Sunday, March 29, 2020

What makes you angry?

Panic buying in the supermarkets.
Panic selling in the stock markets.

There is absolutely a correlation between the hoarding of toilet paper and selling out of the market. Fear is a rational response. Just as anger is the rational response for when, let's say a colleague double-crosses you in a business deal. Or when you're treated unfairly, manipulatively or with disrespect, especially when it's intentional. Also feeling unappreciated, feeling threatened. When your partner can't or won't love you anymore, when a friend goes after your job. Depending on the circumstances, anger may range from getting mildly peeved to homicidal rage. 
Good people give you happiness. Bad people give you experience. Worst people give you a lesson. Best people give you memories.

The very thought of letting someone walk away scot-free from what they've done makes us sick. We want to see the scores evened and the playing field leveled. We want them to bear the weight of what they've done, not us. Forgiveness seems like the ultimate betrayal of yourself. You don't want to give up the fight for justice after what has happened to you. The anger is burning inside you and pumping toxicity throughout your system. I know that feeling. I know the second heartbeat that is fury.

But here's the thing with anger: we stay angry because we want justice. We assume that the angrier we are, the more change we will be capable of incurring. Anger doesn't realize that the past is over and the damage has been done. It tells you that vengeance will fix things.

When we're seething, forgiveness seems impossible. We want to be capable of it, because intellectually we know it's the healthiest choice to make. we want the peace forgiveness offers. We want the release and yet we cannot find a way to get there.

Because here's what they all fail to tell you about forgiveness. It's not an eraser that will wipe away the pain pf what's happened to you. It does not undo that pain that you've been living with and grant you immediate peace.

Forgiveness means knowing the past is over and the destruction left in its wake can never be reconstructed to resemble what it was. Forgiveness is the decision that restoring your own peace is finally a bigger priority that disrupting someone else's.

Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to make amends with who hurt you or validating what they have done to you. It means you're done waiting for the person who broke you to come put you back together. It isn't about letting injustice reign. It's about getting back on your feet and deciding that the rest of your life isn't going to be miserable because of what happened to you.

Forgiveness doesn't mean that you are giving up all of your power. Forgiveness means you're finally ready to take it back.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

Have you felt like giving up lately?

10% of the world's population is now under quarantine. All because of someone's lunch in Wuhan. 

Life was good.

I don't know anyone who has been handed only roses. We all encounter traumatic experiences. Some we see coming; others take us by surprise. It can be as tragic as the sudden death of a child; as heartbreaking as a relationship that unravels, or as disappointing as a dream that goes unfulfilled.The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next? 

And so began the rest of my life. It was a life I never would have chosen, a life I was completely unprepared for. The unimaginable.

We cannot put up with something just because the person doing it is our father, mother, brother, spouse or boss. We cannot tolerate everything. We cannot tolerate psychological abuse.

Fear is the mother of all negative emotions. Fear of aging...of rejection...of losing all that you have built...or (fill in the blank) can play intermittently in your head, degrading freedom. Throughout history, people have consistently tried to gain power, personal and professional, by instilling fear in others. Sad to say, it's a ploy that predictably works.

One of the  worst after effects of psychological abuse is the feeling of guilt. The ruthless abuser (whether it's parent, partner or boss) doesn't care in the slightest about your suffering, and also knows that by blaming you, they are multiplying the devastating effects of their toxicity. Everything, absolutely every bad thing that happens is the fault of the victim; the abuser manage to construct the most outlandish arguments when there is no argument to be made.  Another of the changes that an abuser seeks in their victim is to create insecurity. Sometimes during the most vulnerable times of your life, people made you believe that you weren't capable, that you couldn't do things, that you didn't know how to, and that you were worthless.  They ignored you, overlooked your achievements and punished you and that has wrecked havoc with your self-esteem. Likewise the abuser will isolate you, little by little, subtly, discreetly from your environment. Your abuser won't like your friends, your activities or your interests. They will absorb you with their aches and pains and needs and before you realise it, you will have already fallen into their trap.

To know something that I hadn't known before meant I could never "unknow" it and somehow this struck me very forcefully. In my mind I was in free fall, tumbling into an unimaginable place. Terrified in a way that I had never before experienced, the magnitude of my helplessness suddenly hit home. The reality of the rest of my life was in that reflection and I just didn't know how I was going to go on.

