Whether you recognize it or not, you shape the outcome in your company. You are the single most important pivotal element in your organization. I find I have to constantly remind myself of that, because, well, "I'm just me." You look at the greatest leaders (dead or alive) and it's easy to forget that every great leader started just as you have today. Greatness is not something that just happens; it's incredibly intentional.
That's why I was thrilled to connect with Mindy Hall, author of Leading with Intention: Every Moment Is a Choice. If you haven't read her book, I highly recommend it--especially if you are currently or aspire to one-day be a leader. Mindy's book is a fast read, her concepts are spot on and her exercises are simple, yet effective. While this article will in no way do justice to her book, I'd like to share some of the central ideas that really struck a chord with me.
- Every Moment Is a Choice--This was a central theme throughout the book and while it's a simple idea, I know many leaders who lead by way of intuition, rather than by intention. "So much of what happens in the course of a day is the result of unchallenged patterns that have worked for us in the past: out of intuition, not intention," Mindy reminds us.
- Growth Is a Process, Not An Event--How many times do we read stories of "overnight success" when really the truth tells us a very different story. Once we can become aware of our "unchallenged patterns" we can deliberately change them. We have the power to put our company on an entirely different growth trajectory based on our behavior (i.e. how we "show up") along with deliberately creating new patterns of how we want to be--consistently.
- Every Action Has an Impact--We learned this in science classes a long time ago. With each action there is some form of reaction or impact. But, as leaders, how keenly aware are we of the impact we are creating in the environment around us? We must be deliberate about the kind of impact we would like to have on our clients, our employees and our partners.
- The Behavior Ripple Effect Starts with You - This one really resonated with me. How many people do you know who "multi-task" when in meetings? This behavior sends a clear message of, "What you're saying is not important to me" no matter what you may say to the contrary. If you call a meeting and then proceed to check email, text messages or have side-conversations, not only are you telegraphing how little you care, but you are "leading by example" and others will begin to model their behavior after your own. Yikes!
- People Listen Deeper to What You DO (vs. What You Say) - This is the old adage, "Actions speak louder than words," and yet we are often surprised that people are not "hearing" us based on what we're saying. If I tell you that keeping track of your time is important, but then I don't do it myself, what kind of message am I sending? If I tell you that this is an important meeting, then spend the whole time checking email, what do you believe? This is why the concepts of "Every Moment is a Choice" and "Leading with Intention" are so powerful.
- The Environment You Create Matters--"Are you aware of the environment you create?" Mindy asks us. "Does it inspire people to be their best?" While this may feel intangible, it's very much a real and going concern. Do you feel more optimistic or pessimistic when you enter into your office? Is the company buzzing with excitement or terrified waiting for the other shoe to drop? "Never underestimate the power of environment to impact people in ways that can't even be imagined at the time." Great point, Mindy; the environment plays an important role in your outcomes as a company.
- Expectation Shapes Reality - I'm a HUGE believer in this. As Mindy puts it, "...what we feel we can influence affects what we actually do influence." Or as Henry Ford put it, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right!" While we can argue the finer points of this perspective, I have found this to be spot on. This is why I wrote a previous article about Eradicating Your Limiting Beliefs. Before I could drop 25 pounds, I had to first believe I could do it. No amount of exercise or healthy eating would get me there until I first believed I could do it. Why? Because if I truly believed I couldn't do it, I would find reasons not to exercise regularly and justifications why I could "cheat" on my healthy eating routine. The same goes for business. If you think you will grow to a certain size or can't grow past a certain size, odds are you're right.
The bottom line is that if you want to be a great leader, you need to be more intentional about how you are with other people. If you accept that "Every Moment Is a Choice," then being self-aware and noticing how you are behaving in the moment is a really important leadership skill that most of us have not mastered ... yet. If you agree with these ideas, I highly recommend that you pick up Mindy Hall's book Leading with Intention and take massive action on her recommended exercises.