the urgency of your workload. Mark off your time and make plans to refresh.
- Plan your downtime. Believe it or not, planning your downtime is an effective away to ensure you meet your needs and not just mindlessly waste that precious time. Make that last hour of your day to read a relaxing novel. Take the first 30 minutes after dinner to walk with your family (and dog). Get on that treadmill collecting dust in your basement. Write that book you’ve put off for years. These are great ways to redeem your time by meeting your goals or refresh time.
These are just a few of the myriad ways to meet our personal needs as leaders. The most essential one is taking the time to asses them, then planning to make that happen.
Self-care is as important as it ever was. By mastering yourself and your needs that care for yourself, you will be a more effective influence than just grinding out the work to meet everyone else’s needs.
If you’re stuck in a rut of leadership, feeling hopeless that you’re not making much of a positive impact, then perhaps you need to reinvent your leadership approach.
Much like writer’s block, our leadership needs a boost from time to time. However, lasting change cannot be done by sheer force of will.
It’s a common problem that all leaders face from at certain points of their careers, and if done right can make an incredible positive impact for the remainder of your career.
The most impactful and lasting change can never be done to the exclusion of others, nor to the neglect of self-reflection. Rather, reinventing your leadership requires an inside-out process of looking inward to how you can improve them looking outward to see how you can enhance the culture of work and life to those around you.
There are many ways in which one can embark on their journey to reinvent their influence. Here are a number of ideas to help enable you to reinvent your leadership and increase a better influence:
- Remember what your core values are.
- Write down why you aspire to lead.
- Dream of how your leadership can make your world better.
- Identify those people whose lives will be better because of your influence. (It may be everyone).
- Find your shortcomings and fix those immediately.
- Determine to be a student of people.
- Determine to be a servant of people.
- Don’t minimize the importance of being a servant leader.
- Designate an accountability mentor to help you grow and stay rooted.
- Bring a mentoring mindset to every day to teach others.
- Make time weekly to study your industry.
- Set goals for yourself with actionable steps to achieve them.
- Set goals for your people and help them achieve them.
- Erase those thoughts that limit your leadership ability.
- Surround and immerse yourself with those people and activities that help improve your relationships, behaviors and thinking.
- Assume positive intent – always.
- Admit your mistakes openly.
- Conquer your fears by speaking more in meetings and other settings.
- Find the joy in discovering, learning, teaching, and growing.
- Be who you say you are going to be. (Authenticity Quotient – AQ).
- Read 1 book each month.
- Appreciate everyone you interact with. Tell them “Thanks.” Praise them in public. Find the gold, instead of digging for the dirt on them.
- Be thankful for challenging people, circumstances, and life.
- Find the “One Thing” that motivates you to give your best. Think on that every morning.
- Read 1 industry article each week.
- Be self-aware in all that you do in your professional and personal life.
- Be others-aware and focus on the purpose of meeting their needs.
These and many other thoughts can quickly help you orient your leadership towards a wider and more meaningful influence. By changing things up around who you are, you can be a more effective leader with greater success, satisfaction, and credibility in the coming year.
Reinvent yourself effectively by starting today to determine your next steps forward.