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Managing the "Big Rocks"

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I don’t believe in ‘time management’ because you can’t manage time….it’s always going regardless if you try to ‘manage’ it.  You CAN manage priorities and your energy.” 
– John Maxwell

There is a story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on a table.  By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks.  He then challenged his participants to find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.  
After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to successfully fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the gaps between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel, and the water filled the gaps in the sand.

When it comes to managing our priorities, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to put first things first – to prioritize the “big rocks” – those things in our life that matter most.
There are essentially 4 types of “big rock” – i.e., 4 priorities that we can choose to focus on in any given moment, allowing the ever-present minutiae of life to fill in the gaps as we go.

Big Rock One – Activities
Sometimes, the most important thing about a day is an activity or set of activities.  If you’re an athlete, you may prioritize exercise; if you’re a salesperson, you may prioritize making calls.  In either case, you are prioritizing the activity over the desired end result.

Big Rock Two – Goals
One of the most potent things you can prioritize are your goals.  What’s the difference making something a goal and making it a priority?  Goals are rarely within our direct control – our priorities always are.

Big Rock Three – Intentions
Sometimes, the most useful thing for us to prioritize is neither an activity nor a goal, but a way of being. These intentions carry on in the background as we engage in activities and pursue our goals. Some useful intentions include “staying present”, “enjoying whatever it is that I am doing”, and “listening and speaking from my heart”.

Big Rock Four – People
As oxygen is to the body, attention is to the spirit. When we make a person our priority, we are committing to give them greatest yet simplest gift we posses – the gift of our full, undivided attention.

1. Do it first
One of the simplest ways to prioritize something is to begin with it – to put it right at the top of the agenda and stick with it until it’s done.  This approach works particularly well with activities and “mini-goals” – i.e. goals that can be completed within the course of a few minutes to a few hours.
2. Do it now
I have yet to meet the person who isn’t blown off course during the course of a day.  In fact, no matter how many post-it note reminders you stick on your computer, fridge, and dashboard, I guarantee you’ll forget about your chosen priorities again and again.  The solution? When you remember, shift your focus and do it now!  This approach is particularly useful when you are prioritizing intentions, and people.
3. Do it often
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  How do you prioritize a goal?  By coming back to it again, and again, and again.  This approach is equally useful with activities, goals, intentions, and people.

Four Keys to Leadership and Personal Fulfillment

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For years, I’ve sifted through the existing literature on discovering, uncovering, or creating your life mission, trying things out in my life and wondering why I wasn’t as fulfilled as I believed possible.  However,  along the way, I’ve made four critical distinctions that have led me to explore deeper levels of meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.  

1. Identify your Gifts
Many people already know what their gifts are – those things in your life that come naturally to you, without any undue personal effort or struggle. However, in a society which places a premium on hard work, it’s easy to overlook and underestimate the value of what you were “born with”. A good way of identifying your gifts is to think of those skills, abilities, or personality traits you exhibit which are so much a part of that you can’t remember learning them and can’t imagine not having them. If you’re still not sure, grit your teeth, ask those people closest to you, and if you’re like most of us, prepare to be embarrassed!
2. Clarify your Calling
In the old days, it was the most natural thing in the world to hear someone talk about being “called to the priesthood” or “called to be a doctor”. (As with reincarnation, where no-one ever seems to recall a past life where they were “third guy on the left in ancient Egypt”, people never seem to talk about being “called to be a garbage collector”, but I’m sure it happens!) Your calling is what you are continually drawn to, no matter how impractical or impossible it seems to “make a living at it”. In the same way as you choose your work, your calling chooses you, and for many people it is difficult to remember a time when they did not want to do something related to their calling, even if they never have (yet!).
3. Create your Mission
There is a great deal of contention about whether your mission in life is something you create or something you discover. As you’ve probably guessed, I weigh in on the side of creation. In it’s simplest form, you create your mission by deciding how you want to use your gifts in the service of your calling. Do you need to have a mission? Absolutely not, but if you don’t, you are probably missing out on some of the joy, energy, and fulfillment that comes with clarity of purpose and surrender to a higher goal.
4. Choose your Work
If you’re lucky, your work, i.e. what you do for a living, is merely an extension of your mission and you spend each day joyfully using your gifts in the service of your calling. On the off-chance this doesn’t describe you :-), you now have a clear set of criteria for choosing meaningful work. 

