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.

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!

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.

As we grow as leaders we start to set goals for ourselves and our team. These tips will get you smashing through goals so you can go on to bigger things.

Smashing Through Goals – 4 Tips to Achieve Yours

As we grow as leaders we start to set goals for ourselves and for our team. This can be a bit of a learning experience. Once we start setting the goals, we don’t have anyone checking up on us to follow through. After several years in the Air Force, I gained more responsibility and had more people working for me. I was the one setting the goals but no one was really chasing me to achieve them. When I was starting my own business, I had a goal to write a business plan. No one else was looking for it, was just something I thought was a good idea. I had to figure out a way to get that business plan done without anyone else following up with me. These tips will get you smashing through goals so you can go on to bigger things.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #1 – Well Written Goals

This is a bit of a review, but you need well-written goals. When I talk with people about setting their goals, I make sure they are clear, measurable and achievable. I won’t go into all the details of what that means. I’ve got another post on setting goals where you can more information on what clear, measurable and achievable are all about. There are other methods for writing goals like SMART, but I like the idea of clear, measurable and achievable. It’s simple and easy to remember. With this method, you’ll quickly build tools and systems to track your goals which are critical to achieving them.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #2 – Build Tools & Systems

Tools and systems are key to sticking to the actions you need to take to achieve your goal. When I was writing my business plan, it never would have gotten done without a system.  I made a contract with myself that each night after dinner I would work for an hour on it. Using that system, I actually knocked it out in just a couple of weeks just working an hour a night. There were a lot of nights that I would say “I’m really onto something here. I’m going to work for a little longer.” That was a system that worked great for me. You need to figure out what works for you. If you’ve tried a system for a couple of weeks and it’s not working, don’t be afraid to reevaluate. Maybe throw that system out and try something new to help you get to your goals.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #3 – Track Your Progress

Everyone talks about this, everyone hears about it, we all know we need to do it. It’s one of the things that often doesn’t get done. Tracking your goals doesn’t need to be elaborate. It just needs to be appropriate for what you’re trying to do. In the video, I show you how I’m tracking my social media audience goals this year. You want to make tracking easy. If you can find there’s a data out there already, like social media platform analytics, use it. I’m just bringing that data together to create a snapshot to see how I’m doing. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if someone’s already collecting the data. When using other people’s data, it probably will not answer your questions directly. You may have to pull in different sources of data and make some assumptions to apply it to your goals.

Smashing Through Goals Tip #4 – Assess and Adjust

Tracking your progress is useless unless you use the data and conclusions to assess your progress and adjust. Each month I assess if I achieved my social media goals. If I didn’t, I’ll decide what changes to make to meet those goals next month. When it comes to adjusting, you may decide you need to adjust your goal because it was too lofty. That’s a reasonable approach, but consider adjusting your actions in the future to reach that goal. That can be a little bit of an iterative process. As you continue to assess, take some different actions or increase the intensity on your actions.

So there are your four tips for smashing through goals. Remember it’s important to make sure that your goals are well written, that clear, measurable and achievable. Build tools and systems that help you follow through on those goals. Track your progress to see if the tools and systems you’ve built are working. Look for trends the data, assess and adjust. Instead of changing or throwing out your goal, adjust where you’re putting your effort instead of making radical changes to your goals or your life plan.

When I was in the Air Force, taking care of myself and healthy living didn't always happen. Those are the first things that I let go when I got busy or traveling a lot.

Healthy Living Tips – 4 Tips to be a Healthy Leader

Summer is coming and lots of fun activities are coming up. It’s more important than ever that we take care of ourselves. When I was in the Air Force, taking care of myself and healthy living didn’t always happen. Those are the first things that I let go when I got busy or traveling a lot. Financial advisors say you’ve got to pay yourself first. We’ve got to do that with our health as well. These four areas to focus on will help improve your health, reduce your stress and keep your energy level high. Follow these tips and you’ll have the energy for fun summer activities while still getting the job done.

Healthy Living Tip #1 – Get Enough Sleep

We’re almost all guilty of not getting enough sleep. It’s important to do what works for you.Many people advocate eight hours of sleep. Others say that you only need four. Try this exercise. Go to bed and don’t set an alarm, just sleep until you wake up. See how much sleep you need to feel refreshed, and adjust your schedule around that. Also, it’s not just about your sleep schedule. You’ve got to find the right times of day to take a break based on that rhythm. I like to take breaks in the late morning, and mid-afternoon about three o’clock. That’s where I usually schedule workout time or other things where I don’t have to be focused on one task. Try to find those natural break points in your day where you need to get a break.