Will God ever answer my prayer? Have you ever asked that question? Is there one special matter you have been praying about for a long time, with no apparent answer in sight? Do you need a financial miracle in your life? Do you want a loved one to return for a reconciliation? Is there someone you love, who is at death's door? Are there times when you wonder if the answer will ever come? 

All kinds of weird thoughts and dreams would flash in what little sleep I could get and throughout the fractured night I would try to focus on the next day. 

I thought: If I can get out of this, I will never take anything for granted ever again. 

Traumatic though it was, I had to confront the reality of my changing life. I knew there was no going back and I was going to have to be as mentally tough as I could possibly be. I had to adapt and accept. 

You might be struck by an illness or a sudden change in circumstances and find yourself getting through the days by dealing with the practicalities, but if your mind is only focused on hoping things will get better or denying the inevitable outcome, you will soon hit a brick wall. When I realised the extent and severity of what had happened; realising I couldn't go any lower, I decided the only way to regain any sort of life was to turn my back on that darkness and move towards the light. I've had to learn a very different way of living and everything I do is about adapting. 

There is no point dwelling on what might or could have been. The past has happened and cannot be changed; it can only be accepted. Life is much simpler when you always look at what you can do, not what you can't do.

I was aware that even at this deepest dark moment of my life, I could find things funny, drawing my strength from those around me. This has taught me so much - that with the love and care of others, whoever they are, you can face darkness and look through to the other side. It made me realise even more how much the support of others was imperative to my fragile life.

To extend  friendship, to sustain others during dark times, is the very best of human nature. It is the endless, bottomless emotional support we give - during their dark days, that will get them through.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

It's about success, not about being right

Corona is one of the most popular beer brands in the world, yet unfortunately Corona’s brand seems to have suffered from the name’s likeness to “coronavirus.” On the other hand, Clorox stock is one of only seven S&P 500 stocks to rise during the brutal selloff fueled by the novel coronavirus, as investors bet the coronavirus epidemic will boost demand for bleach and disinfectant wipes.

Some things, like fire, which can cook our food and also burn us, are double-edged swords.

Now and then, event top performers must be moved off the team. They perform, but they scorch and burn relationships along the way.

I’m happy to say that I’ve only done this on a handful of rare occasions, but I have done it. Having the wrong person is always worse than having one less person. Those were key leadership moments for me to prove to the team that I would not tolerate dangers within the team.

Don’t put a Band-Aid on gangrene.

No matter how you approach it and no matter how accomplished you are as a leader, removing someone from his role is never easy.

When you're in charge, it's easy to fall in love with your own ideas and to stop taking serious input from the team. A leader understands that no plan will ever be successful unless everyone is on board and committed. It's about success, not about being right. 

Most everything I do is aimed at intensely close teamwork which builds a high level of trust. There is something fundamental about having someone else with you, watching your back, to whom you are loyal and accountable as well. 

I am grateful I have a trusted colleague. Two people with complementary skills and abilities working together toward a common goal - we're twice more effective than as an individual alone. We leverage each other's skills and presence; we cover each other. Without one, the other not only has no help, but is also more vulnerable. Consider successful working partners like Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, William Proctor and James Gamble. Bill and Hillary Clinton are also an excellent example. They worked, travelled together and consulted each other on key issues and decisions. They covered each other's backs and they protected and encouraged each other.

The core of influence is trust. You cannot lead without it.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Stress got you down?

Tinder was the highest-grossing mobile app in 2019. Consumers spent a total of US$2.2 billion on dating apps in 2019. This year so far, despite the epidemic hysteria effects of coronavirus, casual dating activities has reported to be on the rise on the basis of the psychology of start living before you start dying.

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity? Stress? Hell, yes.

Uncertainty is a fact of life. My world and your world are both full of it. Stress is a killer. It doesn't just lead to heart attacks. It leads to underperformance, indecision, and on-the-job misery. Life will surely seem unfair to you at times, but it will seem unfair to everybody at times. 

