The Oxford dictionary defines “resilient” as “(of a person) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” Basically, do you bounce back from mistakes, failures, and adversity quickly or do they wreck you, your productivity and your overall effectiveness?
Over the past 2 years, the pandemic has exposed the facade of resiliency in many areas such as the economy, supply chain, and the job market to name a few. Potentially more critical, is that this unprecedented difficulty has shown that people are not as resilient as they think.
The pre-2020 Shawn would have responded to the question at the beginning of this post with a resounding “Yes!” (and more than a hint of arrogance in my tone). However, once lockdowns started, my business dried up overnight which created a domino effect of stress and issues. How am I going to provide for my family? Do I keep going with my business or make a pivot? If I decided to change jobs, what job would I do? These are just a few of the myriad of questions that ran through my mind. In short, I lacked leadership resiliency. I had a hard time bouncing back and figuring out what to do next.
(Note: this blog is focusing on professional struggles due to the pandemic which in the scheme of things does not compare to the loss of life and the difficulties that many others have faced during the pandemic. Just like many of you I have lost loved ones and that will remain the most devastating effect of this season life)
Basically, the pandemic exposed my lack of resilience as a business owner, leader, and person in general. Adversity is an inevitable part of life but the way one responds to those difficult moments reveals their resiliency (or the lack thereof). Unfortunately, for me I didn’t bounce back as quick as I feel like I should’ve.
But after getting proverbially punched in the mouth by the pandemic and waking up in a daze. I decided to get off the mat and start “fighting” back. My goal was to use this adverse season as a learning opportunity to strengthen my leadership resiliency.
So in 2021, I embarked on a journey to explore science-backed techniques to help strengthen my mental and emotional toughness so I could be better prepared for those storms of life.
Let’s unpack toughness. James Loehr in his book, Toughness Training for Life, describes toughness as “nice guys and gals who know how to lead happy, productive, and healthy lives.” It doesn’t mean not showing emotion or admitting weak areas. Toughness or leadership resilience is the ability to use adversity as a catalyst for growth, development, and ultimately success instead of letting the pressure crumble our leadership aspirations.
Toughness = Managing Stress and Maximizing Recovery.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you 9 Managing Stress Hacks and 9 Maximizing Recovering Methods that research shows will not only help you increase your toughness and resilience but the end product will be more productivity and a greater sense of overall happiness.
On a scale from 1-10 (1=low, 10=high), how resilient of a leader would you rate yourself before the pandemic? Now how would you rate yourself?
Think through one reason you want to become a more resilient leader and person.
Most of us want to be known as mature leaders. We want people take our leadership seriously and treat us like we belong, whether that be professionally at work or personally amongst our family and friends. In this training session, I’m going to explain the Pendulum Philosophy, which gives leaders a framework to detect areas of immaturity and shows how to compensate for them.
When it comes to leadership, maturity is hard to define. But we know a mature leader when we interact with them. So how do we grow in maturity? We need to know our pendulums. Confused yet?
Years ago, I developed what I call the Pendulum Philosophy. Here’s how it applies to personal development and effective leadership.
The Pendulum Philosophy
Think about one of those big, old-timey clocks where the second “hand” swings back and forth. That’s a pendulum. Another more technical definition is “something that alternates between opposites”. Basically, a pendulum moves between two extremes.
We all have personal pendulums. When given two seemingly opposing strengths, skills, attributes, or decisions, we have a natural bent towards one or the other. For example, think about planning and spontaneity. Stereotypically, if you are a good planner, you probably are not very spontaneous and vice versa. Picture planning on the left side of a scale and spontaneity on the right. The further you move from the middle to the right, the more spontaneous you are and the less planning you do.
The Pendulum Philosophy can be applied to most things in life. Take conflict for example. Do you lean toward initiating conflict or running from it? How about self-perception? Do you have a bent towards being overly critical of yourself or do you have an elevated view of your strengths? Do you talk too much or too little?
At this point you may be wondering, “Why is this important? It seems like common sense.” And you are right, it is common sense. The simplest lessons in life are generally the most valuable; you just have to be cognizant of them.
The Power of the Pendulum
The pendulum is all about self-awareness. In a previous training session, I mentioned that self-awareness is one of the top 7 lessons that have shaped my leadership over the last 20 years. It leads to maturity, which in turn leads to effectiveness.
Let’s look at our planning versus spontaneity example again. Both of these are inherently strengths. Planners typically are very productive because they are organized. They plan their work and work their plan. Spontaneous people excel at creating memories. They are typically the life of the party and are gifted at cultivating relationships. However, every strength comes with a curse. Those inherent weaknesses become greater as the pendulum moves to the extreme. An extreme planner can easily become ineffective in relationships. They lack flexibility and don’t allow room for interruptions. Their family and close friends can become very frustrated because they are more willing to stick to their schedule than they are to make themselves available. On the other end of the spectrum, extremely spontaneous people can become ineffective at tasks. They start projects and never finish because something more exciting comes up. Family and friends may become annoyed with extreme spontaneity as well because they lack dependability.
