Leadership competencies Feed

Processing the "In" Box

Is your "In" box ever empty? I'm venturing a guess that unless a) you don't have much to do or b) David Allen or one of his "Getting Things Done" coaches or superstar "graduates", the bottom of your "In" box never sees the light of day. Managing workflow for even the most organized of folks often gets a little out of control. However, with a little diligence in pursuing a system, we can get the victory over the box.

Today we continue our overview of the Getting Things Done workflow management system, dubbed the "art of stress-free productivity". In the previous post of this series, we discussed step one of the process, "Collect". Now we are ready to do something with the stuff we collected.  To refresh our memories, the "stuff" is the massive "In" box of items representing the incomplete tasks in our lives.
Once we finish the "Collect" step of David Allen's process for getting things done, we are ready to empty our "In" box with Step 2: Process. It is in the processing phase of workflow management that we ask ourselves questions about each e-mail, voice-mail, memo, or self-generated idea that makes its way into our "In" box.  The key to this step is to make a decision about each item so it doesn't become a permanent fixture on our desk.

Making decisions about each item requires that we ask two questions: 

  1. Is it actionable?
  2. What's the next action?

Items that require no action should either be trashed, filed as reference materials, or incubated for future review.  Actionable items should be captured on a task or project list once we determine the next required action. Then, each actionable item needs to be either done, delegated or deferred.  A basic rule of thumb is that if you can finish an item in two minutes or less, do it now.

Does all of this sound unachievable?  If it does, don't despair.  Just as old habits can be broken, new ones can be made.  Just take things one step at a time and you too can see the bottom of your "In" box. And one more thing...this applies to email too. Happy processing!

Have an "In" box story to share? Leave a comment below!

Homework: This week as you process your  "stuff", take note how often you say "I'll just do this later" to yourself.  Think about this both at home and at work.  If the task would take less than two minutes to complete, why not just do it?

NEXT IN THE SERIES ...  Step 3: Organizing. 
NOTE: For more information about this process, check out "Getting Things Done" by David Allen or contact me for a consultation.

Disorganized? Collect Your Stuff

Effective leadership in our fast paced culture requires reliable organizational systems to maintain productivity. However, most people aren't as organized or systemized as they would like to be.  Take one close look inside any office or home and you'll see what I'm talking about.

How organized are you...really?

Hope is available for the disorganized. Last week I gave an overview of what I believe is one of the best systems around for mastering workflow, David Allen's "Getting Things Done". Today, I will continue the theme with the first step in the GTD process: Collect!

Ready...Set...COLLECT! The first step to productivity is collecting all of our "stuff" into one place.

stuff: physical or mental representations of incomplete tasks or objects that don't belong permanently where they are.

Corralling all of our "stuff" into one place at one time can be a daunting task. However, this task can also be freeing once we let go of our horror that our real "In" box is larger than a small filing cabinet. Seeing the mound of our real "In" box can be overwhelming, but relief will follow because at last we know the extent of what we need to get done.  This is good news.  From personal experience, I have found this to be true.
The process of collecting consists of two steps:

  1. Physical gathering: Collecting everything in your environment that doesn't belong where it is permanently and placing it into "In".
  2. Mental gathering: Writing down all of the ideas lurking around our heads that represent projects or tasks, each on a separate piece of paper, and placing those into "In".

Once you've gathered all of your stuff" (don't forget your electronic media items such as email), you are ready for the next step: Process.  Hang in there.  This kind of overhaul takes time but it is well worth the effort.

Connect learning to leading: Take a look around at your current work or living space.  What is on your desk surface? Peak in the drawers, cabinets and closets.  How many items are not in their permanent places & need to be resolved?  What thoughts were triggered?  Put these items in "In" for processing.  Then stay "tuned" until next time.


NOTE: "Getting Things Done" is just one of many tools for managing workflow. If you want an expert on GTD, be sure to visit their website. If you want leadership coaching from a self-proclaimed GTD groupee, call me today for a complimentary consultation at 913-219-7844.

