Building Rock-Solid Plans – 5 Tips for Business from the Military
Effective planning helps you adapt to real-world events. These tips will help you with building rock-solid plans that stand up when reality gets in the way.

Building Rock-Solid Plans – 5 Tips for Business from the Military

General Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. No matter how effort we put into a plan, we almost always have to modify it when we execute. Sometimes we have to throw it out entirely. A mentor of mine said it even more simply. “You’ve gotta have a plan before you can deviate from it”. There’s no way to plan for every possible outcome, but effective planning can help you adapt to real-world events. These 5 tips will help you with building rock-solid plans that stand up when reality gets in the way.

In the military, we use the Deliberate planning process to create plans for military operations. The advice I’m going to give you today comes from the Concept Planning phase of this process. There’s a lot more to military planning, so please don’t think this is the whole process. It’s just a taste for you with some nuggets to help you with your planning. I’m not going to go into detail because it’s not important for you to follow this process exactly. This is just some advice that can be pulled from military planning to make your planning a little more robust. Your company probably has a plan format, but including these elements in your plan will make it stronger.

Building Rock-Solid Plans Tip #1 – Analyze the Mission and Situation

This is really just a very formal term for what it is you’re trying to accomplish. We’ve talked about the 5W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) in other posts. I didn’t just make those up, it comes from my military planning experience. Be as specific as possible with Who, What, When, Where and Why. This will make it easier for the people executing the plan to understand your expectations. Make sure to include any constraints that your boss or other stakeholders have imposed on the plan. This includes the enemy, the environment and all kinds of other factors. In business, hopefully, you don’t have enemies, but you may want to assess your competition if that’s appropriate. At the very least, this is where you look at all of the outside forces that may influence the outcome of your plan and start to think about how you can mitigate them.

Building Rock-Solid Plans Tip #2 – Define the End State

It’s important to clearly define the outcome you want your plan to achieve. You can think about this in terms of “How will you know when the plan is done?” Try to make this as quantifiable and measurable as possible. In flight testing, we wrote test plans that showed how many data points we needed to complete the test. The plan usually had a minimum number that we absolutely had to hit and then some goals above that if there was still time or money left in the budget. We knew that we could stop after the minimum, as long as we had enough data to make an educated decision about the test.

Building Rock-Solid Plans Tip #3 – Define Your Intent

For any planning effort to be successful we need to communicate our vision of the desired end state. In the military, this is called Commander’s Intent. This translates pretty well to business, although I don’t recommend that you call this commander’s intent. Come up with some other term that gets the idea across to your team. We talked about making that end state as specific as we can. We want to take it one step further by providing a little more info to help our team plan. This is where you want to talk about the priorities for your team to follow, as well as areas you are willing to accept risk.

Building Rock-Solid Plans Tip #4 – Think About Logistics

In the military, this traditionally refers to moving people, equipment, assets etc. That may or may not be appropriate for your project, but it’s always good to map out how people or things are going to get from A to B. Don’t forget to include your data and information flows. A lot of projects get derailed because planners assumed lines of communication were in place that didn’t actually exist. Include how you’re going to develop new information flows or modify existing ones for your plan to succeed.

Building Rock-Solid Plans Tip #5 – Include Branches and Sequels

In military planning, branches and sequels are very specific terms about completely separate plans that start upon a specific set of conditions coming true. I don’t want you to get too wrapped up on the definitions, just apply the concept in your plan. Think about elements in your plan, that if they happen a certain way, might allow other plans to go forward. And it doesn’t have to be positive. There could be a situation where if your plan runs into a wall, that it kicks off an entirely different plan.

The military also has Crisis Action Planning which is basically the same process, but faster. And in the military, we also have a saying,  “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Going back to our Eisenhower quote, your plan may not be perfect and will almost certainly need to be modified once reality hits it, but good planning will help you make those modifications go as smoothly as possible.

