I haven’t addressed my progress on using Evernote for quite awhile. I’m happy to say that it’s become one of the most useful and handy organizational tools I’ve latched on to. I am a fan of making lists and writing things down and Evernote has really made me step up my game in that area. I wrote a blog post at the beginning of the year about a man that has gone entirely paperless (something I’m still hoping to achieve) and how Evernote was integral in achieving that success in his personal life. Now, almost year later I’m well on my way of reaching my going paperless goal (fingers crossed).
I’ve managed to collect all my owner’s manuals and put them in one place. No more searching in the filing cabinet if I need to figure out how something works. I’ve created flowcharts, clipped internet articles, written blog posts, grocery lists, and planned activities thanks to this handy tool. Initially, I was just creating notes and notebooks without really knowing how they could be useful, but then I started using it when I was out and about. If I had a thought about something then I’d make a note in Evernote. If I wanted to remember a gift I was going to get for someone or some crafty inspiration then I’d put it in Evernote. As I’ve trucked along finding my way through this amazing free tool, I’ve really come to rely on it.
I’ve planned entire events since everything from links to websites, addresses for venues, supplies I’ll need, and who will be attending all get logged in the same place. Searching for what I need is really easy with the use of tags and naming conventions. I can even make hand written notes and record them easily without typing a thing. What’s made this so wonderful for me is that it syncs with everything. Having access at home, on my phone, and at work has been such a life line for me at times.
I found this article about 6 Creative Ways to Use Evernote and it reminded me of just how far I’ve come. What I like most about this article is that I’ve already used Evernote for all of these reasons. If you haven’t already hopped on board this organizational train it’s really worth a shot. Take a look at some of my training videos on how to get started if you feel overwhelmed or stuck. Click the Videos tab at the top of my website!
How do you define the role of leadership? Leadership comes in so many forms and our acknowledgement of its forms can change our perception of it. I often say that leadership isn’t taught. I believe that many people out there believe themselves to be leaders when they merely manage people. To me, leadership is about being an inspiration to those around you. You may not even know the impact you have on others. I always thought leadership was some what intentional in some sense because it meant you were holding an elevated position in life. I tend to associate it with the professional aspect of things, but I also know leadership can align itself in my personal life.
When I was in high school I was drum major of my marching band (yeah, band geek here). We had practices every day, shows every Friday night, and competitions every Saturday for the duration of the fall season. I was a leader without knowing what that meant. I had the ability to inspire those around me. What if we changed the way we view leadership? What if it isn’t as intentional as we thought? I found a short Ted Talk on this and I liked what this gentleman had to say.
In my experience, leadership is often the reason employees leave a company, fail in their jobs, or generally just aren’t satisfied with their own development. Being a leader is so much more than thinking you get to boss people around all day. That’s what differentiates a manager from a leader. Leaders strive to train their staff while managers think that’s irrelevant and wasteful. I’ve come up with with my own personal list of some common mistakes that managers make and ways to correct them.
Shutting down: A common mistake that managers make is not considering the thoughts and ideas of their employees. Being in a position of authority means that your employees come to you with questions and hopefully seek you out as a resource and mentor. Having the presence of mind to encourage questions and foster that communication makes your job easier. More importantly, it shows that you are willing to learn yourself by not just listening to yourself, but by being open to what others have to say.
Focusing on negative actions: It has been my experience both as a manager and as someone who is being managed, that bosses focus towards the negative. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but one we must avoid. A phrase that always runs through my head when I realize I might not be focusing on the strengths of my workers or giving praise on occasion is “Catch them doing something right.” It’s simple yet effective for me because I know I want my employees to understand that I value them. I notice that when people are put into positions of authority they think that part of their job is observing their staff’s actions. In observing they misunderstand it’s not to purposefully find something “wrong” with them, but about seeing how they are an asset to your team.
Start the day in silence: I feel sure that this one is not something most managers think about. How often have you arrived at work for the day ready to go and feeling good and there’s not interaction with your boss? How about with your fellow employees? Now, I realize that I’m a morning person and that most people are not morning people, but in my opinion it sets the tone for the day. I worked for a company where the CEO used to walk in, past everyone’s desks in the office and head straight to his office with his head down. He’s a great guy, but he had no interactions with the staff which kind of left me feeling like he didn’t care about us as a company. I made it a point to always say hello to him and smile as a way of creating something positive when he arrived. In my own time as a manager I’m always sure to greet my fellow employees and say good-bye when they leave. I’m spending more time on this one because sometimes it really is the little things that make a difference in someone’s day.
