Fresh Perspective on Familiar Work

Perhaps you’ve been the manager in your department/store/division for years.  You know your business (so you think) inside and out.  You are very familiar with the internal processes you need to complete.  You’ve trained staff and perhaps now you have mentors training other staff members.  You’re comfortable.

But you still need to grow your part of the business.  There is a lot to be said for this type of legacy and experience.  A lot of obstacles are clearly seen and avoided or addressed and by-passed.  But is there something you might be missing that would help you grow your piece of your company’s pie?

Start looking at your team’s work as if you were brand new to the department.  If this were the case, what could you do to “get up to speed”?


  • Spend time with each team member and observe them doing their jobs.
  • Ask them the purpose behind their work.
  • How does it fit in with the other team members?
  • How does it grow revenue or reduce waste?
  • Do they know?  Ask them!
  • How does your team view the company and its mission and goals?

Get the Perspective:

  • View all processes that your team is responsible for from the customer’s perspective – both external and internal customers.
  • Maybe your team has “always done it that way”, but “that way” was no longer relevant.
  • How are daily tasks and processes making it easier for your customers to do business with your team?
  • Is your team making it easy for other departments to do business with them?  Becoming a value resource both inside and outside of your organization is critical to your personal success as well as the success of your team and company.

Review Procedures:

  • If a procedure no longer makes sense, change it.
  • If it is no longer compliant, you have to change it.

A fresh perspective cannot be gained without stepping out of your routine and viewing your work through a different lens.  By changing your perspective, you just might change your results…all for the better!

Personal Inspiration Every Morning

Are you stuck?  Stuck in a bad habit?  Stuck in a routine?  Not motivated?  Your inspiration is as flat as yesterday’s coffee?  Is your mind filled with the blahs?

Want a simple tool that can help focus your mind and day?  Something that is inexpensive?  Something that takes very little time to prepare?  Read on and then go to your local office supply store and buy spiral index cards.

Many us enjoy reading inspirational and motivational quotes from people we admire (or don’t even know!).  Many of us find great lines in current books we’re reading that we don’t want to forget.  Here’s a way to use those to help “program” your thoughts for your upcoming day.


Take some time and begin jotting down on your favorite quotes on individual index cards in the spiral pack.  Choose quotes that will help you begin your day with a specific focus.  Quotes that inspire you to become more effect.  Quotes that are positive and action packed.


As you read a book, you find yourself highlighting a sentence or two.  You make notes in the margin.  Later, you want to find that section, but you might have forgotten which book it’s in.  Take the time to record that sentence or passage on one of the index cards.  Or write down your note that contained an action step.


I love listening to music.  A good composer can say a lot in around 3 minutes.  Some songs still with us for life.  Write down a line or two from a song that inspires you.  Or, depending on your world perspective, you may want to write down a passage of Scripture that moves you.


We are all blessed to have individuals around us that have helped us (directly or indirectly) become better people/leaders.  Many of these people have told us things that have been life-changing.  Write some of those reflections on a card.  One thought per card.


You have passed on wisdom and insight to others.  Write those thoughts down.

Do this next:

  • If you take around 30 minutes, you can record quite a lot on the cards.  Just one saying/line/reflection/quote per card.  Mix it up.  Jot a quote on one card.  Then a song lyric on the next.  Follow it with a saying, etc.  You get the picture.
  • Keep the index card pack at a place you’ll see it every day.  I keep mine in my car.  It may be on your bathroom counter top or next to the coffee pot.  You choose.
  • Every morning before you head into your office, take time to read 3  cards in a row.  If one of the cards really “speaks” to you, read that one again – out loud.  Maybe read it a couple of times.  You don’t need to memorize it.  But you are filling your mind with something very positive that can pop up during your day to remind you to take a positive course of action, to say something uplifting to someone else, to  believe in yourself.
  • Next day, read the next 3 cards in a row and do the same thing.  Repeat.