The Art of Efficiency

Even the most outwardly neat individuals may still have cluttered minds. That's because most people haven't mastered how to consistently capture all of the incomplete items in their lives and plan how to handle them. How consistently organized are your thoughts?  What system do you have for managing all you do?
One of the best books I've found on developing a complete system for personal productivity is "Getting Things Done" (aka GTD) by David Allen. In fact, I would probably say that I'm an informal GTD groupee. I love his process and like my coach did with me, I often suggest to my clients with time management or organizational woes to check out GTD.
In his book, "Getting Things Done", personal productivity guru David Allen stresses that "only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective results and unleash our creative potential." Stress-free productivity is indeed an art.
Clear minds allow our ideas to bounce around freely without getting squelched by the clutter of the undone items we are trying not to forget. Additionally clear minds help us efficiently focus on the task at hand.

David Allen teaches the following core process for mastering workflow in any context, home or office:
  1. Collect the "stuff" representing your "to do's"
  2. Process what you collect
  3. Organize results of processing
  4. Review results as options "to do"
  5. Do

When completely integrated, this process will alleviate stress because everything will be in its place, even our thoughts.  Are you ready to learn the art of efficiency? I can give you an appetizer and whet your appetite for more while you learn some practical tips. If you want the main course, check out all David Allen has to offer.

What do you do for an organizational system? Share your thoughts in a comment!
Connecting learning to living and leading

Throughout your day, be aware of how many times you think of something you need to do but still haven't done.  How many times did you have that same thought in your day?  How much energy is this costing you?  What can you do about it?
NEXT POST... Collecting the "stuff".

Are you overwhelmed with all you have to do? Contact me for a complimentary consultation today to get started on the path to stress-free productivity!

Time Management 101: Start with Reality

No one has enough time to do all the things they want to do. No one. Don't believe me? Take a few minutes to list all the things on your mind you want to do or have to do. Think about your list and consider the fact that your list will grow today and tomorrow and the next day. Your list is a snapshot, not a movie.

Great leaders know the importance of time, that every moment in time is unrepeatable.

Time doesn't stop for us to complete our lists and once it is gone we can never get it back. Yet, time is fair. Each of us get the same amount of time to work with - 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week. Do you know where your time goes? Are you investing or spending it?  

Today I'd like to challenge you to participate in an exercise I propose to nearly all of my clients interested in better time management.  Excellent time management starts with a harsh examination of reality.

Step #1. Monitor your time in 10 minute increments for a two week period.

Step #2. Summarize your findings. Create a list of categories that describe your daily activities.

Step #3. Assess your results. What did you discover about yourself? What would you like to change? How does the way you spend your time align with your core values or top priorities?

Once you honestly complete this exercise you will know your current reality. It is what it is. Then you can diagnose inefficiencies in your schedule and make changes to open up space for what really matters most to you. This could be the start of something amazing in your life. Are you ready for it?

If you try the exercise, come back and share your findings with us. If you've done this before, feel free to share your experiences in a comment. We love to hear from you!


Meetings: Energizing or Excruciating?

Meetings are a necessary part of organizational culture and can either be energizing or excruciating, depending on the strength of the meeting's organizer. What comes to your mind when you think of the word "meeting"?

Coming to my mind as I type this are flashbacks of the most boring and unproductive times of my career. Yikes! Most of the time when I think of my past experiences with meetings, I think of some of the things Mike Rogers wrote in his post last week entitled "8 Important tips to help you waste time in meetings". I highly recommend reading through his list.

Leaders who know how to effectively run meetings set themselves apart from the rest. They are few and far between. In addition to doing the opposite of what you might find in Mike's list, here are some tips to make the most use of your time and your attendees' time during your meetings:

  1. Clearly identify your desired outcome. Why are you having this meeting?
  2. Choose your meeting length and structure based upon your desired outcome. (e.g tactical  meetings differ from strategic planning)
  3. Create a parking lot to capture ideas that require a separate meeting so you can keep focused.
  4. Coordinate and collaborate during your meeting time. Avoid reading committee or departmental "reports" that can be communicated via written format.

