Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Leadership Kick in the Ass by Bill Treasurer

“The best leaders are centered, grounded, and nontoxic. They lead not so their power can grow, but so ours can” – Bill Treasurer

Do you ever wonder how some leaders thrive and keep climbing the ladder despite their arrogance and need to always be in the limelight? I admit that there have been a few times when I have dreamt that someone would kick them in the behind or even pushed them down a few rungs on the ladder. I bet you have felt the same way but alas, we may not be around to witness it.  As painful as it is, most leaders need to be “kicked” once in a while to learn from mistakes, challenges, loss of team faith, or they need to get their feet back on the ground. We all need to learn from our mistakes and be uncomfortable. A battered ego is one of the best ways to move forward and grow as a leader. The sting is a wake up call to change direction even if it hurts even more to do so.

A Leadership Kick in the Ass by Bill Treasurer is the guide that we all need during our careers. If your ass doesn’t need to be kicked from time to time, you can bet a leader in your circle needs it. Just what is a “kick in the ass”? It’s those lessons that can only be learned from “Rough landings, Blunders, and Missteps”.  The key is taking action to learn from a kick in the backside and change how you behave and lead others. Sadly, some leaders allow their strengths to become toxic and their overbearing confidence becomes arrogance.

Bill’s book will really resonates with leaders in all stages. He even devotes chapters to newbie leaders, the “Cheeky Middle” leaders, and the “Shrinking Big Shots”. I guarantee that you fit into one of these categories. A Leadership Kick in the Ass is an engaging, humorous, down in the trenches book. It’s not full of leadership elitism and instead focuses on the dips where so many of us have been in our careers. Bill shares engaging stories about leaders who have fallen from a kick and how they reacted – or didn’t. He challenges us with questions in each chapter. Better yet, he shares “kick ass comebacks” that we need to hear. I enjoyed the glimpses into the realities that leaders have faced after a kick. I admit that I’ve been thinking (OK, dreaming) of several leaders that I worked with that still need a big kick in the ass.

Here are some highlights that A Leadership Kick in the Ass schools us on:

  • Once you have been kicked, how you handle it determines your path. Are you going to take action or remain arrogant? “Leaders need followers more than followers need leaders” is a key take away
  • Pay attention to “career kicks” at the various stages of your life and that of your people
  • Poor leaders come in the form of a “Pig Head” or a “Weakling”. Are you either type? What are you going to do to change?
  • Sound leaders are confident and humble. The two are complementary and it’s a delicate balance. Bill offers effective advice and mirroring these traits may just result in fewer kicks in your backside!
  • There are 3 leadership roles people may take on: The Loyal Rebel, Velvet Hammer, and Genuine Faker. Which style are you and what are the advantages?
  • Ultimately leaders need to be “good”. We need to lead inward before we can project humility and confidence outwardly. Being a good leader draws trust and respect for you and your team
  • Leaders need to be willing to step up and invite feedback, conduct their own “kick ass” review of themselves, hangout with the right crowd, always lead from the high road, and be honest about mistakes.

A Leadership Kick in the Ass is the book that many of us have been waiting for. Too often leaders are portrayed as mini gods that can’t fail when in fact a fall is what so many need. Welcome an occasional kick in the ass. If you acknowledge it and act on it, you will be a stronger humble person confident enough to impact others and grow them as leaders. For leadership teams, this gem would be a great book to read and have some frank discussions around. It seems that our grandparents may have been right about us young lings needing a kick in the butt!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Five Thieves of Happiness by John Izzo PhD

I never imagined that I had thieves in my house. These aren’t just any common robbers. They are sneaky, they hide like covert spies, and they are tough to eradicate if you find them. Unwittingly, these thieves are in every house in the world and lurking in society. Moreover, they are in your head and you may not even realize it. Who are they? The band of 5 robbers - Control, Conceit, Coveting, Consumption, and Comfort. What is their favorite prize to steal? It’s your happiness and if you can learn to notice them, stop them, and replace them then you just may lock them away for good.

