As a leader, what metrics define your success? I don't have a great answer for that question though it's one I think about a lot. Leadership is intangible making metrics difficult to map out. One thing I know for sure is that the best leaders develop other leaders around them. They ensure that the people in their business, non-profit or home are continually being cultivated. The challenge for me comes in looking up from my to-do list, my daily priorities, my personal mission. So easily am I entangled with tasks and chores that I forget to take time to be intentional with my team. So, I challenge you as I challenge myself, take a minute today to be intentional with those around you. Ask some questions about what they're learning or thinking or doing. Take one action today that will show you care more about who they are becoming than what you are accomplishing.
To lead well is to love well.
Certainly, you can lead massive movements without love. Hitler did it.
But, you can't have important and valuable lasting impact without caring, generous, forgiving, thoughtful, compassionate love.
I'm often guilty of not asking for help; not because I think I have all the answers but because I think I'll figure it out. If I keep working towards a solution and keep asking myself the right questions, eventually the answer will come to me. Last week, I went against that notion and decided to ask for help with Bold Future from 5 friends. I knew where I wanted to take this project, but was having a really tough time mapping out how to get there. Within an hour and a half they had provided more ideas, creativity, clarity, vision and direction than I could have imagined. I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner. There's value in independence and figuring things out on your own, but eventually you'll hit a wall. Ask for help.
I have a coach named Erik. I've never met him in person and I only know maybe 5 facts about him, but he is an invaluable member of my team. Every time I get on the phone with him, for 30 minutes he asks me questions to ensure that I am have a clear vision of my goals, that I have a clear plan to get there and that I am taking massive action every day. He’s done a lot for me in the last few months since we’ve been talking, but the most impactful questions he asks me are:
- What are you going to do?
- By when are you going to do it?
- How will I know?
There’s nothing amazing about these questions; what’s amazing is that they are being asked and answered. Not everybody has a coach or even wants a coach, you don't need one to get results. Start asking yourself these questions. Start asking your team these questions. They are simple and so powerful to moving us towards great progress.
If you want to hemorrhage money like a hole in a bucket, head to Disney World and Universal Studios. I knew it would be expensive when we went last week, but I had a moment where it was all piling up fast and I was overwhelmed by how much we were spending. There are two choices we can make in these situations. Get depressed and upset at how much the terrible food costs and the Uber rides and the hotel and the flights and the everything. Or, we can get grateful. This time, I decided to get grateful. I started thanking God that I had the money to spend in the first place and that I could take my wife on a trip she wanted to go on. It didn't make me want to spend it, but it helped me release the burden and focus on making the trip as amazing as possible rather than being in a bad mood about it. Suffering and gratitude do not exist well together. Choose gratitude and watch how radically different the outcome will be.
- Energy drives everything. Often Tony gets relegated as just motivational hype and positive thinking. I understand why, but it became clear to me that beyond motivation and surface hype is an unrelenting energy source that we rarely fully tap into. I truly believe God has given us energy to use as a tool. Specifically, one tool we can use is our bodies. By simply changing out physiology - our breathing, the position of our head and shoulders, our motion, we immediately change the way we feel. When we change the way we feel, we change our entire lives, what we are capable of, our endurance, our creativity, our ability to solve big problems. I’ve been doing state changing exercises each morning for the last 60 days and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
- Our limiting beliefs are deep seated in our subconscious and must be eliminated. I come from a loving, supportive, encouraging family with outstanding parents who love me. I have a wife who believes in me and is constantly encouraging me. I have devoted friends who support me and care about me. Yet, somehow, one of my limiting beliefs was that 'I am not good enough’. Consequently, I never allow myself to celebrate the good work that I’ve done and what I’ve achieved because I think it should be better. I’ve always thought the idea of loving yourself was hippie nonsense, but I’m convinced that loving yourself is foundational to then being able to love other people fully. We spent time rooting out these limiting beliefs and learning how to continue to eliminate them moving forward.
- Progress = Happiness. In any are of our lives, if we aren’t growing, we’re dying. With God, with family, with friends, with business, with finances, we don’t experience the full joy that is available to us when we are not making steps forward. I was challenged this week to think through my life and be really honest about where things are and what I need to do to make them better. Some areas need small incremental shifts to continue to make progress, others need to be overhauled. Where are you making progress that you need to celebrate? Where are you stagnant and need some work?
I've been obsessing and re-reading over parts of Setting the Table by Danny Meyer for the last 8 months. My team is probably sick of hearing me talk about it at this point, but this quote on hospitality vs. service is one of the most important ideas I've read this year:
“Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue—we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.”
Being misunderstood and leading go hand in hand. There is rarely an opportunity to explain every reason for every decision to every person on the team. Consequently, opinions are formed and things are said that lack basis or understanding. The response to this seeming injustice is unclear. Seeking to clarify at every turn is futile. Giving up the fight to clearly communicate is lethal. Maybe the only solace is intention. We will get it wrong, oh so wrong, so many times. But, I have to believe that a long term strategy of caring for others and acting in what we believe is in their best interest will trump the bumps in the road along the way.
I recently shared a passage from a book called Setting the Table by Danny Meyer with my team. Danny is a successful restauranteur whose concepts run the gamut from upscale fine dining to burgers and fries at the always packed, Shake Shack. This passage about hospitality vs. service is beautiful, impactful, and I could not agree more...
Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue - we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest's side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.
I once heard Tim Ferriss say that "A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have." I don't know if that's true, but it seems definitely, very much, certainly true.
Nothing more clearly shows me how often I am wrong than my journal. When I look back over that last few years worth of entries, it's painful to see how many times I was incorrect about decisions and the results of those decisions. But, I don't think the percentage of decisions we get right is necessarily what matters. I think it's the number of decisions we make. Isn't it so much better to look back and see a path full of course corrections than a path of inactivity because we were simply afraid to be wrong?
So much of life and business isn't fair. It's not fair that your team misunderstood what you said despite your best intentions, that a customer left a scathing review about something that never actually happened, that your competitor said that stupid thing they said.
A lot of things happen that just shouldn't. While I don't recommend that we throw up our hands and take whatever comes our way, I'm also not sure the fight for fairness is worth it. It seems far more valuable to focus on our response to the inevitable than to seek its impossible elimination. Fighting for the fair and equal treatment of all humans is a necessary and just endeavor. Fighting for fairness for yourself is, generally, just a waste of time.
Michael Jordan was born with an insane amount of natural talent and then he worked his butt off to become the greatest basketball player in the world. I was born with a marginal amount of basketball talent and can work my butt off to be the best in my world... the rec center, pick up games, whatever.
The same is true of leadership. Some people are born with a surplus of leadership ability and some are not. We can all work to be the best leaders we can be in our world... at home, at work, at our non-profit, wherever.
I get tired of the nurture vs. nature argument. The answer is yes. Plus it doesn't matter. Plus you should just do the best you can with what you have and not worry about it and stop asking silly questions.
The world has made it abundantly clear that there is no such thing as job security anymore. At least not in the traditional sense. It's one thing to get laid off from a startup where uncertainty is the norm, but people people get laid off from banks all the the time. BANKS.
I believe there are two options. One, get really really good at something and/or Two, learn to lead. Getting really good at something may ensure that you are one of the last ones they lay off and help you buy time to find the next gig. If you can demonstrate your exceptional abilities it may also separate you from the hordes of people trying to get a particular job. Being really good at something will still only get you so far, though. The margin of excellence separating you from your peers has to be so blatantly obvious before it amounts to much.
Learning to lead opens up doors far beyond a skill set. Recently, we were hiring for a manager position at a Breakout location (with a salary and bonus comparable to a similar bank position) and what we looked for was someone who could use their influence to carry out our mission, who could have tough conversations, who could rally our team together, who could empathize and care for our customers, who could manage day to day operations at a high level. It didn't matter where they went to college, what degree they earned or even if they went to college. Our priority was finding a leader.
The ratio of great leaders to good enough workers is incredibly low. It's a much harder path but there may actually be security for those who choose it. If all else fails, though, just get really good at interviewing. Managers, including myself, are a sucker for someone who's phenomenal in the interview.
The best way to avoid eating too much candy is to not have it around in the first place. Don't have it in your pantry. Don't have it on your desk. Don't buy it at all.
When you don't have to make the decision, you can't make the wrong one... because you've already made the right one.
The same is true as we lead our teams. There are many decisions that we can eliminate all together by putting a process in place. If we can free up brain space by making a decision once that will continue to pay dividends, we probably should.
It's surprisingly rare to make decisions based on hard data. It's partly because data can be hard to find and partly because we don't do the work to get the facts straight.
Sometimes feelings and data need to act in tandem. Like hiring, where you gather the hard facts about a candidate and supplement them with your instinct and intuition.
Many times, though, myself and my team have disregarded the search for data and have instead relied on "I think" or "I feel" alone. The longer you do something, the easier it is to get away with this approach. But I can't help but think how much better off we all would be if we consistently challenged our assumptions and biases with what the data is actually saying.
This week I was walking an employee though a new task and I told him I was just here to serve him. I said it in passing, but I kept thinking about the word 'serve' and the consequent identity that comes with it... servant. As a leader, there's a lot that you will do and many hats you will wear. But there may be no more important role than your role as servant. Not the submissive, do as your told, owned by your circumstances servant. The do everything in your power to care more, help more, equip more, make their job and life better servant.
If you want to get a really clear picture of what your team thinks about their work and about you, send out an anonymous survey. I did this last week and received some really incredible feedback. Some of it was encouraging and some of it was a complete punch in the guts. Overall, it gave us a ton to think about and a list of things we need to improve on for the sake of our employees and customers. It's not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend it.
For further reference, check out this interview I did last season on the Bold Future podcast with Dave Gray: The Company Culture Advantage
It's easier and less scary to use abstract words. Saying "we might do this or potentially do that" requires much less discipline to follow through than "here's what we're doing". Subtle difference to you maybe, but it makes a lot of difference when you're communicating to your team. They hear uncertainty, a lack of clarity, and your inability to make a decision and go with it. Communication is difficult and fraught with misunderstanding anyway. No need in muddying the waters any further with words that don't paint clear pictures and further confuse those helping carry out the mission.
The longer I'm in business, the more clear it becomes that building your team is the most important thing you do as a manager/owner/entrepreneur. I'm not sure anything else even comes close. If you don't get the people right, you don't really get much of anything right. And when you get it right, you know it. There's an energy and a vibe that's almost palpable. I don't know what the secret is and it's different for every company. But I do know that if you're doing something worth doing, it won't happen without the best possible people.