Remember, this is not the actual military planning process just some helpful nuggets to make your plans a little more robust. If you want to learn more about military planning, Joint Publication 5-0 is a good place to start. It’s a big document so I recommend starting with these tips and our checklist that you can download first. Then, if you’re looking for more, check out Joint Pub 5-0.

Finding your own leadership style is much more effective in the long run than just adopting one from a book or another leader.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style

You could fill a library with all of the books about leadership styles and why each is the best. I’ve seen a lot of them come and go and they all have pros and cons. The leaders I respect most have developed their own unique style, rather than adopting someone else’s. When we try to adopt a leadership style that doesn’t fit who we are, we get that queasy feeling and second guess ourselves. Taking on a style that’s incongruent with our personality leads to inconsistent decision making and additional stress. These tips will help with finding your own leadership style for today and the leader you want to be in the future. To learn more about leadership styles, download our Leadership Style Guide and Worksheet.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #1 – Know Your Values

Values are our own guiding principles for life. We get them over our lifetime from parents, teachers, leaders, and others who have influenced us. In addition to our personal values, our companies and organizations have values. They may be stated or unstated. Sometimes the values of an organization are unstated, which makes it difficult to promote those values. An even more extreme case is when there is a set of published values, but the leadership doesn’t practice them.  To develop your leadership style, it’s important to understand your personal values and how they mesh with the organization’s values. Try this short exercise to determine your values.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #2 – Determine Key Leadership Traits

Traits are parts of your nature that allow you to align your actions with your core values. They’re things like honesty, commitment, decisiveness or even humor. To live our lives according to our values, we must have certain traits. As we’ve mentioned before, if our traits and actions don’t align with our core values we have internal conflict and conflict with others. We second guess ourselves and get that feeling in our gut something is wrong. Traits are not just things that you’re born with, you can grow and develop them, but it takes time and conscious effort. Think about building traits like trying to build a new habit. Think about the leaders you admire and what leadership traits they have. What traits do you think you need to be a successful leader? What are you strong at, where do you need work on them?

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #3 – Determine Key Leadership Skills

This is the most nuts and bolts part of your leadership style. What skills do you need to get your mission done? Do you have the skills you need to develop your team into future leaders? What skills do you already have? Are there any key skills you feel like you need to develop? Consider soft skills as well as technical skills. The technical skills that got you this leadership position may not be the same skills you need to effectively lead your team.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #4 – Know Your Personal Communication Style

Important to understand your own communication style. Do you talk more than you listen? Learn to listen, it’s hard, SUPER hard for me and it’s still something I have to consciously work on. Do you get all your thoughts together first and then speak? Or do you think out loud fostering discussion to get to the best idea. One isn’t better than the other but it’s important to know. I tend to think out loud. If I’m not careful it can lead to conflicting messages to the rest of my team. At the end of a meeting or conversation, I summarize the main points and the direction I want the team to go in.

Finding Your Own Leadership Style Tip #5 – Know Your Priorities

What are your priorities for yourself and your team? Accomplishing your mission is almost certainly number one, but what’s next? Is it developing your team members into future leaders? Maybe efficiency on your team is important to you? Developing camaraderie on your team might be one of your priorities. There’s no right answer to what your priorities should be, although your boss might weigh in with their opinion. What’s important is that you have consciously thought about them and communicated them clearly to your team. As time goes by your priorities may shift. This isn’t something you want to do on a daily basis, but is good to revisit every few months or year. If events warrant a shift, give it some thought, make a decision and communicate the new priorities to your team.

I hope I’ve convinced you that finding your own leadership style is much more effective than just adopting one from a book or another leader. That’s not to say those leadership styles are bad. You should definitely look at the pros and cons of each and include the best aspects that work for you. In the downloadable guide, there is a list of pros and cons for each style as well as some areas for you to write down the different aspects of your style. Don’t worry if you don’t figure it all out in one sitting. Finding your leadership style takes time and self-reflection. Just keep asking yourself the questions “Who am I?” and “What kind of leader do I want to be?” and it will come to you!

Giving feedback is hard, a lot of us have an aversion to it. These 5 tips for giving great employee feedback can make the conversation a pleasant one.

