The Lead Yourself First Blog

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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”

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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”

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.

Drama in the workplace: Are you ready and willing to end it now?

Understanding and managing drama in the workplace is a concern shared by leaders and individuals alike. Not only is it emotionally draining, the cost and consequences cannot be understated. In fact, one of the key reasons for soaring levels of workplace disengagement links directly to the existence of dysfunctional workplace relationships.

Drama occurs because we are emotional beings. We have a desire for self-expression and unfortunately, due to stress and overwhelm, we all have the capacity to display the worst version of ourselves from time to time. However, some of our colleagues and managers not only HAVE problems, they ARE problems. And many of them don’t realize the effect of their theatrics and emotional outbursts because they are operating in a state of oblivion…constantly reacting to workplace pressures, personality triggers or stressors that are occurring in their personal and professional lives, with little awareness of the impact of such behaviours on a larger scale.

The big questions that demands answers are these: Why does drama persist and why does it escalate? Here are five explanations:

1. At a very basic level, many people actual enjoy the show…either as a participant or a spectator. After all, life would be pretty dull and work would be very boring if there were no drama; nothing to gossip about? Let’s be honest, many of us willingly contribute to the juiciness of a good story by partaking in the gossip in the first place, even if we don’t spread it ourselves.

2. Drama also manifests on a regular basis because accountability isn’t taught or understood. It is often easier to blame others and share in the misery rather than accept responsibility, even if we do not know all the facts. Pointing the finger in the other direction requires very little effort.

3. Leaders don’t want to, or don’t know how to deal with it. This is one of the most common workplace demotivators. Sadly, a lack of action builds resentment amongst those who desperately want their leadership to deal with these people issues. As a result, those who once felt engaged and happy will slowly but surely find that the dysfunctional atmosphere taking a toll on their level of performance and satisfaction.

4. Organizations may invest in core technical skills or training, however the interpersonal skills that are essential when it comes to managing drama and conflict are lacking. Practicing outstanding communication skills in the face of such challenges can make the world of difference, not only to one’s peace of mind, but to the organization’s bottom line. When people feel disengaged and disconnected, when they do not feel inclined to express their concerns, absenteeism increases, turnover escalates and business declines as a result.

5. High morale is a low priority. At all levels, everyone feels the increasing pressure of managing their daily workload. As a result, paying attention to the human element slowly becomes neglected. Yet, this is precisely the issue that necessitates the greatest consideration. In addition, it is fascinating to note this is the one area that is within an organization’s control: the atmosphere within its own walls.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Michelle Ray is a leadership expert who helps individuals and organizations succeed and take the lead. Her keynote presentation and workshop: No More Drama! How to Build High Engagement, High Morale and a Happier Workplace will be offered as a one-hour, complimentary webinar on June 27.

Are you taking the lead with your customers?

A friend of mine went to pick up his dry cleaning last Friday. While this isn’t exactly headline news, be assured that the dry cleaner in question has no idea that he is the main story of my blog. He doesn’t know that potentially 1,000’s of people are reading about his example of appalling customer service right now.

Most of us expect that if our dry cleaning is tagged for pick up on a particular day, it will be ready. When my friend went to the store, he found a sign on the door that read: “Closed Fridays”. He had several suits waiting for pick-up…the only suits he owned. He needed them urgently and was left high and dry. When he was finally able to pick up his clothes and asked the dry cleaner why he tagged his clothes for Friday, the owner of the store tersely replied: “What do you want me to do about it”? Wrong answer.

The cleaner offered my friend a 20% discount. Although he had not asked for one, the offer made no difference. He had already made up his mind that he would not be coming back. False promises and the owner’s attitude were enough for him to make the decision in a split second. The dry cleaner failed to realize the implications.

Unfortunately, these situations play out every day, worldwide. Businesses of every description often fail to realize the consequences of poor communication as the fundamental reason for people deciding to invest their dollars elsewhere. One “faux pas” can destroy the relationship permanently. This truth applies to transactions at the highest level…from the board room to the mail room. Millions of dollars are being lost due to the absence of a Lead Yourself First mindset.

The tone of your communication is your responsibility. When you say or do the wrong thing, when your advertising is misleading, when your clients question any inconsistencies, listen and apologize immediately. Otherwise, you and your business may may find yourself front and centre on a very popular website known as “I’”.

Do you give credit to those who take the lead?

