The Way You Think Can Change Your Life

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people engaging in what I call “ain’t it awful” conversations. Believe me, I understand that with things going on like the terror attacks around the world, the controversial Presidential campaigns in the United States, and even the weather, it is easy to slip into a negative mindset. But hand-wringing and downbeat discussions aren’t going to change anything. In fact, it can make things worse by taking all your thoughts into a downward spiral.

Now is the time for positive thinking. I always loved working with Norman Vincent Peale because he used to say “Positive thinkers get positive results.” That is such a powerful message, and we need to keep it in mind to be able to rise above the negative and focus on the positive. We are free to choose our thoughts—and thoughts guide our behavior. It is essential to keep uplifting messages in our head so that we are able to think more clearly, make better decisions, and approach life with a better attitude.

I don’t want to minimize the difficulties we all face in life such as illnesses, money problems, stress at work, and a hundred other things that can drag you down. But I know that a peaceful mind will give you more energy—and that will help you get through tough times.  My wife, Margie, uses a gratitude exercise to help her focus on the positive. Each evening she writes down the top three positive things that happened in her day. Sometimes it is as simple as getting a much-needed rainstorm in our time of drought, or reconnecting with an old friend. The point is that she ends her day with positive thoughts and a peaceful mind.

Try it for yourself. I encourage you to think about it from two perspectives—your personal life and your work environment. I think you’ll be surprised how this simple shift in thinking will change your outlook on life for the better.

First-Time Manager Challenge: Providing Feedback and Re-Direction

Today is a big day for our company—we are officially releasing our new First-time Manager program based on the essential secrets of The New One Minute Manager.

It’s a great one-day program designed to address some of the key challenges people face when they step into a leadership role for the first time—including how to set goals, praise progress, redirect behavior when necessary, and conduct effective performance review sessions.

One of the challenges we zero in on is providing day-to-day feedback and coaching—especially when it involves redirecting behavior that is off-track.  Typically, new managers receive very little training in this essential skill, and without training they often struggle—either coming on too strong and alienating people, or spending so much time beating around the bush that the team member doesn’t have a clear sense that a change is even necessary.

When someone makes a mistake, you need to tell the truth so the person changes the behavior—but make sure you speak in a caring way. Also assume the best intentions. The best way to do this is to talk to your direct report about what you observed and make sure their goals were clear to them at the time. Once you both determine that the goals were clear, check out the facts leading up to the re-direction, to make sure you both agree on what happened. Discuss the impact of the behavior, and then reaffirm the person in a way that is meaningful. Let the person know they are better than their mistake and you have confidence and trust in them.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, states it this way: “It’s important to maintain the balance between being tenderhearted and task oriented.” As a leader you must be able to re-direct behavior to keep people on the right track while also respecting their dignity. Remember—when you share feedback it is never about you or the other person; it is about the behavior. A leader’s job is to constantly help people be the best they can be.

What are some of the other challenges you’ve seen new managers struggle with?  Share them in the comments section below.  I’d love to tap into our collective wisdom and begin to identify more of the challenges new managers face and some ways to effectively address them.  With approximately two million people stepping into new management roles each year, it’s important we help them—and the people they serve—get off to a great start!  Share your thoughts below and I’ll use them as jumping off points for upcoming posts, tweets, and comments.

2 Secrets to Keep on Track with Your New Year’s Resolutions

In my last blog I talked about three tips to help you stay on track to achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Now that you are a few weeks into the process, you might be struggling a little bit, so let me make another suggestion. Over the years, I’ve realized that the people who have the most trouble accomplishing goals and sticking with resolutions are the people who are the busiest. The problem with these people is that too often they go through the motions of day-to-day busy work instead of focusing on the most important things first.

You have probably heard the theory that we all have two selves—the external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting the job done, and the internal, thoughtful, reflective self that considers things before acting. The task-oriented self is the first to wake up in the morning, of course, and is only focused on task achievement. You read email while you are eating breakfast, then jump in the car, head to the office and start attacking your to-do list in order to get everything checked off before you go home. It’s so easy to get caught in this kind of activity trap—you’re so busy doing urgent but unimportant tasks you don’t have time to think about the important goals you may have set.

So how do you get out of this trap? How do you help yourself focus less on task achievement and more on goal achievement? I suggest that in the morning, instead of jumping out of bed and right into task achievement, you enter your day slowly and thoughtfully. Take 20 or 30 minutes to think through what you really need to accomplish for the day. Remember how I suggested you write down your New Year’s resolutions and read them every day? Now is the perfect time. Look at your resolutions to see where they can fit into the day’s plan. Entering your day slowly gives you the opportunity to plan your day out so that you can both accomplish your tasks and fit in time to work toward your resolutions.

