“I’m too busy.”

Im-too-busy How are you communicating priorities to avoid the excuses?
A common theme we’ve noticed in our leadership and business coaching practice over the last year is the many variations of the title phrase becoming a more and more frequent response to workplace requests for assistance, coordination, or action. Unfortunately, it yields more frustration than not which is why we see an opportunity to dig in behind the expression and see what is really being said.The first thing we need to agree on is that it is a meaningless statement. Basically, it is a stall or an excuse to not engage. We equate it to the common expression that sounds like, “I didn’t have time to do, act, respond, etc.” In truth, the correct response is that they did not make the time to do, act, respond, etc. because they had other priorities, whether correctly or incorrectly created, that they attended to. In truth. everyone has the same 24 hours in...
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“Knowing is Not Enough. We Must Apply

kick-ass-repeat What is your team's motivation to follow you this year?
...Willing is Not Enough. We Must Do”Ah, the beginning of a new year with new possibilities, opportunities, and challenges for business leaders! It is a time of year where knowledge and intentions run high based on newly minted business plans, sales goals, and growth objectives. Such high expectations leaders have for their teams and businesses before the reality of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment sets in. Presumably, the impact of VUCA was baked into the business planning, sales goal planning and growth objective planning. But as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s title quote reminds us, planning is just the beginning of achieving desired results. It is through action and application that desired results are truly achieved!So, what is it that gets leaders and their teams beyond the knowing and intending to achieve desired results? What is their motivation? Actually, the second question is a large part of the answer...
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Are you trying to be Perfect...

Excellence What does imperfect excellence look like for your leadership standards?
...or Excellent?In our last article, we focused the discussion on organizational success by being reasonable and rational assessing the capacity and capability of the business. The context is around effectively leading the organization in the current new reality of a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. In this month’s discussion, we look at the same context applied to one’s self-leadership. How leaders lead themselves goes a long way in determining their effectiveness in leading others. A frequent self-leadership challenge we see in our coaching practice is the idea of striving for perfection. When we engage with a leader who is on this path of perfection, we ask the question that is the title of this discussion, “Are you trying to be perfect or excellent?”The first thing one notices in the question is the inference there is a difference between being perfect and being excellent. There are a multitude of examples...
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Learn to say No...

prioritize How are you communicating your well-reasoned no?
...Without Saying No.In our coaching practice with corporate leaders, non-profit leaders, business owners and individual professionals, one of the most common areas of development is priority management. While some still refer to this challenge as time management, we beg to disagree. You see, these leaders aren’t really managing time as it is fixed at 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, etc. What these leaders are managing is what they do with their time such as how they manage their priorities. Prioritization, by definition, means saying yes to the most important (urgent or not urgent) and saying no to the least important. Therefore, learning to say no is a crucial leadership and priority management skill.In an article from the October 2021 issue of Inc. Magazine titled, “Yes, it’s OK to say No”, Fawn Weaver, the founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, wrote about the importance of...
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“Learning occurs...

Knowledge What new knowledge are you applying to your leadership journey?
...at the Edges of Knowledge.”In our current volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment, business leaders are coming to terms with the new reality. Much of what they knew about how to stay relevant to stakeholders three to five years ago has been rendered mute under today’s conditions. Both external and internal stakeholders now have much different expectations to the level where leaders are realizing a renewed sense of the importance and focus on culture, purpose, and effective communications as crucial to their sustainable success.Inherent in this process are the two key elements of the title quote. The first is the level of continuous learning embraced by 21st Century leaders as they strive for purposeful relevance. We’ve written about leadership learning over the years, most recently earlier this year which you can see here. The second is the importance of knowledge in the leader’s learning process to inform what really...
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“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old...

Leadership-Direction How well are you and your leaders focused on building the new?
...but on building the new.”A hot topic in social media and around the business community, both for-profit and non-profit is the discussion around how to structure the workforce in the new reality. Questions abound around bringing employees back to the office full time, part time, not at all and what are the ramifications of these options on how the business continues to run and how leaders effectively lead. On multiple LinkedIn discussions, we’ve posted that those leaders who can only manage effectively when their team is back in the office as it was pre-pandemic are insecure and need to reflect on why they are only confident leading under those conditions in this new reality. Of course, those comments were mostly met by agreement and a few disagreements, even one challenging our credentials to even make the comment in the first place.Our underlying premise, and the reason for the title quote attributed...
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“Experience is not what happens to you...