Today’s Experiment (appox. time – 10 minutes to the rest of your life!):
1. Take a few moments to identify your gifts and clarify your calling. If you’re not sure, simply set the intention to become aware of your gifts and calling and prepare to be amazed as life conveniently drops daily hints and reminders into your life.
2. Draft a mission statement – remember, you do this by deciding how you want to use your gifts in the service of your calling – in short, you make it up! Don’t worry about “getting it right” – in the first instance, you can’t (!), and in the second instance, this is something you’ll be re-visiting and re-writing for years to come.
(If you already have a mission statement, think about re-evaluating it in the light of what you now know about your gifts and your calling).
3. Just for fun, make a list of jobs or other types of work or activity that would enable/allow you to fulfill your mission, utilize your gifts, and/or enjoy your calling.

The Yoda Principle

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Life goals. Bucket lists. “One day I’ll…”
We all have dreams and goals. The biggest difference between people who achieve them and people who don’t is the act of actually DOING. Do you have goals and things you want to achieve? Professional aspirations? Personal bucket list items? Let me ask this – what’s stopping you from starting on them?
I don’t tend to get motivational on this blog, but today I’m serving up a little motivation, Yoda style.
Luke whined “All right. I’ll give it a try.” Yoda gave Luke an attitude adjustment “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”
What would Yoda say to you if you talked to him about your goals and your progress toward them? That’s what I thought. I’m here to be your Yoda. (for a few minutes anyway).   
Here are some great first steps you can take right now to help you move toward achieving your goals.
“Ready are you?” – Yoda
You can’t get “there” if you don’t know where “there” is. Sit down and actually articulate what it is you’re trying to achieve. Define success.
Some people say I’m lucky (I actually think I am) but there’s more to it than luck. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” I tend to make sure I’m prepared to achieve my goals.
Have you defined your goal? Are you ready to seize the opportunity when it knocks? No? Then go write your goal down. Now. I’m not kidding. Write it down.
Luke: “I don’t believe it!”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”
Do you believe in yourself? What about belief in God’s direction in your life?  Do you believe you have the ability to achieve the goal or build the skills that will enable you to achieve it?  
You have to believe. You must be relentless in pursuing those goals. The minute you lose confidence, you’re done. That lack of confidence will show through in all you do and a vicious circle of failure will begin.
Do you have reminders around you that help you remember you can achieve and succeed? Find those reminders. Start believing in yourself, those close to you and providential purpose. It’s a good bet to make.
“There is no try. Do.” – Yoda
I could spew forth a ton of quotes about taking that first step on your journey blah blah blah. I won’t. I’ll just say if you have big goals, they can be daunting. But you have to start somewhere.
Every interim step on the path to the broader goal is a goal in and of itself. I tackle every one with a mindset of “do.” Do not procrastinate. Do not be overwhelmed. Break your goal up into smaller steps and “do.”
Look – I know you have goals. The question is whether you’re actively pursuing them and ready to achieve them. Heed Yoda’s advice:
– “Ready are you?”
– Believe
– “Do”

Make Your Leadership Come Alive

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I love seeing teams focused on the mission, committed to the big picture and loving what they are doing.  When the “team” is flowing, not just “working.”  There’s PASSION and MOVEMENT.  That’s when leadership is fun and life-giving.

But I’ve been on the other end, when I was sick of being leader, tempted to leverage authority rather than influence, and was ready to punch someone if they complained about another petty issue.

Good leaders understand that influence is power and that how they handle power will affect their impact and results. The more you understand influence, the better you are able to maximize it for the benefit of those you lead—which in turn benefits you as well.

Jeremie Kubicek is the author of the newly released book, Leadership is Dead: How Influence is Reviving It. He is the CEO of GiANT Impact, a leader development company whose focus is to awaken leaders by raising their capacity to lead. Understanding influence is what makes leadership come alive, and here are five ways that Jeremie says that you can amplify your leadership abilities:

