There have been many books written about how to manage your time. There are planning systems, filing systems and approaches from Eat the Frog to Franklin to GTD and from 168 Hours to Zen Habits. Ultimately these are all in service of how you manage your attention.

Attention is the sustained focus of cognitive resources on information while filtering or ignoring extraneous information. Where you point your attention is where your time and energy go. Your attention dictates your experience.

Reflections on Attention:

  • Time is not money – time is a resource that must be managed just like your energy, your money and your attention. Do you consciously decide where to put your attention?
  • There’s an app for that – whether it’s Focus Booster, focus@will or Rescue Time, there are a variety of technology tools that can assist you as you work to intentionally focus your attention.
  • Manage Distractions – you cannot completely eliminate distractions but you can manage the environment and technology around you that creates distractions. For example, turn off the email alert that lets you know when you have a new email message. Think about where distractions come from and consider whether you can change your environment to eliminate the distraction. Headphones are becoming a hot accessory in today’s open working environment because they are a way of helping people manage noise and distractions. How can you modify your environment to reduce distractions?
  • Winning creates focus – where are you going, what will it be like when you get there and how will you behave along the way? When everyone is clear on what winning looks like and what it takes to make it happen you will be able to prioritize and get focused. Get clear on winning and paint a compelling picture for your team or organization.

Instead of worrying about managing your time, decide where you will focus your attention. Last week we were researching something on the internet and came across information on Chicago’s best burgers. That random encounter captured our attention to such an extent that we decided to go experience Au Cheval’s highly acclaimed burger for ourselves.

It wasn’t in our schedule but the attention we gave to this random internet encounter created the interest and eventual motivation to go experience a burger. So much for the healthy veggie stir fry that was planned for dinner. Although we didn’t wait the 2 ½ hours (yes, you read that right, 150 minute wait to eat a burger) we were inspired to share with you the importance of intentionally focusing your attention.

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    The Man Who Invented Management (and commented on leadership)

    Leadership Management

    We love quotes because they capture the essence of a concept and serve as a powerful mental stimulation when they motivate action or shift your mindset.

    Here are a few of our favorites from Peter Drucker:

    “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

    “Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people”, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” ~ Peter F. Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices

    “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.”

    “Every enterprise requires commitment to common goals and shared values. Without such commitment there is no enterprise; there is only a mob. The enterprise must have simple, clear, and unifying objectives. The mission of the organization has to be clear enough and big enough to provide common vision. The goals that embody it have to be clear, public, and constantly reaffirmed. Management’s first job is to think through, set, and exemplify those objectives, values, and goals.”

    “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”

    “The best way to predict your future is to create it”



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      Sponge Squeezing on Vacation

      As we were finishing our strategic session last Friday, our client, a C-level executive on her way to vacation, shared that she’d be online this week and would be happy to work on the VP presentation. Today’s tip is dedicated to this executive and everyone who goes on vacation with the intention of “checking in”.

      On vacation you need to take time
      to squeeze your sponge.

      In Managing at the Speed of Change, Daryl Conner explains the concept of the sponge. “Within each person is a limited capacity for assimilation of change. When a person’s finite resources of intellectual energy and physical stamina are used up it doesn’t matter how much the person wants to change, he or she is out of capacity.”

      Many things can “suck up your sponge space.” There are personal changes like getting married, going back to school, starting a job and caring for an aging parent. There are work changes like a new assignment, a process change or a new boss. There is also the pace and speed of your work that can absorb your sponge capacity.

      No one is super human with a limitless sponge. When you take time to understand your capacity and manage it well, you will improve your ability to recover from change. You will achieve greater success with less effort.

      When you are saturated from change, it’s helpful to understand that you are not crazy and there is nothing wrong with you. Step away from the sponge and decide whether you want to wring it out (reduce change and complexity) or grow it (practice resilience).

      The purpose of vacation is sponge squeezing. This is a chance to get away from the pressures of daily living and squeeze deeply. Don’t rob yourself of this time to get control of your sponge. Soon enough you’ll be back at work and filling up.

      Wine“In memory of a fabulous wine night in the BVI – sponge squeezing”

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        Leading Without Authority

        Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “Influence without authority.” We equate influence with leadership.  In our observation there are many times people need to lead or influence others when they do not have the positional authority of a leader.