This curse or weakness can distract from your strength. The more powerful the weakness, the less impactful the strength. The Pendulum Philosophy makes you aware of this curse or weakness. The goal is not necessarily to become more “well rounded”, but to become more aware and therefore effectively avoid the extremes.
I am a planner. I know that my first instinct will always be to plan. This is a strength, and is not something I shy away from. However, I need to recognize that there are times spontaneity is good. I will never be gifted in that area, but I can learn to loosely hold my schedule at times and be more available to help my friends and family when they are in need. Knowing my pendulum allows me to rethink my natural bent and potentially make a course correction if needed.
The pendulum philosophy can be applied to an almost unlimited number of situations. This week, think through these five common strength areas. Which are you naturally bent toward?
Are you more critical or unaware?
Other people. Are you more judgmental or compassionate?
To celebrate my birthday, I reflected on the beginning of my own leadership journey. Today, I share the last four of the seven lessons that have shaped and influenced my leadership over the last 20 years.
Last week I turned 40 which also means I’ve been in leadership for 20 plus years.
A few years ago to celebrate my birthday, I shared some key lessons I’ve learned in the last 20 year of leadership. Last session, I shared 3 of those lessons and today we will conclude with the last four.
Lesson #4: Assemble a Great Team, Don’t Micromanage, and Listen
Earlier, we talked about the importance of self-awareness. Because great leaders are self-aware, they assemble a team that is not like them. Their teammates compensate for their own weaknesses so the whole team doesn’t suffer. Then, they let those team members do their job with minimal supervision and accountability.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” A leader listens to his team. He lets them hold him accountable, because he knows he’s not always right.
Lesson #5: Character is the Most Important Leadership Attribute
You can have great strengths and an amazing personality, but if you don’t have character, your leadership will erode away. It’s like multiplying by zero. It doesn’t matter how big the number is. Without character, the result of your leadership effort will always be zero. On the other hand, character multiplies a person’s strengths and magnifies their influence.
How do you become a person of character? Apologize for mistakes and don’t act cowardly by trying to conceal your mistakes or make excuses for yourself.
Lesson #6: Vulnerability is Contagious
I’m not suggesting you air your dirty laundry to everyone you come in contact with. But be willing to let others in. Revealing a struggle, mistake, or moment of weakness and sharing how you have learned from that circumstance is powerful. Everyone wants to be accepted, but we are afraid that if others knew about our struggles and weaknesses that they would judge us. But when you have the courage to take the lead and share, it’s like everyone else in the room takes a deep breath and feels free to be vulnerable as well. As Carey Nieuwhof said, “People admire your strengths, but they identify with your weaknesses.”
Lesson #7: Diversion and Rest Don’t Limit but Maximize Productivity
Studies have shown that your productivity seriously declines when you consistently work more than 50 hours per week. They also show that sleep deprivation is one of the biggest productivity killers. If you want to be a productive person, then you need to make time for diversion and rest because they bring energy and physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual refreshment.
As we’ve already discussed, you need to be aware of what activities and people bring you energy. Then, prioritize your week. Rick Warren suggests, “Divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.”
These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 20 years of leadership. If you haven’t already checked out the first three lessons, I’d encourage you do to so. You can view that leadership training session here.
Take one of the 7 lessons I’ve shared and focus on it for a month.
If you really want to take your leadership to the next level, pick another lesson and do the same thing.
Keep doing this for the next 7 months and see how your leadership develops. I promise that it will.
To celebrate my birthday a few years ago, I reflected on the beginning of my own leadership journey. Today, I want to share 7 lessons that have shaped and influenced my leadership over the last 20 years.
This week, I turn 40. I know I’m getting old, or at least starting to feel it, especially after I play basketball. Looking back, my first leadership role was as captain of my high school basketball team. I’ve been in leadership ever since, which marks this week as 20 plus years of leadership opportunities.
A few years ago, I decided to share the top 7 lessons I’ve learned in the last 20 plus years of leadership.
Lesson #1: Let Self-Awareness Be Your Guide
We all have strengths, weaknesses, and blind-spots. From what I’ve seen, most people magnify their strengths, avoid their weaknesses, and are unfamiliar with their blind spots. It’s hard to develop and mature as a person if you are either unaware or don’t fully grasp the depth of your strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots.
People with self-awareness understand and refine their strengths, lean into their weaknesses to compensate for them, and become painfully aware of their blind-spots so they don’t disqualify them from future leadership opportunities. Let self-awareness be your guide on your leadership journey.