“It’s never crowded along the extra mile”…Poet unknown

This week, my new website went live. Invariably, there were glitches as the site moved from one hosting company to the other. Building a website is not my forte, however I have learned a lot about what happens behind the scenes from my web developer, Carrie  Haggerty.  Several months ago I decided that it was time to make changes regarding my website. Carrie, who has known me for almost three years, encouraged me to build this website in Word Press and was passionate when it came to helping me make the necessary changes. As this week drew closer and the launch day approached, I became aware of some of the potential technological hurdles that could arise. For example,  although I knew that it could take 2-48 hours for my new website to be visible, I did not know that there would be a delay in terms of where the website could be seen. Carrie knew that my new website was live, however she could not see it as her server wasn’t picking it up. No matter how many times she clicked “refresh” or cleared her “cookies”,  my new website would not show. During the early hours of the launch day, Carrie left her office and took it upon herself to find a location with an internet connection so she could upload critical files and index the website correctly. She barely slept because she knew that that there was a possibility of something going very wrong that could affect my wesbite and as a result, my business. Carrie went above and beyond to take the lead in order to ensure that my project succeeded. In fact, it would be more accurate to say “our project”.   Although many of us find frequently find ourselves at the mercy of technology at work, how often to we stop and say “thank you” to those who support us at work to make sure things go smoothly? We rely on the internet more than ever, therefore it times of high stress and change, having the right elements in place can mean everything. If you have people on your team who constantly go the extra mile to make you look good at the back end, acknowledgement of their efforts to take the lead on your behalf comes with the territory.

Workplace Motivation…Three common myths

One of the old age questions leaders ask is“How do I motivate my team”?  The answer is not as complex as you may think.  In fact, there are a number of myths associated with the notion of creating and maintaining a happy, productive work atmosphere that warrant scrutiny at all levels of an organization. Ask yourself if any of these apply and what you can do to focus on creating more motivators and eliminate, or at the very least minimize the existence of demotivators.

 Myth # 1: The paycheck is a primary motivator

Although remuneration may initially attract people to a particular job, it isn’t enough to sustain interest, productivity and engagement. In fact, money has never been at the top of the list of workplace motivators, yet is often seen as the key solution in the attraction equation. The allure associated with the overall salary package is tangible and short-term. For leaders, providing a pay cheque may be easier than finding the energy to truly connect one-on-one with everyone on a team. Moreover, when individuals say that they are at work “just for the paycheck”, they are denying the existence of a fundamental intrinsic motivator; i.e. to be recognized as a person with deeper needs… as someone who wants to know that they matter in the grand scheme of their workplace. They have something valuable to offer their employer and if they are unable to tap into their unique worth, then simply “showing up at work” becomes are drudgery and emotionally dissatisfying experience.

Myth # 2: Building in more extrinsic motivators creates a better atmosphere 

While it is true that we are all motivated by different things outside of ourselves, the more useful approach for a business in terms of achieving a highly inspired atmosphere is to pay attention to the existence of demotivators, as opposed to the absence of motivators. The most common demotivators include working with chronically negative people, (in management or non-management positions) who successfully drain other peoples’ energy reserves. I have found that a lack of action builds resentment amongst those who desperately want their leadership to deal with these people issues. Another popular belief is that by encouraging people to work longer hours in exchange for a more pay (also known as overtime), people will be motivated to work harder. In effect, longer hours justify a slow-down approach to work and do very little to enhance productivity and profitability. The physiological consequences of overtime are heightened levels of stress, which are in fact demotivators rather than motivators.

Myth #3: Happy people remain satisfied and don’t require as much “nurturing”

There is no doubt that contentment regarding ones workplace and job function is a desired state. However, once we have achieved a sense of fulfillment regarding our work, praise and recognition remain critical as on-going intrinsic motivators. We all require different “strokes” in terms of being acknowledged. A wise leader will recognize the differences between those who seek appreciation privately and publically. Validating effort and results is also an individual responsibility, no matter what our job title may be. Peer recognition is a powerful energizer that is often more meaningful than any other form of appreciation, as we often hold the opinions of our co-workers in the highest regard. Therefore, it behooves us to express admiration and applause for a job well done, regardless of our position.


Photo By Renjith Krishnan

The world through kaleidoscope eyes

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”…Marcel Proust

This morning I found myself tuned into my favourite radio station, singing along with the Beatles and their memorable hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.  It made me curious about the origin of the lyrics, so I decided to do some research. The “Lucy” in the song was a classmate of John Lennon’s eldest son, Julian. Julian had drawn a picture of Lucy as well as stars in the sky and brought it home from school one day when he was four years old. He called the picture “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Many people thought that the initials of the song as well as the lyrics represented getting high on the drug LSD.  Rolling Stone magazine once asked John Lennon about this very question. He told the reporter that he had never even considered the initials of the song, let alone the interpretation. Personally, I remain curious about Lucy. Was she the “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” or was it ultimately Yoko Ono? Perhaps we will never know.

