If you want to lead others well, you’ve got to start by leading you. Leading yourself to become a better leader and a better person requires humility, commitment, and self-awareness. Today, I’m focusing on the self-awareness piece.
None of us can see ourselves clearly. We need people outside of us who are willing to tell us the truth in love. We need to be radically honest with ourselves – Where are we weak? Where do we need to grow? If you can’t quickly name at least 3 weaknesses you’re working on right now, you’re missing out on your growth as a leader.
Here are some suggestions to enhance your self-awareness. Yes, sometimes the truth hurts. It’s never fun to be confronted with our character defects. But the truth beats self-deception. Only by seeing the truth can you change and become better!
Step 1: Ask trustworthy people what you could do better. Try friends, co-workers, bosses, your spouse—or all of the above. Don’t put them on the spot. Give them some advance notice so they have time to think about it, process it. Be careful how you word the question. Not, “Are there some things I could do better?” (yes or no question, makes it too easy to say no). Ask “What are some specific things I could do to make me a better leader?” Don’t settle for a “nothing—you’re great!” Press in until you get at least one constructive response.
Step 2: Thank them for their honesty. It’s hard to give honest feedback! Don’t bite their head off or get defensive. You are here to learn. Once you’ve demonstrated humility and self-control in your response, it’s time to take some time to process their feedback. Were you already aware of this weak spot? How do you think it might be present in other areas of your life? Once you’ve done some introspection, it’s time for step 3.
Step 3: Create a plan for change. Ask for accountability. Have your leadership coach check your progress at each meeting. Tell a friend to text you once a week to ask how you’re doing with your patience/attitude/communication, etc… Create a plan to improve, share it with at least one other person, and watch your leadership capabilities rise with each new improvement.
January is a chance to pause and start fresh. If you’re like
me, you’re brimming with hopes and plans for the new year. More sleep, focusing
on health, organization, time management…the options are endless – and
If you have your goals in mind and are ready to amplify your
outcomes, try these three tweaks. Apply just one, or do all three for a real
Step 1: Delete social
media apps from your phone. It doesn’t have to be forever, but trust me,
you can do it for just one month. When the impulse to check something or post
something arises, replace it with a different behavior. Read a few pages of a
good book. Pray. Do some push-ups. Go to bed. Endless options ensue!
Step 2: Take a month off TV. This is a tradition my husband Trevor and I started last year. January means no Netflix, no TV, no Hulu, no Amazon Prime. You can read more here about my experience last year, but one good outcome you’ll like have is more sleep. Without the temptation to stream “just one more episode,” you will probably go to bed earlier. A month where you’re finally getting enough sleep? Now that’s how to jumpstart the year! (You’ll probably also have more conversations, finish more books/podcasts, and try some new recipes, but the sleep alone makes this one worth it).
Step 3: Stop snoozing
on week days. You’ve stopped staying up late scrolling through Instagram. You’re
no longer binge watching The Great British Baking Show past bedtime. Now you’re
ready for step 3: no more snoozing.
Commit to your alarm time and honor that commitment. Perhaps
you want to get ready for the day without feeling rushed and stressed. Maybe you’d
like to take time for a morning workout or coffee and devotional time. Whatever
you do with the time, take charge of your morning instead of stumbling into it
after one too many snoozes. Need help? Text a friend for accountability. Don’t
pick the nicest, gentlest person you know. Ask someone who will hold you to it
and check in with you (spouses can be great at this).
If you want to make an even bigger impact, invite your significant other to join you on your jumpstart.
Wishing you and yours the best of new years!
In January, my husband and I took a month off TV. No Netflix, no Hulu, no TV news. Our goal was to become more intentional and creative with our evenings—playing games, reading, having friends over, conversing with one another.
Up until January, we were in the habit of watching a few episodes before bed each night. It began to feel like a rut where as soon as we put the kids to bed, we were drawn to the couch like magnets, plopping down shortly after, usually with snacks in hand.
