Archive for August, 2011

Are You an “Uncluttered Leader?” — 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

I recently cleaned out my clothes closet.

Let me rephrase that…I recently spent an entire day cleaning out my clothes closet. Before you jump to any conclusions, you should know that I have a walk-in closet with a fair amount of room for my stuff. So, it’s not like opening the closet door resulted in some Fibber McGee and Molly routine, where stuff pours out onto the floor and buries the dogs.  Still, things were packed in pretty tightly, and I was maybe one blouse away from invading my husband’s side, something he wasn’t too keen on.

So it was time to de-clutter, if only to give my remaining clothes some breathing room and a chance to remember what it was like not to have wrinkles.

As I sorted through what I would keep and what I would donate, I asked myself five questions:

  1. Have I used this in the last two years?
  2. Does this still serve me well given all I have to choose from?
  3. If I didn’t have this within reach, would I miss it?
  4. Is there someone I know who would benefit from having this?
  5. Does this have true sentimental value?

If I answered “No” to at least three of those questions, it went in the donation bag.  I filled up several.

This got me thinking about how I may sometimes hang on to old tools and techniques when leading my teams. Do I get attached to a model or tool because it’s always worked in the past? Do I sometimes grow possessive of my ideas and resist sharing them? Do I look around to see who else might benefit from what I know?

Do I give my most valuable ideas room to breathe?

These aren’t just questions about clothes; these are questions about how we make decisions and learn about ourselves and that means, ultimately, about how we lead.

How about you? What would it take for you to become an “uncluttered leader?”


When a Bad Day is Good for You

No one likes to have a bad day, especially when it starts with good weather and an optimistic outlook.  We start out with our best intentions, expecting that everything will go as we planned, only then it doesn’t.

I had a day like that recently. Invited to an offsite for a newly reorganized team, my job was to introduce them to some ways in which they could quickly coalesce into an efficient and effective group.  I had worked with many of them before; they all knew me and I knew them, so I was pretty sure I knew what they expected of me.  I also knew what principles they were already familiar with, since I was the one who had introduced them. I brought some concepts to reinforce the old things to review and, with PowerPoint slides ready, I hopped in my car and drove to the offsite.

When I walked into the room I got myself set up, and when it was time for my facilitation session I launched right in.  That was when it got messy.  It turns out that they weren’t looking for reinforcing concepts or a review of previous ideas.  What they wanted was to hash out some hard questions in a tight time-frame, and what they needed from me was to act as an aggressive challenger, someone who would shake them out of their comfort zones and force them to air any concerns they might have about the changes that had taken place.

I wasn’t prepared for it.  I stumbled, took two steps forward and one step back. I challenged what I shouldn’t have and let slide what needed attention. I was not fully “in the moment” and it was NOT one of my better days.  When I got home–and that was a long uncomfortable drive, stuck as I was with only myself for company–I was still running scripts through my head, thinking about how I had messed up, how I had let the client down.

And then I was glad it happened.

Not that I wanted to give my client other than my best–far from it.  But it served as a reminder that I should never get complacent, never fail to expect the unexpected and never stop honing my own skills so that I can be better the next time.

No, my client didn’t get me at my best that day.  But he did get an apology. I appreciated his understanding and he appreciated my candor.

How about you?  Have you ever been glad of a bad day?