What I mean is do you have a space in your mind where you have tacked up all of the criticism you’ve received in your life?
I have one. And most competitors or high achievers have one as well.
Our internal bulletin boards can provide fuel to help us succeed both professionally and personally. But there is a cost with using this method as our motivation.
In this Your Leadership Coach video, I share what’s on my bulletin board, why it is dangerous for leaders and high achievers to use this type of motivation, and I offer a better “fuel” that we can use to drive us to success and the accomplishment of our goals.
Who is on your bulletin board?
What critics are you still listening to?
Acknowledge them (and maybe tell a friend) – lean into them.
Replace with them with your successes and future goals
Leadership is diverse. There is no “one size fits all” leader. I have observed individuals with various backgrounds, personality traits, and strengths who all have led phenomenally.
These highly talented achievers may share some similarity in their skills, but what really connects them are their struggles.
From my own leadership journey and also from the hundreds of leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with, I have recognized that there is a common burden or pressure that most leaders experience.
Unfortunately, most of these individuals struggle to open up with others about these challenges. So today, I’m sharing three confessions that I wish the people around me knew.
Confession #1: I don’t always know the answer
It is a myth that leaders have all the answers. Even though this makes sense cognitively, for some reason people still have an expectation that once someone puts on the “leadership hat” they magically have it all figured out.
Questions get more complex sitting in the leadership seat. The stakes are higher. A leader’s decisions affect not only the organization but also their people’s livelihoods.
As a small business owner and leadership coach, I can tell you that there are many days when I’m not sure of the direction I need to take or how to help one of my clients solve their problem.
If you feel this way, take comfort that you are not alone. It’s okay not to know all of the answers. But one of the responsibilities of a leader is to find the answer. Here’s my prescription for this confession:
Become consciously competent.
Fill in your knowledge gaps through reading, online courses, and surrounding yourself with people smarter than you.
Even though leaders are high-achieving individuals, sometimes they have a hard time knowing what success looks like in their role. Is it their company or team’s financial benchmarks, overall organizational growth, employee satisfaction scores, brand awareness, or even some combination of all the above?
Not to mention that leaders have a target on their back. They reap the benefits and rewards of their role, but also have to navigate through the constant criticism and pressure that comes with being in leadership.
If you feel like an imposter, again, it’s okay. You are in good company. Many exceptional leaders have had to work through this struggle. Here’s my prescription for this confession:
Make self-awareness a priority.
Self-awareness is not a destination. It’s a journey. Refine your strengths, compensate for your weaknesses, and minimize your blindspots. Also, recognize that self-awareness + skill development + receiving feedback = confidence.
Confession #3: I am lonely
In one of my first leadership roles, I had a mentor and friend who told me, “It is lonely at the top.” That might seem odd since leaders are always around others. But loneliness is not the absence of people; it’s the disconnect from them.
Part of this is an occupational hazard. It’s hard to connect with others when there are some things you can’t share with them or you have to make hard decisions that at times are not popular.
However, many leaders, including myself at times, aid to this disconnect by putting up walls. A lot of this has to do with Confessions #1 & #2. It’s hard to entrust yourself to others, if you are not content with who you are. Insecurity breeds anonymity.
By now, I think you know what I am going to say. It’s okay if you have experienced (or are experiencing) loneliness. But we don’t have to live in it. Here’s my prescription:
Build relationships with people you trust. Bring others into your inner circle who care more about your personhood, not your performance.
First off, this blog is not a “woe is me” for being a leader. I love being a leader! I wouldn’t trade the experiences or the opportunities that leadership has provided me. There are a lot of privileges that come with being in leadership roles and the struggles are part of the price you pay.
Second, as Peter Parker’s grandfather said, “with great privilege comes great responsibility.” I’ve said repeatedly throughout this post that it’s okay if you feel incompetent, insecure, or lonely. Those are very real feelings, especially for leaders. But it’s not okay to rest in those feelings and become complacent. It is our responsibility as leaders to wrestle with these struggles and use these challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.
Be gracious with yourself, but not satisfied.
Which confession resonates with you the most?
If it is Confession #1, what knowledge area are you lacking in? Who do you know that is an expert in that area? Seek them out and make time to learn from them.
If it is Confession #2, what are your strengths? Ask people you trust to share what they see as your strength areas. Take time to reflect upon those areas and then create a game plan to leverage them.
If it is Confession #3, do you have an inner circle? If so, do you spend regular time with them? If not, who do you trust with the most intimate details of your life? Make it a priority to meet with these people regularly.