Lesson #2: Invest More in People Than Tasks
In their famous book, “The One Minute Manager”, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson argue that the most important minutes a manager spends in the day are with their people. Investing in others yields a better return on our time than any other investment we can make. Remember, legacy is more defined by the people we have influenced that the projects we have completed.
Lesson #3: Greatness Begins with Humility
Humility isn’t thinking poorly of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. Humble people don’t demean their strengths or avoid praise. They recognize that everybody has strengths and their strengths are not better or more important that someone else’s. They are others-focused and think of others more than themselves. One thing I say to myself before having a conversation with someone else is “How can I add value to them today?” or “How can I encourage them in this conversation?”
These are just three of the top lessons I’ve learned over the last 20 years. Next session, I’ll share the remaining four lessons.
As you reflect on your leadership journey, what are a few lessons you’ve learned? Write them down.
Feel free to share your lessons in the comment section below.
Charlie Munger, who is Warren Buffet’s longtime business partner, quipped, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time.”
If we combine that bold saying with our opening quote, the point is well taken. If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to lead effectively, you need to read.
Maybe you have heard about the reading exploits of Bill Gates, who takes a reading vacation each year and reads 50 books a year. Or Mark Cuban, who reads 3 hours a day. In fact, many of the most successful (and busiest) people find time to read.
The question comes in, “why is reading so valuable?”
Well, it comes down to learning. Learning is probably the greatest skill you can possess.
In our ever-changing world, the knowledge that you gained in college or even just a few years ago has become irrelevant. The best tool you can give yourself (and your organization) is the ability to learn. Learning allows you to adapt and evolve with the changing landscape. It helps you gain new skills and refine existing ones.
With that being said, how do we get the most out of learning?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been opening up my toolbox and letting you see the tools that have helped me become more productive and effective both in my personal life and with my business. (If you missed our first two posts in this series, I encourage you to check them out: My Toolbox: Productivity and My Toolbox: Blogging.
Today, I’m sharing the tools and books that are helping me cultivate my personal and professional growth.
The book market is saturated. It seems like everyone you talk to has a book they are recommending. But which books are the most valuable to your learning? That depends on what you want to learn or what skills you want to develop.
For me, leadership, management, and business are extremely important. Here are my top 5 books in each of those categories (and note that each link is an affiliate link in case it looks like something you may enjoy also):
I don’t know if you are like me, but I struggle when it comes to current events like politics and business. The reason is that 1) I can spend too much on Facebook or Apple News “getting caught up“ and not realize that an hour has just passed by and 2) I get tired of the bias that many people and news companies have. I just want the facts.
Fortunately, about two years ago, I came across the Morning Brew. They offer a free daily newsletter that is a concise, unbiased summary of both national and world news including politics, business, technology, and sports; and it is presented in a light-hearted, clever manner. It takes me about 5 minutes to read and I feel like I’m more “in the know” than ever before in just a fraction compared to before I started receiving this newsletter.
One of my favorite quotes is “Information is not transformation. Transformation is in the application.” The caution or danger for those that read voraciously is that the knowledge simply gained doesn’t impact our lives and the people around us. For reading and learning to be the most effective, we have to apply it.
One app that has helped me out with this is Evernote. Evernote is like my digital brain. For learning purposes, I record the highlights from my books in what they call a note. This way I can review my highlights whenever I want.
I also put quotes, articles, and even my daily Morning Brew newsletters in Evernote. This way I can easily recall that information for a certain topic or training session I’m conducting as needed.
What skill or subject area do you need to learn in this season of life to take your leadership to the next level?After you identify that skill or subject area, create a learning plan to start working toward that goal.
I can remember as a little boy being fascinated with my Dad’s tools. He’s talented when it comes to woodworking so I had the opportunity to watch him firsthand use those tools to build some really cool stuff, like a marble roller. (It’s much cooler than it sounds and that woodworking masterpiece provided hours and even years of entertainment.)
My parents even bought me a kid’s tool belt with a plastic hammer and screwdriver that I could wear as I “assisted” my dad on those projects. You may have had one like it.
Tools are important to any project, whether that be woodworking or leadership. If you don’t have the right tool or don’t know how to utilize the tool correctly, your leadership will suffer and will not be as effective as you would like it to be.
I’ve seen too many well-meaning leaders who have the vision and passion for leadership, but don’t take the time to assemble and learn the tools they need to maximize their leadership potential. Most of the time these tools are not sexy, but they are vital to a leader’s success.
So over the next two weeks, I’m going to open up my personal “toolbox” and show you some of the practical tools, programs, and apps I use on a regular basis that help me be an effective leader, small business owner, husband, and friend.
Today, I’m focusing on productivity.
I’m a self-proclaimed productivity nerd. My goal is to be efficient with tasks so I can be effective with people. I wouldn’t be able to be efficient if I didn’t have productivity tools to help me remember tasks, minimize the time I spend on email, and serve as a catalyst for getting things done.