What I have found is this:  If left to my own behavior, I can become pretty negative, worrisome, or down if I’m not careful.  This little exercise has developed into a good habit for me.  It fills my thoughts with positive things that benefit me (and those around me!).  I am reprogramming my mind.  You can, too!

If you don’t like where you are at as a manager/leader/person, change it.  This simple tool can help.  You’re not talking yourself into anything.  You are filling your thoughts with positive motivation to develop and change for the better.  It works if you work it!

If you want to know your past –

look into your present conditions.

If you want to know your future –

look into your present actions.

(Chinese proverb)

Creating Momentum


A goal of management is to keep your team productive and building on        successes.  You want them to create and maintain a healthy momentum which will allow you to exceed your goals.  It doesn’t just happen.  It doesn’t happen because of luck.  As the leader, you are key to creating momentum:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate:  talk about your team’s progress; keep the numbers in front of them, praise accomplishments
  • Coach:  capitalize on your star performer’s skills;  help those that struggle get stronger; you’ve heard the saying “your team is only as strong as its weakest player” – there’s a lot of truth in that – everyone has to be involved!
  • Set short-term goals:  instead of tackling a huge objective, break it up into more manageable, smaller goals that will help you conquer that future goal
  • Address and eliminate obstacles quickly:  little things can mean a lot to members of your team; keep the path to success clear for them – this will require communication!
  • Expect team input:  let your team know that it’s everyone’s job to hit the goals; ask for their ideas to get you there.  When you use one of their ideas, give credit where credit is due.
  • Celebrate along the way:  as you meet the short-term goals, celebrate that progress.  Don’t wait until the end to party.

Swing Again!

I posted this on my personal blog ( I think it’s appropriate for managers to read as well.


I was listening to Focus on the Family the other day while driving. They were talking about Father’s Day and ways dads can positively impact their kids’ lives. One of the speakers had a great idea. Keep a journal for each of your young kids. Write down significant things they accomplished. Write down thoughts you have of them. Then, when they turn 16-18 (you choose), give them the journal. I’m starting this. Here’s a portion of what I wrote in Karsten’s (7 yrs old) this morning:

“Last night at your coach pitch game, you were the lead off batter. For the first time, you struck out. Before this game, you were batting .833. I had to leave early to go to a music rehearsal. When I said good-bye, you cried saying you were going to miss me. Later, Mom told me you didn’t play the rest of the game. We talked last night and this morning and you admitted you cried because you struck out. We talked about failing.

Always get back up. Home runs are rare. Failing isn’t.

Failing is learning. Don’t quit. Grab the bat and swing again. You’ll remember the home runs, but it’s what you learn at the strike-outs that will mold you into the man God desires you to be.

Swing again, Karsten! I am cheering you on!”

6 Leadership Styles…by Robyn Benincasa

6 Leadership Styles, & When You Should Use Them

BY ROBYN BENINCASA | 05-29-2012 | 6:00 AM

This article is written by a member of our expert contributor community.

Taking a team from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. According to writer and consultant Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Manager and leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably. Managers are facilitators of their team members’ success. They ensure that their people have everything they need to be productive and successful; that they’re well trained, happy and have minimal roadblocks in their path; that they’re being groomed for the next level; that they are recognized for great performance and coached through their challenges.

Conversely, a leader can be anyone on the team who has a particular talent, who is creatively thinking out of the box and has a great idea, who has experience in a certain aspect of the business or project that can prove useful to the manager and the team. A leader leads based on strengths, not titles.

The best managers consistently allow different leaders to emerge and inspire their teammates (and themselves!) to the next level.

When you’re dealing with ongoing challenges and changes, and you’re in uncharted territory with no means of knowing what comes next, no one can be expected to have all the answers or rule the team with an iron fist based solely on the title on their business card. It just doesn’t work for day-to-day operations. Sometimes a project is a long series of obstacles and opportunities coming at you at high speed, and you need every ounce of your collective hearts and minds and skill sets to get through it.

