Looking Back & Looking Forward
We all made it through another year! The upcoming holidays are a great time for looking back at our successes and the lessons we learned in 2016. It’s also a great time to think about the new adventures we want to embark on in 2017. In this month’s challenge we’ll get you looking back at the past in a positive way. We'll also get you looking to the future in a way that will help you take action.

Looking Back & Looking Forward

We all made it through another year! The upcoming holidays are a great time for looking back at our successes and the lessons we learned in 2016. It’s also a great time to think about the new adventures we want to embark on in 2017. In this month’s challenge we’ll get you looking back at the past in a positive way. We’ll also get you looking to the future in a way that will help you take action.

Looking Back – December Challenge Part 1

Are you ready for this month’s challenge? Of course you are! Part 1 is about looking back over the course of the past year. Our goal with this part is to look back in a reflective way, but not get trapped in the past. We don’t want to dwell on the negative things that happened. Rather we want to focus on what we achieved and what we learned in 2016.

First, we’re going to make a list of the things we achieved this year. They don’t have to be big things, just things that you’re proud of yourself for accomplishing. I’m proud of finishing a good part of my MBA program and of strategic partnerships that I’ve made. I’m also really proud of the workshops I’ve done and the people we’ve helped all year-long. Big or small, it’s important to acknowledge ourselves for the progress we’ve made over the course of the year.

Next, let’s make a list of the things we’ve learned this year. These can be lessons about business, other people in our lives or even about ourselves. I learned how some of the things I do affect my relationships. I also learned that I can’t be afraid to ask for things, whether that is help for a project or bringing in a new client. Again, these don’t need to be life-altering revelations. We just want a list of what we’ve learned and how those lessons can serve us in the future.

Looking Forward – December Challenge Part 2

Now, let’s look at what you’d like to take a shot at in 2017! Part 2 of our challenge is to make a list of the things we’d like to achieve in 2017. They don’t need to be grand ideas or anything that’s going to change the world in a major way. We’re want to get excited about what we’d like to achieve next year. One of my goals is to get more involved in the community here in Las Vegas and meet more entrepreneurs.

Now that you’ve got your list of things to do in 2017, there is one more extra credit challenge for you. A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions this time of year, but they can be hard to stick to. Challenge yourself to start on one item your list. Come up with at least three action steps you can take starting today to get you closer to that goal. If you start right away, you’ll be that much closer to achieving it when 2017 gets here.

It’s been a great year so far! We should all look forward to spending some downtime with friends and family for the upcoming holidays. This is a great time for looking back at the positive things that happened in 2016 and looking forward to the ways we want to challenge ourselves in 2017. Starting on those challenges today will bring the benefits to us even sooner!

We all face resistance from our ego to some degree. We know we should take actions in our best interest, but we find ways to put them off or avoid them.

Resistance: 3 Ways to Move Through It

We’ve been spending November talking about how we can get to know ourselves better. One of the more difficult aspects of knowing ourselves is understanding why we don’t do the things we should do in order to achieve our goals. We all face resistance like this to some degree. We know we should take actions in our best interest, but we find ways to put them off or avoid them.

The main reason we resist doing the things that we know will improve our lives is that our ego gets in the way. Our ego likes when we do things that are safe and when we stay in our comfort zone. When we experience resistance, that’s our ego trying to protect us from the scary things that are out there in the unknown. There are times when that serves us well, but there are also times when it holds us back.

Recognizing Resistance

Last month we talked about our fears and how we can understand and embrace that fear to take action. Recognizing resistance works much the same way, except that many times we don’t even know that we are resisting. We may make excuses that we don’t have time to do the things that we know will benefit us. Or we may convince ourselves that it’s not that important. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’re thinking it through so that we can do it the best way possible.  When we find ourselves making excuses and avoiding action, it’s a sign that we might be resisting.

Resistance: Action Steps

Once we realize we are resisting taking an important step, we can take action to move through it. First, some self-reflection can help us find the source of our resistance. Find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes and ask yourself “what is it that I’m resisting?” It’s important not to try to answer that question with our minds. Our minds and our egos are the parts of us that have been preventing us from taking action. We need to listen to what our bodies, our hearts and the universe are trying to tell us. And it’s okay if an answer doesn’t come to us immediately. Doing this exercise regularly can help those answers come to us later on.