Anytime you put something out on social media, you have to expect that you might get criticism. I am no exception to this.
Now, I don’t think criticism is necessarily bad. When given in a healthy manner, I think a critique can be very beneficial, especially when it comes to our professional and personal development.
The problem in one particular situation was that this person made two key mistakes that caused their feedback to be ineffective. And these are the same two mistakes that I see leaders make all the time when giving critique.
In this Your Leadership Coach video, I outline what those two mistakes are and share how we can make our feedback more effective.
The next time you want to give someone feedback ask yourself these 3 questions:
“Why do I want to share this with them?”
“What would be some reasons they won’t receive it well?”
“What is the best communication avenue to give this feedback?”
Leaders make mistakes. And a lot of them. But leadership is not about being perfect; it’s about how we respond to the mistakes that we make and learning from them.
In this latest leadership training session, I interview my good friend and mentor Fred Pate. Fred was President of Kluber Lubrication North America for 23 years before his retirement. In this session, we discuss the top two mistakes that leaders make, and how to navigate through those mistakes.
What are some of the mistakes that your bosses have made that make it difficult for you to do your job? What can you learn from those mistakes?
Like many people I love music. There is something powerful about the right lyrics with the right melody. Songs have the ability to inspire us, make us laugh or cry, and even transport us to another time and place.
When I listen to music, I really focus on the lyrics. (This might be a result of not being very musically gifted myself.) But I really appreciate a song that has depth to its lyrics. And I’m always looking for great lessons in songs.
In my opinion, the song “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd has some powerful lyrics and in today’s post I’m sharing some of the leadership lessons I’ve gleaned from it.
“Be a simple kind of man [or woman]. Oh be something you love and understand.”
The word “simple” has lots of different meanings. It can mean “lacking in knowledge or expertise.” But it can also mean “readily understood.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) And I think that’s the definition that best fits the context of this song.
First, great leaders understand themselves. They have taken the time to become self-aware, knowing their strengths, weaknesses, and blindspots. As a result, they are content with who they see in the mirror. Not satisfied, because they recognize that they will never arrive and are always pushing themselves, but content with the progress they are making.
Do you “love and understand” the person in the mirror?
Second, great leaders are understood by their team. Their leadership and demeanor are consistent. People know what to expect. In the book Strengths-Based Leadership, Tom Rath shares a Gallup study that found two of the top four qualities of exceptional leaders are trust and security.You can’t build trust and provide security without consistency.
“Take your time, don’t live too fast.”
I’m not a fan of the word “busy.” One of the reasons why is because our society (at least here in the United States) wears this word like a badge of honor. (You can read more about my thoughts on busyness here: The Socially Acceptable Addiction.)
The problem with this mentality is that among other things it can lead to burnout and mental health issues. An Indeed study conducted at the beginning of 2021 found out that “burnout is on the rise. Over half (52%) of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021—up from the 43% who said the same in Indeed’s pre-Covid-19 survey.” (You can read more about the results of this study here.)
Clearly, the pandemic has had a significant impact on workplace burnout. As I process and also talk to others about what we went through in 2020, especially during the “lockdown” season, the common theme I hear goes something like this, “I really appreciated the opportunity to slow down.” I talked to dads who would ride bikes with the kids on a Tuesday afternoon or couples who would go for walks in the middle of a workday.
I’m not advocating that we go back to that time, but I do think there is a lesson in there. We can’t keep up the pace that busyness demands. We must intentionally fight it by strategically disconnecting and making time for the people and activities that are most important and bring us energy.
“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold.”
There’s nothing wrong with money. In fact, a study conducted earlier this year by The Wharton School found that “people’s well-being rises with the amount of money they make.” (You can read more about this study here.) But here’s the caveat, the key to enjoying money is contentment.
Pursuing money for the sake of money or accumulation leads to discontentment. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some wealthy people and the common theme is: it’s never enough. They are always worried that they need more.
Money is a great by-product but a poor motivator or goal.Pursue excellent work, be a lifelong learner, and gain as much feedback and experience as possible. Then you will be able to enjoy whatever money comes your way. As Warren Buffett says, “When a person with money meets a person with experience, the one with experience ends up with the money and the one with money leaves with experience.”
Which song lyric do you need to focus on the most?
Do you struggle with self-awareness or a lack of consistency? Maybe you need to slow down and have a better work-life rhythm? Or perhaps you need to change your aim away from money and fame and to something more meaningful?
Think about one thing you can do tomorrow to begin growing and developing that area.