Do you ever struggle with being happy or know people who find it elusive? Our society is so fast paced, we compare ourselves to everyone to see how we rate, and we think that finding what we lack will make us happy once we “get’ it. We couldn’t be more wrong. The Five Thieves of Happiness by John Izzo PhD introduces us to the 5 thieves that rob us of our happiness. The book shows us how we can catch a thief and steal our happiness back. You see, happiness is really our natural state and it’s not correlated with what is happening in our lives at the moment. It’s more about our “deep sense of rightness about one’s life and sense of inner contentment about oneself in the world”.

Who are these thieves? They strive to interrupt our thought patterns and internal filters that twist how we see the world around us. They seek to cloud our true view of what is real. They disguise themselves so well that we don’t know the extent to which our thoughts are controlled or jaded. The only way to shut the thieves down is to notice them, stop them, and replace them with new thoughts. This isn’t an easy process and may take some time. Moreover, they are powerless against mantras that you can use to keep them at bay.

The Five Thieves of Happiness

Control – The control thief wants us to believe that we can control everything in our lives. He makes us crave control which inhibits our inner peace. We can only fight this thief by accepting that we can’t control everything around us and can only control our actions and responses. You need to focus on the present and accept what is happening here and now. Choose difference thought patterns and accept hard truths.

Conceit – The conceit thief is the most powerful robber of all. If you look around, I bet you will quickly see how successful he is. This robber is the biggest barrier to contentment and social well being. She loves to see you over emphasize your own self importance and the bigger your ego, the better. This robber causes you to obsess over yourself importance and social standing. What can you do? Remember that what is good for you should be good for everyone. Focus on what you can give the world and serve others first to bring happiness. You are not alone and a “part of a larger story” so act like it.

Coveting - I look around and see this thief everywhere lurking in most all of us. This fellow urges us to desire and have envy for what others have and we don’t. Many of us try to keep up with the Jones’s because the thief whispers that our sense of self comes not from the inside, but outside. We tend to compare ourselves too much to others and become ungrateful. Start journaling about what you are grateful for and remember that people who have “everything” may very well be struggling or unhappy. Call out this thief quickly, practice gratitude, and accept that life will never be fair or equal.

Consumption – Let’s face it, buying stuff and having more clearly is not the path to happiness. This guy wants us to believe that we “need” more outside of us in order to be happy. He shares that if we have “X then we will feel Y”. It just isn’t true and chasing stuff will may you miserable. Things aren’t what inner happiness is all about. Try to challenge consumption in your life and that of the community in which you live/work in. Stop telling yourself that buying a new car will make everything perfect. Meditate daily on what you have internally.

Comfort – I learned that comfort is my key thief that I need to kick out. This sneaky thief tells us he’s protecting us but really, he wants us to stay on the same course, avoid risk, and not doing anything out of our comfort zone. He loves it when you are on autopilot, routine, and habits. He’s subtle and we may not thinking of him as a thief but as a protector. Wrong. I am kicking him out. I’m trying new things every week and jumping more and more out of my comfort zone. I’m challenging my habits and dumping past behaviors. I’m standing up to this thief by letting my hair down and forging more into the unknown (OK, slowly but still).

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that The Five Thieves of Happiness really struck a core in me. Now that I know who the thieves are, I can call them out and work on kicking them to the side. Dr. Izzo’s book was mesmerizing to read and I found myself shaking my head in agreement with frequency. Two months ago I began meditating and practicing gratitude while repeating mantras to myself so this book strengthened my new habits. I enjoyed the stories and quotes that are peppered throughout the book and they cemented who the thieves are and how they try to manage us. Dr Izzo charts out how to banish each thief and offers a powerful mantra to add to the fight.