What do you need to change about your current meeting structure? Changing the way you run meetings might just be the most productive thing you do this year! If you've got a story about how changing your meeting structure impacted your organization, we'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Need help with your meetings? I love helping people make these changes! Call me for a complimentary consultation today at 913-219-7844! You'll be glad you did!

Leading Forward: Don't Look Back

Leadership requires guts. Guts to make tough decisions. Guts to stand alone for what is right rather than what is popular. Guts to leave behind the old for the promise of the new. Leaders with guts make good decisions and press forward with their eyes fixed on the future.

Have you ever questioned a decision you've made to move forward? We all have. However, if we've used a good decision making process, our looking back causes more harm than good. Think about the following:

  • Football players who look back while rumbling for long touchdowns often get tackled just inches before the goal line...and lose the score. 
  • Sprinters who look back lose forward momentum...and the race.
  • Rock climbers who look back (down) lose their courage to make it to the top.

Looking back rarely gets us the win. What are you looking back for?

Following is a poem I'd like to share to encourage you to press forward into all that you are created to be, in leadership and in life. Enjoy, and as always, your comments are appreciated!

Don't Look Back
- by June Marie Johnson

As you travel through life there are always those times
when decisions just have to be made,
when the choices are hard and solutions seem scarce
and the rain seems to soak your parade!

There are some situations where all you can do
is to simply let go and move on,
gather courage together and choose a direction
that carries you toward a new dawn.

So pack up your troubles and take a step forward.
The process of change can be tough.
But think about all the excitement ahead,
if you can be stalwart enough!

There could be adventures you never imagined
just waiting around the next bend
and wishes and dreams just about to come true
in ways you can't yet comprehend!

Perhaps you'll find friendships that spring from new interests,
as you challenge your status quo
and learn there are so many options in life,
and so many ways you can grow!

Perhaps you'll go places you never expected
and see things that you've never seen,
or travel to fabulous, faraway worlds and
wonderful spots in between!

Perhaps you'll find warmth, affection and caring,
a "somebody special" who's there
to help you stay centered and listen with interest
to stories and feelings you share.

Perhaps you'll find comfort in knowing your friends
are supportive of all that you do
and believe that whatever decisions you make,
they'll be the right choices for you!

So keep putting one foot in front of the other
and taking your life day by day.
There's a brighter tomorrow that's just down the road.
Don't look back, you're not going that way!

If you need some assistance in pressing forward toward your goals, determining your goals or gaining confidence in your decision making, coaching may be for you. I help people move forward. Call me for a complimentary consultation today at 913-219-7844! 

Fueling the Responsibility of Leadership

Leadership is not to be taken lightly. The greater our influence over others, the greater responsibility we have. Because of our influence as leaders, society holds leaders of all levels to higher standards.

We must give them what they want.

The people we serve deserve our best efforts and our best selves. Unfortunately, most leaders are tired, frazzled, and running on empty. We rarely see their best because they are too drained to give it. Following are three tips to help fuel your leadership tank. 

1) Remember who you serve. 

Thoughtful leaders know who and what they serve. Why do you do what you do? Why does your organization do what it does? Find a way to connect your passions to your leadership responsibilities and lead from that place. Follow your heart, serve those around you and lead with the highest goal in mind. This will help you do the right thing, even though it may not be popular. 

2) Keep your "cup" filled to overflowing. 

The more you give to other people and the more responsibility you have on and off the job, the more time you need to refuel. I heard a speaker say: “If your intake is less than your outflow then your upkeep will be your downfall.” How do you relieve stress? What fills your energy tank? What are you trying to give that you do not have?

3) Get a coach or mentor.  

Never stop learning or trying to improve. When we think we’ve “arrived”, we are ripe for a fall. Leaders should never cease to ask for wisdom, feedback and accountability in their endeavors. A learning spirit keeps us humble because it acknowledges we don’t know it all. Additionally, a coach can help you connect your with your passions and get your self care routine on track.

One final thought. My fellow leaders, we all know how tough the road of leadership can be, rewarding as it is. The next time you find yourself criticizing someone in a position of authority, give them a little grace, and remember that people are looking at you too.