Giving Great Employee Feedback – 5 Tips for a Positive Experience

Giving feedback is hard, a lot of us have an aversion to it. Partly because we have had some bad experiences getting feedback ourselves, partly because we don’t like to give other bad news and almost certainly because we want people to like us. Giving feedback doesn’t have to be unpleasant. We can take a few steps to make a conscious effort to give effective feedback. These 5 tips for giving great employee feedback can make the conversation a pleasant one.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #1 – Focus on Improvement, Not Criticism

When we’re giving feedback, we want to build people up, not tear them down. The Sandwich Method is a really effective technique. Start the feedback with something positive, follow it with the area that needs improvement, then end with something positive. This structure helps keep our feedback focused on improvement, not just the deficiencies. There are times when the sandwich method isn’t always appropriate. Usually, there is at least one positive things to build on when giving feedback.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #2 – Choose the Right Venue

Where we give feedback is just as important as the feedback we give. It’s important to make a conscious decision whether to do it in public or private. If you have to talk about an individual’s areas of improvement,  your office might be the best choice. Recognizing a team member for excellent performance usually works best in front of the rest of the team. In the Air Force, we had a general rule of praise in public, punish in private. This works pretty well in most situations, but there are times that something negative might have to be discussed publicly. In a safety or security situation, it may be important to get critical information out quickly to the whole team in public to stabilize the situation.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #3 – Focus on Expectations

Did the employee meet, exceed or fall short of expectations? This step gives you a chance to see if you communicated the expectation clearly. Realizing the expectation wasn’t clear creates a whole different conversation. You may have different opinions on how clearly the expectation was communicated, but that can be part of the discussion as well. If the expectation is set clearly and communicated, now it’s a discussion of how well the expectation was met. Here’s a chance to build on the positive achievements and then talk about how to address what fell short.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #4 – Don’t Make it Personal

Address the behavior, not the individual. Although we might feel personally hurt or disrespected, we don’t want to attack them personally. Don’t tie their value as a human being to their performance. When we insult people or judge them, they tune out the important feedback we have for them. Even in cases where someone has done something egregiously bad, if we’re trying to improve them, insults and judgment don’t help. Stick to the behavior and not the person.

Giving Great Employee Feedback Tip #5 – Have a Plan Going Forward

What will we take going forward to improve? If this was good news, what will we do to continue excellent performance and help it spread throughout the team? Don’t feel like you need to build this plan all by yourself. You can use this as an opportunity for leadership development. Give the team member an opportunity to develop their own improvement plan. This will keep them invested in their own growth and also help them get a better idea of the big picture.

I presented these 5 tips like you’re a manager giving feedback to one of your team members, but they apply just as well if you have to give feedback to a peer or even your boss. Telling your boss that their idea may not be the best approach is difficult, but these 5 tips can give you a structure to do it diplomatically. Apply these tips next time you have to give someone feedback on a task or project and see if that makes the experience more positive for both of you.

Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though.

Pitching Your Ideas – 5 Tips to Get Everyone on Board

It takes a lot of preparation to make a convincing pitch, but the presentation is just as important. Last week we talked about the 10 steps it takes to do all the homework for pitching your ideas. All that work doesn’t matter unless we communicate our ideas effectively though. If you missed last week’s post, you can jump to it here also get the pitch worksheet that will guide you through the steps. This week’s tips help you communicate all your hard work effectively to decision makers.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #1 – Know Your Audience

Right off the bat, you’ve got to understand who you are pitching to. What is their background? Are they an expert in this field? Will you have to do a lot of explaining of detailed technical pieces? What is their real interest in your idea? Have you pitched ideas to them before and what have you learned from it? Does the decision maker like a bottom line up front? Or maybe they like to be led through each piece of info and build to a conclusion? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, try doing a little research about your audience before presenting.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #2 – Be Clear About Your Purpose

