What happens when leaders stay in their comfort zone?

“The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When leaders back away from challenging situations, their team loses confidence in them. In other words, when leaders fail to exhibit bravery, their organizations fail to achieve higher levels of success.

Best-selling author Brené Brown studied organizations where courageous leadership was absent and found three common issues:

  • Leaders avoided difficult conversations
  • Leaders managed problems instead of the behaviors that caused the problems
  • In organizations that had “fear of failure” cultures, team members were afraid of being wrong

My goal is not just to make you aware of these three common facts, but to encourage you to take action with what you have learned. So, I challenge to you reflect on the following questions.

On a scale of 1-5, with “1” being the lowest and “5” being the best, how would you rate yourself on these traits of a courageous leader?

  • I am comfortable tackling difficult conversations.
  • I manage behaviors that cause problems.
  • I embrace an environment that fosters open and honest feedback.

If you are feeling especially brave, ask two or three people to assess you or your organization for these courageous leadership traits.

If you score less than a “5” on any of these traits, ask yourself what is preventing you from achieving a “5.” Make a list of ideas for improvement and put them into ACTION!

If you need extra help, Brené Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness offers some tips for becoming a more confident and effective leader.

It’s important to realize that our own behaviors and leadership dictate the degree to which our organization succeeds. Let’s all strive to become the courageous leaders that our organizations, our families, and our communities need.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Transparency Builds Trust

These days, thinking about the future of your business is confusing at best. But recognize that as a leader, you know more about where your business is headed than you’re telling your team.

Your team probably is worried, fearful, and stressed. Pretending that it’s “business as usual” – when it obviously is not – doesn’t work. You’ll create distrust among your team.

By being transparent, you can ease stress and build trust among your team.

Transparency is key as you lean into uncomfortable conversations with your team. Be transparent about how you are tackling current challenges. Share your short-term vision of success. Establish and communicate new milestones. Acknowledge that making progress toward these milestones is tougher than in the past.

By being transparent, you can ease stress and build trust among your team. Employ empathy as a tool to understand what your team is experiencing and to share a vision of success for the company family. Lead with confidence, but with a dose of  humility. False bravado just won’t cut it.

As leaders we must challenge ourselves to initiate more meaningful and productive communication than ever before.  Now is the time to become the best leader you can be and give the very best you have.

Revisit Your Dreams

When you began your job as a leader, you probably dreamed about the type of leader you’d become and all that you’d accomplish.  Think back to that dream, however grandiose or naïve. Has any of it actually happened?

Your dream probably reflects the very core of who you are. If you feel disconnected from your dream, it’s not too late to revisit it. First, try to describe it. In your mind, capture a clear image of that dream. It helps to look at the big picture – step back from the trees and look at the whole forest!

Do your actions move you closer to your dream, or father away?

Studies show that having a clear picture of your dream allows you to create a roadmap to achieving and living this dream. Your daily actions can be baby steps or giant leaps toward your dream. Do your actions move you closer to your dream, or farther away? Think about who you want to be, rather than what you need to do.

Be intentional about how you use your time. I recommend using the Full Focus Planner to keep you on track.

This exercise in dreaming helps me recognize that I am fortunate to live out my dream – equipping you with the tools to make your dreams come true.

Here’s to the dreamers whose actions are transforming their lives and their communities!

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Four Big Questions To Help You Racalibrate

As a leader, it’s tempting (but unrealistic) to hope that everything will return to normal. Instead, seize this opportunity to recalibrate your personal, team, and company operating models.

Reflect on these questions to get started:

  • What personal qualities do you bring to the table today that you should carry into the future? Maybe you have become more focused, or communicated with your team more clearly during the disruption. If those skills helped keep your organization afloat, don’t let them fade away.
  • How, practically, should you hold yourself accountable? How will you ensure that others help hold you accountable? Setting measurable goals and tracking progress have always been part of good leadership, but they are even more essential now. Your transparency will create trust among your team.

The luxury of living in our old comfort zone has been taken away

  • Is your “to do” list holding you back? Try creating a “to be” list to lift you past everyday tasks and point you in a new direction.
  • What have you already done to adapt to your new circumstances? List the changes you’ve made in business operations and identify those that you need to retain. This exercise can also help you feel less overwhelmed by the wave of disruption.

Invite your team to reflect on these questions with you. Recalibrate your expectations of your team and communicate honestly with them.

The luxury of living in our old comfort zone has been taken away. The people you are leading have big expectations of you. They want you to be perfect and often forget that you are human. But the more human you are with them, the more trust and empathy they lend to you. And on this foundation of trust, you can build a successful future.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Start a “To Be” List, Not a “To Do” List

Like you, many of my clients are at a major inflection point in their organizations. I keep pushing them – and myself – to use this unique opportunity to reimagine our potential, instead of allowing our organizations to return to the comfort of “the way we always did things.”

The CEO should be at the forefront of the push for change, because some work can and should be done only by the CEO.  As a result, CEOs need to be extremely intentional about how they use their time.

Use this time to reimagine your potential, instead of returning to “the way we always did things.”

McKinsey research found that CEOs who focus their scarce time on projects that only the CEO can do, and who manage their energy with the same amount of discipline with which they manage their time, deliver higher performance.

One technique is to create a “to be” list with the same rigor that you develop your “to do” list. A “to be” list can apply to your personal qualities as a leader, or the vision for your entire organization.

