Archive for January, 2012

We had a fish. He was one of those Chinese fighting ones. Everyday he sat in his little bowl, perched on our kitchen windowsill happily swimming about. It’s always important that you tell yourself and your children that your fish looks happy. “Oh look kids, our fish looks sooo happy doesn’t he?” I mean who wouldn’t be in that tiny glass jar barely big enough to turn around in, two square meals a day, and the regular finger tapping of a 5 year old. Well, as I said, we had a fish and one day we came home to find him gone. I mean vanished, without a trace. Since the fish bowl was beside the sink we were left to presume that after watching ‘Finding Nemo’ he learned all drains lead to the ocean. If only our little Chinese fighter knew that first they go through the sewage treatment plant, he might have stayed where he was. After all, he was happy.

Being a leader has often been described as living in a fishbowl. All eyes are constantly on you and because of this sometimes your moods can be put on display much like paintings at an art exhibit. One thing your employees take note of his how happy you are. No one would argue with me that an unhappy boss is a lousy boss, and I think all of us would agree that having an overall good spirit about you will do a lot to promote a great work environment. The problem is, many leaders are not as happy as they think.  What is it about management positions that have this invisible power to wipe the smile from one’s face. You want to kill that cheery disposition of that star employee? Put them in a leadership position. It sounds terrible but too often it’s true. Its not that leadership makes us unhappy (well sometimes it does) it’s usually a case that we get so busy and focused on other things that we forget to be happy.

A combination of extra responsibility, added stress and being held accountable for people other than yourself can do a lot to a person’s level of joy. If we don’t have the right perspective we wind up spending endless days not unhappy, but not happy either. I guess the word I am looking for here is ‘serious.’  A leader who is too serious and not having much fun casts a long shadow over the workplace. Soon a culture develops where employees hide their own good moods, at least from you, and laughter becomes something done in hushed secrecy. Have you ever worked for a manager whose good moods were so rare that when they happened it became headline news around the office? Comments like “The boss is in a good mood today,” spread quickly from cubicle to cubicle, as everyone breathed a sigh of relief. This is not a culture you want to create. It is not conducive for high morale and low turnover.

The following may be some reasons why you are too serious and not having enough fun.

1.    You do not like your job.
Everyone can tell when you don’t like what you do. There is no spark in your eye, you get easily frustrated and creativity goes down the drain. Sometimes the hardest person to be honest with is yourself.
Solution: Find your passion again or move on. Life is too short to waste it doing something you hate.

2.    You are too stressed.
Stress and fun go together like hairdryers in the bathtub. You may be stressed for a variety of reasons, job pressure, challenges at home, or your financial situation.
Solution: Put in place stress relieving strategies like regular exercise, a good diet, getting more time away, and actually taking lunch breaks. Here is a more extensive list of stress relievers. Stress Relievers.

3.    You are too focused.
But I am supposed to be focused! I have done this many times where I get so driven by what I am doing that I forget to look up and see what’s going on around me. The passion and drive you possess as a leader to get projects done is usually not felt to the same intensity by your employees. It’s one of the reasons you’re the leader. That drive and passion can be great motivation for you to keep cranking. Your staff however may have burned through their tank 2 days ago. While you vigorously bury your nose in your work, your employees are looking for a much needed boost. Some fun would be nice.
Solution: Make sure you daily check on the esprit de corps. If you have a hard time reading the group, have a trusted assistant who can give you the honest truth. Schedule in time each day to mingle among your employees for some lighthearted chat. This is especially important during times of stressful impending deadlines. Bottom line, don’t get so busy that you forget your employees.

4.    You have unresolved conflict
When you manage others it seems there is never a shortage of conflict. Managers constantly have to deal with a variety of ‘situations.’ Often these confrontations drain us and we can soon slip into a state of avoidance. Instead of dealing with someone directly and quickly, we begin to stuff our feelings and avoid the problem. Soon that employee who needs to have his or her work ethic addressed becomes an object of our anger. The more time that passes the harder it seems to bring it up and the angrier we feel. The more situations you avoid handling the less joyful you become.
Solution: Write out a list of all the employees you need to have a talk with and start working it. You will find that most of the situations resolve themselves quite painlessly and you will be feeling lighter in no time.

