The month of January typically finds people focused on achieving their New Year's resolutions - what to "start" doing in 2011. To me, it's just as helpful to pause and think about what to "stop" doing. After all, bad habits are often the biggest roadblocks to attaining the goals you set out to achieve.
In my executive coaching practice, I consistently see five bad habits that hold back leaders and prevent them from developing the kind of brand in the workplace that will propel their careers. These "Leadership Personal Brand Busters®" not only impact leaders' careers, but can spill over to their personal lives as well. Check out the list below and ask yourself: Do "YOU™" need to bust any of these Busters in 2011?
1. Being clueless about how you really manage your time. I hear it a lot: "I manage my time well ... I think." This usually comes from executives who have been working 14-hour days as long as they can remember. Even if that isn't you, the only way to manage your time well is to know how you spend your days (and nights). So, during one entire week, track what you do every 15 minutes. If you're like most of my clients, you'll be completely surprised by what you discover.
How this Buster impacts your brand: If you aren't managing your time smartly, you aren't leading "you" effectively. So, how can you lead others effectively? Read my article on time management for some more tips: http://tinyurl.com/y7rfg7m.
Speaking of managing your time, the second Leadership Personal Brand Buster® is...
2. Being a slave to e-mail. Some leaders tell me they receive 300-400 e-mails in a typical day and that managing them can consume as much as 30-40% of their time. If you find too much of your time is spent on e-mail, stick to specific time guidelines for reading or sending, e.g., spend a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon working on e-mail. Let your staff know you aren't to be interrupted during that time. You can then focus on more important things during the day. (Extra tip: To write e-mails, I use voice-activated software. It has cut down my writing time - literally - from hours to minutes.)
How this Buster impacts your brand: Good leadership personal brand builders are proactive, not reactive. If you're constantly "reacting" to your inbox, you can't effectively focus on strategies or building relationships. Try picking up the phone instead.
3. Allowing meetings to run you instead of the other way around. When my clients review the results of their time management analysis, they typically find they spend anywhere from 35-60% of their time in meetings. If you want to minimize how much meetings "eat up your day," try the following: Ask for a meeting agenda in advance and attend only if you absolutely have to and if you feel you can really add value. Don't have to attend? Ask for a copy of the minutes and read them later. Want to make your meetings shorter and more efficient? Take all the chairs out of your meeting rooms. Believe me, meetings get a lot shorter that way!
How this Buster impacts your brand: Running from meeting to meeting - being beholden unto your meeting schedule - makes you a follower instead of a leader. Go to the head of the pack and decide which meetings really need your attention.
4. Saying "yes" too often (or all the time). As business leaders, we want to help others and be a part of the action. But far too often, this means saying "yes" to too many requests and becoming over-committed. The ironic thing is that, by spreading yourself too thin, you aren't helping anybody - not others, not yourself. In fact, if you aren't saying "no" about 10-20% of the time, you're probably giving in too much. You'll become a much better leader by learning how to get comfortable saying "no."
How this Buster impacts your brand: By saying "yes" to too many things, you often end up doing an "okay" job at everything versus doing an outstanding job at the types of projects that truly make the biggest difference. That translates to seriously undermining your leadership personal brand. It takes stronger leadership skills to say "no" in a calm, collected manner than to say "yes." People will respect your time and attention more when they know you won't be at their beck and call. Do "YOU™" feel guilty saying no? Read more tips here: http://tinyurl.com/29u6j2r.
5. Thinking you need to get everything 100% right. Perfectionism is a tough one for so many people, me included. We want to do the very best for our clients, colleagues, friends - everyone. We want the experience of working with us to be exceptional. Perfectionism can be a hard habit to break, but you can do it by regularly applying the 80/20 rule. Go through your to-do list and ask yourself: "Which of these tasks do I really need to do at 100%? Which ones could I do at 80% and still get great results?" If you give 80% instead of 100%, the sky won't fall; the world will go on. Find 80% too tough? Start with 90%, and slowly work your way down to 80%. That will free up 20% of your time to work on new projects, putting you ahead of the game.
How this Buster impacts your brand: The harsh truth is that people rarely acknowledge the extra 20% you do to make something "perfect." So, you will build a more dynamic leadership personal brand - faster - if you do more work at 80% and less at 100%. Moving forward in your career is about delivering consistently good results, not being perfect.
Do you commit any of these Busters? If so, make it part of your New Year's resolutions to stop some of these behaviors in their tracks and create new habits that will build your leadership personal brand to powerhouse stature in 2011.