Really? Don’t waste your time!

Photo By Inigo Echenique

Really? Don’t waste your time! – By Arnie Wohlgemut

There are many quotes and sayings that involve time:

*To explain something, we say: “There is a time and place for everything.”
*To the sales clerk following me around the store, I’ll say: “I’m just killing time.”
*To your manager, you might say: “I didn’t have enough time to get to it!”
*After a long meeting, you might say: “What a waste of time!”
*On vacation, you’ll say: “Wow – time flies!”

The Ancient Greeks had two words for time:

Chronos: Time as something to be devoured
Kairos: Time as a gift to be managed or committed to priorities

Every so often I ask myself if I am using my time wisely.

Recently, I realized that I was killing more time than I was using productively.  My use of time was out of balance.

So, I went back to a system I have used many times to get back on track:

  1. I listed the things I ‘needed’ to do or needed to get done on sticky notes (one task each note).  Action items only; big or small, it didn’t matter. They are all items already top of mind, some I found in my journal, others in my phone log and in files on my desk.
  2. I stuck them all on the wall.
  3. More sticky notes. I listed my goals for the current year.
  4. More sticky notes. I listed longer term goals.
  5. I prioritized my goals.
  6. I grouped notes together under the goals – in order of priority. I took into consideration things like the impact on the goal and on other tasks.

Now, right here on my wall, I have an inventory of tasks. Not everything I started with is still there – some of the deleted items I wrote in my journal – for another day.

Other tasks were moved to a new subset – things I can delegate.

I realize this is just a brief outline of my system to use my time for impact rather than just killing it off one minute at a time!

If you want a more in-depth outline – give me a call or email me… I’d be happy to talk with you about it. Time management matters. It transforms us from a mediocre leader to a successful leader.

You’ve heard it many times (thanks Dad). We all have the same amount of time….


“Hoover” People – by Arnie Wohlgemut

In Britain, “hoover”, a word commonly used for vacuuming – just like we use Kleenex and Jello.  A “Hoover” person impacts you pretty much like a vacuum – sucking the life out of you.

I’m sure you recognize a few “Hoover” people in your life.  They are the ones that rarely approach things positively, they generally see all the bad things that can happen.  Good at critique, they are not as good at problem solving.  You’ve heard them say “Ya – BUT…” many times!

I worked with a Hoover person. It was exhausting.  I braced myself for the inevitable “Ya – BUT…” negative attitude, constant complaining about stuff.  It was draining!

Then I found myself mirroring the “Hoover” stance.  Subtly (I almost didn’t notice it, it happened so easily), I became like my colleague.

A “Hoover” person impacts you pretty much like a vacuum – sucking the life out of you.

As I’ve continued to study leadership, I’ve discovered a few quick tips to deal with the “hoovers” in life:

  1. Build a strong sense of personal resolve, focusing on your personal life goals and resolving to dig deep and push forward, resisting infection.
  2. Develop a mind-set of resilience, that ability to bounce back from negative interaction.
  3. Keep positive, this is the best defensive against getting sucked in.
  4. Limit the exposure time to short snippets.  If you need to spend extended time with them, take control of the conversion.

Over the years, I’ve been able to reduce the sucking power of my “hoover” colleagues, reducing them to a breath of hot air.

Choose to feed on the positive, actively looking for the good and deleting the “but…” out of your own mind’s conversations.  Your mind gives back exactly what you feed it.

4 Learned Patterns that will Change your Luck

4  Learned Patterns that will Change your Luck  –  by Arnie Wohlgemut

Success follows a positive mental attitude and learned optimism.  Luck has nothing to do with it.

“Optimism is the most important quality you can develop for personal and professional success and happiness,” wrote Martin Seligman in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.  “Optimistic people seem to be more effective in almost every area of life.”

