Are You a Caregiver or a Caretaker?

Photo by Cindy Hesterman

Are you a caregiver or a caretaker?  I was a caregiver for a while when my elderly mother became ill and eventually passed away.  I had some tough decisions to make, which were emotionally and mentally draining, even though I had outside help.  It was important to me to know that my mother was comfortable and in the best situation she could be, where people were there to comfort her and hold her hand when she needed it.  It’s hard to be alone and I could only imagine that I would want to have someone there for me who truly cared.

There was an amazing volunteer from hospice who would come and relieve me when I was caring for my mother at the end of her life.  He had been a hospice volunteer for over 26 years.  He had retired and had apparently earned enough that he didn’t need to earn an income any longer.  He decided that what he wanted to do was to volunteer with hospice.  He spent his days – long days – going from dying person to dying person, providing words of comfort, reading to them and holding their hand.  He also gave caregivers a break so they could go take care of themselves for a few hours each day.  He was such an amazing man.  My mom passed away on a Saturday morning after I had been doing an all-night vigil for 5 days and nights.  This man had come every day to stay for a few hours so I could get a shower, run errands, and get some exercise.  I knew that my mom was in good hands with him.  That Saturday morning when he arrived, he told me he could only stay for about an hour because he had to see 14 patients that day:  14 patients in multiple locations!  It was a Saturday and he had already worked a full week.  To realize that he was ending his volunteer workweek by visiting 14 different patients at multiple locations was amazing to me.  What an incredible, caring person – truly a caregiver!

I’ve met some leaders who seem more like caretakers.  A caretaker is someone who is employed to take care of a property, a cemetery, etc.  They make it look better by planting flowers, pulling weeds, and doing other things to maintain the appearance of the property.  Of course, appearances can be deceiving, and the property may be in much worse shape than it looks.  Caretakers are usually working with innate objects, while caregivers are usually working with human beings.

In your business, are you acting more like a caretaker or a caregiver?  Are you just touching the surface, making things look nice, but never really engaging with the people around you or making a true connection?  How much more of an impact could you have by really getting to know your employees and giving them your care and attention?

I’d suggest that we’d all be better off if more leaders were true caregivers like my friend at hospice – giving from our hearts.

 

Using Danica’s Outburst as a Leadership Lesson

Learn as a Leader

Many of you may have heard about racecar driver Danica Patrick’s reaction to a crash last week.  She was understandably upset about being wrecked for the third time in four weeks, however it was her apparent insensitivity to another driver that hit the airwaves.   Danica was being interviewed immediately after the crash while Aric Almirola was being cut from his racecar and airlifted to a hospital after suffering broken vertebra in his back, and her initial comments were all about her frustration and bad luck.  It took almost two minutes before she expressed concern for Aric. 

Leadership Lessons

While it’s unlikely anyone believes that Danica would wish harm to a fellow driver, her comments seemed insensitive and self-centered.  What can a leader learn from this situation?

All Eyes Are On The Leader

First, as a leader, it’s important to remember that all eyes are on you.  Your employees are always watching you, whether you realize it or not.  Some of them will observe your behavior and then emulate you, with the assumption that is how you’d like them to behave as well.

A Leader Remains in Control

Second, if you feel the need to have an emotional outburst, excuse yourself from the situation until you can gain control of yourself.  Danica could have said, “No comment”, and waited until later to be interviewed.  By giving the interview while she was still in “fight or flight” mode, she was unable to access higher levels of emotional intelligence and reasoning. 

A Strong Leader Takes Responsibility

Third, Danica talked about bad luck, and said that “every time I’m doing better, something stupid happens”.  How would you respond if your employees complained in that manner?  A strong leader should take responsibility and look at the situation as an opportunity to learn something.  It’s often the most difficult times that lead to the greatest growth for an individual or a company.

A Leader Remains Positive

Finally, let’s remember that our words and our attitude have a significant impact on our success.  If we focus on the negative side of things, we’ll continue to make that our truth.  However, if we focus on the potential opportunity to learn and grow, that will soon become our truth.

Which type of leader do you want to be?

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Is Your Large Project Like a Pregnancy?

Is Your Large Project Like a Pregnancy?

As some of my Vistage member CEOs updated me in the past few weeks on large projects underway at their companies, I was struck by the thought that the situations they were experiencing are like a pregnancy.  (Even if you have never been pregnant, I’m sure you are familiar with these concepts):

Planned vs. unplanned – Some projects are planned long in advance, while others are last minute due to unanticipated factors.

Morning sickness – Early in the project, upheaval and internal rumblings are often present in the organization as people try to get used to dealing with the project in addition to their normal workload.  Sometimes these rumblings die down as the project progresses past the first few months.  Other times, the rumblings last for most of the project.

