How To Become a Better Leader

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably encountered poor leadership.

The frustrating thing comes when you are in that situation and feel helpless to do anything, because the leader is convinced it’s their way or the highway. It may have been a boss or co-worker, but at the end of the day poor leadership is a major hindrance to moving forward.

John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

I believe he’s right.

Leadership is influence. We all have influence with someone. How we leverage that influence makes all the difference in the world.

I believe it starts with a mindset.

Good leaders believe they are there to serve others. Bad leaders believe the others are there to serve them.

You want to be a good leader.

Here are three ways to leverage your influence and bring value to those you serve.

1) Communicate Clarity. Nothing frustrates people more than a lack of clarity. Those who serve with you should know the “What” they are being asked to do, “How” to do it and the “Why” it matters. Communicate those things clearly when you cast vision, lead meetings and have conversations and you will create a winning team.

2) Show Care. Showing value to those you lead is a massive priority. Value comes in all kinds of ways. You can show you care by asking and listening to their input, honoring them by compensating them well (if it’s an employee), thanking them often and doing it publicly.

Get creative. I heard of one employer that hires it’s staff at X amount per year, but then budgets for additional cost on top of that. They use the additional cost to send the staff on occasional paid date nights with their spouse or getaways to keep marriages in their organization strong and honor spouses who often times sacrifice as well.

I heard of another leader who surprised the staff with ordering an ice cream truck to show up at work mid day and treated everyone to ice cream for a job well done.

3) Create Community. No one likes to be a “clock puncher”, but people love to be a part of a thriving community and team. Get creative in shaping a fun culture with those you lead.

I love hearing stories like one friend of mine who has midday ping pong competitions with the staff and Guitar Hero challenges.

Why not create theme days and hand out prizes for the most creative participant? Pixar Studios is legendary for this type of thing. It creates an incredibly fun culture.

People will actually work harder and never want to leave the company because they know you are “for” them. You become a giving leader instead of a taking leader.

I’ve been in leadership positions for 20 years and I can tell you that when one of these three elements are missing, it’s like a leg missing on a three legged stool. It just doesn’t hold up.

Be purposeful with this three fold strategy in your leadership and I believe you will create a winning team.

10 Simple Ways to Become a Likable Leader

My favorite show on television is Shark Tank.

I DVR every episode.

I love watching the ideas entrepreneurs come up with and seeing the Sharks give feedback to the business owners on how they can succeed.  I find it fascinating and I’ve learned a lot about life and business from the show.

Barbara Corcoran, Shark Tank celebrity and business mogul said,  “If people like you, they’re going to want to do business with you. And if they don’t, you’re going to have an almost insurmountable obstacle to overcome.”

This statement is not only true of business, but in personal relationships as well.

People want to do business and personal relationships with people they like.

This topic is relevant to all of us because we all are in the “people business” in some form or fashion.

At our very core, we are hardwired to want to be liked.  We need relationships.  If we don’t have them, life becomes a challenge.

It reminds me of Tom Hank’s character in the movie, Castaway.  Out of sheer desperation and loneliness, he created a fictitious character named Wilson out of a volleyball, just to have a friend.

We all want to create better relationships and connections with people.  Better connections happen when people like us.  And when we have something of value to offer, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

When we get this right, we advance at work faster, create more and better relationships easier and add value to the world around us.

Here are 10 Simple Ways to Become a More Likable Leader:

1)  Smile.  Experts tell us we have only a few seconds to make a good first impression.  A smile is the fastest way to communicate acceptance and welcome.  If people know that you accept them, it creates an immediate bridge to connection.  Nothing communicates a disconnection faster than a frown.  Be aware of what your face is communicating and make sure a smile is one of the first things the other person notices.

2) Be a Good Listener (and put the phone away).  In our fast paced world of technology, it’s so easy to get distracted.  Our attention spans are getting less and less.  Resist the urge to keep checking your phone while your speaking to someone.  Better yet, put your phone out of sight.  This communicates huge respect. Be a good listener and respond with good questions.