Then, at the end of the day before you go to bed, jot down a few notes about your day in a journal. If you don’t want to take the time to write in a journal, at least give yourself the gift of thinking about your day for a few minutes. What did you do during the day that was consistent with your New Year’s resolutions, and what got in the way? Soon you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative patterns so that you can make changes in your schedule to get yourself back on track toward goal achievement.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to spend twenty minutes in the morning to plan and more time at night to reflect.” But I guarantee that if you take that little bit of time, you’ll set yourself up for success in achieving your goals—and your New Year’s resolutions. And you know what? You’re worth it!

3 Tips for Achieving Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions

I read an article recently stating that 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions are not met. I wasn’t surprised by that figure because of two very common facts:

  • Accomplishing the goal is usually more difficult than we think it will be
  • We rarely ask for help from others who can support us

That’s why it makes so much sense to use the three principles of Situational Leadership® II—goal setting, diagnosis, and matching—to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. This highly successful model for setting and achieving work goals applies to reaching personal goals, as well.

For years, I’ve shared the benefits of writing SMART goals. I truly believe this acronym provides a powerful method for making sure your goals are Specific, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable. So I’m not going to go over the best way to write goal statements today. Instead, I’m going to strongly suggest, once the goal is determined, that you write it down. Sounds simple, right? In the working environment, writing goal statements are usually part of a performance planning process. However, many times when people are setting personal goals, they think about what they want to do but they don’t write anything down. If you can’t make the effort to write it down, you probably won’t be committed enough to actually change a behavior.

Write each goal on a separate sheet of paper and read each goal every day. It won’t do you any good to write something down and file it away. When you read your goal statements each day, you remind yourself of your priorities and match your behavior to meet the goals—or adjust your behavior if goals are not being met. This simple process will help you be accountable for your own goal achievement. I read my goals first thing in the morning, just to get my day off to the right start and get myself in the right frame of mind.

Next, it is important to diagnose your development level on each goal. What is your competence (your skills and experience) and what is your commitment (your motivation and confidence) to this goal? Once you determine your competence and commitment, you need to ask for help.

For example, let’s say you are excited about your goal but are not competent yet. You are an enthusiastic beginner and need to find a helper who can coach you—someone who can provide a lot of direction on how you can achieve this goal. If you lack competence and confidence on a goal, you are a disillusioned learner. In this case you need a coach to provide direction as well as a supporter to cheer you on. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same person. If you know how to achieve your goal but your commitment varies, you are a capable but cautious performer. In this case, you need extra support to help you stay committed but you don’t need much direction. Finally, let’s say you have both high competence and high commitment to the goal. A self-reliant achiever, may not even need to write the goal down—you are well on your way to goal achievement.

The third step is called matching. This means finding the right person or group of people to help you reach your goals. You may have different helpers for different goals because you want to choose people who will offer the right combination of direction and support for you. For example, if you set a goal to exercise three times a week, find a friend who is already dedicated to exercising and is willing to join you at the gym instead of one who rarely laces up walking shoes.

Be systematic about checking in with your helpers. Set up a specific time each week to talk about how you are progressing. This can be as simple as a ten-minute phone call or even a quick text. Or use the check-in as a way to get face to face with your main supporters. How you get together doesn’t matter—what you talk about is the biggest factor that will keep you on track toward achieving your goals. I often ask people, “What is the best diet?” Of course, the answer is “The one you stick with.” Think of these check-in meetings as the way to stick to your plan.

So, don’t fall into that 92 percent failure group. Set yourself up for success by setting your goals, diagnosing your development level, and surrounding yourself with helpers who will provide the right amount of direction and support to help you flourish throughout the year!

Re-Direct the Behavior, Not the Person

on the roadAs a manager—or a parent, coach, or any other kind of leader—you want to get rid of bad behavior but keep the good person. To do this, you must give feedback frequently—this goes for catching people doing things right as well as noticing mistakes or poor performance. It makes no sense for a manager to store up observations of poor behavior and present them all at once at the end of a project or during a performance review. Not only would this be frustrating for the manager, it would also put the person receiving the feedback on the defensive.

Re-directing behavior as soon as possible allows the manager to deal with one behavior at a time. It also allows the other person to focus on constructive feedback and how to correct the problem, instead of being overwhelmed with information about numerous mistakes or misbehaviors that happened long ago.

For the manager, the most important part of the re-direct is remembering to build people up, not tear them down. Confirm the facts, review the goal, and explain specifically how the behavior didn’t support the goal. End the re-direct with a praising: this lets the person know they are better than their mistake. A re-direct should never be perceived as a personal attack. You want the person to be aware of and concerned about what they did, not feel mistreated.

Like all of the Three Secrets Spencer Johnson and I share in our book, The New One Minute Manager, the One Minute Re-Direct takes about a minute and can be a great learning moment for both the manager and the direct report. It allows them to refocus on the goal and work together to strategize how to align performance with the desired outcome. Working collaboratively also improves the relationship by building trust and improving communication.

One Minute Re-Directs are the perfect way to provide feedback and coach people to peak performance. Remember, the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.