Optimism can be learned through practice and repletion.  Here’s 4 core behaviours:

1. Look for the good in every situation.  No matter what goes wrong they look for something good or beneficial.
2. Always seek the valuable lesson in every setback or difficulty.  Understand that difficulties are not obstructions but instructions.
3. Become a problem solver.  Instead of complaining, take action; ask questions like – what’s the solution?  what do we do now?
4. Focus on the goals.  Think about what you want, how to get it, how to move forward rather than backwards.

“The most powerful personality traits to develop in one’s quest for success are incurable optimism and integrity.”  (Amy Rees Anderson, Forbes)

Believe me, there have been days where I felt I was in the undertow.  But I have learned to stop and re-position my mind looking for the good, understanding the lesson, solving the problem and, again and again, focusing on the goal.

Practice these 4 core behaviours – they are learned habits that will become natural to you.

Digging in the Dirt

Digging in the Dirt – By Arnie Wohlgemut

There he was, the supervisor, going on a rant AGAIN – all of which happened in the past and had been resolved.  If I only could read the staff team’s mind!  It certainly was written all over their faces.

“Let it go!”
“Not again!”
“Give it a break!”
“How is this going to help?”
“What an ….!!”

One the most damaging habits a manager or supervisor can have is ‘digging in the dirt’.

Yes, bringing up the past!  Over and over again.

Good managers, managers who want to grow and improve their skills in team building, can incorporate some habit changes that will make a huge difference in their leadership:

  1. Learn to deal with the issue or behaviour in a clear and direct manner – once.  The only thing that should ever be brought up is praise and acknowledgment of the change in behaviour and performance.
  2. Learn where and when to vent.
    • If you are an external processor, never vent in front of the team.  I understand the need to talk it out so find someone else who can listen without judgement.  Trust me, it will be the best thing that you ever do.  I always had someone in HR who would lend an ear.
    • If you’re an internal processor, take a short walk, leave the room, get a coffee, juice or water.  Let the emotions settle before taking the next step.
    • Never vent in public.  Doing this in a social setting or on social media will damage your good reputation and that of your organization.  Keep your reputation strong by learning to vent in places that are safe.
  3. Learn to listen, there is always something to learn and sometimes your staff will solve the issue by themselves.
    • Stop thinking of your reply.  I learned this early in my career.  When I’m thinking about what I am going to say I don’t hear what my colleague says.  Stop the mind and listen – then answer.
    • Leave space.  I know, silence in a conversation is uncomfortable.  All of us feel the need to fill in the space.  But let it happen!  A moment of silence helps heads cool and helps you formulate a response that reflects your personal management style.

We will face challenges.  Our reputation and effectiveness depends on how we respond to them.

The Land of ‘-est’!

The Land of ‘-est’! – By Arnie Wohlgemut

We live in the land of ‘-est’.  Yes, it is true.   Let me explain.

We compare our lives to others.  We want to be the rich-est and the smart-est, have the bigg-est house, the nice-est car or be the b-est dressed.

Living for the ‘-est’ is a mirage – we think happiness is just ahead of us.  But when we get to it, it vanishes.  Focusing on comparison and competition does not lead to success or happiness.  In fact, I have never seen a happy person who competes for these things.  (Oh, except for the fleeting moment when they believe that they are the rich-est, skinny-est, smart-est or the cute-est person in the room.)

All studies show there is strength in a team, but how do you add value to a person, help one another succeed or work as a team if we are self focused?

Vince Molinaro, author of The Leadership Contract, talked about competition and teams when he wrote:
“Excessive competition creates poor working relationships with team members and keeps you from engaging stakeholders in a genuine manner.  If you can’t bring people along with you, you’ll make your life much harder.”

Don’t get me wrong, a little competition is good, but not on the backs of others.

I strongly believe in becoming all you can be – I wouldn’t invest so much energy and time in mentoring and teaching in leadership circles if I didn’t.

But I also believe we need to escape the land of ‘-est’ and invest in the land of ‘-er’.