3) Maintain Good Eye Contact.  We all have a tendency to want to pay attention to what is going on around us.  Unfortunately, consistently looking over the person’s shoulder at the next “shiny object” (“Squirrel!”) is a quick way to disconnect and cause a person to not like you.  One tip to help maintain eye contact: Notice and pay attention to the person’s eye color. It will help you to make eye contact easier. A good rule of thumb is to use a 10 to 1 ratio for eye contact.  Maintain eye contact for about 10 seconds and break contact for 1 second.  That will keep you interested without looking creepy.

4) Focus on the Interests of the Other Person.  People love to talk about themselves and what they are interested in.  Find out what interests them and you will never run out of things to talk about.  Focusing on their interests makes them feel like the most important person in the room.

5) Keep It Positive.  No one likes a Debbie Downer.  I’m not saying you need to become Pollyanna, but stay away from the complaining.  Consistent complaining is a sure fire way to repel another person.  Look for the positive and keep a good attitude.  Positivity in a negative world will help you to stand out and become contagious. People love connecting with positive people.

6) Use the Person’s Name.  A person’s name is the one of the most sweetest sounds to their ears.  Use it sparingly in a conversation, but use it.  If you are meeting someone for the first time, using their name will also help you to remember their name after you meet them.

7) Lean In.  Leaning in slightly while having a conversation is a great tool to use for better connection.  It helps the person to know your interested and engaged with what is being said.

8) Watch Your Body Language.  In certain situations it’s been said that body language makes up  55% of our communication, tone  of voice represents 38% and actual words spoken represent only 7%.  While those percentages vary based on context, our body language is extremely important in how we connect and communicate with others.  Our body language can communicate disinterest (folded arms, slouching, looking away) or interest (positive facial expressions, nodding head, etc.)  Use it well and you will become more likable.

9)  Have Variety in Your Voice.  As mentioned above, tone of voice can make up a large part of our communication.  If you’ve ever listened to someone who speaks in a quiet, mumbling, monotone voice, you know it’s very difficult to stay interested.  Use some variety and appropriate volume in your voice and you will have an easier time commanding attention.  Your voice is like an instrument.  It can be played very well or not so well.  No one likes to hear the same note played over and over.  Slight variety peaks interest.

10)  Stay Connected.  To set yourself up from the crowd and create lasting value, stay connected with your relationships you develop.  I heard of one business executive that writes 5 hand written notes every morning.  Who wouldn’t like someone that shows that kind of value to them?  Social media, text messages and phone calls also are an easy way to create a quick connection that shows the other person you care and think they are important.

These aren’t the only ways to become a more likable leader, but put these in practice and I guarantee you will create more value for others and for yourself.

Go be likable this week.

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3 Things Olympic Athletes Teach Us About Success

With the Winter Olympics underway in Russia, millions of eyes are watching these elite athletes compete for the gold.

Ripping the Turn
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an elite Olympic athlete? One thing is for sure.  It’s not easy.  For every athlete that qualifies, there are lots more that don’t.

The question to ask ourselves is, “What can we learn from these winners about success?”

Here are 3 Things Olympic Athletes Teach Us About Success:

1) Talent is not enough.

There are lots of talented athletes.  It’s consistency and hard work that separate the good ones from the great ones.

It’s common for Olympic athletes to train 4-8 years in a sport before appearing on the world stage.  They put in countless hours working on their craft, oftentimes early in the morning when the rest of the world is sleeping.  Some do this on top of a regular job.

They realize it may be 1/10 of a second that keeps them out of the Olympics.  Every moment counts.

To experience the success no one else experiences, you have to be willing to do the things no one else does.

2) Success doesn’t come without sacrifice.

Olympic athletes are focused people.  I’ve heard it said F.O.C.U.S. is:  Following One Course Until Success.

Focus requires saying no to many things so you can say yes to a few things.   Those few things focused on consistently over time help you achieve your goals and dreams.

Olympic athletes maintain strict eating schedules by saying no to foods that hinder their performance and yes to a diet that enhances it.  They say no to things that distract them from their training schedule and yes to things that contribute to their success.

3) Pushing yourself is balanced with pacing yourself.

Olympic athletes know they need to push themselves beyond their comfort zone, but at the same time need to take time to rest and rejuvenate.