Maybe you’re new to this topic. Maybe not. But before I dive into these tools, let me give you a crash course on productivity. Productivity 101, if you will.
The most influential resource for my productivity is David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. Here are some of the basics:
There are three basic avenues for effective productivity:
Inbox: Any avenue that collects information (email, physical mailbox, text messages, etc.)
Project/Task Management: The place where you actually get the work done (checklist on a piece of paper or something more complex like a digital task management system)
Filing System (Reference): The place where you store information to retrieve later (physical filing cabinet, notes app on your phone, etc.
These three avenues or systems need to communicate efficiently, and ideally you want to be able to move information and projects seamlessly through each one.
The reason you need three distinct systems is because each one has different strengths. Your email inbox is a great place for communicating and receiving information but it doesn’t make a good project/task management system because you can’t prioritize those emails or tasks very easily. In the same way, your project/task management system isn’t a good filing system because you want to be able to “check off” or delete projects and tasks once you complete them, so you are only seeing what needs to get done. (Who doesn’t love the feeling of checking something off a list?)
This chart from David Allen shows how these 3 systems work together:
Now that you know my productivity philosophy (aka David Allen’s), here are the two apps I use the most for helping me stay productive:
Nozbe is my task management system. My favorite aspect about Nozbe is that it’s simple to use. You can start using it after only 5 minutes of downloading it/setting it up. Yet it doesn’t lose its power in its simplicity.
Inbox (Emails and Text Messages): I can forward emails directly into Nozbe and create a task right from my email inbox. (I can also take screenshots of text messages that I need to respond to and upload them directly into Nozbe.)
Priority: Nozbe easily lets me create projects and then tasks underneath those projects. I can “star” them, which automatically puts those tasks on my priority list. Then, I can sort those priority tasks and put the highest priority at the top.
Calendar: Nozbe syncs with my Google Calendar so any tasks that have specific due dates automatically sync to my calendar.
Categories: This is probably the most powerful feature in Nozbe. I can create a customized “category” list and then assign categories to each task. I can also filter my priority list based upon that category. For example, let’s say I’m about to get in my car and run some errands. That is prime time for me to knock some tasks off my list (redeem that time in the car.) I can filter my priority list with the category “phone” and this shows all of the phone calls I have to make. Perfect – now I know what I can do while I’m driving. Or, let’s say I sent out 20 emails and now I’m wondering who hasn’t replied back. I can filter my list by “waiting-for” and see all of those emails. I can quickly follow-up on those emails with the filtered list.
Evernote is my digital brain. I use it as a filing cabinet, project management system, and content calendar for my blog. Again, I value simplicity, which is why I use Evernote. It can be used in a matter of minutes after downloading. (And they have a free version so you can test it out before deciding if you want to pay for their more robust features.)
Inbox:Just like Nozbe, I can email directly into Evernote. If I receive an email with some key information from a client that I want to remember, I can directly send it from my inbox. Or if there is an attachment that I want to save I can shoot that over to Evernote.
Digital Filing Cabinet: Evernote lets you create “notebooks” that contain multiple “notes.” Think of notebooks like a file folder and notes like the actual files inside that folder. With Evernote, I can put text, pictures, videos, and audio files all inside a note. What makes Evernote really powerful is its search function. You can take a picture or screenshot of a quote and Evernote can read the words of that quote from your picture. Amazing!
Scanning: Evernote has a scanning feature inside the app which is great for loose paper information that you want to digitize.
Business Cards: In my opinion, Evernote is a must for business card storage. You can scan the business card in Evernote and create a digital file. Plus Evernote will create a contact on your phone if you want it to.
Tags: I already mentioned the power of Evernote’s search. But “tags” make that search even more powerful. Just like categories in Nozbe, I can create a customizable list of tags and then tag notes. I use tags for helping me create content for public speaking events, training workshops, and blogging. For example, let’s say I am speaking at a conference called IAAPA Expo 2020 (which I really am, by the way). I can create a tag for that conference “IAAPA 2020” and then every time I read or see something that would be great for that speaking engagement, I can create a note in Evernote and then tag it with “IAAPA 2020.” When it comes time for me to prepare for my session, I can search “IAAPA 2020” and find all the quotes, illustrations, and other pieces of information for that speaking engagement.
I could talk all day about Nozbe and Evernote. (I told you I’m a productivity nerd.) But I’ll refrain for all of our sakes. :)
If you would like to learn more about the apps and programs in my toolbox, check out my brand new Resources page. Here I include the productivity apps listed above, my website and blogging tools, and some of my favorite books.
When you think about your inboxes, project/task management system, and filing system, which one of those areas is hindering your productivity? Review David Allen’s chart above and focus on one of those areas to make yourself more efficient.