On January 1, we were halfway through The Crown on Netflix, and I thought that tearing myself away mid-season would be tough. Thankfully, our TV-Turn-Off month turned out to be much easier than I expected. Within two days, I mostly forgot about The Crown. We found ourselves playing those board games we’d wanted to play, inviting friends over, reading lots more books, and enjoying our evenings in new and refreshing ways.
In the midst of this, one surprising benefit emerged: we were going to bed earlier, 45 minutes to an hour on average. Instead of feeling the urge to binge-watch one more thing, we simply went to bed when we were tired, and woke feeling more refreshed.
I also felt more freedom in the evenings. Knowing there were different options each night, and challenging myself to try them—cooking something fun and time-consuming, sitting around the firepit, listening to an audiobook while doing a jigsaw puzzle—filled me with possibilities and made me feel more creative in all of life.
The benefits were wide-ranging. We shared longer family dinners with better conversation, invested more time meal prepping healthy food in the evening, and awoke each morning feeling rejuvenated from a solid night’s sleep. I got up without pressing snooze. I finished more books and podcasts. At work, especially, I felt more rested and focused. It was my experience that cutting out TV led to all of this, and ultimately to an overall boost in wellbeing.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of a break from TV, here are some questions to spark your thinking:
Is streaming entertainment cutting into your sleep?
We all know sleep is the foundation for so much in life, including focus, learning, and performance at work. Reducing screen time is almost guaranteed to increase your sleep, both in quality and quantity. You can also think of it from the negative side: sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce performance and productivity. As this article shows, a lack of motivation, focus, and creativity can all be traced back to inadequate sleep.
Do you engage in screen-free recreation activities on a regular basis?
I found it refreshing to enjoy different leisure activities during our TV-free month. Sure, it took a little more energy, but it actually made me feel more energized and engaged with life. The inspirations I’ve gotten while hiking or going for a run/walk outside have led to breakthroughs in my mindset at work. I don’t generally get inspired to make positive change while watching Parks and Recreation (much as I love that show!). Breaking out of my TV rut inspired me and sparked fresh passion in my life.
How much of your free time goes towards TV?
I am not going to say there’s a right or wrong amount of time to watch shows, but I bet you could come up with a number. Are you exceeding it? Imagine you are your Future Self, 10-15 years down the road. How much entertainment would your Future Self want you to be watching now? What else would he/she like you to be doing in your spare time?
In light of all the positive effects my husband and I experienced, I’d encourage anyone to take a TV sabbatical. It may challenge your thinking, shake up your routine, and take more creativity and energy. But it just might lead to better sleep, a healthier mindset, and greater inspiration in your personal life and at work.
I recently had the chance to eat dinner with Horst Schulz, the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton. Over quesadillas, chips, and multiple orders of queso, he shared stories with those of us at the table.
When this man opens his mouth, you listen. You listen because Horst was the inspiration for the iconic Chick-fil-A phrase “My pleasure,” and he’s also behind the fresh flowers most Chick-fil-As display on their dining room tables. And then there’s the Ritz.
His words challenged and inspired me in many ways, but by far, my biggest takeaway was this statement: “human beings want to belong, have purpose, and be part of excellence.“
If you’re a leader in your organization, here are some thoughts on how to leverage each of these components to improve employee retention and satisfaction.
People want to belong to something. As a leader in your business, you have the chance to provide this sense of belonging to your team. Cast vision for your people. Show them they aren’t just an individual working a role, nor a cog in a wheel, but rather a vital part of something bigger than themselves. Challenge yourself to inspire your team just as much, if not even more, than you push your team to grow. On a practical level, think about your onboarding process. Are you making the process something special? Onboarding is an opportunity to convert new hires into loyal fans.