Learning What are you doing with your pandemic experience to be a more effective leader?
...it’s what you do with what happens to you”This quote by Aldous Huxley, the English author best known for his book, “Brave New World” speaks volumes about what leaders are asking themselves and their teams as the next phase of post-pandemic business starts to take hold. In previous posts, we’ve talked about the VUCA business environment and how leaders must adapt to the challenges it presents. The foundation for adapting is how leaders and their teams are learning from the events of last year and creating new experiences to support sustainable success.To help leaders better understand adaptability, it is helpful to look at the learning process through the lens of the Four Stages of Competence Model created by Noel Burch of Gordon Training International in the 1970s. He identified four stages of skill development providing leaders with a structure to identify and assess where they and their teams and companies are...
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“All I hear are excuses”

Reason-or-Excuse Is your team giving you reasons or excuses and how do you know?
As we continue to pull out of a year for the ages, effective leaders are closely monitoring the new methodologies and processes put in place to adapt to the new reality. As many are realizing, some on their team are adapting well to the new reality and others on the team not so much. As we work with these leaders across multiple industries, both for-profit and non-profit, we regularly hear them state some version of the title quote of this article. Our response is always the same:What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse?The most common response to this question is an extended silence followed by “I’m not really sure” or “I never really thought about it” or others to that effect. Aside from the fact that every leader must know the meaning of the words they use, in this case treating reasons as excuses or excuses as reasons, both...
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"Trust is Earned...

Trust How does your team trust your leadership?
...When Actions Meet Words”Last month, we explored the leader-follower relationship through the lens of followership. In this edition, we explore another element of this critical business relationship and a topic that many leadership conversations struggle with. Intellectually, every leader, even the poor ones, can agree that trust and trustworthiness is important to effective leadership. Unfortunately, not all leaders, especially the poor ones, know what it takes to be viewed as trustworthy. Moreover, they fail to understand the consequences of not being trusted until the damage to their team is done. As the expression goes, “Losing trust is like crumpling a piece of paper. No matter how much you smooth it out, it is never the same.”One of the simplest ways to break down the key elements of trust and trustworthiness comes via the Trust Equation developed by Trusted Advisor. The equation states Trustworthiness is equal to Credibility plus Reliability plus Intimacy...
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“We Get the Leaders...

Followership How does your team’s followership align with your leadership?
...We Choose to Follow”Earlier this month, I read the title quote in a post by Laurence Barrett from my LinkedIn network. His posts always get me thinking and this particular sentence got me thinking about an important topic that routinely gets little airtime yet is extremely important in the leadership development universe. When we ask leaders if they can truly be a leader if no one follows them, the obvious answer is no. Yet the topic of followership continues to lag in the leadership discussion.In the Leadership and Organizational Behavior class I teach in a local MBA program, we introduce the relationship between the leader, the followers, and the situation. One of the exercises we discuss is the idea of creating a course on followship and the key topics we would need to cover in such a course. After creating an exhaustive list of topics, I change the title from followership...
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“What have we learned?”

Learn-and-lead As a leader, what have you learned?
As we close out the year for the ages, many are using the time to reflect on the recent past in order to set the stage for what is next. Our experience tells us that for most, this is a loosely defined informal process which tends to produce minimal, if any, change in attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, we focus our coaching with clients, as well as the theme of this post, on learning. By definition, learning results in modifying behaviors by experience. We focus on the issue of learning because without the observable modified behavior, we could argue actual learning does not occur.As early as this past summer, we began asking our clients what they had learned about themselves over the previous 3-4 months. The idea is centered on leaders making time to consciously capture their experiences to learn what changes to make in their businesses. In our experience...
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“A goal is planned conflict...

conflict-with-status-quo How will your goal planning process defeat the enemy of your success?
...with the status quo.”It is the time of year when leaders evaluate the results of what has been a very challenging year. The purpose is to presumably create new goals to continue achieving desired results next year. Yet, no matter how many leaders I ask what their goal planning process looks like, the vast majority simply do not have one. The closest processes resemble an organizational to-do list with little or no context behind them. But is that enough? As the title quote from Hyrum W. Smith suggests, those goals must be strong enough to move to a desired future that is likely in conflict with the status quo.The challenge is that merely setting goals is never enough in and by themselves to create the necessary level of planned conflict. We wrote about this idea two years ago on how an effective goal planning process is a great motivator for success! The...
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Who are you...

Who-Am-I-2
...really? It has long been a tenet of effective leadership that it really begins with effective self-leadership. So much so that in our coaching practice, we maintain that if one cannot lead themselves, they do not have the right to lead others. While that may come across rather strong, we’ve seen it play out as advertised, both positively and negatively over the last several decades.Self-awareness is obviously key to effective self-leadership, yet it remains a challenge for far too many leaders. In a January 2018 article in Harvard Business Review titled, “What Self-Awareness Is (and How to Cultivate it)”, Tasha Eurich stated that their four-year research study estimated that only 10% to 15% of their over 5,000 study participants were actually self-aware.In some of our more recent posts, we discussed how the pandemic has been a bit of “truth serum” for leaders across the globe. No one has escaped the need...
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If You’re Not Listening...

listening How is your listening adding value to your leadership?
...Sit Down and Zip It..Because, quite frankly, you’re not adding anything new to the conversation! While I’ve always paid particular attention to leader’s listening skills, it appears that in the last six months we are being inundated with examples of those intent on change by talking over everyone else in the conversation. We’ve written about this idea of effective listening many times over the years and it seems appropriate that we do so again to reinforce the idea that leaders must listen to learn fully what is new about a given situation. If they are only interested in talking, then they are literally adding nothing new to the conversation by only repeating what they already know! What does it take, then, to zip it and listen when the first instinct is to keep talking? Based on our experience, there are three key knowledge elements to effectively listening in order to learn...
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Changing your Habits...

