What Scares You? Take Our October Challenge
Halloween is coming up and this month at Evil Genus Leadership we’re exploring things that we are a little afraid of and how those fears might be holding us back from achieving the awesome goals that we have set for ourselves. We’re all afraid of something, if we weren’t we wouldn’t be human. It’s important that we recognize what scares us and have a healthy relationship with it. Avoiding our fears and scary situations can make us miss out on great opportunities and experiences. By trying to protect ourselves from being hurt or embarrassed, we can actually be holding ourselves back. In our challenge this month, we’ll be asking you to embrace and understand what scares you so that you can start to develop a healthy relationship with it and make it a little less scary.

What Scares You? Take Our October Challenge

Halloween is coming up and this month at Evil Genus Leadership we’re exploring things that we are a little afraid of and how those fears might be holding us back from achieving the awesome goals that we have set for ourselves. We’re all afraid of something, if we weren’t we wouldn’t be human. It’s important that we recognize what scares us and have a healthy relationship with it. Avoiding our fears and scary situations can make us miss out on great opportunities and experiences. By trying to protect ourselves from being hurt or embarrassed, we can actually be holding ourselves back. In our challenge this month, we’ll be asking you to embrace and understand what scares you so that you can start to develop a healthy relationship with it and make it a little less scary.

What Scares You? The Challenge

This challenge is going to take a little bit of self-reflection and some personal exploration. As a result, you may face a little resistance from ego in this exercise, so make sure you block out a good bit of time to do it, maybe like 20 or 30 minutes. If feel like you have more to do after the first session, you can always go back and dig a little deeper later on.

Find yourself a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and make sure you have something to write with. I suggest a notebook or pad and paper because I think you’ll feel more connected if you hand write it, but if using a computer, tablet or phone works for you, go ahead and use that.

Get settled in and think about something that scares you. Is it public speaking? That’s a big fear for a lot of people, so you’re not alone. Is it meeting new people or telling others some bad news. We’ll be talking about ways to deal with all of these situations this month. Don’t worry about how to deal with these fears. Today we just want to identify what you’re afraid of. The second part of the exercise is to write down what it is that scares you about doing that activity.

If you’re afraid of public speaking, maybe you’re afraid that you’ll mess up and people will laugh at you? Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll forget everything you’re trying to say? Or maybe you’re afraid that people just don’t care what you have to say? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have these fear. I’m asking you to do is take some time and write down everything you can think of that scares you about your personal fear. Try not to have any judgement of what others might think or if you should or shouldn’t be afraid of it. Just get it all down on paper.

Embracing What Scares You

The goal here is to get you to recognize that there are things that scare you and exploring what scares you about it. In order to start having a healthy relationship with our fears, we need to recognize them and accept them. Later on we’ll talk about how to become more comfortable with what scares us and use it to our advantage. For now, congratulate yourself for being honest about what scares you and not judging yourself. Most of all, pat yourself on the back for getting to know yourself a little better.

One of our most important job as leaders is to train and educate the members of our team. This is challenging because everyone learns differently. Today we’re going to talk about the seven different learning styles and how you can apply your understanding of them to help your team grow to their full potential.

Learning Styles and How They Affect Your Team

One of our most important job as leaders is to train and educate the members of our team. This is challenging because everyone learns differently. Today we’re going to talk about the seven different learning styles and how you can apply your understanding of them to help your team grow to their full potential.

The Seven Learning Styles

The first of the seven learning styles is visual learning. Visual learners have a preference for using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. They love to use whiteboards or other tools that let them explore their thoughts visually. You will hear them say things like, “Let’s look at it differently, I can’t quite picture it or Let’s draw a diagram or map.” Ways you can help visual learners are by Using color, layout, and spatial organization when talking with them, and using ‘visual words’ like see, picture, perspective, visual, and map.

Aural learners like to work with sound and music and have a good sense of pitch and rhythm. This can be helpful because music evokes strong emotions and aural learners can be tuned into the emotions of others. Aural learners often say things like “That sounds about right, That rings a bell or That’s music to my ears.” You can help aural learners by using sound, rhyme, and music when training them, Using sound recordings to provide a background and help them visualize and when creating mnemonics or acrostics, make the most of rhythm and rhyme, or set them to a jingle or part of a song.