Recognizing what we’re resisting is an important first step, but that alone won’t motivate us to take decisive action. Our ego will take steps to keep us from stepping out of our comfort zone. To make our ego feel more at ease with taking action, we can start by taking very small steps. This will help build a sense of familiarity. Our ego will gradually get used to these new steps and will become more comfortable with each one. If you find yourself ready to take a big step and are excited to take action, it sounds like you’re moving in the right direction through resistance. If the feeling of resistance ever comes back, try taking smaller steps again to keep moving forward.

One thing we can be sure of is that as we move through resistance we will make some mistakes.   Our egos will use this to push back and tell us “I told you we shouldn’t try this.” Whenever we try something new, we need to approach it with the concept of “Beginner’s Mind”. Everyone who is truly great at something had to start at the beginning and had failures along the way. We shouldn’t think of ourselves any differently. When we have a setback, we can remind ourselves that we are still learning.

Resistance: Next Steps

Resistance is a natural part of our lives as human beings. Our egos are always trying to protect us from the unknown and keep us from taking risks. Ego isn’t great at telling the difference between unnecessary risks and calculated risks that can bring us great rewards. Deliberate self-reflection can help us cut through the excuses our ego makes and really understand what we are resisting. We can make our ego feel better by taking small steps and accepting that we’ll make mistakes. No matter what you may be resisting, remember you’re not alone and that we all feel resistance sometimes.

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.

In honor of 4th of July, we're going to talk about all kinds of ways we can tackle winning our independence. Not just our independence in terms of being able to do what we want to do when we want to do it; but winning our independence from tasks that don't help us accomplish our mission. As leaders, we should strive to gain the freedom to make independent decisions that help our team reach the best possible outcomes, as well as, becoming independent thinkers who are not afraid to challenge the status quo when it is appropriate.

Winning Our Independence – July Challenge

In honor of 4th of July, we’re going to talk about all kinds of ways we can tackle winning our independence. Not just our independence in terms of being able to do what we want to do when we want to do it; but winning our independence from tasks that don’t help us accomplish our mission. As leaders, we should strive to gain the freedom to make independent decisions that help our team reach the best possible outcomes, as well as, becoming independent thinkers who are not afraid to challenge the status quo when it is appropriate.

Take the July Challenge – Winning Our Independence!

The first step to winning our independence is to challenge ourselves to critically assess our team and our current processes. Our challenge this month is to find one process or practice that we can let go of or update. When we cling to practices that have become outdated, we reduce their effectiveness and hold them back. If all of our processes are rock solid and don’t need improvement, another way to complete this challenge is to let go of some of our own responsibilities and empower others. By delegating to members of our team, we are winning our independence from the tasks that keep us from focusing on the big picture. A great advantage of empowering others is that it helps develop their critical thinking and leadership skills as they learn how to navigate their new responsibilities.

Tell us in the comments what you decide to let go of as part of winning your independence. It doesn’t matter what you choose to let go of, it can be a big task or just a small item. You could lead your team through transforming old business practices, or develop your team members skills by empowering with some of your key responsibilities. Whatever you choose, think it through before implementing to be sure it will give you and your team additional freedom!

This week we're going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we've started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Avoiding Groupthink – Video Guide

I hope everyone had a peaceful Memorial Day weekend and got to spend time with family and friends as we all remember the sacrifices that great men and women made in service of our nation. We’re wrapping up our month discussing topics about being courageous leaders. So far we’ve mostly talked about how to get in a healthy frame of mind to help us act courageously so that we can solve problems and make decisions courageously. This week we’re going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we’ve started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Groupthink occurs when members of the team are afraid to speak up or hold back information that is critical to the discussion because there may be social consequences for speaking out against the group. It can be very challenging for many people to contradict a position that the group has arrived at, especially if we are new in the group or we think that what we have to say will be unpopular with the other team members. As leaders, our job is to watch out for groupthink on out teams and cut through it to make sure that we’re getting all of the relevant information to make decisions.

In this week’s video, Jason discusses why avoiding groupthink is important for every team and describes some methods that we can use to recognize and avoid groupthink.