Negativity as a form of development: I have definitely seen this method used on myself and other managers use this on their employees. This comes in forms of yelling, demeaning the employee, berating them in front of others, or embarrassment. This is never effective if you mean to offer criticisms as a way to train or correct actions in your employees. I’m not saying you have to speak to your employees like toddlers and avoid truths about their work, but it does not mean purposefully making them feel that they are worthless. My method is to be direct (read: not cruel) about what it is that they can improve upon while offering them a solution or alternative to how to perform that action differently in the future. That’s real constructive feedback and it cements a further open dialogue between you and your employees.
Being a know-it-all: We are all continually developing, but some of us are more open to that than others. Some people fall into the boss role because they’re the only option while some people prove they’re an excellent fit and role model for their staff. When I got my first promotion to a supervisor I made this mistake. I couldn’t understand why some of the employees wouldn’t listen to me. I was frustrated and it created tension between us. However, I reflected on why that was and I quickly stepped back and observed my own interactions with the staff. I realized that I cannot change other people and the only person I can change is myself. It was a learning experience for me as I realized that I had to change how I interacted with my staff and it quickly turned around for me. I became more observant and realized what motivated them and how to drive them. Realizing that even though you are are the boss it doesn’t mean you don’t have something to learn.
Setting the tone: This mistake is important to me. Most people can identify with that feeling of being dissatisfied with a job that they’ve worked for. You get that feeling of unease and sense of dread because going to work just doesn’t make you happy. As a leader it’s your job to set the tone for your staff. They really do look to you for guidance and, whether you like it or not, they’re always watching you. They want to see how you react to situations, feel about the company, and they respond in kind. When I worked as a retail manager I very often dealt with angry customers face-to-face. It can be difficult to not let those types of interactions ruin your day and go beyond that situation. Once you open the door that complaining about people or situations is okay, your employees do the same. It quickly becomes toxic, when instead you can find ways to turn those situations around. There is always a time and a place to vent when needed, but letting it become part of your every day isn’t the answer. If something bothers you talk to your boss and be open to letting your employees talk to you privately.
Hopefully, you carry these mistakes with you and turn them around as a means for growing in your role as a leader. Happy managing!
“Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” Julius Campbell – Remember the Titans
So I’m going to veer away from the leadership and business topics for a post to bring you a little feminism. Now, to be clear, I do not go around spouting off the stereotypical feminist speak to every person I meet. That kind of attitude works for some women, but not for me. I do, however, express feminist views when the topic comes up, when it moves me into speaking about it, and to the people in my life. I feel strongly that the role for women in society is far and away held to a different standard than a men’s roles in society. We are taught, at a very young age, that how we appear physically is valued above our thoughts and our mind.
Tracy Spicer is an Australian journalist and media personality that gave a TED talk recently about this very subject. She has a lot of sass, but extremely valid points on our role as women in society and drives the point home with a live demonstration of deconstructing every day behaviors that we have adopted as standard. Women get this. Men take a little convincing when it comes to this. Something I would impress upon the people of today is to not hold each other to different standards, but to hold us all to the same standard. Life is unfair and the standards are not the same, but with support from both men and women, we can change that.
Being a boss can be difficult with all the pressure of expectations and lead your team, but add in friends and it’s another element to juggle. As I was further along in my professional life, I began to realize that being a boss and having friends do not go hand in hand. Often times, it’s difficult for leaders to be objective when friendships are involved making their ability to make decisions that are best for the business harder. In my experience, it’s best to set yourself apart from the people working under you to ensure you make the best decisions as a boss. Now, I may not have been friends with my employees in the past, but I was always welcoming, warm and approachable. Having the ability to still connect with my employees without being BFFs gave reinforced the perception my employees had of me of someone they could talk to. I do not deny that being a boss can be a lonely position at times if you choose this route, but unless you’re Temperance Brennan, compartmentalizing friendships while maintaining your boss role doesn’t come naturally. I found a short article that discusses this topic and some ways you might be able to maintain your friendships if they already exist in your workplace. However, even this article from the Harvard Business Review, points out that some times you may have to make the tough decisions and that might mean sacrificing a friendship in order to do that.
Being a leader has a lot to do with perception. But perception isn’t the only thing that will make you successful. In my experience in management, your team is always watching you and looking for guidance. You are considered the example in what makes a great employee and in teaching them how to be a success themselves. If you build a great team, it reflects on you as a leader. I found this article to be spot on for ways you can be a good leader. Jeff Boss outlined the 6 ways to practice leadership, but below is my own take on these guidelines.