Verbal learners find it easy to express themselves, both in writing and verbally. They enjoy playing on the meaning or sound of words, such as in tongue twisters, rhymes, limericks and the like. They know the meaning of many words, and regularly make an effort to find the meaning of new words. Phrases that verbal learners often say are, “Tell me word for word, The word you’re looking for is and Let me spell it out for you.” To reach verbal learners effectively, incorporate more speaking and writing in techniques. Encourage them to talk themselves through procedures or use recordings of content for repetition. Use rhyme and rhythm in your assertions where you can, and be sure to read important ones aloud. Mnemonics, acronyms and Scripting are powerful tools for verbal learners.

Physical learners use their body and sense of touch to learn about the world. They like sports and exercise, and other physical activities such as gardening or woodworking. Physical learners typically use larger hand gestures and other body language to communicate. They might use phrases like, “That feels right to me, That doesn’t sit right with me or My gut is telling me’”. To reach physical learners, Use physical objects as much as possible and Use role-playing to practice skills and behaviors.

Logical learners like using their brain for logical and mathematical reasoning. They recognize patterns easily, as well as connections between seemingly meaningless content. Logical learners typically work through problems and issues in a systematic way, and like to create procedures for future use. You might hear a logical learner say, “That’s logical, Follow the process, or There’s no pattern to this”. You can help logical learners by understanding the links between parts of a system.

Social Learners typically prefer learning in groups or to spend one-on-one time with a teacher. They heighten learning by bouncing thoughts off other people and listening to how they respond. Social learners often say things like, “Let’s work together on this.” “Let’s pull some people together to discuss.” Or, “Let’s explore our options.” Leaders can help these people learn by letting them work with others. Using tools like role-playing, mind maps and system diagrams are also useful.

Solitary learners prefer to work on problems by retreating to somewhere quiet and working through possible solutions. Sometimes they spend too much time trying to solve a problem by themselves when they could be more successful by talking to others. Solitary learners often say things like, “I’d like some time to think it over.” Or, “I’ll get back to you on that.”  You can help solitary learners by helping them set clear goals and objectives. Help guide them to align those goals with their values and personal beliefs.

Applying Learning Styles

A potential pitfall is making judgements about people based on their learning styles. It’s important not to assume that someone won’t be good at a certain task solely because of their learning style. We shouldn’t assume someone won’t be good at creating visuals for a presentation because they aren’t a visual learner. It is also dangerous to let others use their learning style as a crutch to avoid new situations. “I can’t take notes because I’m not verbal learner,” is not a true application of these learning styles.

The reality is that most people use a combination of the learning styles. Combining elements of each style can be helpful when working with a group of people. Pay attention to the styles that others use and to incorporate appropriate elements of those styles to communicate effectively. We got our information for this post from Learning Styles Online. Go check them out if you’d like to learn more. You can even take an assessment on their site to figure out what your own learning style is.

Doing our homework is indispensable to becoming great leaders. There’s no substitute for taking the time to learn as much as we can about the situation and the people involved before we make a decision.

Homework – 3 Assignments All Great Leaders Do!

All of our lives we were told how important it is to do our homework. Sometimes it was unpleasant, sometimes there was too much of it and almost always we wanted to be doing something else. What we didn’t realize at the time is that all of those teachers, parents and other people were trying to help us develop a valuable skill in life. Nothing shows you care more than helping people you care about become successful!

Doing our homework is indispensable to becoming great leaders. There’s no substitute for taking the time to learn as much as we can about the situation and the people involved before we make a decision. Often though, we face urgent situations where we don’t have the time to do all of the research we would like to. That’s why it pays to do our homework ahead of time. Today we’ll talk about 3 ways you can prepare ahead of time so that you don’t get caught without the knowledge you need.

Homework Assignment #1 – Get to Know People

First, get to know the people you work with and those who work for you. Also, get to know your boss and the other people you work for. Who are they are as people? What do they enjoy? What stresses them out? How do they communicate with others? What’s the best way to reach them if you have to communicate with them? Also learn what are they responsible for and how it contributes to the mission of the team. How does it fit in with what you do? What are the challenges they face in the workplace? Are there ways you can help them overcome those challenges?

Homework Assignment #2 – Build a Reading List

The second thing you can do is start a reading list. A lot of research has been performed on leadership, management and relationships in the workplace. Find a few topics you’re interested in and make a list of books on those subjects. Try to branch out away from books that are specific about your industry, business, or leadership methods. Take the opportunity to learn about some of the great leaders throughout history. The specific challenges these leaders faced may not be directly applicable today, but many of their leadership lessons are timeless. Also, make some time for books you enjoy. Reading a great novel may not give us solutions to the problems we face in the workplace, but we can relax our brains and foster some creative thought.