I implore you to read The Five Thrives of Happiness to kick start the New Year and really find internal happiness. Don’t rely on the outside world to feed you, feed yourself. In order to do so you really need to find out which thieves are most detrimental to your happiness. Discover your band of thieves at http://drjohnizzo.com/five-thieves-happiness-quiz/ then get busy doing some thief busting by reading the book.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fast Focus - A Quick-Start Guide to Mastering Your Attention, Ignoring Distractions, And Getting More Done In Less Time by Damon Zahariades

As an avid reader, I thrive on learning new ways to improve my life, achieve more, and be more productive. A few months ago I discovered Damon Zahariades blog on productivity and I’ve been hooked since. Damon has a down to earth approach to making more out of your time and getting things done. His writing is witty, engaging, and practical on every level.  He knows that few of us have the time or attention span to read through the verbiage to get to the meat of his ideas. Damon’s new book Fast Focus – A Quick-Start Guide To Mastering Your Attention, Ignoring Distractions, And Getting More Done is a gem that you need to pick up to embark on streamlining your life without added stress and work.

So many productivity books jump around and never really get to the point. Fast Focus is the exception and I was quickly engaged and immersed myself into Damon’s writing. As a professional with four boys I have been a self proclaimed multitasker extraordinaire for years. Guess what? Wrong! I finally admit that I can’t multitask and am not so great at blocking distractions out. Damon jumps right in and explains how his system can assist with showing us why it’s hard to keep focus, how to create an environment where we can focus, and 23 ways to fight distractions so we can get things done. I quickly related to the stories that Damon shared from his own distraction and productivity experiences and found myself nodding in agreement. Already, I have implemented some of his ideas and they work!

In particular, Fast Focus introduced me to the concept of “voluntary focus” which we all have. It is a muscle that can be strengthened with practice and time. I never thought about attention in this way and will gladly share this with my husband. What we can’t control is involuntary attention so let’s not even try. Damon calls out the key distracters to focus and if you are cell phone connected, you can guess what preys on most of us and the list does down from there. Even physical clutter can inhibit our success and as I looked around my own office, I cringed and made adjustments. Scents, lighting, background noise and air quality can be a key interrupter to focus.

Fast Focus offers 7 sound reasons why we need to strengthen our focus muscle for life improvement. In the past, I gave scant attentions to just how critical a honed in focus can impact my life. Most books don’t focus enough on the benefits to both our internal and external lives. One of these benefits will hit home for you:

  1. Improved production
  2. Stronger relationships with those that matter
  3. A boost in your critical thinking
  4. Better decision making
  5. Increased grit (my favorite!)
  6. Information retention
  7. Increased self control. 

These sure do sound like effective goals don’t they? This is a dream list for anyone interested in becoming more efficient and in growing both professionally and personally. For me, the real meat in Fast Focus is the numerous tactics to improve your focus. I suggest that you read them over and pick 5 to try over a 3 month period and see what improvements you see. Here are my favorites:

  • Limit daily task to 5 and no more or you will be overwhelmed
  • Do some aerobic exercises before you sit down to focus and work on your task list
  • Practice batch processing to keep your mind on one thing. For example, handle any tasks related to your email and online tasks in one session. Manage handwritten work within a separate work frame
  • Keep a log for a week or so to determine your peak energy levels. Choose your most productive times to tackle work
  • Tame your inner perfectionist. This one is a huge challenge for me. I focus too much on detail and perfection and it derails my results every time. 

Reading Fast Focus is like having a conversation with a good friend and gleaning tips, tactics, and hacks in a relaxed format to apply to your life. Information that Damon shares is very actionable and to the point. He offers a quick test to gauge your current focusing ability (mine was embarrassing). You won’t waste any time reading through pages and of pages just trying to find insight that will help you. This book reads like a blue print for success and can be used as a road map to bring you efficiency and success. Again, my favorite section of the book is the tactics to improve focus in addition to the numerous links Damon offers us to digest more information.

This is the perfect time to make a new start to achieve your goals and strengthen your focus so you can breeze through this year with focused thoughts and less stress. Pick up a copy of Fast Focus today to get on the best track for success!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

ABCs of Speaking Your Building Blocks to Speaking Success

Next week I’m jumping back into Toastmasters after a lull. I’ve always admired people who are strong and powerful speakers. People who can inspire people to act on their dreams, jump start them into action, and fill a room with hope and excitement leave me in awe. I’m striving to grow my presentation skills and as I embark on being an entrepreneur, becoming one of the enchanting speakers that I have been in a room with.

