FeaturedHow to Be a Great Boss

Most of us want to be great bosses.

We’ve all had bad bosses. Supervisors that were rude, arrogant, overly demanding, insecure or dismissive.

Leaders who were phoning it in, directors who were nice, but ineffectual, and managers that were just too busy doing their own work to make time for us.

In our zeal to be better bosses, we read leadership books, go to conferences and seminars, tune in to webinars, watch TED talks and follow the latest gurus on social media. But, deep down, it feels like we’re not quite *there* yet.

Some people respond to our management style. These people typically become our favourites and we spend the majority of our time working with them. Coaching them. Encouraging them. Rewarding them.

Others do not respond to our style. Some don’t even seem to like us. Eventually, we find ourselves spending less and less time with these individuals… avoiding interaction and just hoping they’ll get their job done without us. We hear them out if they come with an issue or concern, but otherwise, they don’t get much of our attention.

Does this sound familiar?

Over time, we find ourselves hiring more of the former group – and less of the latter. We convince ourselves that the most effective team is a team made up of people who respond well to our leadership style.

Armed with that insight, we invest time and money (our own and the company’s) in perfecting that style.

This is where most of us get to in our leadership journey.

We become very effective at leading certain types of people.

But a great boss is not someone who can motivate certain types of people. A great boss is someone who can motivate and work effectively with… almost anyone.

To be a truly great boss… we need to shift our thinking.

First… we need to stop focusing on our leadership style – and what we’re bringing to the mix. 

Instead… we need to re-focus on the specific, individual requirements of our employees. And how we, as the boss, can meet those specific, individual needs.

We don’t lead a group. We lead a group of individuals. And most truly effective groups are made up of different personality types.

As business leaders, we’ve already learned that the key to satisfying customers is to figure out what their specific needs are… and then apply ingenuity and diligence to meeting and exceeding those needs.

So… why aren’t we taking that same approach with our employees?

Because we tend to think of our employees as being there to serve us. When, in fact, we are there to serve them.

Yes, we may chart the course and lead the charge. But we also support, coach, develop and inspire. We guide, direct, focus, problem-solve and clear roadblocks that are preventing our team from being as effective as they could be. 

So, what does it take to win the hearts and minds of a group of individuals? 

The first step to being a truly great boss starts with one simple question.

What do YOU need from me?

The Price of Perfectionism

Do you pride yourself on your high standards for everything? If so, you’re not alone. Most high-achievers strive for perfection.

But what if inflexible standards are slowing you down and holding you back?

(Not sure if you’re a perfectionist? Try taking this test.)

Obsessive perfectionism can get in the way of a happy and productive life. I know that my own obsessively high standards took their toll for many years. Relentless striving, low satisfaction, sleepless nights obsessing over perceived gaffes – and a long list of unfinished projects and initiatives that I was “still massaging”.

Perfectionism is a big factor in procrastination, low productivity, poor self-esteem and even depression. It keeps you stuck in your comfort zone – afraid of trying new things, for fear of looking bad or making mistakes.

The first step to overcoming perfectionism is to recognize when high standards are necessary – and when they’re actually getting in the way of innovation, efficiency and fulfillment. Getting to a place of “good enough” on most tasks and projects allows you to get more done without compromising quality.

In fact, taking a more open-minded approach can pave the way for greater creativity, innovation and fun.

Freedom from perfection requires flexibility and a large dose of self-compassion. This is a struggle for many of us. It starts with embracing the belief that you are good enough, even with the occasional misstep. And that everything, including yourself, is a work in progress.

The next time you notice that you’re driving yourself too hard, procrastinating on projects or tasks, or feeling self-critical about your accomplishments, ask yourself:

“Am I holding myself to standards that aren’t needed in these circumstances?”

“What would good enough look and feel like?”

Take a deep breath. Open your heart to self-compassion. Think flexibly about your project or task and let your inner critic relax. Try a “good enough” approach for your day-to-day tasks and reserve the sky-high standards for rare and special circumstances.

Not only will you get more done, you’ll also feel better about what you do accomplish.

Stand and Command: Nailing the Impromptu Speech

I was driving to a party the other day, when I got a phone call with the dreaded last-minute request… “I was thinking someone should make a toast this evening. Will you do it?”

As a professional coach and long-time marketing executive, I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my career. Work-wise, I have no problem presenting to crowds, large or small.

So why do impromptu addresses… toasts, last-minute introductions, eulogies, etc. seem so much more intimidating?

