Escaping Negativity

escape-negativityYou know those days? Those days where everything seems to go wrong, be it on a technical level or something else entirely? Those days are extremely difficult to cope with, but that’s all they are – just single days. The trap to be weary of is letting these days turn to weeks, then weeks to months until you’re consumed by this negativity.

Doing your job becomes incredibly difficult when you constantly create barriers that stop you from performing well. As cheesy or clichéd as it sounds, your state of mind has a tremendous effect on your surroundings. I won’t turn this into a debate on whether you believe me or not, but I do want to offer some points on how to evaluate your negativity to see if something productive can come from it.

Talk It Out With Someone – This of course works with most difficulties in life, but its important to talk this out. Discussing your issues with different people in your life will give you a different view of your situation. You’d be surprised by how many coworkers might be going through the same situation you are. Don’t limit it to coworkers either. Friends, family, significant others… There are rarely any problems you experience that haven’t been dealt with by someone else. Perhaps you won’t like what you hear, but at the very least you’ll have a different opinion.

Pinpoint Your EXACT Cause – After you’ve discussed why you’re feeling so negative with other people, I imagine that you’d have a general idea of what type of negativity is consuming you. What’s important though is that you figure out EXACTLY why you’re being negative. Was it something that has been building over time, a bad experience that you can’t shake or do you feel unfulfilled with what you do? Pinpointing the exact reasons for of your bad vibes can have a better understanding of how to resolve these underlying problems.

Look At The Big Picture – After you’ve talked it out and narrowed down the exact reasons of your negativity, it’s time to act. This will depend entirely on you. Consider the options though, and don’t act on instinct. Perhaps you are long overdue for a vacation, or there’s been something brewing between you and your manager for a long time coming. As drastic as it sounds, you also have to consider that you are simply not happy with the organization you’re with, and its time to move on. As difficult as that might be, in the long run staying somewhere that makes you feel negative isn’t beneficial for either party.

Escaping negativity isn’t easy, but you’ll be thankful once all is said and done.

Say No Without The Guilt

NOAs entrepreneurs we generally want control of everything within our company, which means that when someone hands something off to us “yes” is the first thing that usually comes. That isn’t always a good thing because when you say yes without really thinking about it, things don’t always work out.

Whenever we need to say no but never end up saying it, it’s usually because of guilt. We feel guilty that if something goes wrong with a project it’s because we, personally, didn’t do something about it or simply because we don’t want to offend our peers.

You might not realize it, but saying no can actually save you from many headaches that you have to deal with. Here are some ways to say “no” without feeling guilty.

Think About It First – ‘Yes’ is often the answer we give people almost instantly without even thinking about how this may benefit you or potentially damage you. People would much rather have a well thought out no rather than an instant response without any consideration. A simple, “Can I think about it and get back to you later?” can work wonders for you, and it will generally lead you to an answer that you’re happy with after the fact.

Aces In Their Places – Sometimes we accept tasks because we simply want control over the situation. This is where delegation is critical. You should know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members, and who would be the best person for each task. If someone else can do the job as well as you can, it’s worth it to delegate. Entrepreneurs are busy people, so you need to prioritize and maintain balance.

Learn To Accept “No” From Others – If you can dish it, you have to be able to take it too. Learn to accept no from others. You need to understand that other people’s priorities aren’t always aligned with your own, and know that it’s almost never personal when someone says no.

You Can’t Do Everything – Is it really going to kill someone if you say no? No, it is not.  You can’t do everything. Do things that you genuinely want to do for others and not just because you feel like obligated.  It will make the things that you participate in much more rewarding and the 100% effort will be recognized because it’s genuine.

Make your commitments genuine by saying no to things you are not particularly interested in or do not have the time to do. You only have 24 hours in a day so use them wisely.

The Difference between Being a “Boss” and Being a Leader

difference-between-a-boss-and-a-leaderWhen you’re an entrepreneur who runs their own business, you might find yourself questioning your leadership techniques from time to time. Being a leader is no easy task, and business owners should take the time to reassess how they’re influencing their co-workers and staff. Over the past 12 years of my entrepreneurship, I’ve had my share of triumphs and failures concerning leadership. I’m constantly trying to re-evaluate and change my methods to ensure that I’m not “bossing” my team around, but that I’m providing an avenue for personal and professional growth instead.

The terms “boss” and “leader” are often used interchangeably, but there is actually quite a big difference between the two. A boss watches and supervises workers to ensure that tasks and projects are getting delivered on time without any difficulties. A leader will give the same list of tasks, but also brings with them a level of inspiration and guidance. Leaders are there for their employees, and instead of telling their team to complete a task, they provide guidance and offer different methods to complete them.