When I was in Toastmasters I looked for resources and books to take my speaking to the next level but never really found what I was looking for. I recently found a book to assist me in learning more about professionally speaking and taking it to the next level to support my goals this year.  ABCs of Speaking – Your Building Blocks to Speaking Success by Adryenn Ashley, Bret Ridgway, and Caterina Rando is an effective guidebook on learning more about the behind the scenes of public speaking and what it takes to be successful with people. This book is a starting point in crafting your own plan for public speaking while sharing the wins and pitfalls that await you.

The book jumps right into why becoming a speaker can jump start your career, business, and personal growth goals. The authors stress that speaking is a business, not just a hobby, and you really need dig your heels in and work diligently to find your sweet spot in order to impact your audience. Speaking takes planning, practice, and you need to develop strong marketing and sales skills. For example, you can’t just jump into speaking via social media and mailing out flyers to try to get booked at events. Here are some of the factors that you need to plan for as you embark on a speaking career.

  • Pinpoint your audience and sweet spot where you can have an impact and draw people to you
  • Learn your audience demographics in general and for each presentation ahead of time
  • Decide on which speaking model you will pursue – free or fee?
  • How will you set your rates? What are your revenue goals?
  • What are your metrics to determine success and will you need to outsource backroom tasks?
  • Will you be self hosting events or partnering with other professionals?
  • Will you have live shows or recorded webinars?
  • Prepare a “speaker sheet” to share with prospects rather than offer a flyer
  • The value of up selling, offering coaching, selling books and finding more value in your business 

 ABCs of Speaking answered numerous questions that I have had about venturing into speaking over the years. It provided me with insight into what decisions speakers need to make about choosing the right model (fee or free). Pricing variables, the complexity of partnering with event managers, fellow speakers, and the need to be an effective salesperson are points that I hadn’t given deep consideration. Effective speakers make presenting look so flawless and easy and now I better understand the behind the scenes life of a speaker that is full of details, selling, relationships, and networking.

As a “speaker want to be” I want to share two of my key learnings from ABCs of Speaking.

Speaker sheet: This sheet is a key marketing tool that is generally 1-2 pages long depending on your experience. It is a critical brand building and sales tool to introduce you to prospects and event organizers. This sheet isn’t meant to be a long detailed biography of you, but a quick reference guide of some of these key attributes:

  • List of past clients and topics
  • Testimonials
  • Pre-design of a specific presentation
  • Catchy title outlining you but not mentioning your name upfront
  • Short biography about you – simple and short

 Fee or Free speaking format: I’ve been to countless workshops and presentations of all sizes over the years and while many of them end with the speaker offering books, webinars, or coaching opportunities, I never thought much about what decisions need to be made behind the scenes by a speaker. A fee speaking event is just as it sounds. You speak for a set fee. Speakers need to know some key metrics in order to book an event which includes # of attendees, # of buying units (explained in the book), and closing percentage. These metrics should also be applied to free speaking events.

Free speaking events require more sales and marketing on behalf of a speaker after a presentation. In fact, 80% of an engagement should be spent on content and 20% on sales. You see, “free” speakers may or may not receive a speaking fee but are normally  compensated on the up sells that they achieve after they speak in the form of books, webinars, or coaching. You need to be effective at sales because your event promoter generally asks for 50% of your sales as compensation.

If you present at work, community events, or just want to develop your craft, I suggest that you read ABCs of Speaking. It’s an enlightening read stocked full of helpful information, examples, and the views of 3 strong speakers. I came away from reading this gem with not only new information on the speaking world, but ideas that I need to weave into my growth as I develop my skills and speak more frequently. The book is very easy reading and engaging. It captured my attention and urged me on to learn more and experience more. Grow some new ways to develop yourself as a speaker but most importantly, find out how better grow those around you!