We’ve all been there. Just at the worst time, when you have no margin for error, something happens that throws off your schedule or pushes you over the emotional edge. Renowned neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin shares strategies for how to plan for the stressful events in advance and stay calm under pressure.
Ever lose your keys? Can’t find your wallet? (Yes, I am speaking from experience!) The gradual process of an organized home and mind begins by thinking ahead and putting in to practice certain behaviors that eventually turn to habits. Losing keys or reading glasses can be prevented by continuously forming the habit of designating a special spot for each of these items. Having a hook by the door for the keys or a basket on a side table for the glasses will prevent future frustration. Otherwise, under stress, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, clouding your thinking.
“Are there things that I can put in place that will prevent bad things from happening?”
Under stress our brains do not think rationally. By training yourself to think ahead, systems can be put in to place to altogether prevent or at least limit damage. Big decisions, like end of life wishes, can be made years in advance so to avoid decisions made in the heat of the moment. Questions like, do you wish to have a long life and live in pain or a shorter life with better quality, can be planned out with loved ones long before an illness is imminent.
“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol.” –Daniel Levitin
No matter the industry, leaders face the same types of challenges. It’s a leader’s personal compass that makes all the difference.
Jeff Thompson, MD is chief executive officer emeritus at Gundersen Health System. He’s a pediatrician, an author, and a speaker on building a mission-driven culture. During his tenure, Gundersen Health was recognized for its quality care. Dr. Thompson was awarded the White House Champions of Change award in 2013.
You share the dramatic story of you intubating a baby, risking your own career to save a life. There are so many leadership lessons in this story. But I want to ask this: how do you teach others to make these decisions?
No leader can always be everywhere. No rule book can cover every situation. To prepare the staff first you need to believe you are there to build them, not rule them. Holding people accountable is looking backwards…being responsible for their success is looking forward. Give them the tools to make these decisions without you. You need to set a pattern of clarity of the values of the organization, the priority of service above hierarchy, service above self, long-term good over short-term self-protection. When they see you live this, when they see you recognize this in others and support this level of behavior, they will have the courage to do the same.
“You want to invite new ideas, not new rules.” –Dan Heath
Courage and discipline. You linked these together. Tell us why and how they relate.
Aristotle is attributed to have said, “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it just means fear doesn’t get to make the choice. Having courage is a great start….without courage so little will move forward. But discipline gives courage legs. It focuses and moves the work forward. It keeps you from letting your courage make a stand but accomplish little.
For example…those protesting pipelines and coal burning are very courageous…but if they also have the discipline to lead the conservation effort…they will force the market pressures to limit new pipelines and coal burning. Courage plus discipline will have a much greater effect.
Or you may have bold clear no compromise rules in your organization about how all staff will be treated or how gender and diversity will be respected. Clear, courageous but not effective unless you have the discipline to live by it when one of your high performing stars behaves badly. You need the discipline to follow up on your bold stance. No one’s ego can be more important than the well-being of the staff or organization.
“Good leaders don’t tell people what to do, they give teams capability and inspiration.” –Jeffrey Immelt
Matthew Snider is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets, a blog to help you achieve your goals. For more tips like these, I encourage you to visit his site.
While staying organized can seem like a daunting task, there are some habits that almost all organized people practice. Adding these habits to your own life will help you get organized and stay that way. You may find that you really struggle in the first few days or weeks, but the reward of living an organized lifestyle will be worth it in the end.
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” -Warren Buffett
People who are organized start out with a routine each morning. That routine may look different for some than it does for others. Some find it helps them to start their day with meditation while others find that exercising helps them get started. Regardless, establishing a pattern that you will follow each day helps you start to get your life together.
Everyone has the right to see a cup as half-empty or half-full. People who are organized see the cup as half-full. Then they concentrate on what they can do to make their cup even fuller. Disorganized people see the cup as half-empty and have no real idea of how to make it any fuller. So staying positive is really powerful.
Organization Tip: People who are organized see the cup as half-full.
Organized people take care of their correspondence on a daily basis. It does not matter whether it comes by text, email or snail mail, they set aside a specific time of day and handle all their correspondence at that time. During this time, they file information that is most important to them in an organized manner and discard the rest. They understand how to separate relevant and irrelevant information and do so effectively.
Organization Tip: Handle correspondence on a daily basis.
According to a study by the Centre for Organisational Excellence, people who are organized are more conscientious. They focus on what they can do to make the world a better place. They also tend to be very self-disciplined. Because of this, they are often content to tell others that they will not handle a task while disorganized people tend to accept too much responsibility.
5. Create a Space for Everything
People who are highly organized have a space for everything. That way, they do not waste time looking for anything. They also take the time to put everything back in its place when they are done using it. Most organized people have very few processions because they realize that the more things that they own, the more time it takes to care for them. They also keep the most important things that they need very near to them as this eliminates the need to get up and go find them. When a person gets up from a task, they often become distracted leading to disorganization.
6. Use Storage Systems
While disorganized people tend to throw everything in a big pile to deal with later, organized people keep everything in some sort of container. This helps them know exactly what they need to keep and what they can get rid of because if it does not have a space for it, then it needs to go immediately.
