October 2015 LeadershipTraction Newsletter

The LeadershipTraction Newsletter

Barry Zweibel, here, welcoming you to the October 2015 edition of my LeadershipTraction newsletter. Sometimes the only thing that separates us from our most outstanding work is one new idea or one turn of the phrase that puts everything in place. My hope is that this provides you with exactly that. 

To you at your best,

- bz

Priority Overload

Oct 26, 2015 12:13 pm


… from a post of mine in the Ask An Expert forum at the Mentor’s Guild

Question: How to prioritize when everything is Top Priority?

“After a long corporate career, I have moved to a smaller organization in my industry. I work on several simultaneous projects and report to the CEO. I have fewer staff and more responsibilities, which I was expecting. However, I am quite surprised by a culture where everything seems to be Top Priority…all the time. What’s the best way for me to bring this up? I want to understand if this is a passing phase or the organization’s culture.”

My Answer:

Your situation is not atypical for those moving from larger to smaller organizations. Therefore, let me take a slightly different approach than my colleagues have and encourage you to look at what improvements YOU can make in how you juggle priorities.

Some suggestions for becoming a much better juggler:

• Accept that any frustration or productivity loss you’re experiencing when shifting between priorities is self-imposed.

• Refuse to grouse about how inconvenient and disruptive the sudden shifts are — your job doesn’t allow for the luxury of self-pity. Oh well. When priorities may be plentiful, know that the effective utilization of your time is what’s really #1. Your time is a scarce resource; use it more wisely and powerfully. (Instead of taking 60 minutes for a meeting; finish in 45; instead of asking 5-7 questions to get what you need, ask 2 or 3; instead of focusing on activities, focus on desired outcomes; etc.)

• Envision your job less linearly — more like a portfolio manager, responsible for multiple projects (all at once), than a project manger responsible for only one (at a time).

• Get significantly better at shifting more seamlessly between priorities by studying what those who do it better than you are doing that you are not. Study, too, what they are not doing that you are. Then take those best practices and make them your own.

• Shift from a priority-based focus to a time-based focus, meaning, start with a time interval (say 15 minutes), determine what you can do to move this priority meaningfully forward within that time frame, and do that. Then repeat the process for the next priority, etc. Challenge yourself to achieve increasingly meaningful outcomes in decreasing amounts of time.

Is it easy? No. Is it important? Absolutely. Be proud that you get to report directly to the CEO, that your job is to keep things moving for him/her and the company, and that this quicker tempo is something you’re working to master.

1 Source: The Mentor’s Guild Ask an Expert forum.

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Winning When Losing

Oct 23, 2015 10:25 am

“No one was trying to grab any credit or deflect any blame.”

So said Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs after his team lost 4 straight to the New York Mets in the 2015 National League Championship Series.

Good for him,  I say.

{And a moment of silence and appreciation for those Cubbies and what an awesome year they had……….Thank you.}

“They all supported one another,” Epstein continued, “and in the end the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.”

So that’s them, but now look at how you run your organization, whether it’s a small work group, department, division, or an entire company. How do you, as your organization’s leader, handle pressure, and expectations, and failure and disappointment?

  • Do you leverage the learning opportunities or just go with blame?
  • Do you whine and moan or model a better way?
  • Do you hold grudges or redouble your efforts to lead more compellingly?

You see, knowing which side of the fair/foul line you’re on matters. And which side of the fair/foul line you’re on is a choice that YOU get to make.

Which begs the question:

“Which side of the fair/foul line would your staff say you’ve chosen to be on?!”

Success Springs from Failure

Napoleon Hill said that “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Your job, as a leader, is to find that seed, talk about its importance, and set the stage for learning and growing from it.

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Motives, Intentions, and Unmet Needs

Oct 09, 2015 11:30 am



Image Source: wikimedia.org

The best intentions will rarely, if ever, outweigh the deepest of motives. That is, your intentions may be honorable, but they’ll only be as real as your underlying motives allow them to be.

And thinking otherwise is just an illusion.

What Are Motives?

A motive is defined as “something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing.” They are extremely powerful, and what’s more, we’re often totally unaware of what our true motives really are! So let’s take a closer look at them.

According to one of my all-time favorite self-help guru’s, Napoleon Hill, there are 9 basic motives that (often secretly)  influence a person’s mind:

  1. the motive of self-preservation
  2. the motive of financial gain
  3. the motive of love
  4. the motive of sexual urge
  5. the motive of desire for power and fame 
  6. the motive of fear
  7. the motive of revenge
  8. the motive of freedom (of mind and body)
  9. the motive of desire to build and to create in thought and in material

More on these in a bit.

What Are Intentions?

Intentions are the “purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct.” That’s somewhat similar, but as you will soon see, decidedly different from one’s underlying motives.

A leader may, for example, intend to treat his/her direct reports with the utmost respect and regard, but his/her behaviors may be altered from that intention based on an underlying motive. Consider:

  • the motive of self-preservation may result in that leader throwing a direct report ‘under the bus’ when pressure from on-high starts to build
  • the motive of financial gain and the motive of desire for power or fame may result in that leader stealing the limelight from his/her direct reports instead of sharing the credit they duly deserve
  • the motive of fear may result in that leader playing it safe instead of doing what’s right
  • the motive of freedom (of mind and body) may have that leader insure his/her own work/life balance at the expense of the work/life balance of his/her staff

Motives versus Intentions

It’s great to have good intentions. But it’s essential that you understand the motives that (secretly) drive you. That’s because how we want to behave is driven by our intentions, but how we actually behave is driven by our motives – and our motives are driven by our unmet needs. Yet we often fail to realize how our motives really run the show.

How clear are YOU on your underlying motives? How clear are you on how your unmet needs are driving you?

It’s in your personal and professional best-interest to know.

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No, They Won’t Just Forget

Oct 01, 2015 02:06 pm


Screw something up and, just to break even, you’ll need 5 times as many successes, each 5-times more value than your original mistake.

Why? Because that’s how it works. And while you don’t have to like it, you do have to know it’s how things work.

People are so like elephants – they never forget!

It’s been documented that people (including, likely, you) are hard-wired to remember, and talk about, what others do wrong:

  • 87% of people may share their good customer service experiences with others, but 95% share their bad ones.
  • 22% of people may share their good customer service experiences with more than 5 people, but 54% share their bad experiences with more than 5 people.

And can you think of a more important ‘customer service’ experience than leadership?!

So, yes, when we mess something up, people remember. Our ‘sins of the past’ – whether we define them as ‘sins’ or not – really do have a carryover effect.

What You Need To Remember

  • That even though this ‘5-times’ math may seem fuzzy to you, it’s as clear as can be to others.
  • That this ‘5-times’ math likely understates what you really need to do to get back in someone’s good graces, once you offend or disrespect or ignore them.
  • That complaining about how unfair this math is effectively increases the multiplier you need to get back in someone’s good graces.

What You Need to Do

  • Clean up whatever messes you’ve caused by accepting responsibility for your actions and doing something awesome – 5 things awesome, preferably – to make amends.
  • Give your full attention to making whatever you do the best it possibly can be for those you work with and for.
  • Take pride in knowing that you’re someone who is motivated enough to work powerfully and capably – and is willing to prove it and be held accountable for it…repeatedly.

Ready? Go!

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