Healthy Living Tip #2 – Drink Enough Water

No matter how much water you’re drinking is probably not enough.  I live in Las Vegas and I don’t think I can ever push enough water through my system. Water is really important many of the body functions we take for granted. If you feel fatigued or get headaches while you’re working, you’re probably not getting enough water. Before you start popping a lot of pain relievers, make sure you’re hydrated and see if that solves that problem. It’s really important, no matter where you live, that we all get enough water this summer.

Healthy Living Tip #3 – Get Enough Exercise

This sounds really obvious. You’ve got to get some exercise to get your body working efficiently. Exercise is going to start help you use your energy much more efficiently. You may find that instead of needing nine or ten hours of sleep, you may be able to use less. You may find that your body changes and those natural rhythms change if you’re getting enough exercise. Try to mix up cardio and strength training based on your fitness goals. Talk to a trainer or someone who understands exercise physiology to help set those goals. Regular exercise will help you reach peak efficiency when you’re working through really tough times or if you have to surge.

Healthy Living Tip #4 – Eat Healthy Food

Eating healthy fuels everything you do. That’s where all your energy comes from. So the sleep, the water, the exercise, all that isn’t going to tie together unless you’re eating healthy. It’s really hard to eat healthy, especially if you travel a lot. I still need tools and systems to eat healthy. I go to the grocery store every Sunday and buy exactly what I need for the week for all my meals. This limits any overeating because I’m out of food by the end of the week. Figure out what your nutritional goals are and build a meal plan around it accordingly. You don’t have to use my method, but if you’re having trouble sticking to a meal plan, give that a try.

There are your four tips for healthy living as a leader. I’ve tried to live them the best I can. I fall down just like everybody else does once in a while, but that’s part of being human. When I wasn’t trying these tips, I wasn’t unhealthy, but I’m much happier now and have more energy. Try to get enough sleep, get enough water, exercise, and eat healthy. Try this for 30 days and see how you feel at the end of it. I bet you’ll feel a lot better and you’ll be able to stick with it for even longer if you do it for 30 days.

These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you've got great teamwork skills.

Followership – 4 Tips to be a Great Team Player

In our last post, we talked about how managers can understand Millennials, as well as build strong working relationships with them. Working relationships and respect are a two-way street. This week we’ll talk about how to be a great follower and team player. This is important for everyone, no matter what generation. Whether you’re Millennial, Boomer or Gen X, these tips are going to help you be a great team player. Even if you own your own business, you are still responsive to customers, clients, and possibly even investors. These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you’ve got great teamwork skills.

Followership Tip #1 – Know Your Organization’s Mission

We all get really head-down sometimes working on our tasks. Sometimes we divert in a direction that’s not really productive because we’ve lost focus on our mission. We focus so much on details, we forget we’re serving a larger purpose. That’s why we’re part of a team, to achieve something that we couldn’t do on our own. Recognize what your organization’s mission is. Focus your efforts on enhancing that mission. Don’t be afraid to speak up if an idea doesn’t align with the mission. Work with the people around you to ensure all your ideas and efforts serve your organization’s mission.

Followership Tip #2 – Know What Your Boss is Held Accountable For

Do you know how your organization measures your team for success? You may all be working towards a stated mission, but your team leader might be accountable for things outside of what your awareness. Your boss’s boss may be measuring the success of your team and your leader on other factors. What is your boss held accountable for? It may not just be what’s going on your team. Understand the metrics used to measure your team. Keep track of the metrics that senior leadership uses to measure success for the whole organization. You will learn how your leadership makes decisions as well as how to present your ideas so they will be well received.

Followership Tip #2 – Show Initiative

There’s always a lot of tasks to do in any organization. We all appreciate the people who step up and do them. Those people show strong leadership potential and we select them to be team leaders in the future. Find uncompleted tasks and do them. Don’t worry if it’s not in your job description. Or put together a small team inside your team to get it done. This comes back to what your boss is held accountable for. If there are things that are falling by the wayside, show some initiative and get them done. Show senior leadership you’ll be a great leader by exhibiting good followership.

