The Lead Yourself First Blog

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Leaving a leadership legacy: Three tenets to live by

As I watched the founder of one of Canada’s best places to work grace the stage, it became apparent that not only was he deeply moved by the reaction of his staff, but also reflective and humbled as his team applauded and stood to honour his legacy. Every team member, as well as managers at all levels, had been impacted by their founder’s philosophy, both personally and professionally.

Rarely have I seen such a display of affection for a leader, for a company. The fabric of the organization’s culture was entirely woven by the values and principles of a very special man. On this occasion, staff had gathered from around the world to celebrate a major milestone in the company’s history.  All were acutely aware of the significance of the event and the moment, realizing that the organization’s next chapter would be theirs to write.  Continue reading “Leaving a leadership legacy: Three tenets to live by”

Young Business People

Confidence, Composure, Credibility: How to maintain a collaborative spirit at work

It is often said that we spend more time with our work colleagues than our own families. With many of us working long hours, the pressure of juggling multiple tasks, doing more with less and managing mounting stress can often take a toll. In addition, we find ourselves spinning our wheels knowing that we need to be the best versions of ourselves at all times; maintaining a helpful and pleasant demeanor with our internal and external clients alike. However, the ability to work collaboratively while being mindful of our emotions sometimes eludes us for one simple reason: our humanness.

How do we preserve a spirit of cooperation when working with diverse personalities, differences of opinion, clashing values and varied interpretations of priorities?  How is it possible to rise above the small stuff and remain focused on the big picture? The answer lies in leading yourself first in all relationships, professional and personal, by honing these skills: Continue reading “Confidence, Composure, Credibility: How to maintain a collaborative spirit at work”

image: group of people giving the thumbs up

Why New Year Resolutions Fail: Five ways to lead yourself in 2015

re·solve verb \ri-ˈzälv, -ˈzȯlv also -ˈzäv or -ˈzȯv\ :To make a definite and serious decision to do something.

Eat less. Exercise more. Get a new job. Start a savings plan. Ditch your partner…whatever lofty goal you decide to set for yourself, it is likely you will give up before the first month of 2015 comes to an end, if not sooner. Sadly, the statistics aren’t good. Although millions will start the year with the best intentions, only eight percent will achieve their new year’s resolutions.

How does one explain the fact that year after year, the vast majority who set resolutions succumb to the comfort of the status quo?

Continue reading “Why New Year Resolutions Fail: Five ways to lead yourself in 2015”

image: MIchelle Ray's Dad August 2010

Remembering the heroes in our lives – Tribute to my father

“My legs are swollen and I don’t feel like going up to the coffee shop today.”

As soon as I heard my father utter those words on the telephone, thousands of miles away from his bed in the nursing home in Sydney, I knew that everything was different, even though I didn’t want to believe what was happening. Dad was no longer able to dial my number, so I would call him instead, all too often finding him in his room. Time was slipping away.

Continue reading “Remembering the heroes in our lives – Tribute to my father”

image: book cover saying 'change your mindset'

Do you manage change or does change manage you?

Addressing the subject of change instills fear in many people. The very thought of disruption to the status quo brings up feelings of anxiety and distress in many individuals and organizations. Pending gloom and doom consumes the collective consciousness as people grapple with the new reality. Viewing change positively isn’t usually the norm, although it could represent an exciting opportunity to do things differently.

Continue reading “Do you manage change or does change manage you?”

image: boy and girl holding valentines

Are you feeling the love? Five tips to be happier, productive and inspired at work

I will always remember the antics of one of my co-workers whose desk was beside mine at my first corporate job. Dan would saunter into the office whenever it suited him and immediately announce his arrival to the entire staff. In a bellowing voice, he would ask the same question every morning: “Who can I annoy today?”  Continue reading “Are you feeling the love? Five tips to be happier, productive and inspired at work”

How will you take the lead in your life, your career and business in 2014?

The end of a year is always a time for reflection. As each one passes seemingly more quickly that the previous, we usher in a new year with the opportunity to pause and appreciate special moments that occurred over the past 365 days. Focusing on the positives sets the tone for anticipating good things.