I found this really effective when I was in the Air Force, especially when briefing senior leaders. I would usually open with, “Sir, I’m Lt Col Jason LeDuc. I’m here to brief you today on this topic. I’ll recommend courses of action and ask you to decide which one to pursue.” I saw many presentations where the decision maker wasn’t clear on the purpose. The speaker didn’t make it clear they needed a decision. Many times it turned out that the briefing was just informational. Leaders are usually pretty busy people and their time is valuable. We want to make pitches when we really need them to make a decision and should avoid basic information presentations unless we’re asked for it.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #3 – Start With the Problem

This is where all that prep work you did using the worksheet from last week pays off. Present your clearly defined problem, including the why, who, what, when, etc. Make sure that the decision maker understands the problem. Look for some recognition in their words and body language that they also believe it is a problem that needs to be solved.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #4 – Build Your Case

Now it’s time to build the case for your solution. This can be highly variable and depends on your audience. After you state the problem, you could present background information, move into the potential solutions and make a recommendation. Or you could talk about the people who this is a problem for and how they are impacted, views of what a successful solution would look like and make some recommendations. There’s a huge number of possibilities. You’ll have to decide for yourself which approach to take, but have a plan going in. One piece of practical advice I can give is to support your assertions with evidence. If you say that your solution is going to cost $1 million, you should have some reasonable, thorough estimates that you can show in your pitch that back up that number.

Pitching Your Ideas Tip #5 – Make The Ask

All too often I’ve seen someone give a really great convincing presentation and then just kind of wrap up without really clearly asking for that decision they need. I’ve even done it myself. It’s so important to make that ask and get that decision before the decision maker leaves the room. You don’t want to put any undue pressure on them, but clearly make the ask. They may not be ready to make a decision at that point. If that’s the case you have a new ask to make. Find out what questions the decision maker needs to be answered and when they want to reschedule. Be prepared to make that secondary ask if you need to.

So there are 5 tips for making a really great pitch presentation. While these are general, they’ll help to get you in the right mindset for making a pitch. Iff you’ve done the prep work we talked about in last week’s post, you should have all the material you need to make your case. You just need to decide how to build the story that will get your message across most effectively. I know you can do it!

All leaders hope they're inspiring others to go do great things, but how do we know? I remind myself of these three tips every day to set a good example.

Inspiring Others – 3 Tips to Set a Great Example

All leaders hope they’re inspiring others to go do great things, but how do we know? When I was in the Air Force, I was always fascinated by leaders who inspired us to do great things. These leaders weren’t inspiring just because they had great words to say or were great speakers. They were leaders who took action and set a great example for everyone around them. My personal leadership style is based on these leaders and the example they set. I always hope that I’m setting a good example for others. I remind myself of these three tips every day to set a good example.

Inspiring Others Tip #1 – Remember People Are Watching

Tip number one for setting a good example is to remember that people are always watching. No matter what we say or what we do there’s almost always someone there to observe it. Unless you live in a cave all by yourself, people are always looking at your words and actions. As young ROTC cadets, our leaders told us, “If you don’t want to it to show up on the front page of the New York Times, don’t do it or say it”. That’s still good advice today. You could cross out “New York Times” and replace it with social media. Remember there’s always someone watching and deciding if you’re setting a good example that they want to emulate.

Inspiring Others Tip #2 – Make Sure Words and Actions Match

One of the best pieces of advice for inspiring others is to make sure that your words and actions match. People watch to see if you do what you say you’re going to do. Do you follow through and take action on the things you say you will do? It’s not just about doing the things you say you’re going to do. It’s also about the example you set with your team. If tolerance and respecting others are important to you, do you set the example? Do you interrupt people or let them finish their thoughts? Are you open to others’ ideas or do you dismiss every idea that comes from someone else? When our words and actions match we set a good example for everyone around us.

Inspiring Others Tip #3 – Share Failures and Mistakes

None of us are perfect and we won’t set a great example by pretending we are. We can try to hide our failures, however, people see through it very quickly. It’s  important to share your mistakes and your failures and what you learned from them. This is key to setting an example that it’s ok to make mistakes and learn from them. We always learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. If you want to inspire others, gather stories where you didn’t do such a great job but learned from it. Share how you turned that failure into success and see how your team responds.