Homework Assignment #3 – Stay Current

Finally, we should keep up with the trends in our industries. Understanding ideas that others in our business are pursuing shows where our industry is headed.  This leads to innovative ideas that make our company or team more competitive. Reading trade publications, attending conferences and trade shows or even just networking with others can give us insight into what the future holds. It takes a long time to develop the experience and judgment that help us decipher trends, so the sooner we start paying attention to them, the more useful that information will be to us.

Homework isn’t just for school. To be the kind of truly great leaders we want to be, we need to do our homework every day. Study and preparation helps us understand the people around us. We also benefit from the timeless lessons that great leaders from the past have taught us and understand the direction the world is headed in. Doing these “homework assignments” regularly helps us make informed, educated decisions that provide great outcomes for our teams and our businesses!

Great leadership is a discipline that requires lifelong study and self-reflection. There are a lot of leadership concepts to explore and it's hard to decide what to study next. Today we’re going to help you build the outline of a Leadership Development Plan. This plan will be your roadmap that guides you through developing your skills and leadership style.

Leadership Development Plan – Why You Need One!

Great leadership is a discipline that requires lifelong study and self-reflection. There are a lot of leadership concepts to explore and it’s hard to decide what to study next. Today we’re going to help you build the outline of a Leadership Development Plan. This plan will be your roadmap that guides you through developing your skills and leadership style.

The Leadership Development Plan highlights the kind of leader you want to be and assesses how you’re doing on that path. It also documents concrete action steps you are going to take to get there and when. We’re going to draw on some of the work we’ve done in other posts, so if you’d like to check them out before going forward you can find them below.

Building Your Leadership Development Plan

First, break your goals down into near, mid and long-term time frames. I like to use the time frames of right now to 2 years from now as short-term, 2 to 5 years as mid-term and 5 to 10 years as long-term, but you can choose whatever time frames suit you best. Include your personal goals on this plan as well. Including goals you have about family, community or even great life experiences will help get your whole life organized.

Next, we have to determine the traits and skills we’ll need to have to make those goals a reality.  Some of the skills we need for long-term goals may also be beneficial in our near and mid-term goals as well so we should list them accordingly. Fill in the traits and skills you feel you need to achieve every goal in all 3 categories.

Self-Assessment and Action Steps

Now comes the really tough part, doing honest self assessment about the traits and skills we feel like we need to have to achieve our goals. Sometimes we are too hard or too soft on ourselves when it comes to these kinds of assessments. If you have a hard time objectively assessing the areas that you’re really great in and the areas you could use some work in, ask a friend or trusted colleague to give you their opinion.

Once you have a good idea of the traits and skills you need to work on, we need to write down concrete steps we can take to build them. Keep adding specific action steps for every area you feel like you need to work on. Don’t forget to include dates that you want to complete these steps by.

Now you should have a few pages worth of well-defined actions you can take that will build on each other to get you all the skills and experience you need to achieve your goals and become the kind of leader you want to be.

Using Your Roadmap

Treat you Leadership Development Plan as a roadmap, rather than a strict list to do in an exact order. If you want to learn one of the skills in your plan a little earlier than you planned, go ahead and do it. Just like you can change the order of destinations on a road trip, you can adjust your plan. Also, don’t be afraid to take a detour off your original roadmap if an interesting opportunity comes up. Add that new destination to your map and broaden your horizons!

Links:
http://evilgeniusleadership.com/authenticity-core-values/

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/core-values-4-steps-to-unlock-your-authenticity/

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/leadership-traits/

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/leadership-style-tips-for-developing-your-key-leadership-traits/

Leadership Skills – How to Assess and Build Them

http://evilgeniusleadership.com/developing-skills-5-ways-you-can-level-up/

Setting Effective Goals

September is a great time to take ourselves back to school to re-evaluate what we’ve learned so far this year and what new things we’d like to learn.

Back to School Challenge

September has arrived! I can’t  believe that fall is right around the corner. The days will start getting shorter and the temperatures will start getting cooler before we know it. I always think about going back to school when this time of year comes around. September is a great time to take ourselves back to school to evaluate what we’ve learned this year and what new things we’d like to learn.

The Back to School Challenge

This month’s Back to School challenge has 2 parts:

First, make a list of all of the lessons we’ve learned over the past 8 months. They don’t need to be huge, life changing ideas. They could be little things we learned to do a little better at work or how we learned to deal with people better.

Next, make a list of the things we would like to learn before the year is out. They could be new skills,  or something we’ve already learned that we want to learn about more. Maybe we take a training class to get certified in an area of expertise that will help advance our careers. It’s okay if you only have one thing, or if you have a whole bunch, but we’ll come back to these lists later in the month.