Now its your turn. I’ve asked a lot of questions in this post. If you care to share any of your answers, we’d love to hear from you in a comment!

Connecting Learning with Leading
1.  What one thing can you do for yourself this week to fill your "cup"?
2.  Do you have a "safe place" in which to discuss your fears, frustrations or goals? If not, what baby step will you take this week to fill that void?

Need help in becoming a better leader? Contact me at 913-219-7844 for a complimentary consultation to learn more about how you can lead to your full potential.

Leading from the Heart

With leadership comes great responsibility. Leadership requires more than vision casting, goal setting, project planning & task management. With leadership comes the role of a shepherd, to care for those under your charge, ensuring their safety and ongoing development.

Great leadership combines competence with compassion.

Leading from the heart looks like this:

  • Be available to your "flock" for counseling on personal matters. A listening ear and a kind word can help get them back on track professionally.
  • Be protective of your direct reports. Let them know you are on their team.
  • Be watchful for new opportunities. Don't be selfish with your star performers. Let them take on new roles when they arise. The more they succeed the better you look!
  • Be real. Live and lead authentically, sharing your failures along with your successes. Real people develop loyal followers.

Great leadership extends from the heart. How heartfelt is your leadership style? If you have anything to add to my list from your experience, leave a comment by clicking the comment link below. We'd love to hear from you! 

Connecting Learning with Leading
1.  How well do you lead from the heart?
2.  What two things can you do this week to show your direct reports how much you care?

Need help in becoming a better leader? Contact me at 913-219-7844 for a complimentary consultation to learn more about how you can lead to your full potential.

Leadership is Influence

Leadership. It’s all about influence. Without influence, effective leadership does not exist, yet too many people in positions of responsibility rely solely on their official title, assuming they have influence on their direct reports.

They may have less influence than they know. Influence comes from more than just a title. While position carries some influence, true influence happens with a heart connection.

Did you know that influence can be effortless? When we live from a place of authenticity and integrity with humility, vulnerability and a servant’s heart, showing vulnerability, people will be compelled to follow.

A true leader needs no title or position. Leaders influence with their lives.

As I sit here in the unusual quiet of a local coffee shop, I can’t help but think about a dear friend’s influence in my life. We were friends with a deep mutual respect for each other.  We didn’t work for the same company, but shared a passion for a common cause.

Because of her influence, I’m sipping coffee from a porcelain mug, listening to instrumental music on my ipod for focus, and smiling about the wireless mouse that we both love because it has the fastest scrolling capabilities on the planet. That’s influence.

I’m surrounded by and forever changed by her influence and I don’t even know how it happened.

Competent, caring leaders with influence have the potential to change the world by just doing what they do, being who they are. They don’t need titles or position. Who do you need to be so you can be a person of influence?

What stories of influence (or lack thereof) would you like to share in a comment below?

Time Saving Leadership: Teach for Time

Leaders must make time to teach so they can save time they do not have. 

Today skilled minds are worth more than skilled hands. Because everyone is caught up in the race of playing catch-up with too much to do with too little time, leaders must teach people how to think to save time in the long run.
Leaders who can't teach people how to think will be forever challenged with how long to "hand hold" their staffs or volunteers.
How effective are you at teaching people how to think for themselves?
Try this process the next time someone comes to you for answers. Ask them:

1. What do you want to accomplish?
2. What do you need to know, do, or have to accomplish it?
3. What will you do to move forward once you have what you need?

Facilitate the discussion, ask questions to dig deeper into their initial responses and watch those mind wheels turn!  Remember, teaching takes time, but saves time in the long run. Your time is worth the time!

What is your experience with teaching people how to think for themselves?  I'd love to hear of some tricks that have worked for you in the comments below. Also, if you try the above exercise, come back and let us know how it turned out. I love hearing from you!

Related Posts:

The Leader's Role As Teacher
Coaching: How the Best Leaders Teach   

As a professional coach I can help you or your organization develop a coaching culture where people set goals and think for themselves. Contact me for details.