Another quality that a boss possesses is that they only focus on their projects one at a time, and once those projects are complete they move on to the next item on their list without considering the big picture.  Leaders understand that every project your team completes should grow your company in some shape or form, be it financially or professionally. This isn’t limited to simply successes either – even a failed project or a lost client can help your team grow by realizing what mistakes you need to avoid in the future.

Lastly, a boss will examine their employee’s work and criticize their mistakes, while a leader will view these mistakes as coaching opportunities. It’s vital that instead of simply telling your staff why something is wrong, you coach them through their mistakes, tell them what they can do to avoid these mistakes in the future and how they can improve their work. There is nothing worse than having someone on your team who is too afraid to approach you with their best work because they’re concerned with how much you’ll dislike their efforts, instead of providing them with advice on how they can improve.

Of course, the transition from being a “boss” to becoming a leader takes time. I find myself struggling with these challenges almost every day, and even after 12 years I constantly remind myself to look for all of the coaching opportunities available for my team. It will take time and dedication, but the outcomes are well worth the effort.

Where there is no leadership, the people will perish!

My last posting I introduced my life long hobby of hockey and my beer league team of the Screaming Eagles.  Since that posting I’ve become a lot more in tune of some potential on ice lessons and been on a pretty awesome point streak.  In the last post I spoke about how our team doesn’t have a formal coach and how we essentially have to hold each other accountable as peers and I spoke about the brilliance and effectiveness of that.  However, two games after that one our team organizer as I’ll call him, John Grobanopoulos (Grobo), not to be mistaken with George Strombolopolous (Strombo) who is another lifelong school mate, missed a game.  We joked prior to the game as we were getting dressed that his presence on the ice probably won’t be missed as we had several of our more talented players in attendance but what took place even before the puck dropped was noticeable and as a result reminded me of some valuable lessons in leadership and organizational behavior.

Right after warm up it was time for the puck drop and one of my team mates yelled out “what are the lines?” and all I heard was silence,  I knew immediately we may be in for a long night.  John although not the formal coach, looks after all the administration and setting of the lines, we were lost right off the bat, nobody seamlessly took over what might be a menial task yet an important one that can set the tone for the game and ultimately be the difference between winning and losing.  After some comical back and forth and mass confusion of who was starting even after we organized the lines we finally dropped the puck.  After we observed the pace and assessed our opponent, it was clear that our speed and talent far exceeded theirs and we should be able to easily defeat them.  However, without Grobo on the bench to make game observations to see who was on and which pairs were clicking, we suffered from a lack of discipline, taking too many penalties and ultimately not moving our feet enough.  Since we had more talent we kept it close and went late into the game holding a one goal advantage yet we let that slip away with only mere seconds left in the game.  This meant overtime which was also Grobo’s responsibility to decide who the best players of the night were and who deserved to play the extra session and ultimately give us the best chance to win.  Well needless to say especially since we were shaken by giving the late game tying goal, confusion and ego prevailed and we entered the overtime period as discombobulated as we had started the game and it took only 30 second for our weaker opponent to finish us off and emerge victorious.

As the screaming eagles retired to the dressing room and did what we do best (yell and drink beer), I sat and reflected and couldn’t help but notice how the lack of at least some organization, guidance and gentle accountability can be fatal to any team or organization.  It’s not always about being a charismatic game changing vocal leader who can quote all of Jack Welch’s books, sometimes all that is needed is someone who can keep order and eliminate confusion within an organization.  Upon John’s return when he asked how we lost to such a weaker opponent everybody chimed in with some excuses but I paid John a compliment and said we really missed him, and not necessarily his fierce back checking (he will resent that sarcastic comment) but his leadership.  Like the humble effective business and team leader that he is, he shrugged it off and taught me another lesson when he comically said “The key to leading or motivating a bunch of type A personalities is simply to out yell them”.  Can’t say I ever thought about that but at The Wish Group I lead several Presidents and a management team of over 20 type A’s and come to think of it I do yell a lot.  It’s an old biblical saying yet it’s true, without leadership regardless of its form a group or organization striving to achieve a task will perish or at least not be merely as effective as it can be.  I encourage each of you to reflect on times where nobody takes leadership of a situation and observe what occurs, it may be enlightening, and maybe that will motivate you to step up and take the leadership, because often leadership isn’t given, it’s taken.

The Holy Grail of Leadership

Like most Canadian boys, I grew up playing hockey and like most of them, dreamed of one day playing in the NHL. Needless to say, I was never quite good enough to play professionally, but over the past few years after determining that I needed to de-stress and have some male bonding time, I decided to get back to playing in a beer league with some old friends. Besides working up a good sweat, I find it therapeutic at the end of a hectic work week to kick back and relax with the guys and have a few pops after the game. What I think I get most out of it though are the same things I took from the game growing up, which is how important discipline, teamwork, passion and fun are in life and in business. The early morning practices, trying your hardest, working together as a group and the camaraderie that comes with it is truly fulfilling, especially seeing the pride in my father’s eyes after I had a good game, not to mention the dollar he gave me for each goal!