5.    You have not decided to be in a good mood.
You are in control of whether or not you will have a bad day. It’s all about your perspective. Quit moping around and start seeing the good around you. When I mope it’s because I have become so fixated on my problems. As soon as I shift my perspective and start seeing the good things around me like loyal and hard working staff, it quickly changes my mood.
Solution: Decide every morning you will be happy, jovial, and light hearted. You can still get the job done and you will feel that much better about it. Go and find somebody doing something right and reward him or her for it. Now the two of you will be feeling better. To see video of rewarding what’s right, click here.

Remember that leadership has a price. One of them is the fish bowl you live in. When people see that the boss is in a good mood it makes them feel they have the freedom to be in a good mood as well.  Be a happy fish.

On December 29, 1972 Eastern Airlines Flight 401 bound from New York to Miami crashed into the Florida Everglades because of a light bulb. As the plane approached Miami the indicator light for the deployment of landing gear failed to come on. The plane circled over the Everglades while the crew tried to figure out the problem. Either the landing gear was not working and they had a major problem on their hands or it was a simple case of a faulty light bulb. When one of the crew members tried to remove the bulb, he found it was stuck and would not come out. Soon all inside the cockpit were so focused on the light bulb that they failed to look up and see they were losing altitude. The plane eventually slammed into the swamp killing almost everyone on board. It is a tragic example of how we can get caught up in the small things and lose sight of where we are going.

Many organizations today are over-managed and under-led. In other words, leaders get caught up in the day-to-day managerial administrative tasks, and forget to look up and plot the course for the organizations future. A leader’s vision is essential for an organization. Visionary leaders are heavily sought after. People want to belong to an organization with a strong sense of direction, whether it’s a fortune 500 company, community association, or local church. If a leader does not remain a visionary, life becomes stagnant, and the organization grinds to a crawl.

As leaders we will never be able to escape our role as manager, but the key is not letting managerial tasks overtake us to the point where we are swamped with administration. Here are a few tips to remaining visionary despite a busy schedule.

  1. Plan a meeting with just you.
    Carve some time out each week to get away from the office and just think about the future of your organization and its current direction. It’s amazing what can come to your mind when you are removed from the situation. Schedule this time into your weekly planner and keep it as sacred as a meeting with the president of the board.
  2. Enter the trenches
    Keep in touch with the front line workers – the people on the factory floor, the delivery drivers, the mail-room staff. These employees will often give you insight into things you would never have thought of. Often the best ideas for improved efficiency come from them since they are the ones performing many of these daily tasks. Set up a weekly coffee break with a different worker or a monthly “town meeting” with a certain division to get their feedback and ideas.
  3. Stimulate the minds around you.
    Encourage creative and visionary thinking among all your employees, especially your direct reports. Solicit their input and advice on your industry and where they think future opportunities lie. Many people never think beyond their job roles because they are never encouraged to. The more minds contributing to your future, the greater your chances of success.
  4. Take care of yourself.
    Proper rest and exercise are the key to staying in shape. What does staying in shape do to contribute to vision? How visionary are you when you are lethargic, stressed, and overworked? Why do so many great ideas and concepts come while people are on their holidays? When your body is rested your mind is in a better place to wander down the road of your future.
  5. Inspirational entertainment
    Watch visionary movies or read inspirational biographies biographies. Braveheart, Hoosiers, Glory, Gladiator, and Ghandi, to name a few. There is something about the stories of other men and women who have made a difference that inspires us to greater heights. Inspiration is the fuel for future dreams.

Remember, as a leader you are responsible for maintaining your vision and inspiring others. You will always have your share of faulty light bulbs that need fixing but never forget to keep your head up and plot the course for your organizations future.

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I found this American airlines ad on youtube. It’s a lot of fun. If you want to use it for a little team building yourself, show it to your employees at your next meeting and then open it up for people to share their “Most Uncomfortable Team building Moments.” It should be good for a laugh. Then brainstorm for some things you can do as a team in 2012 that will help you work better together.

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