As you reflect on the past six months, examine how you’ve already made the impossible happen, including your decision-making processes, resource allocation, communication, and location. By applying this immense effort, you moved your team beyond what you ever imagined could be accomplished.

Decide what you want “to be.” Use you time wisely to create the right future for yourself and your organization.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Let Others Shine

Over the last few weeks, we’ve explored how to become a graceful and grateful leader – one who eschews power grabs and brashness and instead puts others first, employs empathy, and creates an environment of forgiveness.

All of these traits, when present in a leader, create an atmosphere of trust among coworkers and colleagues. This trust is the foundation upon which improvements are made and growth occurs. A graceful leader ultimately works to serve others and allow them room to grow and succeed. The resulting successes are shared among all. A graceful leader is happiest when the whole team succeeds.

When you lead in service, you create an environment where others can shine.

Creating trust is more than simply getting buy-in. Buy-in is superficial and implies that each party is “getting” something in return for supporting an idea. True trust goes deeper and brings a team together to work toward a noble goal.

Being a servant leader means it’s not about you. When you lead in service, you create an environment where others – your colleagues, your family, or your community – can shine.

Gratitude, courage, forgiveness, and service to others add up to leading with grace.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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A Forgiving Heart Helps You Lead With Grace

I’m not perfect, and neither are you. As leaders, we all have flaws, and so does every member of our team. But when we lead with grace, we also lead with a forgiving heart.

When we lead with a forgiving heart, we recognize, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, that “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” A forgiving heart acknowledges and appreciates human frailty, including your own.

A forgiving heart acknowledges and appreciates human frailty, including your own.

An essential component of being a graceful leader is understanding that true leadership is not about you. A forgiving attitude creates opportunities for people to be their best, rather than live in fear of your next outburst or cutting remark.

Those who lead with a forgiving heart know that mistakes are inevitable, and that no one is as bad as his or her worst act. When we embrace forgiveness as a constant attitude, we can believe that redemption and rehabilitation are always possible.

Above all, when you lead with grace, you become aware of the awesome and ultimately self-redeeming power you possess to forgive others.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Does Leading With Grace Make You a Pushover?

Being a graceful and grateful leader, rather than being brash and audacious, might be viewed as weakness. Won’t people walk all over you?

Not at all. When you lead with grace, you’re not a pushover. Instead, you lead with courage and quiet determination toward your goals. You may even inspire others to act courageously.

You’ll lead with quiet determination toward your goals.

We are all feeling pressure on many fronts right now, and you may be tempted to choose an expedient solution over a difficult one. When you lead with courage and grace under pressure, you develop the fortitude to choose the right path, even if it is not easy or popular. You will develop the dignity to rise above instead of responding to insult with insult.  And you will have the strength, above all, not to blame others and to accept the responsibility that comes with leadership.

Employing grace and gratitude creates trust among your colleagues and your team. This trust forms the foundation on which you build a shared vision of success for your organization. From here, you can courageously guide your team through today’s storms, and be better prepared for the storms that lie ahead.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Be a Grace-filled and Grateful Leader

Leading with grace in our modern world may seem counterintuitive – it rarely gets the attention that audacity and swagger may elicit. But a graceful leadership style builds trust and collaboration among your team and your colleagues. And it all begins with gratitude.

I learned many years ago that grace is about gratitude. To lead is a privilege, partially earned and partially due to all sorts of luck. Leading with grace means you are grateful for the opportunity to lead, and are thankful to those around you.

No leader can go it alone. Leading well means relying on others. Those who trust you to lead them and those on whom you depend deserve your gratitude. A 2018 Inc. article by Michael Kay entitled Why Expressing Gratitude Is Crucial In Business explains how employing gratitude can yield unexpected results.

To lead is a privilege, partially earned and partially due to all worts of luck.

Why does being a grace-filled and grateful leader matter? Executives attribute 64% of a strategic initiative’s success or failure to their employees. So, leaders must build strong connections with their teams before they can achieve successful outcomes.

Yes, it’s true – gratitude is connected to successful outcomes!  People trust leaders who are genuine and grateful.

Start today by building grace-filled and grateful practices into your leadership.  Our world needs some of this right now!

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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Leading With Grace

What does it mean to “lead with grace” in today’s world?

To lead with grace is to be at the service of others. When we are gracious, we make others feel at ease and give them an opportunity to feel graceful themselves. To lead with grace is to recognize that true leadership is not about you.

Grace is defined as an intentional act of unmerited favor or an inclination to promote others’ interests and bring them joy.  Yet grace is more than just an action – it is a deeply spiritual word.

Grace can seem nostalgic and countercultural in today’s harsh and coarse world.

Grace is where style and substance meet. Grace can seem superficial, but when properly understood, it is genuinely profound. Grace is a way of moving through the physical world and a way of touching the realm of the spiritual.  It is a concept that is evocative and elusive.  Grace can also seem nostalgic and countercultural in today’s harsh and coarse world. Brashness and bravado are rewarded far more often than the gentler and subtler act—and art—of grace.

When unsure what to do or how to respond to workplace challenges, go with grace. Ask yourself what it would mean to act graciously.  By leading with grace, you create opportunities for others to be their graceful best, whether they are your children or your colleagues.

Leading with grace will always help you find the best possible outcome.  Embrace your grace, cultivate it, and share it with colleagues and the world, which desperately needs it.

Lead with grace.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success
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