1. Dress the part.Showing up as a mange in a t-shirt and jeans doesn’t say “I’m you’re boss.” While the kind of job you hold might not be a fancy schmancy business attire, it’s important to present yourself as polished and in control. Make sure your shirts are pressed and clothing looks professional. While working for Toys R Us the dress code was khakis or black pants and a red polo or collared shirt, and sneakers. Most employees opted for the polo shirt and khakis, but I made sure to wear a red button-up top and black pants and black dress shoes. Customers could pick me out from my employees and I was easily identifiable. It shows I meant business and my employees knew that, too.
2. Play the role. Not all leaders are extroverts and out going. I’m on the fence when it comes to extroversion as I have introverted tendencies. I also have a tendency to be shy, but I force myself to overcome my shyness because it means I can’t sufficiently lead. If you want to be in a managerial position you can’t sit back, work hard, and expect people to notice and respect you. You have to put yourself out there and being shy and introverted doesn’t mean you get a pass and your employees will just say “Hmm…Beth’s just a shy, introvert so her lack of leadership is acceptable.” To me, it means you’re not suited for the role you’re in because you’re not an example. Be an example as a leader by playing the part.
3. Shoot ‘em straight — avoid the BS.If you think telling people what they want to hear is going to win them over you’d be wrong. For some people it’s easy to buy into what you’re saying with little effort. For others, you have to work harder to gain their trust and respect in your role. Try being straight with people and delivering on promises to gain trust and respect. This demonstrates your credibility as a manager when you practice communicating this way.
4. Accept difficult questions. To me, # 4 should be, “Be an effective communicator.”I see this mistake over and over again, but it’s easy to overcome if you make the effort. Share what you know. People don’t show up to work looking to fail so it’s your chance to make them a success. Communication between other leaders and your employees is strengthens your ability to lead.
I felt that this portion of the original article says it all (and more effectively than I could). “They know that transparency and inclusion breed trust and innovation, and if they want their people to have the right context when making decisions, then it is critical to communicate the right information.”
5. Just listen.Stop talking! There, I said it. Just because you are a manager does not mean always inserting your opinion or direction into a conversation or situation. This is a rookie mistake, but it’s very important to adhere to this. I’ve been in situations where my employees just needed my ear and it went a long way in building their trust and it built a stronger foundation for our working relationship. Actively listening to what people say to positions you to be someone to rely on and go to.
6. Be candid. Being candid means being authentic in your desire to lead. I feel like this, often times, means taking the diplomatic approach. That doesn’t mean pulling the wool over people’s eyes, but rather understanding how you come across to everyone should be the same. Again, I’m not suggesting putting on a front, but you do have to put on your “leadership hat” as Jeff Boss says.
These 6 tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leadership. I promise that putting these into practice will strengthen your position and build your character in management. So get started!
I truly enjoy training and developing other people. The idea that I can help someone learn something new and they will use those skills in their professional life is very satisfying to me. I’m going to create some training videos to help myself and to help others out.
I’m going to focus my training series on Evernote. Earlier in the year I explained my desire to “go paperless” so it’s crucial to me to learn more about the benefits of using this application. There’s an overwhelming amount of information online about using Evernote so I’ll bring you tutorials as I learn more about the app. I chose Evernote because it’s flexible and easily integrateable across many platforms, accessible by multiple users, and has been around long enough for it to be a fluid, and easy app to use. This is a simple tutorial on creating a simple note in Evernote. It’s not a complex because that it can be overwhelming even for the tech savvy so starting small will help later when you want to use Evernote to it’s full advantage.
Being fit and active has many benefits. A workout gives you energy, helps reduce overall body fat, raises your heart rate, and increases endorphins! It’s obvious that exercise has a myriad of benefits, one of them being stronger muscles. But being healthy physically doesn’t mean we should neglect ourselves mentally. Mental strength and fitness goes a long way in overall health.
Mental fitness is as simple if you follow these simple practices. Make time to read articles online, read a chapter of a book, listen to a podcast, do something creative, have a discussion about politics with a friend, ANYTHING. Being mentally active helps us engage with others and be alert for the long-term. Do you try any of these practices daily?
Every manager struggles with something. But every struggle is just an opportunity to work on being a better leader. A great leader knows that employees are more productive and happy when they know what is they are working towards. Management is not about ordering people around and “being a boss”. It’s about recognizing strengths and weaknesses, but also about leading a team. This article gives a short synopsis of how to avoid this common mistake in leadership positions.
Do you ever get into a habit of constant negative thoughts? Maybe you’re not verbalizing them but you beat yourself up or fill up your mind with a lot I “I can’t s”. As in, “I can’t do that because” or “I won’t be able to” and other thoughts that that tear you down. Try to switch your thinking to a more positive track. While l this article talks about the power of thinking and attracting money, it’s more deeply rooted to what we want to attract in our lives as a whole. Give it a whirl and see if this changes your perspective.