Here’s why I struggle with these requests.

1. They’re more personal. The stakes seem higher – and the objectives, less clear.

2. You rarely get time to prepare. It’d be nice if people called a week in advance to ask if you’d do a toast. But how often does that happen?

3. There are no visuals to share the spotlight. Bringing up written notes (or worse, index cards) for a personal toast looks (and feels!) like amateur hour.

Many of my friends and family members are introverted, so I get more than my share of requests for spontaneous remarks.

Here’s what I’ve found works in these situations.

Don’t write down your speech.

This may seem counterintuitive, but written remarks sound… well, written. Most of us don’t speak the way that we write.

Instead, craft your remarks… orally.

Practice saying them. Out loud. In your car. To the cat. While walking around the block. Or, at the very least, in your head.

Stick to anecdotes.

Think of one or two anecdotes that sum up why this person is special – or warrants acknowledgement. Anecdotes are easy to follow – and easier to remember than a list of random accolades. Funny or touching anecdotes are sure-fire winners. It doesn’t matter if you tell the story perfectly. Everyone loves a good anecdote.

Nail the beginning – and the end – of your speech.

You’ll be most nervous when you first stand up to make a speech. All eyes will be on you and you don’t want to be fumbling for words at that point. Make your first sentence memorable and unexpected – and then memorize that opening line until you can deliver it in your sleep.

The same goes for the final sentence or two. The best speeches end on a polished note. Don’t peter out. Be sure to nail the dismount with a strong call to action… or a heartfelt thank-you.

Live with the silence for a beat or two.

Don’t race into your speech the minute the room quiets down. Give people a second or two to settle and mentally prepare to listen. You’ll create a sense of anticipation if you make people wait before you start speaking. Trust me, this two seconds will feel longer for you than it will for them.

Pause, smile and then hit them with something unexpected… and you’ll be off to a great start.

Cheers – and remember that practice makes perfect. With any luck, the wine won’t be the only thing sparkling the next time you take centre stage!

Making a toast

 

My Afternoon with Oprah

Every so often, when you’re looking the other way, the universe dishes up a giant serving of awesome. 

This was the photo that appeared in the Toronto Star.

This week, I had the tremendous good fortune of being invited to see a taping of Oprah’s new “Life Class”.  

Nine thousand (yes!) die-hard Oprah fans lined up for hours to gain access to this event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. 

Fortunately for me, my host had VIP tickets for the taping, so we were able to bypass most of the four-hour wait time to get in.

 

The auditorium was massive… with rows of seats that went so far back, you couldn’t even see to the end.  

Incredibly, our seats were 10 rows from the stage. 

And, striding on stage, like a warrior goddess, was the Big O herself. She looked stunning.

Somewhere above me, I could feel the spirit of my late mother looking down. And TOTALLY. FREAKING. OUT. 

Oprah has assembled some truly amazing teachers. Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Iyanla Vanzant and Reverend T.J. Jakes are wise, thoughtful and incredibly gifted communicators.  

A master class in communication. Photo credit: Toronto Star

Each teacher gave an individual presentation for 30-45 minutes… then they each appeared in a segment with Oprah as part of the taped “Life Class” program.  

The individual presentations were, for the most part, awe-inspiring. I probably had more “aha” moments in the four hours I spent at this event than I’d experienced in 16 years at school. I wish everyone could audit this class.

Tony Robbins was the teacher who resonated with me the most. I’d always found him a little eerie and intense on TV.  In person, he’s warm, smart, high-energy and surprisingly funny.  

I jotted down many quotes throughout the evening. A few that stood out for me were:

1. Forgiveness is a gift that you give… yourself.

2. Do what you did at the beginning of your relationship – and it may never end.  

3. The only difference between the CEO and the janitor… the happy and the suicidal… are the thoughts that they think.

4. Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.

Simple, powerful stuff. Thanks, Oprah. xo

I’ve been schooled. 

Social Media Getting You Down?

I just read online that today is World Social Media Day. (Isn’t that every day?) 

Here in Canada, it’s also the start of the Canada Day long weekend.

It’s easy to look at social media (especially on long weekends) and think other people are having more fun, cooler vacations, more romantic relationships, have better jobs, better bodies, better kids, better lives.

On #socialmediaday, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that FB, Instagram, Linked-In, etc. are the highlights reel. Not the full story.

Happy Pride, Happy Canada Day and happy long weekend to all my friends, colleagues and clients. Here’s to a perfectly imperfect summer! xo