  1. Aim high. If your team thinks that the goal of your organization is to make money so that you can buy a second home, they will not do their best work. People want to work for larger visions than bank accounts—especially your bank account. Instead, aim high and aspire to make the world a better place to energize everyone.
  2. Be for others. People want to know you have their best interests at heart, too. The problem is that many leaders are primarily for themselves. Or, at least that is what they show. Employees ask themselves if you are for them or only for yourself. Once they think that you’re only looking out for No. 1, they will label you and changing that label is difficult.
  3. Lead yourself. The starting point of effective leadership is to lead yourself; it is called self-awareness. To lead yourself you must know yourself—your tendencies, capacity constraints, strengths and weaknesses. When people see that you can lead yourself, then they will trust that you have the ability to lead them.
  4. Be intentional. Accidental leadership is not a good strategy. Being intentional means that you have a plan to achieve the organization’s goals. In particular, being intentional with relationships takes time, so think about how you want key employees to grow. Think about what you want the team to be focused on at the next meeting. Make intentionality a part of your culture.
  5. Look at the big picture. When we teach ourselves to think big, we enable ourselves to gain perspective. Then we can look at the big picture and make decisions that benefit the entire team. If we only look at one issue at a time, then we miss the benefit of seeing things from a different perspective. When we think bigger, we benefit ourselves and others.
According to Kubicek, leadership typically dies over time when a leader becomes more and more self-absorbed and focused solely on his or her own personal agenda. These five points are ways to counter death and begin giving your leadership new life. When leadership comes alive, so does the organization and the team.

Four Practices when you experience a setback

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Discouragement that comes from experiencing a major setback has the capacity to stop, or at least slow down, the positive momentum you are seeing in your personal life or work. The antidote for this is called resiliency – and it’s a common quality of those who remain “unstuck” and experience personal success. 
Walt Disney, Winston Churchill, and Thomas Edison to name a few – all experienced major setbacks that proceeded their very public success.

According to legend, Thomas Edison made thousands of prototypes of the incandescent light bulb before he finally got it right. And, since the prolific inventor was awarded more than 1,000 patents, it’s easy to imagine him failing on a daily basis in his lab at Menlo Park.


In my experience, I’ve observed four common ‘Practices’ of those who succeed in transcending challenges.

1. Honesty And Credibility.
You can’t hide, fake or bluff your way through tough times. If you don’t know the answer to the problems or need help finding solutions, ask.  Allow those you are leading to see you as someone who is humble, honest and willing to seek counsel. They will respect you for your authenticity.

2. Be Willing To Face The Brutal Facts.
Gather all your information and look at reality as it is. Your ability to see reality will help you generate a vision of what could be.

3. Boldness.
  Be courageous in your clarity.  Be bold in affirming what’s working and honest with what’s not working.  Evaluate the strengths of your leadership – and continue to step out and experiment.  It will take a measure of faith at times to strategically do something new when there is little money and no guarantee of success. Yet, faith plus strategy is critical in the midst of tough times.   Don’t stop doing the right thing. It’s not about what you can afford to do, it is about doing the right thing.

4.  The Ability To Inspire. 
Tough times bring on frustration, uncertainty and anxiety in most people. As a leader or parent, you have to focus on what could be. Help those who follow you become realistically optimistic about the future. They need a vision that will excite and drive them to work for something better.


Three Hats of Influencers

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 Great leaders lead by a plan rather than by accident, says Brian Gareau,  manager of organizational effectiveness and engagement at Caterpillar,  speaking at CONEXPO this year. “Leadership is really easy,” he said.  “It’s the day-to-day application of it that is challenging.”
Great leaders wear three hats, he told attendees:
  • Manager, with a focus on projects, budgets and assets.
  • Company advocate, with a focus on clearly conveying executive leadership’s vision — without saying, “Don’t blame me; I don’t make the rules.”
  • Employee advocate, with a focus on accurately delivering employee feedback upstream to help decision-makers make informed choices.                                                                                                                                                         
You can combine your advocate roles to improve employee engagement, which can benefit productivity and retention.  What’s critical here, Gareau says, is communication, particularly in times of change and uncertainty.
  • Share information in a variety of formats — print, online, verbal — to the large group.
  • Generate understanding by answering questions,  speaking with small groups and individuals, and addressing the “what’s-in-it-for-me” factor.
  • Reinforce applications so that you follow up with people to see what other questions they have and you offer thanks and recognition when you see them doing as you want.
The idea is to integrate and understand the basic needs of employees — fair wages and safe work conditions — and the emotional needs — the fear of change and the need for recognition.  When you can integrate these, and lead by example, you get more engaged employees, Gareau said.
What do you think?  Sound off below.