        A few tips on leading without authority:

        •  Get Clear – what is it that you want or need? If you do not get clear and specific about the outcome you want, it’s very difficult to influence people in that direction.
        • Get input – You’ll get far better results if you commit to and advocate for a desired outcome but invite others to participate in defining the process for achieving that outcome. This is what buy-in is all about. Getting others involved in the accomplishment of the outcome.
        • Get permission – Earn the right to influence. This means being present and following through on your commitments no matter how big or small. Dan Sullivan of the Strategic Coach© talks about the four habits of referability. The habits are, show up on time, do what you say you are going to do, finish what you start and say “please” and “thank you.” These small practices earn you the right to influence others.
        • Get connected – cultivate a relationship with peers and bring them into a supportive role. You will get a lot further in your influence when there are several people who are collectively advocating your position. This is about coalition creation. View everyone as a potential ally and create connections through positive action.
        • Give – Build Relationship Currency by applying the influence principle of reciprocity. Reach out to help people and accept their requests to provide support on a regular basis. This can’t come across as an exchange. However, the principle of reciprocity means that you can cash in some of the currency that you’ve banked and use it to solicit support when needed.

        In matrix organizations, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of competing goals, deadlines, and battles for resources and forget that everyone is ultimately working toward collective organizational success. Get clear, get input, get permission, get connected and give in order to boost your ability to lead without authority.

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          Use Checklists for Increased Success

          The Checklist Manifesto was released in 2009 and has timeless insights to help you be more successful as you manage the complexities of life.

          Checklists are used in aviation, construction, investing, medicine and many other professions and places where quality and consistency matters. Is there a place in your life for an effective checklist?


          Effective checklists are efficient, to the point and practical. They should not be used in a rigid, “check-the-box” fashion. They enhance decision-making in a world that is growing increasingly complex. Checklists make priorities clearer and even help people function better as a team.

          Tips for Great Checklists:

          • SIMPLE – a multi-page checklist is not useful. A checklist must be brief. The ideal is five to nine items. Focus on what’s most critical, not every detail.
          • CLEAR – in words and visually. Use language and terms that people understand. The checklist should fit on one page and be clutter free.
          • DC / RD – There is a difference between do-and-confirm (DC) versus read-and-do (RD.) This is a really helpful distinction to consider. Do-and-confirm items are about validating that something has been completed. Read-and-do items are action oriented tasks.

          Checklists make priorities clearer and even help people function better as a team, especially when the unexpected occurs. Remember the Miracle on the Hudson? When Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his crew on US Airways flight 1549 lost both of their engines over New York City, they had only three minutes to react. The first thing they did was to get out their checklists.
          You can read more about checklists in The New Yorker article by Atul Gawande’s.

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            You may remember Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, the first person to fly solo across the Pacific, and the first person to cross both oceans alone in an airplane before she vanished mysteriously over the Pacific in July 1937. In addition to her passion for flight, she was also a prolific author. Here is one of her poems. Think about this in the context of her accomplishmentsAmelia


             A Poem by Amelia Earhart

             Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.

             The soul that knows it not knows no release

             From little things;


            Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,

            Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear

             The sound of wings.


            Nor can life grant us boon of living, compensate

            For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate

            Unless we dare


            The soul’s dominion? Each time we make a choice, we pay

            With courage to behold the restless day,

             And count it fair.


            More about the poems of Amelia Earhart



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              Leaders are Great Communicators

              Virtually every company we’ve worked with has had feedback from their employees that they need to improve communication.

              Better communication begins with leaders. It’s not about more emails, more town halls and more talking at employees. Communication is a conversation with employees.

              Every leader’s communication style is different. To be authentic, a leader must leverage their unique strengths and capabilities to maximize their communication effectiveness.

              Find your voice and use it well. But remember that you have two ears and one mouth which is a reminder to listen twice as much as you talk!

              Tips for Effective Communication

              • Context is King – you cannot assume that anyone knows where you’re coming from if you don’t tell them.
              • Consistency – create a message map. Capture the key and core ideas that need shared. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.The map ensures that everyone knows the direction and is oriented about how this message connects to everything else going on in the organization. The heart of your message must remain consistent but the method of delivery may vary. To maintain consistency, it’s also important to link messages to your organizational strategy and values.
              • Connection – don’t change your message but adjust your approach to connect with your audience. Remember that different people relate in different ways. Get to know your audience and speak in language that they understand. Start from their perspective and connect where they are back to your message.
              • Clarity – use clear and concise language. Remember K.I.S.S.? Kiss your audience with clarity!
              • Create a listening loop – leaders must have mechanisms to listen as well as talk. Whether this is skip level meetings or intentional networks (we’ve helped leaders build change champion networks to formalize the informal grapevine and get better feedback) leaders must listen at all levels in their organization.

              A great communicator begins from the perspective of the audience. They give clear, consistent messages that contain the context needed to understand the why. Through communication a leader reinforces the vision, champions change, transfers ideas, aligns expectations and inspires action. Leaders give hope and leaders give clarity. Great leaders are great communicators.