I hope these tips help you inspire your team. They sound simple but take a bit of conscious thought and effort. Remind yourself of these tips every day and see if that makes a difference in inspiring your team to go above and beyond.

Traits can be built and they're a lot harder to develop in ourselves than a skill. Building perseverance is no different.

Building Perseverance – 5 Tips to Help You Stick With It

We hear all through our lives that we’ve got to have the perseverance to meet our goals. It’s a fact, but not all of us have perseverance as an inborn, inherent trait. At a workshop yesterday I was reminded that traits like perseverance can be developed. Traits can be built and they’re a lot harder to develop in ourselves than a skill. Building perseverance is no different. I didn’t always have the perseverance I had today. Several times in life I had to build perseverance, in school, in the Air Force and even starting my own business. These tips come from my own personal experience building perseverance. I hope they’ll help you to with your perseverance if that’s something you’re struggling with.

Building Perseverance Tip #1 – Break Things Up

We’ve probably all heard that if you’re trying to get to the gym, lay out your clothes the night before. As soon as you get up, all you’ve got to do is throw those clothes on. Put your running shoes by the door. Put those shoes on. Walk out the front door. Do all these little steps in a row because they’re easy to do.Make it easy on yourself to do each little step every single time. Soon you’re already at the gym and it’s easier to work out because you’re already there. You’ll find that instead of trying to persevere through one big step, little steps makes life a lot easier. This starts to develop that perseverance muscle inside you.

Building Perseverance Tip #2 – Do a Little More Every Day

If I haven’t been running for a while and want to increase my distance, I just a little further every day. I typically run on a track indoors because it gets hot here in Las Vegas this summer it’s not great to run outside here. When I’m trying to get more distance I just do one more lap every day. I don’t get really ambitious try to do another mile today or two. If I did 15 laps yesterday, I’m going to do 16 laps today. Try increasing by small increments every day to build that perseverance muscle. Soon you’ll be able to power through even longer distances or bigger goals.

Building Perseverance Tip #3 – Give Yourself Credit

It’s important to give yourself credit for taking the steps, even if you don’t fully succeed at today’s goal. There are days I don’t complete my workout because I’m tired, sore or don’t feel well. This happened to me just the other day. I still give myself credit for trying and take steps to do better the next day. When you’re working on a goal, give yourself credit for taking the steps. Recognize if you don’t reach your goal and decide what steps you need to take to improve. These small bits of recognition will help your perseverance.

Building Perseverance Tip #4 – Keep Track of What Works

Just like with any goal, keep track of what works and what doesn’t. This isn’t so much about tracking your progress for your goal This is more about learning if the steps you’re taking are moving you in the right direction. If you’re doing cold calls for your business and not getting many leads, maybe it’s time to try something new. Keep track of how many cold calls you’re making, how many are converting into sales or even advancing a relationship. This will tell you how effective your techniques are. You don’t want to do is keep pursuing a technique that isn’t working. Keep an open mind about other techniques and track of which techniques are advancing you towards your goals and which ones are holding you back. Sticking with the ones that are holding you back is just perseverance in the wrong direction.

Building Perseverance Tip #5 – Start Early!

Start early if you’re going to do something where you feel like you’re going to need a lot of perseverance to succeed. If you’re starting something that you’ve never done before, don’t do at the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to learn, persevere, and stick with it. Make those small steps and go a little further every day. Leave yourself the time to let those steps work. If you feel like you’re under the gun, you’re may have an outcome with lower quality than you wanted and you’re going to you’re going to take a hit to your perseverance muscle instead of developing it.

There are your five tips for building perseverance. Traits like perseverance definitely can be learned and developed but it’s really hard much harder than developing skill. Give these five tips a try, develop those small steps, go a little further every day and give yourself plenty of time. Try these five tips and I think you’ll find that you’ll have a much stronger perseverance muscle and it will be much easier to hang in there when it gets tough.