This is why the military style of top-down leadership is never effective in the fast-paced world of adventure racing or, for that matter, our daily lives (which is really one big, long adventure, hopefully!). I truly believe in Tom Peters’s observation that the best leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders. When we share leadership, we’re all a heck of a lot smarter, more nimble and more capable in the long run, especially when that long run is fraught with unknown and unforeseen challenges.

Change leadership styles

Not only do the greatest teammates allow different leaders to consistently emerge based on their strengths, but also they realize that leadership can and should be situational, depending on the needs of the team. Sometimes a teammate needs a warm hug. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a new style of coaching, someone to lead the way or even, on occasion, a kick in the bike shorts. For that reason, great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal and the best tool for the job.

My favorite study on the subject of kinetic leadership is Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Resultsa landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study. Goleman and his team completed a three-year study with over 3,000 middle-level managers. Their goal was to uncover specific leadership behaviors and determine their effect on the corporate climate and each leadership style’s effect on bottom-line profitability.

The research discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability! That’s far too much to ignore. Imagine how much money and effort a company spends on new processes, efficiencies, and cost-cutting methods in an effort to add even one percent to bottom-line profitability, and compare that to simply inspiring managers to be more kinetic with their leadership styles. It’s a no-brainer.

Here are the six leadership styles Goleman uncovered among the managers he studied, as well as a brief analysis of the effects of each style on the corporate climate:

  1. The pacesetting leader expects and models excellence and self-direction. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do as I do, now.” The pacesetting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. Used extensively, however, this style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.
  2. The authoritative leader mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Come with me.” The authoritative style works best when the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed, or when explicit guidance is not required. Authoritative leaders inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant enthusiasm for the mission. It is not the best fit when the leader is working with a team of experts who know more than him or her.
  3. The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “People come first.” The affiliative style works best in times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a trauma, or when the team needs to rebuild trust. This style should not be used exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.
  4. The coaching leader develops people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall. It is least effective when teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.
  5. The coercive leader demands immediate compliance. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do what I tell you.” The coercive style is most effective in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt, or during an actual emergency like a tornado or a fire. This style can also help control a problem teammate when everything else has failed. However, it should be avoided in almost every other case because it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.
  6. The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “What do you think?” The democratic style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if he or she is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation, when time is of the essence for another reason or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader.

Bottom line? If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.

Robyn Benincasa is a two-time Adventure Racing World Champion, two-time Guinness World Record distance kayaker, a full-time firefighter, and author of the new book, HOW WINNING WORKS: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth, from which this article is excerpted. (Harlequin Nonfiction, June 2012)

The Critical Link

Information and communication moves about companies.  Sometimes it’s effective.  In other companies and in other circumstances, it gets lost.  How do you make sure your team knows what’s going on?

  1. Be a conduit – If you receive information or critical communication your team needs to know, let them know!  If it’s critical information, call a brief meeting so that everyone hears the same thing and the same time from the same source (you).  If it’s not critical, send an informative email.  But let the communication flow and get to the appropriate audience.
  2. Don’t be obstacle – Don’t let key information stop with you.  If your team is responsible for improved results and yet they don’t know about something critical to their success, who is to blame?  Not them!
  3. Be open – Be known for sharing information that leads to the success of the team.  You know when you have been given proprietary information that you cannot share.  That needs to be kept secure.  But information that you have been given from a recent managers’ meeting?  Share it and let your team take that info and act on it, use it, share it, understand it.

Too often, managers keep info to themselves.  Then the manager’s boss comes along and wonders why the department is not participating in something or why they don’t know this or that or…this boss’s boss will be asking questions.

Communicate and your team will

  • be empowered to make better decisions
  • become more confident in their work
  • work more efficiently
  •  trust you more
  • have a better opportunity to succeed