If you are in the U.S., you just celebrated the Labor Day weekend. Because I thought it was clever, I named this episode The Labor Inspector in honor of this most joyous occasion!
But it got me thinking about how infrequently we stop to measure the results of our actions. I’m guilty! Most of us are definitely busy and you all know that being busy is not equal to being productive. That’s never good; actually, it’s dangerous. Especially when you have been in a period of massive busyness with no time for evaluating the result. I’m going to come back to this point in a future episode, but for now, I want to focus on inspection.
Desirable Outcomes Or Dismal Results
This requires stopping for long enough to critically think about what you are doing. If it’s leading to desirable outcomes or dismal results, then the answer might be more obvious than when it appears to not really matter one way or the other. Here’s the challenge: with some tasks, you are too close to know whether what you are doing has potential. This is the single best reason I know of to have mentors and coaches.
Ahhhh, but if you are going to have a mentor or a coach, then you are going to have to check your ego at the door! It means being willing to be transparent and sometimes that’s not comfortable. To open ourselves for critique or judgment can be painful and embarrassing – especially if you thrive on the praise of others. I’m going to share a real-life example.
Recently, I had some feedback from a sales leader about my level of passion in a sales call. I feel like I’m passionate about what I believe in, passionate about the products I represent, convinced that we are providing tremendous value and service to our clients. It’s all good! How could I not be passionate about it, right?!
You Need A Shot Of Espresso Or Something!
And these were his words, you need to take a shot of espresso or whatever you have to do to amp yourself up – you are really thorough, but you have to bring more energy. He wasn’t saying that I needed to caffeine up, I was plenty awake. He was calling for intention and focus on my delivery. And being mindful of not just what I’m saying, but why and how I’m saying it was the goal.
If you know me, you know that I can talk. But that’s frequently a curse as much as it is a blessing! Get to it, get to the point, with efficiency and energy! I’m not talking Chris Farley “living in a van down by the river” energy – just energizing and causing others to feel it too!
So, I have to decide when someone is willing to provide that feedback, do I acknowledge that there’s room to improve? Or, do I simply dismiss it and say “No, I think it was fine the way I handled it.”
Seriously, think about the guy who reads the slide deck. Everyone is nodding off and he persists word by word, line by line, slide by slide. BORING! No one feels compelled to do anything but nap with a presentation like that. So here were two key lessons for me that I took away from this that I want to share with you:
Responding To Feedback
First, if he hadn’t said anything, I might not have noticed. I was in my groove, doing my groove thing. The same as you. you do your thing…mostly out of habit and almost on autopilot. Wake up! Change gears. Break the monotony and evaluate what you are doing. Even worse, if he would have inadvertently praised the effort, I might have thought I did it correctly.
As it was, when I went back and listened to myself, thought through the conversation, considered my thoughts and feelings before and during that meeting, I couldn’t avoid concluding that he was right. An information download will never automatically equate to passion and energy. People don’t need information, they need a reason, a motivation, to act and respond.
How Well Do You Know The Topic
Second, part of the reason why we don’t manage our energy levels sufficiently is that as much as we might not like to admit it, we either know our material too well, or we don’t know it well enough. If we know it too well, we are just repeating the script, saying the same thing we’ve said the last thousand times we said it. If we don’t know it well enough, we get stuck putting everyone to sleep because we are reading the slide deck.
A little observation of the audience should help immensely here. If they aren’t engaged with you, then you have to respond. More of the same is going to increase the level of disengagement. So read the audience and respond accordingly.
Always Bring Enthusiasm
And here’s one other little tip for you: it doesn’t matter if the audience is feeding your energy level. You have to bring enthusiasm on your own. Just because an audience member isn’t happy to be there doesn’t mean you have to become unhappy to be there as well. There’s a reason why it’s called labor. It’s the great challenge all leaders must undertake: producing engagement where it doesn’t exist.
So on this labor day, take a second to inspect your own recent labor and get someone to help you if you aren’t able to do it objectively. Commit to being open to change where it’s needed so you can improve the results.
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Now, go lead like someone you would want to follow!