I Need More Time!

I need more time – by Arnie Wohlgemut

The new year means setting goals, personal challenges that help us grow our capacity. These personal challenges help guide our actions and decisions as we work through the coming weeks, months and year.

While I was reflecting on my past year, it occurred to me that there were a few times where I wished I had “five more minutes”. Whether it was in a meeting, interview or some other deadline, I apparently needed those extra minutes.

What to do! I cannot create more time.

After some careful thought and reflection, here are a few things I believe would have helped me:

  1. Stop putting off the tasks with deadlines. Even though I know better, there are times I fall into that trap.
  2. Say no to things that are not a productive use of time. This is especially important when working to a dead line.
  3. Stop putting off tasks with NO deadline. This really helps you be prepare for the chance meetings and short turn-around projects.
  4. Prepare. For meetings, interviews and events – be ready. Know what you want to say. At times I seem to stumble over words. I know my stuff – but somehow it stumbles out instead of being presented with confidence.
  5. Practice the “elevator speech” strategy. Knowing your points, precisely, helps communicate well.

So, my personal challenge for 2018 is to be better prepared by focussing my time towards things that need to be done.

What is your personal challenge?

Travel Agent Leader

The Travel Agent Leader – By Arnie Wohlgemut

One of the most interesting reality TV shows I watch is Undercover Boss.  In each episode, the boss or an owner, go undercover to get a better understanding of how his or her people are doing and what they are experiencing.  The part that I find interesting is that they want to get a taste of what’s happening.  Why?  I think there may be some reasons for this:

  1. They believe their supervisory team is either sugar coating or don’t know what is happening on the front lines, or
  2. They believe they have lost touch of the business they lead.  They don’t want to be a Travel Agent Leader.
What is a Travel Agent Leader?

It’s a leader who has not done what he or she expects the frontline staff to do nor are they willing to do those things!  They are slow to listen, but all too often quick with advice.

When I moved to a new organization in 2007, one of the first things I did was put my self on the “on-call rotation”.  I wanted to see for myself how it worked and why those costs were so high.  For the next two plus years, when it was my week, I would respond at all hours of the night to calls – heat loss alarms, floods, vandalism, power failures etc. – in person.  Waking up from a deep sleep was not fun but I was willing to see what my staff also faced!  I was surprised what I learned.  But was able to put new strategies in place because I was there in real time.

Here are some key reasons for being on the front lines:

  1. By doing the job, you earn respect.  Without respect, you can never truly lead a team.
  2. By experiencing the various roles, you gain insight into what works and what does not.  This is a management function. It helps us remove road blocks, not build them.
  3. By walking in their shoes, you can give advise and direction when the team needs it.  This opens mentorship opportunities.
  4. By understanding job, you can be an encourager when things get tough.  These are coaching opportunities.

I encourage you to participate in the work around you.  Not only will you understand your team better, they will respect you.  And you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find!

Who’s your gate keeper?

Who’s your gate keeper? – By Arnie Wohlgemut

“Wow, am I tired by the time I go home!”

We’ve all been there.  Nonstop days where we don’t have a minute to gather our thoughts.  I remember the times when my only space to unwind was on the commute home.

Those nonstop, running hard days can be our demise.  I learned that I needed to be a better gate keeper, focusing on delivering results not busy work.

“Take control of your time. If you don’t, others will.”

Here are five habits I that helped me increase effectiveness:

  1. Start your day knowing what you need to accomplish or achieve.  Ideally this list was created the day before!  (I used the back of old business cards to make my lists!)
  2. Block time for you to do those high value items on your list.  Resist the temptation to do the easy things first. Set priorities and keep them.  Work through your list priority by priority.
  3. Prioritize quality face-to-face time (‘one-on-one’ meetings).  By honouring face time, your team knows you will guarantee your undivided attention during this time.  This reduces the drop-in chats and time wasters.
  4. Close your door or find a place where you can “close the door” when you need to focus.  An open-door policy is great – but protect your time by closing the door when you need to focus.  Constant interruptions deter focus.
  5. Use your voice mail. (One of my mentors said: “God created voicemail for a reason.”)  Your time is precious; protect it.  Not every call needs to be answered.  When you retrieve messages, treat them with respect since that person took the time to leave a message.  Log it in your journal or some form of a call log and respond in a timely manner.

In short: Take control of your time. If you don’t, others will.

Arnie Wohlgemut is the Senior Coach and President of KP Mylene | Building to Lead, a leadership development and facilities management consulting company. He’s passionate about supporting new or emerging leaders with unique and exciting resources that inspire them to reach their potential.

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?