Regular doctor visits – Large projects are often led by experts or consultants who have dealt with these types of projects before.  It’s important to have regular visits from the consultant to ensure the project is on schedule.  Sometimes the visits are quick and painless because the project is on track.  Sometimes, the consultant will recommend a change that is unexpectedly challenging.  (During my pregnancy, I knew I had to give up caffeine, but was caught off guard when the doctor told me I also had to give up chocolate.  Since I was craving chocolate, that was a big challenge!)

Preparing the nursery – After the initial hurdles have been overcome, it’s time to focus externally.  What impact will the project have on other departments within the organization?  Will customers or vendors be impacted?  How will you ready them for the upcoming changes?  It’s important to be prepared for the project to launch successfully.

Feeling the baby kick and the last trimester – The first time the baby kicks, you often feel excited.  When the project is closer to completion, excitement starts to build.  Then the kicks become more frequent, everything aches, you can’t sleep, and you start to tire of the situation.  Additionally, just as I did not realize that pregnancy really lasts 10 months (not 9!), projects often take longer than expected.   You may begin to wonder if this will ever be over.

Labor and delivery – “Going live” with your project can often be more painful than expected.  Others may warn you about the potential pain, yet it’s hard to comprehend until you experience it for yourself.  Launching a project can be a very intense time for all involved.

After the baby is born – Once the project has been launched, it may need your close attention and nurturing for a while.  Eventually, things settle into a routine.

That is, until the terrible twos!

 

Photo by:  Qsimple, Memories For The Future Photography via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

 

Pot O’ Gold

Seeking Your Pot O\' Gold

St. Patrick’s Day brings up thoughts of shamrocks, pots o’ gold and good luck.   Is your business success a matter of luck?  Or intentional value-creation?

One of the best things you can do to ensure a larger pot o’ gold when you sell your business is to hire the right people.  Hiring people just like you may not be as impactful as hiring people with different strengths and skills.  If you hire people to do the things you do not enjoy, it is likely that they will also do them better than you could, which allows you to focus on areas where you bring more value.

Note that hiring for different strengths and skills does not mean different core values, however.  A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values, and encourage those with different values to find employment elsewhere.  As the leader of your business, you should intentionally create the culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values.

Another thing you can do to increase the value of your business is to implement systems and processes so that the business is not dependent on you or just a few people.  Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed and expand your business.  A scalable business adds value in the long-term and allows you to take those much-needed vacations in the short-term!

It takes more than luck to create a successful business.  Why don’t you keep that pot o’ gold in mind as you hire the right people with the right core values and create the processes that will enable you to grow?  In other words, continue to work ON your business rather than IN your business!

 

Squirrel!

Do you find that you are easily distracted? Especially when you are supposed to be working on something that isn’t much fun? I generally do not procrastinate – I’m usually one of the first people to respond to a request or to tackle a big project. I can really get things done when I put my mind to them – if they are things that I enjoy doing. Head down, focused, intense, and determined are all terms that describe me when I am in that “zone”.

Then there are those things that I really don’t enjoy doing, such as administrative or repetitive tasks. I have discovered that I not only procrastinate starting on those types of tasks, I also get distracted easily when I finally start to do them. If you have seen the movie “Up”, you’ll know what I mean when I say, “Squirrel!”. Whenever they thought they heard a squirrel, the dogs in the movie would stop whatever they were doing, turn their heads and freeze, saying “Squirrel!”. After a pause, they would continue with what they had been doing previously as if nothing had distracted them. In real life, when our thoughts are interrupted, we are less efficient and effective than we would have been without the disruption.

I’ve noticed that sometimes these less enjoyable tasks take me 2-3 times longer than they should have because I have allowed distractions to take me off course. So now when I will be starting a task that I suspect may lead to a “squirrel” distraction, I promise myself a reward if I can get the task done in a focused and timely manner. Awareness is an important first step. After all, I can always chase the squirrels after my work is done!

Distant Storm Clouds – Do You Have a Plan?

Leadership planning for disaster

In Florida, storm clouds often rush in when least expected.  Heavy downpours occur, strong lightning, wind and rain come – seemingly out of the blue.  Could that happen to your business as well?  Are storm clouds lurking far away that could appear quickly and significantly disrupt your business?

What if you lost 30% of your revenue overnight?

In 2004, I had my Vistage group do an exercise where they presented a plan to the group as if they lost 30% of their revenue overnight.  Many of the Vistage members pushed back on the scenario, saying it was very unrealistic that would ever happen.  However, they begrudgingly did the exercise and created a restructured organizational chart and budget reflecting what their business might look like if they suddenly lost that much revenue.  Based on feedback from the group, they fine-tuned their plans to ensure they were feasible.  We hoped they would never need to implement those plans.

Does your leadership have plans for 70% reduction in revenue?

Several years later, the economic downturn occurred, hitting some of those same businesses hard.  Several members told me that they wished I had asked them to present a plan for a 50% or 70% reduction in revenue rather than just 30% because that is how significantly their businesses were impacted by the downturn.  Thankfully they had a good starting point for the changes they needed to implement since some of the toughest decisions had been identified during the exercise in 2004.