It’s not uncommon for these elite athletes to sleep 8-10 hours per night followed by a 30-90 minute siesta during the day.  The rest helps repair the muscles that the strenuous exercise has placed on them.  It helps them refocus their mind and continue to keep their eye on the goal.

Just like a high performance race car needs to stop to re-fuel, we need to take regular breaks and rest at least one day per week.  It’s necessary if we are to operate at full capacity and achieve our goals and dreams.

These aren’t the only things we can learn from Olympic athletes, but if we apply them to our lives we’ll go further faster.  

What’s one goal or dream you have?  Go for the gold.  I believe you can do it.  

One Key to Empowering Your Team

Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” ~ Seth Godin

Let’s face it.  Nobody likes a ball hog.

We’ve all encountered people like this.  Growing up playing sports it was the kid who had to take every shot and get the credit when she/he scored.

Entering the workplace, it’s the leader that feels the need to make every decision and get the glory for the success of the organization.

That may build ego, but it doesn’t build a team.

Here’s a key to leadership success: pass the ball. 

It empowers your team and gets the ball down the court.

Ultimately, it creates a win-win for everybody involved.

After all, nobody likes a ball hog.

How can you empower people in your organization by giving them a platform to spread ideas that work?

One Thing Successful People Do

There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Success in the sense that something great and lasting was built. Maybe it’s a great business or marriage. Chances are it took time. Lots of time.

Group of happy business people clapping their hands

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

We often times hear about success stories only after all the hard work is put in and view it as an instant success.

The good news is all of us have been gifted with the potential for success.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is often one thing.

PERSEVERANCE:  Not giving up when things get tough. 

When I think of perseverance, I think of five famous people that you’ve heard of and maybe didn’t know their story.

They didn’t give up when things got tough.  In fact, if they did give up, we would have never heard about them.  PERSEVERANCE was the difference in them being average and them doing great things.

1) Walt Disney

Did you know that Walt once was fired from a job because they thought he wasn’t creative enough? What if he gave up?  There would be no Mickey Mouse.  There would be no Walt Disney World. He didn’t give up when things got tough.

2) Thomas Edison 

Edison tried 1,000 times to make the light bulb.  What if he gave up on the 999th time?  He didn’t give up!

3) Hellen Keller

Helen Keller was blind and deaf and learned to speak and read.  She went on to graduate college and become a speaker and author.

4) Albert Einstein 

When we think of smart people, everyone thinks of Albert Einstein.  One of the greatest thinkers of all time. He didn’t always remember to comb his hair, but he was really smart in Science.  He didn’t talk until he was 4 and didn’t read until he was 7 and some people called him mentally slow and challenged.  He didn’t let that stop him from going on to make some of the greatest discoveries that science has ever seen.

5) Michael Jordan 

Some would say Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.  (If you are a Miami Heat fan, you may say that title would go to LeBron James.) Michael Jordan was amazing on the court, many times unstoppable.  But did you know he once got cut from his high school basketball team?  What if he quit?

PERSEVERANCE.  That’s what made the difference in all of these people’s lives between being average and great.  They refused to give up when things got tough.

Here’s the cool thing.  God knew that you and I would have great days and tough days and He made a promise to us that would help us persevere through the tough days.  It was a guy named Paul the Apostle that wrote one of the greatest things in the whole Bible.  He wrote it while he was in prison and it is my favorite scripture, my life verse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

I’ve come back to that scripture over and over again in my life, especially when something is hard.  “God, this is tough, but I’m not going to quit because you promised you will give me the strength to succeed.”

What would your life look like if you persevered, followed your dreams and never gave up?

You would become everything God created you to be and you could make a difference in the world!

God has an amazing plan for each and every one of us.  He wants to use your life to make a difference in the world by serving others.

In fact, there is another scripture in the Bible that says, “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans for hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has made you to be great.  So go be great.  Persevere when things are tough, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  Don’t give up.  Go make a difference in the world!

What is one area you need to persevere in to see your goals achieved?

 

Are You Living Your Dream Life?

We all want to get the most out of life.  Sadly, not many of us do.

