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Author: Andrew Nauenburg

Don’t let death guide you

We’re all going to die.

Don’t let death guide you – too many of us let the inevitable dictate how we live on earth.

Let life show you the way.

Be present. Take note of the pains and pleasures. Embrace what brings you happiness and joy and don’t let yourself be inundated on your death bed with “what ifs.” 

“I Just Need More Time”

Typically what we mean when we say “I just need more time” is “I wish I knew I wasn’t going to fail.” 

And that, unfortunately, isn’t available.

If it’s worth the work you put into it and the change you seek to make, it’s worth a tango with the uncertainty. 

And, certainty isn’t going to come from waiting.

Keep doing the work – moving forward is the best way to find certainty and success.

Finishing

Something occurred to me as I’m in the throes of the home stretch writing my book of fiction…I hadn’t considered finishing it. Weird, huh? But as I’ve been talking to my editor, publisher, and writing colleagues, this seems to be a common situation. Had I planned on finishing, writing the ending would be so much easier.

If you take the time and spend the money on taking a series of cooking classes, then you should consider finishing them.

If you take a new job, it’s a good idea to consider and plan on how you’ll leave that job.

Pablo Picasso died without a will. His heirs spent a significant amount of time and money (not to mention frustration), because of Picasso’s naiveté and selfishness.

If you’re born, it just makes sense to plan on dying (because there is no alternative, right?). 

If you start a company, 99.9999% of people need to realize they’ll either sell that company or it will fold. The end of a business can happen without being a failure by planning ahead for the finish.

I get stuck in the magic and excitement of the beginning. I forget finishing can and should be just as magical and invigorating. 

We should put the same energy into both. 

It’s Not About You

My leadership and coaching experience span a little over a decade. 

I don’t know it all. I’ve learned a lot. And it seems that I learn quite a bit more with each day, client, or engagement.

I wouldn’t go as far and say I thought I knew it all ten years ago, but I would like to knock the old me upside the head and scream “It’s not about you!”

Success by itself doesn’t make a leader.

A leader should be mostly invisible. The employees and team put on the show, and the leader stands in the background. The problem is that the leader often becomes a sideshow.

I learn from other leaders, coaches, and mentors — both the good and the bad. I see where I can improve. And as a byproduct, I observe the behavior I absolutely don’t want to do.

Sometimes I’ll shake my head at a leader’s reaction to an employee. Then I wonder: Is it possible that I’m perceived the same way sometimes?

It’s no secret – anyone who has worked with me in any capacity knows that I’m an intense leader and coach. I have high expectations of myself, my team, and my clients.

Yet, I don’t have it all figured out. I’m still learning. But here are four things I use to guide me to make sure my teams and clients are having a positive, rewarding, and productive experience…

1. Make Sure Everyone is Prepared (Even You)

Provide the foundation and structure for your team to succeed. Give them the tools and insight to understand your vision and situation.

Don’t just tell them to do something. Ask questions. Encourage everyone to ask questions. Discovering the right answer as a team is one of the best things you can do as a leader. 

2. Allow Everyone to Make Mistakes

You remember me saying that thing about me being intense? I’ve got to be proactive in the way I control my emotions – it’s possible you can catch me in a bad moment. 

Not every mistake requires discipline. Mental errors happen due to a lack of preparation and that’s on the leader to help people be equipped to be prepared. 

Mistakes are teaching moments. Allow them to happen. Quickly correct them and make everyone aware so next time they are faced with a similar situation they are prepared to handle it correctly. 

3. Create a Positive Environment

You know it when you see it – a team that’s firing on all cylinders because the environment in which they work is positive. Employees love where they work and what they are doing. 

It’s also just as easy to spot a team that works in a negative environment. Like teams that are constantly being attacked for their mistakes or where leaders set bad examples by reacting negatively to adversity. 

A positive environment starts and stops with the leader. The model you create an example you set is up to you. 

4. Limit Control

Yep. You read that right. This one is such a struggle for so many people.

You have to provide your team with the tools and information so they are equipped to execute without your constant input and telling them what to do. 

Again, provide the structure so your team can operate with autonomy and make informed decisions. 

Don’t hog the spotlight. If you do, you’re doing yourself and your team a disservice.

Steadfastness

Two outs. Two strikes. Down by 1.

A year ago Finn (then 8 years old) was faced with the ultimate baseball situation – needing to get a hit to save the season.

…He watched strike three go by.
…And he was devastated.
…Embarrassed.
…Humiliated.
…Every ounce of his spirit was crushed into nothingness.
…Season over.

It was one of those moments as a parent you wonder if your child will come back from. The hurt screamed from his face and there was an ache in his voice that no one could shake.

We spent the coming days and weeks talking about persistence and what it means to pursue something with dedication and steadfastness. It was obvious to us that the concept of staying the course made sense to him but what was less obvious was how he would respond emotionally in similar situations.

Fast forward a year and Finn (now 9-years-old) found himself in a similar situation. 