Avoiding Groupthink as Team Members

  • Speak up!
  • Include all relevant information
  • Be respectful of others
  • Employ Intellectual Honesty
  • Encourage others to speak up

Avoiding Groupthink as Leaders

  • Be prepared and research the topic
  • Understand different stakeholder interests
  • Insist that assertions are supported with evidence
  • Ask probing questions
  • Actively solicit information and perspective from quiet individuals
  • Consider the decision carefully before implementing

It’s also true that in many cases a group can reach a decision with a consensus without getting caught up in groupthink. Just because our team might come to an answer quickly and unanimously doesn’t mean that we have encountered a groupthink situation. As leaders, what we really want to ensure is that the group arrived at the result through a rational decision-making process and employed intellectual honesty in coming to a resolution.

Photo Credit: By Shane T. McCoy (U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It's already May and that means that Memorial Day is coming up quickly here in the United States. In honor of all of those who gave so much, we're making courageous leadership our theme for this month at Evil Genius Leadership. As leaders we often need to make decisions or take actions that are unpopular have some risk associated with them. While there are times that it is prudent to wait to make a decision, sometimes the circumstances don't allow it and we need to exercise courageous leadership to make that decision. Courage is a trait that can be developed in us, like any other trait, and this month we have a challenge to help us build our courage to be there when we need it most.

Courageous Leadership – May Leadership Video Challenge

It’s already May and that means that Memorial Day is coming up quickly here in the United States. In honor of all of those who gave so much, we’re making courageous leadership our theme for this month at Evil Genius Leadership. As leaders we often need to make decisions or take actions that are unpopular have some risk associated with them. While there are times that it is prudent to wait to make a decision, sometimes the circumstances don’t allow it and we need to exercise courageous leadership to make that decision. Courage is a trait that can be developed in us, like any other trait, and this month we have a challenge to help us build our courage to be there when we need it most.

Courageous Leadership Video Challenge

This month for our challenge we’re asking everyone to think of something that is outside of your comfort zone and to go do it! It doesn’t need to be the scariest thing that you can think of, just start with something you wouldn’t ordinarily do and follow through on doing it. Taking small steps like these can help us expand our comfort zone as well as giving us more confidence to step out of it when we recognize the need to. Like many other traits, developing courageous leadership is like building a muscle and we need to exercise it regularly in order to strengthen it and maintain it before we need to use it in a critical situation. In the video, Jason gives some ideas for small things you can try to step out of your comfort zone and start building that muscle.

Tell us in the comments what you did to step out of your comfort zone and how it turned out for you!

Photo Credit: By James Varhegyi (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1953926) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’re all going to face at least one crisis in our careers as leaders and our teams are counting on us to lead them through these kinds of challenges. Often how we react to a crisis is more important that the actual crisis itself. It’s important to approach any crisis rationally and recognize that the problem is not insurmountable, but the extreme nature of the situation is usually a result of how quick the onset is. Crisis management is very much like dealing with any other problem or leadership decision, it just requires having a response that matches the urgency and gravity of the situation.

Crisis Management – 5 Steps to Get Through It!

We’re all going to face at least one crisis in our careers as leaders and our teams are counting on us to lead them through these kinds of challenges. Often how we react to a crisis is more important that the actual crisis itself. It’s important to approach any crisis rationally and recognize that the problem is not insurmountable, but the extreme nature of the situation is usually a result of how quick the onset is. Crisis management is very much like dealing with any other problem or leadership decision, it just requires having a response that matches the urgency and gravity of the situation.

Step 1 – Admit the Problem

It is absolutely astounding how often leaders launch into their reaction to a crisis without taking the time to admit that they have a problem and what the real problem is. Many leaders start to immediately tackle the symptoms of the situation without ever determining what the actual problem is. To truly get your team through a crisis successfully it is critical to determine what the actual problem is. Although it is important to determine the problem quickly, it’s important to avoid getting fixated on the first idea that is presented. Take a few minutes to ask some detailed questions about the problem and really make sure you’ve identified all the aspects of it. Missing one of these key aspects early could lead to problems implementing a solution down the road.