At Evil Genius Leadership we believe that leadership isn’t just a set of skills to acquire or workshops to take. Leadership is a discipline and lifelong practice that requires continuous study and reflection. Truly great leaders treat study leadership and are always looking for new things to learn, new ideas to explore and new perspectives to view the world through. By recognizing the things we’ve learned this year and setting some goals to learn new things before the year is out, we follow in this great tradition of leadership.

We all want to be flexible and adaptable so sticking to a routine sounds obvious and boring. Establishing routines in the right way can actually give us more flexibility in our schedule and help us meet all of the priorities we want to achieve.

Establishing Routines to Maximize Your Flexibility

Previously, we showed how setting priorities can help us focus on the things that are most important to us. This week we’re going to talk about maintaining that focus. We can achieve the focus we desire by establishing routines.

We all want to be flexible and adaptable so sticking to a routine sounds obvious and boring. Establishing routines in the right way can actually give us more flexibility in our schedule and help us meet all of the priorities we want to achieve.

Tips for Establishing Routines

When it comes to establishing routines, we get the best results if we do an activity at the same time every day. Our body and mind get used to doing that task every day at that time. If we only do something once or twice a week, It helps to schedule that task for the same day and time. For example, if we have a meeting every Monday, it’s helpful to make it at the same time on Monday every week. This helps us get used to it, but  also helps the other meeting attendees get used to it. By dedicating the time on our calendar we prepare ourselves to focus on that task.

We want to get at least one block of time dedicated on the calendar for each priority. If we have a priority for the day and there isn’t any time dedicated to it, can we expect that we’ll really get it done? If it’s really important to us we probably will, but if we get distracted or someone else starts to place demands on our time, the things that aren’t scheduled are usually the ones that get dropped.

Establishing Routines Enhances Flexibility

We shouldn’t block off every hour of the day on our calendar. We want some empty space on the calendar for when we need to make changes. Often, others place demands on our time. Our boss might call a meeting that conflicts with one of our other important priorities. We need a place to move that activity to or it will likely get dropped.  Establishing routines helps us build good habits to re-focus ourselves on an important priority.

Even though we all want to be flexible, establishing routines helps us focus on our priorities. We get more freedom than if we just let each day happen without any kind of plan. We can become great leaders by balancing the structure of a routine and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise!

This month we’re talking about ways to stay focused on the things that are most important to us. Consciously setting priorities is one of the best ways we can keep our focus.

Setting Priorities You Can Stick To!

This month we’re talking about ways to stay focused on the things that are most important to us. Consciously setting priorities is one of the best ways we can keep our focus.

Steps for Setting Priorities

  1. Write down the five things that are most important for you to do today. It doesn’t matter what they are. They could be career related, personal, or social.
  2. Put those 5 things into priority order with #1 being most important. Choosing which is most important can be difficult, so take some time if you need to.
  3. To successfully set priorities we need to recognize how the priorities of others fit into our list. Think about the expectations that others have for you today and where those fall in your priority list. Maybe something for your spouse is at the top and something for your boss is in the middle. It’s okay wherever they end up, as long as they fall somewhere on your list.

Now you can make conscious decisions about what to do next based on how it will help achieve these priorities. Maybe you choose to get something low on the list done early because it’s easy to do, maybe you do everything first that you need to get the most important one done.

How Setting Priorities Helps Us

This exercise may sound a little obvious, but I can tell you from my own experience there have been days where I didn’t consciously think through my priorities. At the end of the day couldn’t figure out how I had worked so hard and gotten nothing important done. If you ever feel this way, doing this exercise can help turn the day around and help you achieve your most important priorities for that day. After you get used to doing this for just one day at a time, you can start to extend the time scale and set broader, long-term priorities. Soon you’ll have a list of priorities that can guide all of the actions and decisions you make as a leader!

There are so many distractions in life, both from the outside and from within ourselves. One of the key challenges we all face as leaders is how to stay focused on the things that are really important while still keeping our eyes and ears open for what’s going on around us. We all know how important it is to be able to focus. When we can’t focus, tasks take longer, quality suffers and we often make poor decisions. All this month at Evil Genius Leadership we’ll be talking ways we can work on improving focus on the priorities that are really important to us.

Improving Focus – Take Our August Challenge!

Do you sometimes have trouble focusing on the really important things? This month’s challenge will help with improving focus to get better results!

