During my 30+ year career as an employee of AchieveForum, I’ve attended countless training programs—some even multiple times.  As a well-trained employee, you would think I’d be the perfect manager, change agent, influencer, communicator, and the list goes on, but it’s not that simple.  You see, what I’ve learned is attending the training program, and being exposed to the skills, models and tools is only part of the equation.  What’s really needed to be the best is a commitment to putting the knowledge and tools learned into practice each and every day.  That comes from me—not the organization. 

What do Weight Watcher Meetings and Leadership Development Have in Common?

I equate the process of putting my learning into action to what it looks like when I leave a Weight Watchers meeting (only I’m more successful with leadership concepts than staying away from desserts!).  I’ve invested the time to attend meetings, my meeting leader has imparted knowledge, inspiration and provided countless tools and tips for weight loss, but all of that knowledge is useless unless I make a conscious effort to put that new knowledge into action.  What does that look like?  Just like meal prep, you need leadership prep!

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail…

Leadership prep is envisioning yourself in the likely situation that’s to come and deciding ahead of time what tool or approach you’ll use, or headset you will have.  During weight-loss planning, when you plan to attend an event, you anticipate what you will be faced with—calorie-filled dishes and desserts which need all of your strength to resist reacting in the way you normally would.  You ensure your success by bringing your own healthy options and deciding ahead of time how you’ll react when faced with tempting dishes. 

Honing your skills as a manager or leader, and creating a plan based on likely situations, is no different.  Tension-filled meetings, constant change, difficult conversations, feedback moments etc.  All situations you know will find their way into your workweek or day—sometimes multiple times a day.  You can plan for these situations in the same way by planning ahead of time how you’ll react differently or use new approaches to get the results you desire.  While not every situation will be anticipated exactly as it will play out, just like attending a party, you’ve seen enough situations and chocolate cakes to know what you will likely be faced with.  The difference is, planning ahead of time for how you will respond.

Many managers find setting aside a regular time to think, plan and reflect first thing in the morning, before they dive into the daily routine, is especially helpful.  I find the train ride to and from work is the best time for reflection.

Putting it into action at 2:00 am!

One of my favorite tools I’ve been consciously working on mastering is using the COST model—which is an acronym for Control, Ownership, Scope and Time and comes from our Adapting to Constant Change program. 

Let me demonstrate with a personal example—which begins with every parents’ nightmare.  You get the call at 2:00 am that your college student’s car, weeks into a new year, has been totaled.  My initial, inner voice conjured up every possible worse scenario of how this occurred. I soon learned the positive details that everyone was fine, he was not in the car and it was hit while parked.  Naturally, I also proceeded to think about the typical things one would anticipate e.g., dealing with insurance, he’d no longer have a car, needing to find a new car etc. 

How did the COST model help in this situation?  Although I would consider myself to be a resilient person, sharpening my “inner voice” even more has been critical for both business and personal situations.  Although the same natural reaction can often present itself initially e.g., filled with concerns, aggravations etc., what I’m finding is the more I intentionally use the tool, I’m able to move quicker from the immediate reaction to where I’m able to put things into perspective by using these questions.  Here’s what it looked like with the “totaled car scenario.”

C—What is even the smallest amount of Control I have in this situation?  I can help coach my son who is two hours away for what he needs to do.  Not a bad thing to be a coach and not take over so he can learn—part of the college experience right?

O—How can I take Ownership and improve this situation?   I can remain calm and help him to build his own resiliency skills by reminding him “these things happen, they are minor set-backs, and we’ll get it figured out.”

S—What is the true Scope of this situation?  What aspects of my life will it really impact?  There will be insurance, police reports to work through, and finding another car.  He’d also be without a car on campus for some amount of time (not a bad thing in my book!)

T—What is the Time span? How long will any negative consequences really last? It’s a moment in time that may take a few weeks to sort out the insurance details, and longer to find another car, but it won’t go on for the rest of our lives and one day he’ll have another car to use.  As I write this blog today, he is happily driving another car—albeit 8 months later.

Putting on your shoes and tying up the laces!

The old saying “common knowledge is not always common practice” is to true!  Strengthening our skills as leaders takes time, a focused effort and genuine commitment to honing the many skills we need.  In time, ideally it results in a “leadership look” that feels fabulous and gets the results you need personally and professionally.

 So put the shoes and skinny jeans on!  Your colleagues, friends, and family members will be glad you did too.