You are doing such a great job!

Let me tell you, leaders: “You are doing currently such a great job!” It takes a lot of courage to stand up and lead in the face of this new uncertainty. In “normal times”, it’s not always easy to choose when to listen to your heart or your head; and right now, you have to do both simultaneously. You need to implement measures to protect your employees, and at the same time keep the business going as long and as well as possible while also reassuring partners and shareholders.

I am very impressed by all the small stories I currently hear from leaders I work with, fighting for their business, taking courageously some of the toughest and most disruptive decisions they ever had to take. Whether you had to split up your teams, sent people home or even temporarily closed your business – you are stepping up to protect what is important and what you have built together with your teams. I hear and can feel your dedication, your determination, your passion, I am seeing you not shying away but developing an incredible energy, so that whenever this is over, you will have done your very best to have saved lives and our economies. This is what true leadership means. Thank you for your courage!

“WE WERE MADE FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.”

I read today this sentence in a post of Janet M. Harvey and it kept on resonating with me, even out of its original context. WE: Leaders? Executive coach? Bigger, as human beings?

How were we, as leaders, made for such a time as this? Because times of uncertainty and concerns are THE times calling for, yes requiring leadership and leaders to step in and forward with courage. Because our resilience, our clarity are what our companies and people need, more than ever. Because this is a time where our hearts and our heads need to be in balance -heart for empathy and understanding, head for action and determination.

How were we, as coaches, made for such a time as this? Because at the core of what we do is offering a safe place to leaders. More than ever. For them to stop and resource, grow their resilience, think loud, better anticipate and implement next steps better, a place where they can share their personal concerns or anxieties for their employees and for the future of their company. Because we partner with our clients and support them to focus on what matters and on the criticals.

How were we as human beings made for such a time as this? Want to share your thoughts? Stay safe and healthy fight Coronavirus.

What was your game plan like this week?

What a week! Packed with meetings and trips, it was exceptionally busy. Our weekly routine reminds me much of a board game. Wouldn’t you agree leaders? Step by step we move forward, complete tasks or collect points. But what was your game plan like this week?

In one of my last posts, I shared how to effectively plan your week to reach your goals. Now it’s time to look back, evaluate and refine your strategy. Feel free to try out the next 4 steps with me:

1. Review what was on your to-do-list. Tick what you’ve done – and be proud!

2. Question yourself:
– What did you do this week that had a real impact? on your organisation, on individuals, for your clients?
– What did you plan to do but didn’t? What stood on your way?

3. Learn from yourself:
– What is this week’s lesson learned?
– What can you do differently next week?

4. Look at your calendar: What have you already planned for next week?
– Revise your plan, cancel less important tasks and free up time.
– Make a plan for the week to come – see one of my last posts.

All set? So, “Step forward to ‘Go’”.

Be the captain of the week to come

SUNDAY NIGHT, prepare to be the captain of the week to come! Here is my sunday night ritual: I take 15-20 min to look at the week to come.

1. White Paper Start: I am writing down the things I need and want to do this week, eg
– Todos from follow-up on files/projects (which I can anticipate)
– Work associated with preparation or follow-up from (fix) meetings/appointments
– People to contact or talk to
– Small bits on important but not urgent projects (e.g. time to plan project or a worshop, presentations)
– Delegation tasks
– Personal stuff

2. I sort and mark on the list:
– What I can delegate and what only can be done by me
– What is Urgent & Important
– What is Important but not Urgent

3. I take my calendar and check appointments and tasks that are already planned for the week; and give myself permission to cancel/rearrange appointments which do not fit my priorities.

4. I feed tasks from the white paper list into my weekly calendar, entering and blocking time for those tasks.

5. I step back, review, challenge…
– Realistic times of the day for certain tasks? Realistic length of task? Period of overbooking?
– Space for all the last-minute matters that show up?

Let us know your own tips in the comments below!

Next year, let’s make it really smarter

How many really made it until today? – How many of the New Year’s resolutions, you set yourself one year ago? None? Let me assure you, you are not alone. According to Inc. magazine four out of five New Year’s Resolutions fail. Most of them don’t even survive the first six weeks of the year.

However, the crux of achieving what is important to you is not (only) a lack of discipline – but often a lack of clarity. The same is true for organisations: leaders need to ensure overarching corporate visions and missions are translated into “SMART” team and personal objectives.

I trust many of you, many leaders are familiar with the SMART concept. And thus, I am often surprised by the lack of its implementation in the real world, I often notice unprecise goals formulations, not promoting alignment of teams around what is to be achieved. So as we are about to enter a new year, I’d like to invite you to stop and have a check on your next year objectives.

 Your leadership objectives – take heart, make it SMART:

Let me illustrate this with a sporting example. Say you’re a keen runner and you want to push yourself further:

Is “I want to do more sports” a smart resolution/objective? No. Better: “I want to run the Berlin marathon in October”. Why?

 –      Make your objective as specific as possible. Turn a great but vague idea (mastering a physical challenge) into a focused and clear target: running 42 kilometres at a stretch. Commit yourself and prove it: sign up for the race.

–      The more concrete your objective, the better you can measure it. Or in other words: “Knowing where you’re going is the only way of knowing whether you’re on track.” Ask yourself: “how will I know very concretely that I have achieved this objective?”