There are so many distractions in life, both from the outside and from within ourselves. One of the key challenges we all face as leaders is how to stay focused on the things that are really important while still keeping our eyes and ears open for what’s going on around us. We all know how important it is to be able to focus. When we can’t focus, tasks take longer, quality suffers and we often make poor decisions. All this month at Evil Genius Leadership we’ll be talking ways we can work on improving focus on the priorities that are really important to us.

Improving Focus – Take Our Challenge

This month’s challenge has 3 parts:

First, identify just one thing that you have trouble focusing on. It could be a task that you do regularly at work that takes longer than it should because you keep getting distracted. Or it could be something that you really want to get done in your personal life but find that work things keep getting in the way.

Next, investigate what it is that keeps you from focusing on getting that thing done. Are there co-workers that interrupt you when you’re trying to work on it. Does your email notification keep going off? Does the phone not stop ringing?

Finally, choose one action or step you’re going take to reduce whatever that cause is. If it’s your phone or email can you turn the ringer or notifications off while you’re doing this task? If not, can you adjust the time of day or place you do it to minimize the distractions and help you focus.

Keep track of how you do on focusing on your goal for the whole month. Tell us in the comments what you tried and how well it worked for you. Don’t be afraid to try a new tactic if the first action you chose isn’t working as well as you’d like!

Leaders are paid to make decisions, but many leaders avoid decisions through Analysis Paralysis. The leader says, “we don’t have enough information” or “we need to study it more." Often the leader doesn’t like the choices available and waits until a better option presents itself. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal, but often indecision slows progress.

Analysis Paralysis – How to Avoid It!

Leaders are paid to make decisions, but many leaders avoid decisions through Analysis Paralysis. The leader says, “we don’t have enough information” or “we need to study it more.” Often the leader doesn’t like the choices available and waits until a better option presents itself. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal, but often indecision slows progress.

We all want perfect information when we make a decision, but sometimes that’s just not possible. When I was in the Air Force we often wanted to predict an adversary’s reaction if the United States took a specific action. We never knew for 100% certain what the reaction would be, but we still had to take action. Sometimes it made sense to wait, but often if we didn’t make a decision, we would miss an important opportunity.

This same thing occurs in the civilian world, although the impacts of the lack of decision are usually less severe. None of us want to make a bad decision. It’s a very real fear that many of us have at times, but we can’t overcome that fear by avoiding a decision. We face that fear by making the educated decisions through managing risk because we can never expect to be perfect. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to see if we’re really being prudent in holding off on making a decision, or if we may be a victim of analysis paralysis:

Questions to Help Avoid Analysis Paralysis

  • Is there a time-critical aspect to this decision?
  • Will we miss an important opportunity or face a penalty for not making a decision?
  • Do we have all of the AVAILABLE information?
  • While more info might be nice, is it really possible for us to know the answers we’d like to have?
  • Has the analysis been completed thoroughly and in a logical manner?
  • Are the assumptions, methods, data and conclusions of the study solid?
  • Is there really more analysis that should be done, or do we just not like the answers we have found?

Answering these questions honestly can help us get past the fear of making a bad decision. We can prove to ourself that we’ve done our due diligence in this matter. It’s okay if we decide to wait because we’ve forced ourselves to consider if we really need more information or analysis, or if we’re just paralyzed.

We should always make decisions deliberately and with the appropriate information. Sometimes we reach a point where we’ve done all of the analysis we can do and it is time to make a decision. That decision may be difficult or unpleasant, but as leaders, we are expected to make decisions and use good judgment. We can miss key opportunities to accomplish our mission when we kick the can down the road.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I’ve fought against those words for most of my career.  As leaders we often want to improve our teams and keep them from being held back by outdated practices. I know how it feels to come up against the resistance from others when we see better ways of accomplishing our mission. When we challenge the status-quo, it’s usually because we want to make things better for our team, not worse. If this is really our primary interest in making a change, then it’s helpful for us to understand what causes this resistance and makes the status-quo so powerful.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately  lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Questions for Challenging the Status-Quo

  • “What if?” helps us to think about outcomes that might be better than the current outcomes
  • “Why?” helps us to identify challenges we may face as we try to bring about change 
  • “Who? Where? When? How?” help us put together details that will make the change a reality

It’s possible to answer these questions and decide that no changes to the status-quo are necessary at this time. Also, we could decide that the solution will create so much dissatisfaction that an alternate solution might be better. Change for the sake of change has destroyed many teams even though the intentions behind it were initially very good.

The take-home lesson today is that even though change is difficult for many people, as leaders, we can’t be afraid to challenge long-held ideas or practices that no longer serve our mission. We must approach change in a thoughtful and empathetic way to get the improvement we are looking for.

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