7. Become a List Maker
The most organized people create a list that tells them exactly what they need to accomplish. After creating the list, they then set priorities. They are driven to take care of the things that matter most first and then use leftover time to do the rest. They constantly have their lists with them as they do not trust their memories to keep them on the right track. An important part of setting priorities is dealing with the biggest problems first and then moving on from there. They understand when doing their best is good enough and when they must put in an all-out effort. Lifehacker has an amazing article about how to simplify your to-do list.
They may seem, at first glance, to have nothing in common—different industries, challenges, experiences, leaders, competition, you name it. But there is something about this group of organizations that drew attention and merited study.
How did you arrive at the common characteristics of organizations achieving excellence?
Effectively these emerged gradually through the research. We studied each institution with an open mind and on its merits. Then we shortlisted, at the conclusion of our research in each case, what we thought were the fundamental drivers of that institution’s enduring outperformance. When we compared the lists we had created across several of the institutions, the common characteristics became evident.
Secondly, because our research process was quite extended, we had the opportunity to use some of the later studies to test and validate hypotheses emerging from the earlier ones.
Finally we used some of our client work, which was progressing in parallel, to further refine our thinking.
I often ask leadership experts whether leaders are made or born. You take on that question with regard to high-performance organizations and say that they are made, not born. What leads you to this conclusion?
Simply put, the leaders who we spoke to in the organizations we researched were consistent in articulating and reinforcing that view. Without exception they talked about how they viewed the enduring sources of their advantage as being their people and their organizations, and they each described their roles as being about setting direction and ambition and then facilitating and enabling their organizations to achieve and extend those ambitions over time.
Even more particularly, given that many of the organizations we researched could be reasonably described as “values-driven,” their leaders saw a fundamental aspect of their roles as being about defining, representing, facilitating and rewarding those values in their organizations. The Mayo Clinic, Tata, Doctors Without Borders (Médicins sans Frontières) and the US Marine Corps were particularly strong examples in this regard.
“Overengineered engagement initiatives can become impersonal and feel false.”
Let’s talk about the four-pillars to delivering high-performance.
Copyright Brian MacNeice and James Bowen, Used by permission
Every organization knows it needs a plan. Where do most go wrong?
There are lots of ways in which organizations go wrong when it comes to planning, but for this discussion we will highlight two that we observe again and again in our work.
First, we suggest that organizations go wrong by planning on a basis of “inside-out” rather than “outside-in.” That is to say, their leaders tend to look at last year’s model and last year’s performance and identify tweaks they can make with a view to delivering incremental performance improvements next year. This model of planning tends to be short-term and tactical in nature and anchored in a historic, likely outdated, view of the world.
High performance organizations plan from the outside-in, not inside-out.
High performance organizations come at planning from the outside-in, using a much more strategic, future-oriented approach. They start by looking outside their organizations to understand how the context within which they operate is changing. Sometimes they do this by looking at their organizations through a series of discrete “lenses” – for example industry, market, customer, competitor, technology, regulatory, people – to understand (a) what dynamics they observe, (b) what opportunities and/or challenges arise as a result of these dynamics, and (c) how these dynamics might play out over the course of their planning horizon. Armed with these insights – in particular a much deeper understanding of cause-and-effect – they are better positioned to create strategies that bridge from where they are now to where they want to be over time. Relative to the first approach we discussed, plans developed this way tend to be more ambitious, radical and lower risk all at the same time.
Second we would suggest that organizations go wrong because they view planning as a task rather than as a capability. They view it as a chore to be endured once a year to fill a template, and which brings with it a significant cost in terms of time away from the frontline. Their engagement and investment in planning reflects this attitude – for them it’s about getting to the end of the process as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The approaches we observe in high performance organizations, by contrast, are more consistent with Eisenhower’s famous mantra that, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.” They understand that their organizations, and the worlds in which they are operating, are always changing, and as such they develop planning as a dynamic, enduring competence. They operate “with their heads up,” tracking changes in their context all the time, taking on board the lessons of their experience and factoring insights into their plans on an ongoing basis. Some of these organizations have moved away from a traditional, annual model of budget-based planning towards a more continuous, iterative model of strategy development and deployment.
“Plans are nothing, planning is everything.” -Dwight Einsenhower
The former NFL head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Mike Smith, teamed up with one of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, to explore seven principles that teams use to reinvigorate and reinvent their future.
I’m not sure how you read, but the more I like a book, the more underlines, highlights, and dog-eared pages appear. Long ago, I developed the habit of doing this because I want the wisdom of the authors to penetrate my thick skull and make an impact. When I read this book, there were so many quotes that stuck with me.
So, instead of an author interview, I wanted to share the top 25 Quotes from this book on team building that stuck with me. I hope you find them helpful as you build a great team of your own. Because, as the title of this book reminds us, winning starts long before you actually take the field.
25 Quotes to Build a Winning Team
“Culture is defined and created from the top down, but it comes to life from the bottom up.” –Mike Smith