Hospitality is more than just taking great care of customers. It’s how the team ought to relate to one other as well. Start with internal hospitality. Welcome the team into your organization, treat people with dignity and respect, and they will inevitably begin to extend the same powerful hospitality towards your customers.
People want purpose. No matter if it’s the dishwasher in the hotel kitchen or the marketing manager, make sure every single person knows the “Why” behind your organization. What is your overall mission? What is their specific mission? How is their unique role vital to the entire business? From the moment you onboard someone, be sure to bring them into this conversation and continually remind them of their purpose. Not only will they perform better, they’ll also stick around longer. This is the secret sauce behind the Ritz-Carlton’s extremely low turnover rate, around 20% as of 2014.
Finally, people want to be part of excellence. Hold the team to a high standard, and then celebrate the excellence. Remind your people what great work they’re doing, share your company values with them, and market your brand’s excellence to your people just as much as you would to a potential customer.
Try this recipe. It’s so easy! Throw it in the crockpot. It’s so simple! Pinterest headlines make it seem that everything in life can be had with zero effort. From finances (stupid easy budgeting!) to exercise (5 minute abs!) the prevailing message is that we can have everything we want in life—without working for it.
Effort is bad. Ease is good. The quicker the better.
I’ve subscribed to this same mentality, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve told people, “Try it yourself. It’s super easy.”
I used to proclaim 5-ingredient recipes to all my acquaintances. The same goes for exercise, because I’ve long been a fan of the 7 minute workout.
In the midst of racing around and doing everything in the fastest, most convenient way possible, I’ve begun to question just which destination I’m running towards.
I’ve started to wonder whether, in pursuing ease, I’m sacrificing quality. What is being gained aside from a couple minutes?
When I took the time to list some of the most important accomplishments in my life, I realized the common denominator was this: they didn’t come easy. Climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, having children, maintaining a loving marriage—these things all took and continue to take tremendous effort.
Inspired by this revelation, I began trying to do certain things “the hard way.” Rather than buy herbs pre-grown, I grew my own this summer and dehydrated the extra basil, tarragon and oregano for winter. And instead of buying a bag of pumpkin seeds, I hand-picked the seeds out of our Halloween pumpkins so I could clean and roast them for a healthy evening snack. It was slimy. It took time. But the end result, toasted in sea salt and coconut oil? Heavenly.
What does this mean, aside from the fact that I have gotten really into cooking and gardening lately? My point is this: sometimes hard stuff is good. For instance: I have a good job. I’m a coach who gets to invest in leaders across the country. But this job is also hard. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I must read books and pursue continual learning to do my best.
And you know what I’ve discovered? I love the struggle. I’m thankful that it’s hard. The challenge of being a better coach stretches me and allows me to discover new potential in myself I never knew I had.
Ease is a fact of life. We live in an abundant society where we don’t have to grind our own flour to make bread from scratch every day. And thank goodness for that!
Here’s what I’m learning, though. Ease isn’t an end in and of itself. The fact that I had to put effort into something and really work up a sweat can make the end product sweeter. Even more than that, working hard cultivates my character.
My labors teach me that not every urge ought to be instantaneously gratified. I learn patience. I grow to appreciate the work that goes into life’s conveniences, remembering the farmers and the factory workers involved in getting the delicious Cashew Cookie Larabar snack into my shopping cart. In short, a thankful attitude and increased self-control both blossom out of a commitment to hard work.
I leave you with this challenge: do something hard today. Pull weeds. Split wood. Call someone who isn’t easy to talk to and ask how they’re doing. When we do hard things on a regular basis, we become resilient people, better equipped to navigate the inevitable hardships of life, and better able to flexibly navigate rapidly evolving workplaces.
This isn’t a quick fix (do 5 hard things and transform your life!) But it’s a real fix, a slow-but-true fix that can transform not just individuals but all of society into sturdy and hardworking people.
Finally, I want to mention special thanks to Ben Sasse whose new book The Vanishing American Adult no doubt inspired much of this post!