What is your backup leadership plan?

I feel that it is very important for every business to have a backup plan for what they would do if something significantly impacts the business in a negative way.  Those who have a plan can more quickly take action in an objective manner, rather than letting emotion influence their decisions.  Those Vistage members who had a plan going into the downturn weathered the storm much better than those who had no plan.  And those who took quick action to right-size their business also survived and recovered more quickly once the economy started to pick up again. 

Are you prepared for 2017?

As we move into 2017 and you prepare your plans for growth, I’d highly suggest that you also consider a backup plan in case any distant storm clouds rush into impact your business. 

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Walking While Texting

Texting while walking

Have you heard the statistics about the increase in texting deaths while walking?  People have walked in front of cars, walked off piers and run into walls because they are not watching where they are going.  While I hope you are not texting and walking, I wonder if this is a good analogy for what is happening at your business?

Is your head down, focused on the past or present?  Do you often find yourself getting mired in the detail and crises of the day?  How often are you looking ahead, scanning the horizon for what’s new and where your company should be heading?  The best leaders schedule time in their week for strategic thinking and long term planning.  They ensure they are making time to work on the most important things, rather than the urgent.

So the next time you see someone walking with their head down, distracted by their phone, use that as a reminder to schedule time in your week to focus on the future of your business.

A Positive Attitude Can Be Contagious

Parkour Egypt

 

I recently spent a week with about 25,000 teens at a national youth gathering.  You may have assumed that this posting on attitude would be about stereotypical negative teen attitudes.  Instead, I’d like to share my observation of how positive attitudes that week were contagious.

Everyone who attended the national youth gathering had to walk miles each day in high heat and humidity, wait in long lines, share hotel rooms with others, and sleep very little.  There were definitely many reasons to have a negative attitude (and all of us were tired and grumpy at some point during the week).  However, what impressed me was how quickly positive attitudes changed everything.

These teens went around saying “Hey” to other groups of teens and giving one another high-fives.  They burst into spontaneous song and dance, clapping and laughing.  When someone started to complain or feel sorry for themselves, another person distracted them or got them to laugh.  At one point, we had fun turning complaints into “love” statements, such as, “I love how much my feet hurt”, or “I just love sweating and standing in line”.  We were soon laughing and back in positive moods.

Vistage speaker Boaz Rauchwerger often says, “Fake it till you make it!”, and these 14-18 year olds showed me how effective that approach can be.   A positive attitude can be contagious.  As a leader, you can overcome the negative attitudes in your company with a little effort – even if you have to fake it till you make it!

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Bolt laughing

When was the last time you laughed so much that your cheeks hurt?  For me and 100 of my colleagues, it was just last week.  I was co-leader of an event in Boulder, CO for 100 Vistage/TEC peers from around the world.  My co-leader and I selected the topic of “Creative Brilliance”, which enabled us to take the group down a path most had never experienced.  We decided to bring in an expert to do a session on “Laughter Wellness”.  After sharing a bit about the physiology of laughter and the impact on health, she led us through 30 minutes of laughter yoga. 

At first, our “ha, ha’s”, “he, he’s” and “ho, ho’s” were forced, yet in a very short time, we were all laughing hysterically.  Each time I looked at someone else doing the motions, I found myself laughing even harder.  It’s amazing how terrific we all felt after just 30 minutes of laughter.  The tension left our bodies, and we were energized and ready to take on the world.  

It was a great reminder of how easy it can be to pull yourself out of the doldrums.  When you’re having a rough day, take a short break and watch a funny video, ask someone to tell you a joke, look at the comics in the newspaper, or just remember the last time you laughed until you cried.  Once you start laughing, invite others to join you so they can reduce stress and become energized as well.  Laughter is the best medicine – no prescription needed!

Time Management

*Time Alone*

Do you often find yourself saying you are “too busy” or that there “just aren’t enough hours in the day”?  I often speak with people who tell me that time management is a challenge for them.  A wise Vistage speaker once suggested that we should call it “priority management” rather than time management.  I agree since we can all make choices as to how to spend our time.

The fact is that each of us has the same number of hours in each day.  Some people seem to be able to find that perfect balance of time spent on various aspects of their lives and business.  Others struggle to find time for important but not urgent activities.  Have you talked to a leader recently who says they don’t have time to work out?  Or to take a day off?  Or to work “on” their business rather than “in” their business?  What they are actually saying is that those things are not a high enough priority right now.  If they were, they would be taking action to make time for them.

If you ever crammed for exams by pulling an all-nighter, you showed how you can shift your schedule to make time for high-priority activities.  Grades were more important than sleep that night.  Did you ever work so hard on a project that you realized you forgot to eat?  The work was more important than your awareness of hunger.  If you can put things higher on the priority list than sleep and food (which are pretty important!), then I know you can make time for those other things if you really want to.

 

Why not identify what you really want and then manage your time according to those priorities?