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Bronnie Ware is a nurse who spent years as a nurse caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their life.  She noticed a common pattern that emerged among her patients and decided to put her observations into a book called, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

Here are the top 5: 

1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

They regretted not following more of their passions and dreams.

2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. 

They regretted missing valuable time with their kids, family and friends.

3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

They regretted internalizing their feelings at missed out on resolving conflict.

4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

They regretted letting relationships lapse.

5) I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

They regretted missing out on some of the simple joys of life and experiencing life to the full.

The good news is that you and I have a choice today how we can change our lives for the better.  Change that will help us avoid some of these regrets and live life to the full.

Question of the day:  Which one of these five things do you need to get back on track with?  Go for it!  Your life is a gift from God.  How you live it is your gift to Him and the world.  

 

 

12 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 43 Years

I turned 43 today.

I feel a bit like Forrest Gump sitting on a bench, reflecting on what I’ve learned in my life.  (Cue music and feather floating in the air.)

Sit down
I wish I learned these things earlier, but I guess this is all part of the journey.

Here are 12 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 43 Years.

1) Giving is better than receiving. Serving others brings great joy.

2) You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.

3) Life is better when you focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

4) Starting each day with gratitude leads to greater perspective and a happier life.

5) Words are powerful. They can be used to shape people’s futures, for better or for worse.

6) Money doesn’t buy happiness. (But it can be a blessing when you use it in the right ways.)

7) Everybody needs encouragement. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

8) Life can be hard at times. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

9) Everybody is in the people business. Most of our success in life is built around how well we interact with others.

10) Life is not meant to be boring.  Have fun and create adventures.

11) A marriage of your dreams is possible.  Dating your spouse and learning their “love language” are keys to creating it.

12) God is faithful.

Bonus:  Chipotle is better than Moe’s.  (Moe’s fans, please refer to #2)

What has been the best advice you’ve ever received?  Would you share it in the comments below?  

Yes You Can

English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.”

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We all have tapes that play in our head.  Many times, those tapes are saying something negative.  “I can’t do that”.  “I’m not smart enough”.  “I would fail if I tried that”.

However those thoughts got there, I think many people have a tendency in general to gravitate first towards the “I can’t” mentality.

What if we could change that?  What if we started with “I can”?

I happen to be a Christian.  One of my life verses from the Bible is:  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Attitude is everything.

Someone once said, “If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you can’t.”

In other words, if you start with an “I can’t” mentality, it will be 10x harder to accomplish something than if you start with an “I can” mentality.

A positive attitude will trump a negative attitude every time.

Here are 3 Ways to Have an “I Can” Attitude:

1)  Surround yourself with the right people.  Experts tells us we will be the average of the 5 people we associate with.  Your friends are a preview of your future.  Are you surrounding yourself with mostly negative people?  Seek to limit those relationships and surround yourself with positive people.  You will begin to notice a big difference in your attitude.

2)  Fill your mind with the right stuff.  Read books and listen to podcasts that are life giving. If your media diet consists of only watching the news, it’s probably time to change the channel.

3)  Remind yourself of the right things.  God has created you to be amazing and unique.  There is nobody else on the planet exactly like you.  You have gifts and talents and were created to do great things.  Remind yourself of past accomplishments.  Rediscover (or discover) what you can be the best in the world at and work on your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses.

Change your attitude.  Change your life.

Yes You Can.

What is one area you can have a more positive attitude in today?

How Disney Achieves Excellence

You would be hard pressed to find a person that hasn’t experienced the Disney brand in some form or fashion.  Whether it’s a theme park, movie, product or resort, Disney does it right. They are known for their excellence.

Just how do they achieve it?

Cinderella's Castle, Walt Disney World
Walt was a stickler for detail.  He believed details mattered.   To give an example, if Disney was to paint something in one of their parks a certain color (let’s say white for example), they would test dozens of shades of white in various sunlight situations.  All to get just the right shade as it related to the surroundings.

In the early days when Disneyland had opened, Walt would make his “imagineers” (those that designed the park) crawl through the park on their hands and knees to get the same perspective as a child.  He wanted them to experience things as their guests and make changes accordingly.

He also required his staff to ride the rides and eat with the guests to see things from their angle.  Adjustments were easier to make to serve them better.