Think about how an upcoming holiday can change our state of minds. The condition is set for people to be happy, loving and peaceful. The rest of the year, most of us return to a fearful and negative state of mind. Why? Because what we see in the news and elsewhere highlights the negative. 

The same happens in an organizational environment. You worry about the competition. You worry about the boss. You worry about coworkers. You worry about the product. You worry about the market. Pretty soon, when you consider any idea, process or action, you do so with fear and negativity. 

When people don't know what's coming next, they tend to dwell on the dangers and hazards of what might come. How do you turn fear into courage? Any leader who deals with times like this understands that sometimes there simply is no right answer, at least not a perfect one. I can't give you a precise formula that works in every environment, but I've experienced a lot of touchy leadership situations. 

As you can imagine, being in a sales discipline subjects you to great amounts of stress and fear. Throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to work with great people and great leaders. As a leader, one of the most important tasks is simply to be there and to create a positive environment. Leaders present in times of stress are far more valued than those who stop by once in a while when things are going well.

Just being there, however, won't suffice. Let the team know you're there alongside them. I believe there are times in which leaders need to maintain their composure, despite the natural inclinations to express feelings of discouragement, fear or even despair. This is not to say they should shield others from reality or withhold basic information about the situation. Rather, it is to say that there are times in which the perceived attitude of the leader is a powerful force that can create energy and optimism or fear and pessimism. 

I don't need a PhD to figure this out: great leadership is critical in times of stress and fear.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Get results...without losing your soul

"A cup at Starbucks isn't really that expensive when you consider what Victoria Secret charges per cup." 
Victoria's Secret's Wexner, the longest-serving CEO of any Fortune 500 company, was reportedly in talks to step down from the company after more than 50 years at the helm and potentially sell the company. Once the largest lingerie retailer in the US, Times had once described it as the “internet-breaking moment” of this era after 1.5 million viewers tried to tune in to the annual fashion show when it aired for the first time online and crashed the site. Today, with its sales declining, Victoria’s Secret has been closing stores and its share prices have fallen more than 75% from their 2015 peak.
In the course of my work, I've seen many leaders who struggle to achieve prolonged business success, much less build meaningful professional relationships. If that's you, you're not alone. The truth is that all around the world, it's not hard to find stressed-out, frustrated (and often helpless) leaders.
We may not admit it, but all of us want power - the power to influence others, the power to get our phone calls returned, the power to get things done that are important to us.
How do you measure significance?
I believe a lot of people stick with business and work because there is a clear scorekeeping mechanism. You win or lose. You make the deal or someone else does. You get rich or go broke. Clear metrics.
Success is mostly about externals. Significance is defined more personally and internally. It is about what we want to do with our lives when success gives us freedom of action and choice.
Try not to become a person of success but rather try to become a person of value.
One thing I'd noticed that sets lasting successful leaders apart is their compassion. They genuinely know what it's like to do the work you do, face the pressures you do, and thrive amid them. They have genuine compassion for the frontline and middle-level managers that comes through in the encouragement, humour and tough love their share. They want you to succeed.
User leaders tend to treat people as objects - the people are there to achieve results and that is their only value. These leaders push hard for results and try to compel productivity through fear, power and control. They say things like, "Why should I say thank you? It's their job." Some other leaders spend their days playing dirty politics, working one person against another in their ceaseless quest for status.
You don't have to choose between results and relationships. Effective leaders focus on both. A clear and effective focus on results is the foundation for your influence and success as a leader. You cannot win without it. When you achieve results, those results don't become sustainable until you add the second external focus on relationships - connect, invest and collaborate.

The most effective leaders, however, don't stop there. They combine confidence and humility. It's not about results or relationships, confidence or humility. The answer is in the "and" - you need them all.
Good leadership is never about what you can do, it's about what you enable and encourage others to achieve.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

What stories will your team share about you?

RIP Kobe.
Kobe Bryant was the only athlete to ever win a basketball championship and an Academy Award. He was also the first professional athlete who was not an actor to have his hand and footprints enshrined at Hollywood's historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

"The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” - Kobe Bryant

I invite you to reflect: Who has helped you become who you are? And now: Who will think of you in the same way?

Effective leadership is inspiration. A true leader does not impose commands from the outside, but inspires people to draw on their own deepest inner reserves. Much of leadership is about extracting that extra 5% of performance that individuals did not know they possessed.