One piece of general advice is not to think of leading and managing millennials as a problem. Instead, look at opportunities that come from the way millennials look at the world.

Managing Millennials – 4 Tips for Leading Millennials

We’ve heard a lot about the “millennial problem” lately and there is no shortage of opinions on it. My first experience working with millennials was in the Air Force in the mid-2000s. That was a bit different situation than dealing with it in a civilian environment. Despite the differences, we found some successful leadership principles that can help with managing millennials in the civilian world too. One piece of general advice is not to think of leading and managing millennials as a problem. Instead, look for opportunities that come from the way millennials view the world. How can that mindset benefit your team? If you lead millennials or are millennial and you have a different experience, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to learn from your experience if you have different advice and share it with other leaders.

Managing Millennials Tip #1 – Recognize What Millennials Want

Millennials really want 3 things when it comes to their career and life in general. They want to be heard, to participate in the decision-making process and for their work to have meaning. This isn’t unique to millennials. Pretty much everyone in every generation wants these things in their work experience.

From a very young age, millennials have been encouraged to pursue their dreams. They were also much more included in decision-making with their families. This is far different from my experience growing up as a Generation Xer. Older generations were raised differently as well. We “paid our dues” in the workplace before we got a seat at the big table. Millennials view this differently and this can create that generational tension. We shouldn’t assign any blame here, just recognize the different mindset. Recognizing that millennials want the same thing as every generation does, but have a different mindset on how to get there, goes a long way towards building a strong team relationship with millennials.

Managing Millennials Tip #2 – Be Flexible Where You Can

Millennials love flexibility especially when it comes to schedule and being able to use the latest technology. Look for opportunities to be flexible on how your team does work. It’s important to maintain the standards of excellence that your organization demands. For example, who cares when your team is in the office if they can do the work remotely? What events or activities do they really need to be present for? Where you can, let your millennial team members experiment with new tech, new methods, and alternate schedules. Enforce deadlines and standards on work products even as you give them new freedom.

Managing Millennials Tip #3 – Give Millennials Objectives, Not Tasks

Give your millennials problems to solve and let them figure out how to do it. As above, set clear standards that their results have to meet. Identify any legal or regulatory frameworks they must stay within and let them work inside that framework. If you’re new to letting your team have this much freedom, schedule in a few vector checks. These checks let your team update you before they proceed and are a great opportunity to give them further guidance.

Managing Millennials Tip #4 – Be a Coach and Mentor

Here at Evil Genius Leadership we believe one of our most important jobs as a leader is to develop the leaders coming up behind us. It’s especially important with millennials who are looking to have a coaching and mentor relationship with you. Sometimes a team member will have an idea for an improvement. Often it’s not quite fully formed or doesn’t take into account the whole situation. Rather than just saying no, sit down and discuss how they can make their proposal stronger. We all had mentors who took the time to invest in us. We should do the same for our team members.

You may recognize that these tips are all basic good leadership principles. We were talking about these ideas 20 to 30 years ago before millennials ever entered the workforce. As I said earlier, if you’re leading millennials, or are a millennial, and you have a different experience, leave us a comment and let’s continue the discussion. I’d love to hear what you think and refine these tips to make them valuable to even more people. Rather than looking at this as a “millennial problem” let’s just recognize that every generation comes with its own worldview. If we follow good leadership principles we can get past the tension from differing worldviews.

People who are really driven often struggle to get rest and relaxation. These tips will help you too if you have a hard time leaving work behind.