Walt believed in “Fresh Eyes”.

Fresh eyes as a leader is the ability to see things from a fresh perspective.  Specifically from the perspective of those you serve.

In business, what does your customer experience when they interact with your company?

Is your environment clean?  Were they greeted with a warm welcome?  Was the process efficient?  Did you exceed their expectations so much they would give you a word of mouth referral without you asking?

It’s easy to get so entrenched working “in your business” that you forget to work “on your business”.  

Sadly enough, my experience lately is customer service in many places of business has been in decline.  It’s easier than ever to exceed the competition with just a little extra effort.

Experts say that you can exceed the competition if you can do something just 5% better.

This “Fresh Eyes” principle isn’t just for business.  It can also be used in your personal life.

You can look at your home, your relationships and your life with fresh eyes.  What is the current experience  and how can I make adjustments to make it better?  How can I serve others better?

One tip I would give you is to ask for feedback.  In business, bring in someone to give you some unbiased feedback on their experience with your company.  Set up a survey to get feedback from your customers.  Ask questions regularly with the goal of improvement.

Seeing with “Fresh Eyes” and acting accordingly always leads to improvement.  And when you improve, everybody wins.

What is one area of your organization or life you can look at with “Fresh Eyes” this week?

3 Ways To Make a Good Marriage Great

When I was younger I worked as a life guard at a community pool.

Enamoured couple is played

One day, a disgruntled older man decided he would give me some advice.  He said, “Don’t ever get married.  You’ll be miserable.”

I remember telling him, “Just because you have a bad marriage doesn’t mean I have to have a bad marriage.” It was a sad thing to see someone so negative against marriage.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

With the divorce rate in America hovering around 50%, there is a good chance you know someone that has been affected by the devastation of it.

No one sets out on their honeymoon with the goal of getting a divorce, but sadly many people end up there.

For the 50% of couples that don’t end up divorced, there is a percentage of those that feel their marriage is  just not what they thought it would be.

But I believe a large percentage of that 50% have a good marriage, but feel it could be better.

Whether you are married and looking for ways to make your marriage better or you are currently single and desire be married; 

Here are 3 Ways To Make a Good Marriage Great.

1) Consider Your Spouse’s Interests.

My hunch is that when you were first dating you did lots of things that typically “weren’t your thing”.  It doesn’t mean that men need to flock to the mall with their wives every weekend or that women need to go out and buy a set of the latest Duck Dynasty camo.  It does mean that marriage isn’t all about us.

How can you create a connection with your spouse with the things he/she is interested in?  It may be as simple as a conversation asking them about their interest that shows you care.

My wife, Jacque has a love for helping orphans in Mexico.  She oversees a mission trip there with a group of about 100 people.  I know she cares about that deeply and I know it means a lot to her when I ask how things are going with the planning.

2) Apologize When Necessary.

The two words, “I’m sorry” tend to be some of the hardest to say when you are married.  No one likes to admit they are wrong.  If you have offended your spouse, be quick to apologize.  Easier said than done, but sincere apologies create relational equity.  It goes a long way and shows your spouse your relationship is more important than being right.

On a similar note, when your spouse apologizes be quick to forgive.  Unforgiveness and holding grudges create a wedge in your marriage.  It’s impossible to create a great marriage if a spouse is holding onto a grudge.  Drop the rock of unforgiveness and your relationship will move forward.

3) Be a Good Listener.

Listening shows value.  Genuine listening.  Waiting for your turn to talk is not listening.  Your spouse knows you care when you listen.

A word to the men.  We have a tendency to try to “fix things”.  Sometimes our wives need to just be heard and understood.  Ask them if there is anything we can do to help, but many times they will just want to be heard.

Also, a word to the women.  Men have shorter attention spans when it comes to listening.  Men want to serve by listening, but it can be difficult to stay with a long story.  It’s just the way many of us are wired.

If husbands and wives can understand their differences, communication in the relationship can flourish.

These are not the only ways to make a good marriage great, but they certainly are things every couple can put into practice and see results.  

A great marriage is possible.  One great decision at a time.

Which of these do you feel is the most important?