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                Leaders are Courageous

                Being courageous does not mean being without fear. Being courageous is about moving forward despite challenges, obstacles and resistance. Courage is remaining steadfast and persevering through the consequences of decisions in pursuit of your vision.


                Six Actions of Courageous Leaders

                1. Face Reality – too many changes, ideas or projects are implemented without a clear understanding of the current state. In Great by Choice, authors Collins and Hanson talk about Productive Paranoia as one component of their trifecta of 10x leadership. This involves remaining vigilantly aware of reality and being ready to respond. Courageous leaders must isolate reality from the noise around them and be prepared to take effective action. You cannot lead into the future if you do not know where you are starting from.
                2. Pay Attention – at all levels. Get feedback, have skip level meetings, meet with customers, talk with colleagues across your industry. Courageous leaders get input from many sources and pay attention across all levels of the organization.
                3. Have Difficult Conversations – this means communicating bad news as needed, holding others accountable and saying what needs to be said. Courageous leaders add and remove people who are unable or unwilling to be part of the mission. When a leader is unwilling to take action to address difficult situations they compromise the integrity of their leadership and risk significant loss of engagement from their team.
                4. Encourage Conflict – this doesn’t mean fighting or tension, this is about healthy debate and inclusion of multiple perspectives. Courageous leaders welcome different points of view and realize that the more constructive debate, the better the outcome. Courageous leaders do not need to be right, they want to get to the right answer. Constructive conflict leads to better answers.
                5. Self-discipline – be disciplined in your language, your decisions and your focus. Many organizations suffer from leaders that struggle to say no. Setting strategy or creating any kind of meaningful change is more about what you say “no” to than what you do. The discipline to remain committed to that strategy or change is the difference between mediocre and extraordinary success.
                6. Set High Standards – courageous leaders don’t settle for average. They set high standards. However, when the standards are not achieved, they acknowledge failures. When high standards are accomplished, they don’t take it for granted, they recognize and celebrate success. Through BOTH success and failure courageous leaders learn what to do more of and what to change.
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                  Leaders are Growth Minded

                  Why do why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others do not?

                  In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, explores how both our conscious and unconscious beliefs have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. One of the most significant beliefs is how we view ourselves.

                  Do you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed?

                  If you believe your intelligence or talents are fixed, then you spend your time documenting your accomplishments to prove your capabilities rather than developing them. If you believe in a growth mindset then you see your intelligence or capabilities as a muscle that can grow and be developed.

                  Here are tips for growth minded leaders who have a desire to improve and grow:

                  • Set learning goals rather than performance goals – when you are measuring against performance, any failure threatens self-image. When you measure against learning you will take the risks needed to grow.
                  • Be open to feedback – a fixed mindset believes criticism of their capabilities = criticism of them. A growth mindset sees criticism as feedback that can help them change and improve. It’s not personal, it’s about getting better and improving your capabilities.

                  HERE is a link to a graphic that compares and contrasts the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. As a leader you will only achieve your full potential when you choose to live from a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. This includes viewing those around you through a growth lens.

                  Leaders are responsible for growing themselves AND their people.

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                    Leaders are Learners

                    LearnHow are you intentionally growing, improving and learning? You don’t have to be in school to continue learning.

                    Don’t succumb to the “Summer Reading List.” While you can use the list for pleasure reading, we suggest that you make time to intentionally grow and learn in strategic areas.

                    Are you a sloppy reader? Are you a random reader? Do you have an intentional reading strategy? Steve Leveen of Levenger wrote “The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life.” This insightful tome suggests that no one can be well-read in all or even most things. The secret is to take control of your reading life.

                    Here are some suggestions to create your custom reading strategy:

                    • Start – with a list of topics. What are your interests and passions? Why read in a myopically specific area? Broaden your horizons by identifying your full range of interests and broaden your reading list. Identify the best authors and most renowned books in your areas of interest. Why settle for less than the best?
                    • Collect – titles of books that you add to your candidate list; these are candidates for your attention not candidates of obligation. If someone makes a recommendation ask them why they like the book so much. Make sure it fits your areas of interest.
                    • Focus – your reading time and attention on the best books from your candidate list rather than random books. Plan your reading then read according to your plan!
                    • Enjoy – do not finish a book that you are not enjoying (unless it’s a class assignment!) there are too many books in this world to read. Don’t spend time slogging through a book that brings you no pleasure or benefit.

                    Start today to create your custom reading list of books that suit your unique interests. Take control of your reading life and make a plan to read.

                    Speaking of learning… do not miss out on learning from experts in the field of culture and leadership.

                    Culture Conference 2015

                    Register today so you can take advantage of the advance registration rate of only $225. Edgar Schein is a featured speaker and so are we. Hope to see you there.

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