Rest and Relaxation – 4 Vacation Tips for Leaders

People who are really driven often struggle to get rest and relaxation. This week I’m on spring break from my MBA program and really looking forward to it. I’ve planned a few fun activities for myself and friends. I also have a few things I’d like to accomplish for my business with the downtime. Like a lot of people with big goals, I sometimes forget that a break is about resting and recharging. Sometimes I have a hard time getting my mind off of work.  I’m using these four tips this week to help me relax instead of falling back into work habits. I want to come back to school next week refreshed instead of more stressed out. These tips will help you too if you have a hard time leaving work behind when you go on vacation.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #1 – Prep your Team

The first tip happens before you even leave for your vacation. Make sure you know who is handling each of your responsibilities before you go and make sure they know! Look them in the eye and get a positive handoff. Give them any background they need to have.  Make sure they know where to find any information they might need to make a decision. Spell out how much authority they have to make decisions while you’re gone and what should wait until you get back. (for more on this see our Delegation video) Also, make sure they know how to reach you in an emergency. It’s probably a good idea to discuss what you think a real emergency is. You don’t want them calling you over every little thing that pops up.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #2 – Commit to Fun Activities

Commit yourself to fun activities during your time off. This is really important if you’re like me and find your mind wandering back to work. Before your vacation starts, pick a few things that you really want to do and commit to doing them. Put them on the calendar, or pay in advance for them if that helps you follow through. If I don’t make that commitment to myself, I’ll just let each day come and go. I’ll kind of putter around and do regular things and at the end of my vacation, I’ll wonder where the time went. For this week I’m doing some day trips and have some other fun meetups with friends planned. I’m more committed when I involve other people. If you have a hard time committing, Ask a  friend or family member to join you.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #3 – Cut the Cord

Cut the cord from your workplace and leave your laptop and phone behind. And if you can’t do that, make some time during the day that’s electronics free. Checking email and messages will keep you focused on work and won’t let your body and mind recharge. If you use your phone in your personal life, log out of your work email accounts to avoid distraction. There are apps you can try that will block certain apps when you choose. You can have your phone to take great pictures and post on social media while avoiding those work emails.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #4 – It’s Okay to Learn a Little

Your time off doesn’t have to be frivolous. It’s okay to do a little personal development on your vacation, but don’t let it take away from enjoying time with family and friends. Read that new leadership book you’ve been wanting to while you’re sitting on the beach or by the pool. Don’t focus too much on it. Put it down when it’s time to go do those fun activities you’ve committed yourself to.

I know it sounds a little crazy to put so much thought into how to relax. There are a lot of us who will gravitate back to business if there isn’t anyone to remind us to let go. If you’re like me, these 4 tips will help you stay present and engaged with your family and friends as you all enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation!

Adversity is a fact of life for any of us who challenge ourselves. These three tips might help you with overcoming adversity in your life.

Overcoming Adversity – 3 Tips to Turn Setbacks Into Comebacks

Adversity is a fact of life for any of us who challenge ourselves. I’ve faced some adversity in my life, both personal and professional. Sometimes it turned out great, sometimes not so much. Starting a business has been much harder than I ever thought it would. I knew it would be hard. I prepared myself, but some days are really difficult and I think about giving up. A lot of us take on big challenges because they’re hard. We accept the challenge knowing pain is on our chosen path. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, these three tips might help you with overcoming adversity in your life.

Overcoming Adversity Tip #1 – Don’t Do it Alone

When facing adversity, ask for help from friends and family. Use your support network. The people who really care about you will help you in any way they can. It may not be much and it may not solve your whole problem, but they will give what they can. Even talking about it with someone you trust can add some perspective. At the very least, you’ll feel like you’re not so alone. Connecting with others can help you find the strength and the courage to keep trying. Sometimes it’s enough to find enough strength to get up each morning and try again.

Overcoming Adversity Tip #2 – Find Some Joy in Your Life

This is going to be one of those times where I ask you to trust me because I am really bad at this one. When things get tough I tend to pull back. I neglect things that are fun and light-hearted because I want to solve the problem and get it off my mind. I’m working on it though and getting better at taking time for enjoyment. It helps a lot when life gets stressful. When you’re facing adversity, take more time for the people you care about and the things you really enjoy. I remind myself to find some joy every day. Even if I just do something simple like sitting in the sun or having an ice cream. Keep a little focus on what you enjoy in life and don’t get fixated on what’s going wrong.