Continue reading “How will you take the lead in your life, your career and business in 2014?”

The fear of success is bigger than the fear of failure

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough – Og Mandino

“My goodness! What would it be like if I had the life I always wanted! How would I cope if everything I desired to achieve actually came true! Wouldn’t that be terrible?” This kind of self-talk is an example of someone who possesses a “fear of success.” Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it? While “fear of failure” is an all-too-familiar term in modern-day ethos, we don’t often hear about the “fear of success.” At first glance, these phrases look different, but, in fact, they have similar interpretation. It is not unusual for people to be afraid of success because of the connotations attached to the word. The idea of success can elicit an equal, if not greater “fear” response as failure. Furthermore, many people cannot “cope” with success and, as a result, they unconsciously sabotage it. How does this happen? It is important to understand the ramifications of such thinking, as well as the rationale (or should I say the “irrational”) behind it.

Allowing your inner critic to surface on occasion in human. However, if it becomes a way of life and you continue to move in a downward spiral, your journey to success will become even more daunting. By interpreting setbacks as a sign of the universe conspiring against you, the potential risk of sabotaging your own success increases as negative thoughts intensify. Many of us maintain a personal belief system that keeps working against us, without understanding its origins.

The fear of success is based on three factors:

1. Regard we have for ourselves (self-concept)

Fear and Courage

A individual’s belief system cultivates either a positive or negative self-concept. Based on the internal lens we use to view ourselves, we attribute meaning to the terms “success” and “failure.” Self-concept goes beyond being placed under the “self-esteem” umbrella. Psychologist Albert Bandura says: “Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, if you believe in your capabilities to manage and overcome whatever life throws at you, you will find success in your life . . . however you choose to define “success”.

2. Lack of clarification in relation to success values

Just as the word “money” is laden with values attachments, the same can be said about the word “success.”  It is essential to achieve clarity around your personal, uniquely individual definition of success in order to actually live it. There are widely held assumptions in our society that success and wealth are synonymous, almost interchangeable terms. It is at the core of many a values struggle! However, not everyone measures “success” and “wealth” in financial terms. Once we achieve clarity regarding what success actually means on a deeply personal level, the experience is invigorating.

3. The Impact of Conditioning

We are conditioned to think of ourselves, our values, and other people in terms of either/or. By polarizing our thoughts into society’s concept of good or bad, right or wrong, etc., it becomes difficult to discern our own unique value proposition regarding work, career, family, money, success, politics, institutions, etc. A powerful set of influencers have shaped our ideas throughout our lives, either subtly or otherwise. Examples of these influencers include our family of origin, culture, education system, religious credo, media, etc. When we are able to identify those influencers and in turn, recognize their impact, we can see our own version of the truth through a fresh set of eyes.

Now is as good a time as any to examine what you think about yourself, to look through that internal lens and focus on how you manage your life in the world. Change any self-perceptions that are fueling a fear of success.  Equipped with a healthy self-concept and clarity regarding your values, you will find success in your career, your business, and your life.

About the Author: Michelle Ray is the CEO & Founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute

All the world’s a stage, and now is the time to own your place on it

For the purposes of this blog, allow me to take license with William Shakespeare’s original quote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” Instead, I invite you consider that there has never been a better time to take our respective places on the world’s stage, and this has little to do with professional speaking.

When eighteen-year-old German podcast sensation Philip Rierderle recently took the stage as the opening keynote speaker at the National Speakers’ Association Annual Convention, he held an audience of 1400 professional speakers spellbound for the entire duration of his speech.  Mr. Riederle was the youngest speaker to grace the general session platform in the Association’s forty-year history.  With his excellent command of the English language, he mesmerized the audience of skeptical old-timers, first-timers and techno-phobs by smashing the stereotypical myths linked to his millennial generation.

He captured my attention, however, not only because of his remarkable confidence as a teenaged speaker. For me, it was the manner in which he has channeled his passion into a mission. At the age of fifteen, Reiderle became famous with his podcast “Mein iPhone und Ich…” (My iPhone and me), currently reaching over one million viewers each year. As he built his massive community of Generation Y followers, traditional corporations began wondering how and why he was able to attract this generational cohort in droves to his own on-line community, while they continued to struggle in their own marketing efforts to connect with this significant segment of consumers. Today, Rierderle is an entrepreneur and renowned thought leader consulting with major companies worldwide regarding the consumer habits of his generation.