Followership Tip #4 – Present Fully Formed Ideas

Last week we talked about how leaders should be coaching and mentoring young Millennials to fully form ideas before presenting them. Ask for mentoring and coaching, but also try to meet your boss halfway. Be as thorough as you can when you put together ideas to pitch to your boss. Recognize what the impacts will be, not just to you, but to your team as a whole. Also, consider impacts to other stakeholders outside of your team. Define those impacts in terms of money, time or any other important metrics, as well as solicit the perspectives of others. Talk with the other teams and find out how your proposal will impact them. Will they support your proposal? Bring all the relevant information and perspectives together and present it in a clear and easily understandable format. This will help you make a very strong case for your idea to your boss.

Followership is the core of leadership. In the Air Force, we worked very hard to create great followers that understood the principles of good leadership and became great leaders later on. and I hope that works for you too. Next time you want to propose something to your boss use these tips to make a strong case. Show initiative and put together a really well thought out plan. By meeting your boss halfway, you’ll have more conversations about great ideas, instead of just getting quick yes or no answers.

It's definitely challenging keeping a team focused when traveling. Here are some business travel tips I found effective when leading from the road.

Business Travel Tips – 4 Tips for Leading From the Road

I used to travel a lot for work when I was in the Air Force. We called it TDY, which was short for temporary duty. At one point I was traveling 3 or 4 days each week, at least 3 weeks out of the month. In this assignment, I was Director of Operations for a squadron. I kept 60 people all moving in the same direction to accomplish our mission. It was amazing to travel to all those places, but it’s definitely challenging keeping a team focused when traveling.  I found these four business travel tips effective when leading from the road.

Last week we talked about some tips for leaders when taking some time off. Those tips were mainly about disconnecting effectively. This week we’ll focus on staying connected, but some tips from last time are still valuable in this case too.

Business Travel Tip #1 – Prepare Your Team

Have a plan before you depart, just like when you’re heading out the door for vacation. Make sure you know who is handling each of your responsibilities before you go and make sure they know! Get that positive handoff we talked about last time. Make sure they know where to find all of the information they might need to make a decision. Delegate authority to make decisions while you’re gone and be clear what they need to contact you about. Provide a way for your team to reach you in an emergency. Just like last week, discuss what constitutes a real emergency so they don’t contact you over every little thing that pops up.

Business Travel Tip #2 – Stay Connected

Tip #2 is to stay connected. This is a lot easier now than it was 10 years ago. Back then even with a cell phone and Blackberry, it was challenging to communicate and get information to make decisions. You couldn’t really read attachments on a blackberry, coverage was spotty and public wi-fi was rare. It’s a lot easier now with cloud storage, smartphones, and video chat. Take advantage of all of the tools you have at your disposal to connect and communicate with your team. If you’re not using these tools and you travel a lot, consider trying them out next time you travel.

Business Travel Tip #3 – Stay Engaged with Your Team

Staying connected is about more than just using the latest tools. There’s some time management that goes along with it. Plan time during your trip to connect with your team members. You may not need to connect each day with everyone, but checking in while traveling is a good practice. You may be uniquely suited to solve a problem for your team because you’re in a location where you can address the issue face-to-face.  I know how tiring travel can be. The last thing you want to do make calls or read email after traveling all day, but the insight you’ll get from your team can make your trip even more productive. It’s okay to be selective with what you discuss with your team. If it’s a conversation that can wait until you get back, it’s okay to say so.

Business Travel Tip #4 – Use Downtime Effectively

Travel is almost always an exercise in hurry up and wait. Flights get delayed, we wait for cabs and ridesharing. There’s always a few minutes here and there to take care of little things. I will usually triage emails and do social media engagement when any time I’m waiting. This downtime is great for taking care of quick little tasks that often fall by the wayside. If you know ahead of time that you have a longer period of downtime, you can plan on doing a larger task. You can even use this downtime to engage with your team to answer their questions or give them some guidance.

There you go, 4 tips to help you lead your team while you’re traveling. Nothing is ever a perfect solution and these aren’t substitutes for being at home face to face with your team, but these 4 tips can help you stay connected and engaged with your team while you’re gone and I know they’ll appreciate it!

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!

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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