Overcoming Adversity Tip #3 – Just Keep Going

I know it sounds too simple, but just keep going. Keep working on it, keep looking for a solution and don’t be afraid to tackle it from a different approach. Yes, there comes a time when you have to say I’ve done all that I can and maybe I should let this go, but you really want to exhaust all of the possibilities before you do that. If it’s important to you, just keep trying, tomorrow is a new day, things can always get better and sometimes we need to just keep pushing to get to where we want to be.

So there are three tips for when the challenges pile up and you feel like throwing in the towel. When you don’t think you can go on, remind yourself that you have people who care about you, that there are enjoyable things in life and that you do have the strength to go one more day. Try them when you feel overwhelmed. You’ll find that it helps you keep going.

Great teams just don't happen magically, though. Building a team takes hard work and commitment, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.

Building a Team – 4 Tips to Build Your Dream Team

The great thing about being a leader is all the great people on our teams. Great teams just don’t happen magically, though. Building a team takes hard work and commitment, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. In the military, we very rarely had the same people on a team from beginning to end. People were always moving in and out or getting reassigned. We were always in a mode of developing talent on our team and building our leadership capacity on those teams. Hopefully, you have a little bit more stability on your team. The tips in this post tips should help you build your team, whether you’re starting a new team for a brand new project, bringing new members to an existing team, or looking to do a little bit of development and training with your current team members.

Building a Team Tip #1 – Assess Your Needs

First and foremost, assess the needs of your team. Your needs could be skills, experience or knowledge. This is helpful if you’ve already got an existing team and you need to bring in a new member. We don’t always get to choose the members of our team, but if you do, look at the skills you need on your team. Find someone who’s got that skill set or at least some of those skills. If you can’t find someone with exactly the skill set you need, don’t worry about it. Find someone who has most of what you need.  Develop the rest of the skills in them or in another team member.

Building a Team Tip #2 – Find People Who Complement You

When looking for people for your team, find people who complement you and the other members of your team. Look for people who complement you in areas you’re not as strong, as well as areas where you complement them. This relates not just to technical skills, knowledge, and experience as mentioned above, but also personality, attitudes, and behaviors. If you’re not really a people person, you might want someone on your team who is a little warmer and personable to help make people feel more welcome.  Build your team with people who complement each other so that you’re all working as a team and providing all the support that everybody needs

Building a Team Tip #3 – Think About Culture

Think about the culture you want on your team and to bring in people who match that culture. If you’re a startup there will probably be a lot of late nights. Your team might be jumping on a plane at the last-minute, so bring in people who are going to be comfortable with that unpredictability. If you’re in a bigger organization that prides itself on excellence, being thorough and discipline, much like the military, those are going the kind of people you want to bring in. Culture doesn’t have to match perfectly. You should look for people who complement the existing culture as well. People who might be a devil’s advocate or have a different perspective than the rest of the team can drive innovation on your team.

Building a Team Tip #4 – Have a Plan

Make a plan to develop each team member. Consider their leadership skills as well as their technical skills. It’s important to have a plan to ensure everyone on your team gets leadership opportunities to grow and move up into a leadership position when the time is right. Without a plan sometimes we can unwittingly play favorites or overlook people. Work with each member of your team to develop an individual plan for their development and career advancement. Include soft skills like leadership skills, presentation skills, and communication skills that don’t lend themselves easily to technical analysis.

Building a Team Bonus Tip – Know When to Let Go

Don’t be afraid to let your team members move on when they get a great opportunity take a leadership role somewhere else. A lot of leaders want to keep their team together because they’ve got things working well, but we need to let our team members move on to greater opportunities so they can do great things in the world. There comes a time when every person needs to move on and do something else. As leaders, we should embrace that and help our team members prepare for that day.

Try these tips for building a team whether it’s a pre-existing team or you’re getting to pick your dream team to start a brand new project. Assess your needs and put that team together so that the members complement each other in terms of skills and personality traits. Stay conscious of your team culture and develop your team members you can all move on and grow together to greater opportunities.

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