Old-vs-New-Habits What is your process to develop new leadership attitudes and habits?
...of ThoughtIn recent months, largely driven by the massive information assault on our lives due to the pandemic, social unrest and politicizing nearly everything under the sun due to the upcoming election, we’ve focused our writing around critical thinking. We’ve challenged readers to ask themselves why they think the way they do and digging deeper into how they think versus what they think.We know our thinking is a function of our beliefs and values and that our attitudes reflect our habitual thinking. With that in mind, let’s explore the five key questions leaders need to ask themselves as they change the way they think and act to stay relevant as 21st Century Leaders. These questions stem from multiple research sources and are conveniently summarized in “Leadership, Enhancing the Lessons of Experience” by Richard Hughes, Robert Ginnett and Gordy Curphy.How does a leader know what attitudes and behaviors to change? ~ One...
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“Education is not the learning of facts...

Thinker-Auguste-Rodin What is your process to expand your leadership knowledge box?
...but the training of the mind to think.”When Albert Einstein said these words, the internet did not exist. The networks that did exist in the form of telegraph and telephone did not provide access to data and information as we have now. One could almost say we no longer need to learn facts because we have access to them instantly through any number of Google searches. More importantly, the second part of his quote still resonates today. We would suggest it has become harder to train the mind to think than it was even in Einstein’s day.Training the mind to think is what critical thinking is all about, especially for 21st Century Leaders. According to Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, critical thinking is where the thinker improves the quality of their thinking based on how they think and the associated intellectual standards. As human beings, much of our thinking is biased,...
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"Social Continuity...

Social Continuity Who will you reach out to today to strengthen your social contract?
...with Physical Distancing”A term created out the current pandemic we hear every day is “Social Distancing”. While I understand the intent and purpose of the term, I believe it can also lead to unintended emotional isolation during these periods of lockdown and quarantine.A different perspective came to light yesterday during a conversation with my accountability coach. She got me thinking (as she usually does) about what we are really asking people to do is physical distancing while keeping our social contracts intact.Nearly everyone I speak with has made comments relating to the positivity they get from their own social conversations within their networks. It is apparent as well when they are feeling isolated and directionally out of sorts when the social continuity breaks down. If that is you, reach out. If you don't know who to call, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll set up a call to get the conversation...
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“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people...

LV-Logo-v1-1024x386 How is your voice improving your effective leadership?
...but the silence over that by the good people.”I have written in this forum every month since we started RPC Leadership Associates, Inc. twelve years ago. The first post that year related directly to my military career titled, “Everyone looks like an effective leader...until the enemy shows up.” It was an expression used both in the military and in my business career to highlight the importance of effective leadership, of being an example to follow in any situation. As I reflect on more recent events, the words in the title by Martin Luther King resonated as the voices of effective leaders become more and more important in this dynamic business environment.What, then, does it mean for leaders to exercise their voice and how can they become comfortable with the associated risk? Based on my own experience, I believe there are three key foundational elements to finding one’s leadership voice.Integrity ~ effective...
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Are you a Know-It-All...

Learning-Leader
...or a Learn-It-All?Earlier this year, we introduced what has turned into an ongoing discussion of one of the key skills of effective 21st Century Leaders. Critical Thinking, or the lack thereof, seems to routinely creep into the conversation because we constantly run into evidence it still needs to be reinforced in the leadership development conversation. While we’ve given examples in previous posts, one that continues to pop up goes something like:Me: What are you trying to achieve?Them: I don't want to do this and/or I don't like to do thatMe: OK, so what do you want to do?Them: I don't know.Of course, the real conversation goes much longer than the example above, but you get the idea. More thought on what they don;t want that what they do. Another different, but related, conversation goes something like:Me: I think this is the course of action we should take.Them: I disagree. I don't...
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Don’t Raise Your Voice…

Persuasion
…Improve Your Argument!Much is written about conflict and how society continues to struggle with managing it in an open forum. I see this struggle first-hand with my own clients who continue to work on their effective communications skills, especially with those who disagree with them. One of the key skills of leadership is the ability to influence and persuade their teams to go where they have not yet gone before, knowing they have to change but cannot do it on the strength of their own motivations. The Leader’s ability to persuade, and manage through the potential resistance, is directly proportional to their ability to build an argument supporting why their followers should behave differently than they are currently.With the advent of technology infused communications tools, the ability to persuade should be easier. The ability to reach more people efficiently theoretically makes the process itself more efficient. However, if you put a...
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