Well now that I’m older, I still enjoy the game, in some ways even more than I used to as a kid, no pressure, it’s truly just fun now. However I’m blessed to be on a team called the Screaming Eagles and we are quite the passionate bunch of thirty and forty something’s. Although we aren’t playing for money, the Stanley Cup, or a Gold Medal for our country, you would never know it by our passion and our strong will to win. Something happened in a recent game that really made me reflect on things. It was after the first period and as our goalie George Benak was changing sides and came over to the bench for some water, out of the blue he yelled at me to move my feet out there and skate insinuating that I was standing around. Well, you can probably guess my reaction, probably no different than any of my employees who I’ve called out before, I was pissed! However, that being said, deep down, or not that deep down, I knew he was right. In fact I was just thinking to myself that my lack of intensity on the back check probably caused a goal, but what upset me was that Benak noticed! So my inner voice started off with the usual “who the heck does he think he is?” and “well he should worry about himself and stop letting in soft goals!”.

As we started the second period I had a decision to make, I could mail it in and chalk it up to a bad game and let my ego win, or I could prove Benak and myself wrong and turn things around. So I really dug deep and skated my butt off and it made a difference. Afterwards in the dressing room, as Benak walked in he yelled out in front of everyone, “Hey Frank, hell of a game out there!”. I couldn’t believe the feeling that came over me, I was beaming and smiling from ear to ear just like I was eight years old again and my father was walking into the dressing room and complimented me on my play. At first I couldn’t believe that I was reacting this way, I mean Benak’s a great guy but I’m the all-powerful CEO of many businesses, I’m the one who usually inspires and motivates people to action, how had I fallen for such a simple compliment? Well, it reminded me that holding people accountable is the right thing to do for them and the team, and it reminded me that praise ALWAYS works.

A few days later in our company wide sales meeting, I told this story, and what we all took from the story that I hadn’t thought about was the power of peer to peer accountability. Unlike professional or even organized youth hockey, there are no coaches on our team, we have to self govern in a way while we are in the play, we don’t have much perspective besides when we are on the bench in-between shifts.  Accountability is often lacking in most companies, it’s what separates good performing businesses from poor ones, and in most cases even when it’s present it comes from management. Don’t get me wrong it needs to be there from management, but in my experience, the exceptional companies always have peer to peer accountability in them. It’s when a colleague calls you out to do your best, or you want to excel in your job not only for yourself but because you don’t want to let the team down and you’re looking for their respect. This peer to peer accountability is what every team should be striving to achieve, and when as a leader you achieve this within your team, you’ve achieved what has been termed, the Holy Grail of Leadership.

Check Your Ego at the Door

“If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.” –  David Ogilvy

I have had the pleasure of working with many businesses over the years, helping entrepreneurs to build up their businesses and watching them flourish as leaders in the process. Many of them went on to become successful business leaders, others… not so much. Though many people talk about the passion and “never say die” attitude required to succeed in business, a quality that I have observed in successful leaders, and one that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves, is ego.

Successful business leaders are not afraid to admit their weaknesses, they know that there is always something more they can learn and an area that can always be improved. They understand that the growth and success of their business is not entirely a product of their own making, but is a collaborative effort of talented and dedicated individuals all working together towards a common goal – no matter how great a sports coach is, he isn’t going to win a championship with lousy players. Successful business leaders surround themselves with the best and brightest, freeing themselves to do what they as leaders do best – planning and developing the future growth of their business. They know exactly where they want to go, and put together the best team possible to help them get there – in a sense, they work on their business, not in their business.

On the other side of the coin is the mediocre business leader. They think they know everything and everyone else knows nothing. They are always right no matter what  because they view themselves as the single reason why their business is growing. Because of this attitude, they cannot foresee hiring anyone who is better at something than they are, and end up surrounding themselves with mediocrity which only tends to reinforce their ego. A harsh lesson that many of these mediocre business leaders learnt from the economic collapse of 2008 was that it was a hell of a lot easier to succeed in a booming economy. They had let their “success” blind them to the true realities of their situation. It was evident in the wake of the recession that the businesses that continued to survive — and even thrive — did so because of the planning of their leaders and the investment they had made in their people.

Are you prepared to become a successful business leader? You’ll need to ask yourself some tough questions and answer honestly about yourself and your own abilities. Maybe you won’t like what you hear. The real question is this: What will you learn from this exercise? And will your ego be able to handle it? Consider checking yours at the door, and maybe you’ll start down the path of building a company of giants.