Riederle’s delivery and presence served a dual purpose. Not only was his message timely, he also demonstrated a rare blend of authenticity and brilliance by completely owning the stage…the stage on which he stood as a speaker, as well as in his own life. His passion for educating others via podcasts on the multiple uses of an I-Phone that began as a hobby has morphed into a unique calling to heighten generational understanding on a global scale. By doing so, Riederle is helping businesses simultaneously open their minds and create new growth opportunities.

There has never been a better time to take your place on the world’s stage. You don’t need to be a publisher, a major media outlet or renowned speaker. You can claim your place by ensuring that, like Riederle, your vocation is congruent with your personal passion. At the click of a button, you can utilize social networks to tell others about issues that matter to you. There are no limits to expressing your creativity thoughtfully and purposefully.

Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur…Is it an either/or question?

During an afternoon break at a conference, a participant who had just attended my breakout session on building collaborative workplace relationships approached me to discuss his dilemma regarding whether he should stay with his company or start his own business. He spoke candidly about his managers, colleagues as well as his future employment path, and whether he was ready to take the plunge and venture out on his own. I admired his honesty and appreciated the challenge he faced in terms of making a decision. Based on our conversation, I got the impression that he really enjoyed his work and had great camaraderie with his managers and peers, but wasn’t as enthused about the prospect of being his own boss and running his own company. It is a fascinating quandary that many of us face. I began to ponder whether this needed to be an either/or question?

Being an intrepreneur is defined as follows:

in-tra-pre-neur (In¹tre-pre-nur) n. A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation [intra(corporate) + (ENTRE)PRENEUR.] -inftrapre-nouri-al adj. -intra-pre-neuri-al-ism n. -in’trapre-neuri-al-ly adv.

Consider the success story of  Dutch-owned Optiver Asia-Pacific, an algorithmic trading company that was just named Australia’s best place to work. CEO Paul Hilgers says the company has a genuine open door policy and a philosophy that working with “brilliant minds attracts brilliant minds”. Hilgers says: “A brilliant mind isn’t only skill-based. We really want to know who we are hiring and we want to make sure that people know us before they decide to work for us.”  The 2013 study to determine best workplaces was made up 179 competing organizations and their 25,905 employees nationally.

Entrepreneurial skills are highly sought-after by companies that support an innovative culture. If you are an individual who can identify a huge need for ground-breaking approaches regarding any aspect of your  organization’s operations, you could be handsomely rewarded for speaking up and sharing your ideas. Being the catalyst of creativity and change is a very rewarding experience, in terms of career satisfaction and financial compensation. Here are three core concepts to keep in mind:

 1. You CAN make a difference in your workplace

Passion for your work , together with a proactive mindset will always be desirable attributes. When you believe that your initiatives can positively impact your workplace, be assured that people will listen. Especially when your ideas can benefit your customers and the bottom line. Learn to present your recommendations from the vantage point of your leaders. When you demonstrate an understanding of the business from their perspective, you will be in a great position to have their undivided attention.

 2. Build alliances with like-minded people

Surrounding yourself with naysayers is a sure fire way to zap your enthusiasm. On the other hand, seeking out individuals who support your solutions-based way of thinking will energize you as you pursue your plans. Entrepreneurs make a point of aligning themselves with others who can challenge their ideas in a positive manner. Start your own internal mastermind group. When your personal values regarding success, creativity and originality are in sync with those who think and act similarly, you will find opportunities to grow your career path.

 3. Recognize and create opportunities within your organization

There is a difference between critiquing and criticizing…whether it is a system, internal process or someone else’s idea that can be improved upon. You create opportunities to rise through the ranks by demonstrating a willingness to take the initiative and express your ideas for change in proactive manner. When you demonstrate your expertise and innovative ideas in a particular area or job-function, you are carving out your own, entrepreneur/intrapreneaur opportunity.