Step 2 – Investigate Thoroughly

Now that you’ve identified what the real problem is, it’s time to dig deep and get down to the root causes. Continue to ask who, what, where, when and why until you and your team are satisfied that you fully understand the causes of the crisis. This, of course, must be balanced with any time constraints necessary to implement a solution especially in an urgent, time-critical situation. A key point to remember is that determining the root causes is not to lay blame or point fingers, but to identify all of the areas that will need to be addressed in the solution and who the key players will be in implementing that solution.

Step 3 – Accept Accountability for Your Role

Once the root causes and key players have been determined, it’s important that you and your team take accountability for any role you may have had in creating the problem and accept your role in coming up with and implementing the solution to the problem. Also, hold others accountable to accept their roles in the crisis and solution as well. Recognizing and admitting these roles to ourselves and others is an important step that often gets overlooked and, without this accountability, and can impact the implementation and effectiveness of the solution.

Step 4 – Take Corrective Action

Now it’s time to come up with a solution and implement it. Methodically address each root cause and identify not just what the solution is, but who the key people are to make it happen. As the solution starts to take shape you’ll be able to find that some pieces of it will address multiple root causes and be able to streamline your plan. Once you believe you have a completed solution, circle back to make sure you haven’t left any of the root causes unaddressed. Implement the plan and monitor the actions that the team is taking to see if they are actually effective. If the solution is not having the intended effect, it’s okay to adjust, but don’t throw out the plan without giving it a chance to work.

Step 5 – Communicate Throughout Crisis Management

Although it’s listed as our last step, communication throughout the crisis management process is critical. Make sure to be sharing appropriate information to your leadership, your team and other appropriate stakeholders. You may have to communicate to customers, the media or the general public. Stay focused on the message of what the problem is, the root causes and the solution. As we talked about before, assigning blame is not usually productive at this stage so focus on root causes and solutions. You will have to make a decision about how quickly to tell your leadership that the crisis has occurred. If you can work through the steps and implement a solution very quickly, it may make sense to tell them after the situation is in hand; but letting them know right away that you’re on top of it and working on it is usually a good call.

One point to emphasize is that while the five steps presented here are deliberate, they can actually be performed very quickly, sometimes in a matter of a few minutes. Dealing with a crisis in a time critical manner is often the key to success and it’s important to balance how long you take on determining causes and solutions with correcting the problem quickly. The best way to save time in this process is to deal with the accountability aspects of the crisis early. As the saying goes “Accountability never goes out of style” and your leadership will appreciate it if you hold yourself and others accountable without unnecessary finger-pointing.

Wishing you all the best next time you have to handle a crisis situation. Tell us in the comments the steps you use in your crisis management technique.

Photo Credit: By Americophile (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Preparation, training, and skill will all serve us well as we tackle our next big crisis, but the one key factor that impacts the ability to successfully navigate a crisis is taking accountability early on and throughout the situation.

Taking Accountability: The Key to Leading Through a Crisis

 

As much as we all try to plan well to avoid crisis situations, it is inevitable that we will face a crisis sometime in our careers as leaders. Preparation, training, and skill will all serve us well as we tackle our next big crisis, but the one key factor that impacts the ability to successfully navigate a crisis is taking accountability early on and throughout the situation.

4 Tips for Taking Accountability in a Crisis

The most important step for taking accountability is to admit there is a problem in the first place. Accepting this truth is necessary and it’s surprising how many situations spiral out of control because we can’t admit to ourselves that something is wrong. After thoroughly investigating root causes of the problem, it’s important to take accountability for any role we and our team might have had in causing the crisis. It’s very difficult to implement a solution if we haven’t addressed any procedural or team issues that might be barriers to implementation. Once the solution has been determined, we need to continue to hold ourselves and any others accountable to perform their role in the solution until the crisis is over. Finally, taking accountability to communicate the problem and solution to any key stakeholders is important throughout the crisis situation.

There are many community groups and organizations who are looking for aspiring leaders to come in and take charge of their efforts. One of the most important things we can do as leaders is take on community leadership and give back to the people and organizations that make our cities, towns and neighborhoods a better place.

Community Leadership Challenge

 

It can get really frustrating sometimes trying to find new leadership opportunities in our jobs. There are only so many projects and tasks at work where we can really flex our leadership muscles. We often have to be patient until those opportunities arise which is not always in alignment with our goals for professional development. How can we as aspiring leaders continue to develop our leadership skills and leadership style when opportunities in the workplace are not readily available?