You know, the place where we make an effort to become a better listen-er, a kind-er person, smart-er, fair-er, and even happy-er.

Folks I know who are kind and generous tend to be much happier and healthier.  They don’t waste their time on competing – they focus on their own goals, becoming a better lead’ER.

My focus is to learn from others – even when there are points of disagreement, there is always a nugget I can take away.  Comparisons are futile – I can always find someone better and not quite as good as me.

The only ‘-est’ I’m after is being the best I can be!

Change? Not me!

Change?   Not me!  –  By Arnie Wohlgemut

The conversation went like this:

“I’m not doing anything wrong,” he spits out.  “Management is just picking on me!”  He sat back and crossed his arms confident he set the record straight.

“Do you play hockey?” I asked.  A confused look crossed his face.

“Yeah” he replied, clearly not interested.

I took a leap: “What else?  Soccer?  Golf?  Tennis?”

“Soccer” he muttered, confused by the direction of the conversation

I pressed on.

“Is it ok to play soccer using hockey rules?”  I didn’t wait for a reply: “The same principle applies here.  We play by the workplace rules – everyone, even you.  It starts with respect.  Think about it next time you feel temped to say things that are not respectful.”

This little exchange provides insights into the process of change management.  First, we all must be on the same page.  Without the support of senior management, it’s a waste of time.  Secondly, the manager must be all in.

Here are 5 basic principles of change management that help me move forward towards the goal:

A.     It is human nature to rationalize bad behaviour away.  The most dangerous language from a manager or leader is “Oh that’s just Sally!”  Unfortunately, I hear this far to often.  If the behaviour is not acceptable – address it!

B.     The first response, when confronted, is defense.  We would prefer to believe the actions as “just not that bad”.  Ask yourself, how bad does it have to be for you to act?

C.     The lack of feedback can play a big part in the process of having lasting change.  We all know the importance of providing feedback in a timely manner.  Ongoing feedback is much more effective than the grand slam of critique.  Give negative feedback as needed. Refuse to let it reach a tipping point.

D.     Low performance standards can sometimes be addressed through policy, or at performance review time, but don’t forget to apply your standards consistently across your department.

E.     High performance standards with poor follow-up is just as troubling as low performance standards.  If there is even one sliver of alternative or “bad” behaviour by the manager or leader, that behaviour will eventually become the norm.

Understand the importance of resisting complacency.  Next time, address the issues promptly.  As a manager or leader of a team, you are required to do the hard work needed to see improvements and positive change.

Wofür Lebst Du?

Wofür Lebst Du? – By Arnie Wohlgemut

There it was, a bill posted on a lamp post in downtown Berlin.

Not what I expected.

It caught my eye and I stopped to notice where I was and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

All day while touring this sign haunted me. Why you ask? Loosely translated, this sign means “For whom do you live?”

I suppose many of us could answer that we live to serve a higher power such as God, or our children, ourselves and most likely our wife (if you’re married, you’ll know what I mean).

All joking aside, this sign grabbed me because other than my God, I would like to think I live for others as well as myself.

As a director, I quickly learned that my management staff served themselves. They had little interest for the greater good of our team. I had to quickly come up with a way to make them understand that WE as a TEAM are not at the TOP of the triangle, but rather at the BOTTOM!

Imagine the look on the faces of my staff who worked hard, kissed the proverbial butt, stole ideas so that they could shine, climbed on the shoulders of whomever so that THEY could reach the TOP!

The bottom you say? What does that mean?

Well, imagine a Triangle or pyramid, upside down and you, with your team being at the bottom. Supporting your staff, holding them up, teaching them, watching them grow and thrive. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see where that leads and what strong individuals we can mentor simply just by being confident enough to “be at the bottom”?

Wofür Lebst Du?

Please Save Me From ….