My findings about the song caused me to ponder the manner in which we attach meaning to things, even though we may not have all the facts. If all of us interpreted people, their behaviour and situations in an identical fashion, the world would quickly become a dull place. Instead, consider looking at life through a kaleidoscope and become an “observer of beautiful forms” (the ancient Greek translation for kaleidoscope). We can unravel a deeper meaning behind what we think we see when we become more receptive to looking at life through a broader lens. How often have you found that your original perception of a particular person or circumstance was flawed?  Upon further investigation, you uncovered fresh and exciting information that gave you a renewed appreciation for the relationship. These are the experiences that we need to draw upon whenever we catch ourselves in “black and white” mode; convinced that we are right. Instead, when you find yourself taking a myopic view, consider the words of French novelist Marcel Proust: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”


Photo by Koratmember

Flexing your resiliency muscle

When you search the word “resiliency” on Google, you will see over 5, 500,000 results. What a fascinating statistic for a word that encapsulates an essential character trait that lies at the core of every individual. What makes a person resilient? Can resiliency be taught or are some people better able to rebound from adversity than others? There is certainly a “buzz” around the term in business as well…given the volatility of the economy. What about the roller coaster ride of the stock market that many of us are reluctantly enduring, even though the nausea has us reaching out for the airsickness bag on a regular basis? Why do we choose to stick it out? Is it due to the fact that we are enjoying the ride? I don’t think so.  Or, perhaps it is because we identify with this premise: We are eternally optimistic about the future because we possess an inner- knowing based on our past risk-taking experiences that ultimately, the economy will prevail and the peaks and valleys are part of the journey. This is more than practicing blind faith.  Rather, by viewing current circumstances in these terms, we are demonstrating an understanding of what it means to employ resiliency as a habit.

Our professional and personal lives are inexorably linked.  We have learned that adversity is a natural part of every aspect of our lives. We know that although there are times when the discomfort is almost too much to bear, the alternative option of panic would place us in an anxiety-prone state; yielding results that could be far worse. Resiliency is the cornerstone of our emotional and psychological survival in challenging times. We often underestimate our ability to rise above extremely difficult situations.

For example, at a recent meeting of the American Psychological Association, the question of resiliency in relation to aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 was on the agenda. Although there was general agreement regarding the psychological magnitude immediately following the event, there were differences in opinion regarding the long-term impact. One psychologist commented as follows:  “I think we are wired to deal with trauma…It’s not only in the person. There’s lots of other factors that determine whether (a person will) be resilient or not…Part of it has to do with who they are, their circumstances, the resources at their disposal, their own trauma histories. They’re less resilient if they have health problems or a history of traumatic reactions, or lack economic resources.”

In order to rise above current challenges,  we need to focus on developing a mindset of managing rather than coping . Getting a grip, is hardly a proactive approach! Yet, it is a business and life strategy that many individuals and organizations adopt in order to deal with adversity as well as uncertainty.  Rather, the solution lies in the willingness to dig deep and gain strength from past experiences. We can overcome seemingly  impossible challenges in the present by drawing upon our own inner resources.  Ask yourself: “How do I perceive the enormity of my current challenge?”  When faced with a particular conundrum that feels overwhelming, reflect on a different time in your life when you felt similar angst and were able to triumph over the situation. As a result, you will prove to yourself that your resiliency muscle can be exercised anytime. All that is needed now is for you to flex it!

Applying the wisdom of Polonius in uncertain times

I recently attended the National Speakers Association Annual Convention. It is always a highlight of my own professional development quest and yearly “boost”. I see myself as a lifelong learner who can always find someone who is further along in my career and life path to teach me a great deal. For example, I had the pleasure of hearing the legendary Les Brown who rocked the house full of speakers; demonstrating not only the art of connecting with the audience and crafting a memorable speech, he also shared three thoughts on why people are failing today:

1. Most people don’t believe in themselves
2. They are influenced by negative information
3. They are in a new world and need a new mindset

Les’s presentation resonated with me because I share his philosophy. I believe that the solution to these three problems lies in getting to the essence of what rings true for you. Once you focus on what is within your control and you resolve to channel your energy in that direction, life becomes easier and more joyful. Business decisions become less complex when the focus is more about responding rather than reacting to economic forces over which you have no control. You can disseminate information and then decide on your own truth. However, the degree to which you are able to differentiate yourself from the opinions of others will determine how easily you are able to make up your own mind about your current reality. A multitude of forces can sway you in a particular direction…either positive or negative. This is true for individuals as well as businesses of every description. The proliferation of media; both on- line and in traditional formats, are vying for your attention at an unprecedented rate. Therefore, the ability to discern fact from fiction, genuineness from phoniness, substance from fiction is not as easy as it used to be. In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the fictional character Polonius said: “This above all: To thine own self be true.”

Consider the life path of Kyle Maynard. Kyle is an extraordinary 25 year old motivational speaker who was born with a condition known as congenital amputation that has left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees. When many thought he was crazy, he learned how to become a wrestler and mix martial arts champion; excelling at both. Kyle also shared his powerful message at the convention, delivering insights on dealing with his own self-doubt and the many occasions when he chose not to buy into the negative opinions of others.

Here is what I learned from Kyle:

1. Put your mind to work and everything is possible
2. Negative thoughts are at the core of self-limiting beliefs
3. You have the power to formulate your own attitudes and transform your current reality

The answer to this burning question: “How well do you know yourself?” can lead you to a new world and a new reality. It may require a radical rearrangement of your current way of thinking. It may mean letting go of assumptions that are no longer serving you.  It may necessitate separating yourself from all the negative influencers in order to create different outcomes personally and professionally. One thing I know for certain is that the exploration is a worthy endeavor.