Community Leadership as a Solution

Part of the answer lies in getting engaged in our communities and seeking out opportunities to lead. There are many community groups and organizations who are looking for aspiring leaders to come in and take charge of their efforts. One of the most important things we can do as leaders is take on community leadership and give back  to the people and organizations that make our cities, towns and neighborhoods a better place.

This week’s leadership challenge is to get out in the community and find an organization that is looking for some help and turn that into a leadership opportunity. Chances are, somewhere in your community, there is a school, church, volunteer group or other organization that is looking for someone to come in and take on a leadership role for one of their projects. In addition to the great feeling you’ll get from giving back to your community, you’ll gain valuable experience and perspective on how community leadership can help you grow and gain perspective as a leader.

No matter what stage your project, business or team is in at the moment, it’s critical to continue to take action. Developing your strategy is important but shouldn’t prevent you from moving forward on tasks you know must be accomplished to successfully achieve your mission.

Taking Action – 3 Ways You Can Keep Moving the Ball Forward

No matter what stage your project, business or team is in at the moment, it’s critical to continue to take action. Developing your strategy is important but shouldn’t prevent you from moving forward on tasks you know must be accomplished to successfully achieve your mission. Holding off on action until you get your strategy fully refined, waiting for perfect information, or trying to build a bulletproof plan that covers every possible contingency can lead to paralysis. While it is important to take time and self-reflection to plan well, avoiding action is just as bad (maybe worse) than going forward without a plan.

The opposite extreme of avoiding action is taking a bunch of random actions that all seem like a good idea at the moment, but are never considered for how they fit together into the big picture of accomplishing the overall mission. Like most things in life, a balanced approach can help keep your team moving forward while still freeing some time up to consider your strategy. Here are a few tips you can use to help achieve that balance:

Take Action on the Easy Things

Benjamin Franklin said “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today”. Applying that philosophy to all of the little things that you can do right now can help you keep taking action every day.

Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Franklin said “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today”. Applying that philosophy to all of the little things that you can do right now can help you keep taking action every day. Whenever you think of a simple task like posting that photo, sending a tweet or updating that document, if you do it right away you’ve just taken action. If you know it needs to get done and it doesn’t require a lot of thought or evaluation about how it fits into your desired end state, go ahead and do it, or delegate it to someone on your team and give them the authority to keep doing it every day.

 

Use Tech to Force You into Action

For the bigger, more complex tasks that require more thought or consideration, you may have to use a different tactic. Your team is carrying their phones with them pretty much all the time, so make the tech work for you by scheduling reminders or appointments to block off time to get that task done. Schedule a drop-dead point to make a decision and stick to it. Hold your team accountable to deadlines that you set and they agree to. Build the team’s schedule around meeting your drop-dead decision point. As you and your team become more adept at this you’ll be able to simply schedule the decision point and allow them the flexibility to accomplish the work necessary without dedicating time to work on it.

Tell Others What Action You’re Going to Take

Tell some key friends or colleagues what outcomes you’re working towards and the actions you’re going to take to get there.

By Mikhail Gorbunov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Something magical happens when we tell someone out loud that we’re going to take some kind of action. For most of us, our human psychology makes us not want to disappoint that person by not following through. Tell some key friends or colleagues what outcomes you’re working towards and the actions you’re going to take to get there. Also tell your team the actions you are taking to support their efforts as well as the actions you are expecting them to take. Putting your intent out in public will inspire you to take a little extra accountability to see those actions through to the end. An added bonus is that you can get a little feedback from others on your approach and improve your outcomes even more.

 

When I was at my pre-deployment training for my second deployment to the Middle East, our instructors used to tell us that in time-critical situations, “Any decision is better than no decision!” The intent was not to have us rush into poor decisions, but to teach us to evaluate when a situation required careful and deliberate consideration, and when taking quick (but cautious) action was appropriate. The same will be true of many of your day-to-day decisions and actions as a leader. It’s not productive to overthink the relationship between your daily actions and the exact wording of your mission and vision statements. If you can convince yourself you are being true to the spirit of your mission and the people you are trying to help, your actions will be aligned with your strategy and purpose.

Share in the comments what steps you take to take action and keep your team moving the ball forward on your mission.