Smart, clinical, sterile leadership doesn't inspire anybody, no matter how right they are. I keep my focus on people, not products, not sales. That is your #1 job as a leader.

You don't get the best out of people by hitting them with an iron rod. You do so by gaining their respect. I can't think of any leader who succeeded for any length of time by presiding over a reign of terror. It turns out that the two most powerful words in the English Language are, "Well done.". People perform best when they know they have earned the trust of their leader.

Great teams are a collection of talented individuals, who need to be treated as individuals. When I was younger, I was more inclined to be severe. It was in those days that someone made a celebrated comment: "Paul treats us all alike. Like dogs!" Every associate is different, and I came to learn that they all required different care and feeding. Some would be at one extreme and need little help from me. This was particularly true of team members who had worked long with me, and understood me. With most team members, I did  not have to urge them to increase their work rate or expend more energy, but there were a few, who needed that extra poke. I'm sure from time to time, I underestimated the degree of intimidation experienced by newer team members. I try to distinguish among my team, trying to learn everything possible about the emotional makeup and then use that knowledge to its best effect. I am now a psychologist more than a slave driver. Sales is a pressure business, and on my team I put on the most pressure. The point is that I've got to learn 17 ways to pressure 17 associates.

Part of the way to extract the most out of people is to show genuine loyalty when the rest of the world is baying for blood. Sales provides plenty of opportunities for a leader to show his support. There may be the times, when someone is significantly short of meeting sales targets . But more often than not, it is the little things - like helping associates improve their techniques. I was not doing these things because I was trying to emulate Mother Teresa, I was doing them because they would help the overall team performance but they had the side-effect of demonstrating to the team member that we had confidence in him or her. This instils loyalty; it also helped them to lift their game. And so, inadvertently, I gradually came to understand this back-door route to inspiring people.

I hope that what you've read here had provoked you to think about leadership in a new way. The journey to becoming a leader who inspires others is an inner journey to know yourself and an outer journey to share it with the world. After all, true leadership is not so much about what is in your head as about what is in your heart and how you use that to inspire others to greatness.

There exists within each of us a longing to leave a legacy, some proof that we were here. We need to  know our lives were important, that somehow our being here mattered. Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

facing depression, building hope

Less than three weeks into the new year, there's already been a flurry of significant events. From Megxit to a deadly plane crash to bushfire crisis to the US and Iran almost going to war.

"Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small."

I believe the meaning of that quote is one that all leaders - regardless of their faith - can understand today. There is a storm brewing out at sea in each of our lives. We don't know when it's coming, but it is impending. Each of us has to prepare for that storm.

Our calm mind is our weapon against our challenges. So I try to relax. We can only control efforts, not outcomes. Serenity, patience and wisdom are born of this understanding. We cannot directly control, people, events or results.

Our minds creates meanings about things which happens around us. We see things not as they are, but as we are. Our mind can make meaning or madness, light a candle or curse the darkness. Unfortunately, knowing this makes no difference whatsoever when you're stuck right in the middle of it all. And of course, all of this only makes things somehow even worse. To transform our lives, we need to change our expectations. Ultimately, it may be best to replace our expectations with a neutral state of openness to whatever life may  bring, accepting life as it unfolds.

If you're rolling your eyes and wondering, "How does any of that help me solve my problems?" I'll tell you: it doesn't. None of this will deposit another thousand dollars into your bank account.

What this will do is help you put things in some kind of perspective and help you face life and all of its problems with a powerful attitude.

It is not easy to behave constructively in the face of negative emotions, and not easy to say a kind word when we feel angry or sad. But whether or not life is easy, holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

Meanwhile, you put on a brave face to mask misery. Perhaps you self medicate with excessive caffeine or alcohol just to be able to function in  a decent mood. If you've done any of these, you know the strain of having to keep up a chirpy appearance and smile when you're hurting inside.

One day when feeling depressed, I was on a flight descending into clouds. I watched as the sun slowly rose in the sky, lifting my spirits. When you're feeling low, devote a few minutes to meditating on these marvels of existence to rally hope. Miracles abound. Whatever you're going through, there's always hope for a new day.