 –      Dreaming big is nice – but turning dreams into reality is even nicer. Be courageous and push yourself to your limits – but choose goals that are achievable! If an amateur runner directly aims at the “Ironman”, failure is assured. A marathon or half-marathon would do.

 –      Concentrate on relevant things. Your time and energy are too scarce to waste on unnecessary projects. So, set priorities! If the marathon is your dream, do it. If not, skip it – and choose a goal that matches your interests and values! Go for what is really important to you.

 –      Set your objectives in time – both short and long-term. If you want to run the marathon in October, start training early. And set intermediate milestone targets along the way. These smaller targets should also follow the above-mentioned principles: when do you want to face 10 or 15 kilometres? Keeping track of your progress will motivate you to keep on going.

 To sum it up: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely objectives? That’s what is called SMART.

A little help: When making fresh New Year’s Resolutions and setting objectives for this coming year, SEE IT, FEEL IT, PICTURE IT, keep your runner in mind: she or he is a symbol for any objective leaders set – whether it is in their private or professional lives.

Courage in crises​

How do you work on your resilience? Train it – Gain from it! Here are a few thoughts on where to start.

In times of extreme stress, people often ask me for insights on how to stay the course and continue to show leadership. For me, leadership is all about courage, and courage is the spark that gets us all moving. It is at the heart of what we do as leaders.

But in times of transformation we are constantly faced with the pressure of new challenges, new situations. Our workload can be unforgiving. This is why an essential part of being a leader is finding a way to pick oneself up and get going again when the pressure cranks up and results turn against you.

Because resilience can in fact be developed and trained. It’s not some inherent, immutable character trait. To a large extent, it is conditioned through the experiences that life brings. Both positive and negative experiences contribute to our resilience. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” as we often say.

One approach I like to use for talking about resilience is the Robertson Cooper model. According to this model, developed by psychologists Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper, resilience is determined by four key aspects: confidence, adaptability, social support and purposefulness.

Confidence comes with experience and the knowledge that we have overcome previous challenges. Your adaptability likewise grows with an awareness that you have faced change in the past and have coped and managed its impact. You can train and enhance both your confidence and adaptability by recalling previous challenges you have faced.

Social support and purposefulness relate to specific aspects of courage. Social support starts with having the courage to admit weakness, to articulate when the going gets tough and ask for support. Purposefulness is having a clear set of values which give you an overriding sense of direction even in the most challenging times. Purposefulness is about knowing WHY and understanding the benefits at the end.

Be proud of what you’ve done already and gather the courage to take the necessary step to keep going.

“Who am I”? Where resilience starts

Some leaders are like bouncy balls: Even under enormous pressure, they don’t get distorted, but retain their original shape. Some rise to even greater performance, as soon as the stress is on. Their secret weapon: resilience, inner strength. How can leaders increase it? How can they strengthen their backbone, especially in times of transformation? The first step: by getting to know themselves better.

To become a more stress-resistent leader, you have to be aware of where you start from. What are your strengths? How do you deal with stress? What are your strategies? I encourage you to be brutally honest with yourself, when answering these questions. Getting to the bottom of your personality might be uncomfortable. But it will pay off, when you face the next high-tide of stress.

Question No. 1: What are your strengths?

In “stressful” times, we might feel overwhelmed and mentally overloaded. How can we counteract that? By concentrating on our strengths! Think back to a past situation, in which you felt severely stressed: back then the challenge seemed to be formidable. Today, it seems less so – because you know, you have mastered it before. What was your strategy to do so? What character traits helped you out and how could you benefit from them in the future? With every challenge we face, we grow. Be proud of every small achievement and you can look into the future with optimism.

Question No. 2: What are your stress factors?

“Stress” is subjective. Find out, which situations are particularly stressful for you? Answering this question, you should separate external and internal factors. Is it the pace, high workload, tight deadlines, tensions from conflictual demands? Or are there simpler reasons, like you have not had enough sleep, you haven’t had enough sustenance or exercise? Try to identify and memorize the personal alarm signals telling you that you are “stressed” and “stretched”. Next time you feel them, you can immediately put your brain into the “stress fight mode”, which leads me to question 3.

Question No. 3: How do you react to stress?

Analysing your reaction to stress will bring about a varied picture. What are the “no-gos” you’d better avoid next time? What do you typically do well? And here you complete the circle, looking back to your strengths and how you can benefit from them. Set yourself some guidelines, when you are not stressed: your crisis manual for times of pressure.

Getting to know yourself better is an exciting, yet demanding, undertaking. Some frameworks, like MBTI, might help you to discover yourself even better, to understand what stretches you and triggers stress reactions and to consciously deal with stress situations. Yet these frameworks only put words on what you know anyway best, yourself! And knowing yourself well is the base to strengthen your leadership, especially when stakes are high in times of transformation.

Interested in finding out more? Want to share your own tips? Then please send in your comments!

Difference between recognition and appreciation

Thank you, Mike Robbins, for bringing to attention the difference between recognition and appreciation. I particularly enjoyed the quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is one little word I’d like to add to your call: Do recognition and appreciation TRULY. That is what will make the whole difference, and your people will notice.

Did you express this week appreciation and recognition, precisely, timely and truly?

https://hbr.org/2019/11/why-employees-need-both-recognition-and-appreciation