Please Save Me From….     By Arnie Wohlgemut

You fill in the dots.  We all have things in life we dread (and avoid): cleaning the house, the morning commute; budget meetings; impromptu meetings with the boss.  You name it.

I DREAD annual performance review time.  As important as they are – and I stand on this – I just don’t like doing them.  I thought of them as part of the job and just dug in.

But I’ve learned that I don’t have to operate in that “dread space”.  Here’s what I learned:
1. Dread is the seed of fear.  Dread consumes hope.  Don’t kid yourself.  Your mind is a powerful influencer and dread can set us up for a very bad day.  Instead of hoping for a good drive home or a productive meeting, dread sets us up for a much worse experience.

2. Dread is simply expecting to have an unpleasant experience.  If we have prepared ourselves for that meeting, we should have self confidence that it will be successful.  If your meeting plan didn’t work out: get a new plan!

3. Dread is passive.  It doesn’t make things better, make it easier or even make it go away; it just sets you up for the fall.  Dread leads to real fear and will stall the progress your team has made.

4. Dread can control you.  Don’t let it.  When you feel dread coming on, remind yourself you know the pattern and dread doesn’t change a thing.

5. Anti-dread action.  If you are having a bad day, take responsibility.  You have control over your attitude.  Make your mind up that you’re not going to dread anything.

The good news?  You can choose not to be controlled by dread.  But it will take courage.  You can’t take the easy way out. 

Confront your personal gaps.  Your staff count on you.  Be bold.  Be the leader you can be!

Lonely at the Top

Lonely at the Top – By Arnie Wohlgemut

I have heard repeatedly that top executive and folks in high level positions say it is lonely at the top.  I wonder why?

Is it that being successful attracts friends and family you didn’t know you had?  Are the tough decisions you make scaring folks away or attracting a ‘different’ crowd?  Is it the competitive nature of your business that limits your circle of friends?

Could be any one of these!

After all being in a position of authority is not about making friends, you have a job to do and results to deliver.

On the other hand, what would happen if you surround yourself with a great team of players that collectively make you stronger?  People that you trust and respect, those who you could frankly discuss both challenges and opportunities.  A team that has skills and experience that compliment yours.

I for one have never subscribed to the lonely at the top thing or felt lonely.  Maybe I was fortunate or naïve.

I believe it’s a matter of attitude.

John Maxwell says, “One is a number too small to achieve greatness.”  I think it is also too small a number to achieve great things.

Where do you stand?  Alone?

Cookies and Training: 6 Metaphors – by Arnie Wohlgemut

Cookies and Training: 6 Metaphors – by Arnie Wohlgemut

Those of you who know me will smile when I say, “I love cookies.”  Yes, it was no secret!

Each tempting bite is like the training opportunities.  If shared effectively; your team consumes every bite, leaving no crumbs behind and interested in a second ‘cookie’.

Here’s how I see it:
1. Know your team’s favourite cookie.  Understanding your team helps you tailor your training messages.
2. Presentation matters.  A good-looking cookie is extremely tempting!  Tempt your team with training that is presented well and they know what they are getting.
3. The “YUM” factor.  I love oatmeal cookies.  And, yes, I have a favourite brand.  I buy it again and again because I know what I am getting.  Credibility matters in taste and training.  When your team knows you are presenting with proven knowledge and experience, they will listen.
4. Hit the spot.  Each opportunity has a specific need; meet it!  The right amount, not to small or big.  Clarity is the key.  Leave the ‘hints of chocolate” in the palate.
5. Make sure it’s a treat.  Few people would see a cookie as a punishment or something they have to get through.  Training should be the same.  It gives them a boost to make it through the day.
6. Serve fresh.  The cookie bag that has sat on my counter, open, for about 4 weeks is not all that great.  Nor are old lessons repeated over and over.  Keep learning and have an open mind, I’m sure you can find a fresh way to present a tasty morsel.

Grab a cup of coffee and a cookie as you figure out your approach to training.