…Two outs.
…Tie game.
…Extra innings.
…League championship on the line.
…A fastball high.
…He gets the bat on it and hits one to the gap in right-center for a base clearing, 2 RBI triple to win the game.

After the excitement disappeared a bit and we were home, he sat quietly and said to me, “you know that was a much better feeling than what happened to me last year. I’m glad I kept practicing.”

Our children teach us more about ourselves than we could ever do so on our own. 

Whatever you’re working on, keep practicing. Keep your head down, stay steadfast, and grind away… your two out, two RBI game-winning triple is just around the corner. 

How Do You Deal With Distractions?

There are a million potential distractions during a workday… And when you’re constantly running up against deadlines, they can be detrimental to your business.

Twitter has breaking news.

A competitor just launched some shiny new thing.

“That guy” in the office keeps stopping by to tell you about his weekend plans.

The boss keeps asking for an update.

There are controversy and gossip about something that happened at last week’s company happy hour.

It’s raining. Or cold. Or hot.

How do you deal with these distractions?

A mentally tough team will take them all like challenges. As more motivation to do well.
As a challenge to remain focused.

As a leader, I try to use these things to inspire my team.

It’s two days from the deadline and our competitor beat us to market? Ok, so what? Now, this is the only time I’ll acknowledge that. Yes, they got to market first. We won’t mention it again. But use this as a personal challenge. The team that wins will be the team that overcomes the conditions.

So there are loud naysayers on Twitter saying you’ll never be successful? Let that motivate you. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t allow them to distract you. Don’t give them what they want. It will only become more gratifying to beat them.

If you don’t set an example, your team will fall into the distraction trap and get discouraged.

What is Your Team Philosophy?

Do you know what your team philosophy is? It’s important that you think and talk about this. More importantly, you should put your team’s core values in writing.

Here are the four that I use as a point of departure for every one of my businesses and ventures:

  1. Dream Big
  2. Be Nice
  3. Work Hard
  4. Play Hard
  5. Pay it Forward

Of course, that’s just the start. Each business has different personalities and goals so your philosophy will need to reflect that. What are yours?

Self-Awareness

Some employees are fast learners. Some are adaptable. Some deliver on-time and under-budget. Some don’t.

The thing is most professionals don’t get it. A go-getter employee that just gets stuff done approaches projects trying to be the careful and meticulous researcher. A person that often turns in work right at the deadline procrastinates and wonders why she stresses when deadlines approach.

This all comes down to self-awareness. Employees who are self-aware will maximize their potential. They also make the best possible teammates because they understand their role. 

A team of self-aware employees is the end goal. They don’t all need to be rockstars. They need to understand their strengths and weaknesses while embracing the role that fits them. 

Help them understand their strengths and weaknesses. Then everyone wins.

Hooked on a Feeling

Mary is a well known pediatric physician with three young kids. She used to be burdened by gripping guilt – a built both at the office where her colleagues worked 70 hours a week while she was only putting in 50 and at home where she was always distracted and too exhausted to spend any meaningful time with her kids and husband. 

A heavy whisper inside her head plagued her – it constantly pressured her to be a better employee or her career was destined to fail. Medical school, sacrificing sleep, all that debt. Everything. For nothing. 

While another voice screamed that she had to be a better mother.

She wanted nothing more than for at least one of these voices to disappear. Unfortunately, neither did. And they only got louder.

Because she was consumed with these voices and perpetually distracted, she missed new opportunities at work and while at home, she buried her head in her laptop.

Hooked on a feeling

Mary is smart. She’s successful. But she’s stuck – hooked on negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions – controlled by the chaos inside her head. She knew she couldn’t go on like this. 

Fish on the line

She took the first step by recognizing you’ve been hooked. You can’t control everything. But you can control how you process and react to those voices that haunt your head. But by accepting it, you can respond appropriately – by being mindful and breathing through the experience, thoughts, and emotions. 

Show yourself some compassion

Accept the situation then act based on your values. Mary loved her job and healing people. She also loved her family. Those were the two main values in her life. By not compromising her values, she was able to actually use them to maneuver difficult situations. Like finally getting home for dinner and being undistracted. And also, not sacrificing her work. She just made sure she worked when she was at work and was focused on family when they needed her. 

Be confident knowing your struggle isn’t unique to you. Many others are battling the same thing. 

Identify your values. Use them to guide your reaction to those voices. Get unhooked.

EMPATHY

Empathy is particularly important today as a component of leadership for (at least) three reasons – increasing use of teams, the rapid rate of globalization, and a vital need to retain talent. But empathy doesn’t mean all that “mushy” “I’m okay, you’re ok” type of stuff. Leaders don’t need to adopt other people’s feelings as your own to please everyone. That’s not possible.

BUT, it does mean carefully considering every employees’ feelings (and a few other factors) in the process of making intelligent decisions. Empathy helps to attract and develop top talent. It’s also vitally necessary in keeping top talent.

Coaching and mentoring plays a key role in the development of empathy. Coaching and mentoring increase job performance and job satisfaction. And decreases turnover.

Empathy matters. But only when taken seriously and used intelligently.