Archive for Career Advice

5 Things Great Leaders Do Daily

As Matt and I have been doing our Leader.Team business podcast, I’ve been thinking more and more about leadership.

I don’t do these perfectly every day, but reflecting back on what’s worked, and essential, to do consistently, here are the 5 things I believe great leaders do daily:

1. Shows up.

Leaders have to simply show up, do the work, alongside their team.

This should be assumed, but it isn’t always.

I said “daily” instead of “every day” because you can’t possibly show up 365 days a year, never taking time off, and show up for the long haul.

There are times you can’t or shouldn’t show up. We all need rest and recharging.

There are times when you’re not right or healthy (see next point) and then you shouldn’t show up, but you should as best you can, explain why you aren’t showing up. But if you’re “on the clock,” you gotta show up, be available and do the work.

Showing up says, “I’m with you. Let’s do this.”

2. Shows up healthy.

You have to tend to your own happiness and health first as a leader because if you’re not healthy, your team won’t be either. And I’ve shown up very unhappy and very unhealthy.

I know though that when I walk through my office door I need to be healthy. If my mood is terrible, it cascades to the team.

So I take my health and happiness seriously. Thus, I see my counselor several times a year, and in between when I am struggling through something. And try to maintain health in all areas of my life, not just for myself, but for my team.

A happy, healthy leader permeates through a team … it helps raise everyone up.

3. Cares.

If leadership had a one-word definition, it would be: Care.

Or three …. Genuinely, consistently cares.

It is all about empathy — “understanding and sharing the feelings of another.”

When I don’t take the time to listen and understand others, I make mistakes.

I know every decision I make affects people. If I don’t care about people, I make stupid, selfish, team-eroding decisions.

4. Communicates.

Put communication on repeat. The more I clearly, consistently communicate the better we are together.

Most good communication I’ve found is more about the why, then the how.

And honestly — sometimes I get really tired of saying the same things over and over and over again, even if it’s to different people. But good, consistent communication is the key to leading people. It’s an essential part of the gig.

I can always tell when I’m not communicating because that’s when rumors and conspiracy theories begin to fester.

In the absence of good communication, we, humans, will make things up. When we’re left to create stories that too often end up as horror, “end of the world” stories.

I can instantly recount numerous past experiences on teams where the leader didn’t communicate adequately with their team and I/we went straight to making it up for them. And in the process, it destroys morale and motivation.

5. Partners.

The better word might be “collaborates” but I like partner better.

People are not cogs in a machine. We are a group of people on the same journey together.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t ever use the word “employee” for our people. I go to great lengths to say, “my team” or “team members” whenever I speak about them to others.

Using this kind of verbage is more positive, more respectful and view them as people and care about who they are on our team and to me.

It says: “We’re in this together. And you’re invaluable to us and to me for reaching our shared goal together.”

Bonus: Consistency.

There’s been a theme throughout these 5 things great leaders to daily — it’s consistency. In fact, I shouldn’t have titled this post with the word “daily” but “consistently.”

I can simply set and forget it. They need to be tended to continually.

To become and remain a great leader, I have to do all these things over and over and over and over again.

If I don’t, it withers trust and respect for those who have signed up for our team, and can seriously jeopardize the journey we’re all on together.

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Check out our Leader.Team business podcast for more thoughts and experiences Matt and I have had building and growing our team at iThemes.

Find Your Own Path

Find Your PathBe careful when you expect or demand someone else do it your way.

And be careful attempting to do it someone else’s exact way.

One size rarely fits all. And mileage always varies.

Especially in business but also in life.

I’ve actually found that it’s the quickest way to disillusion and then misery.

Your path might be the one true way for you, but not for me.

Your experience is likely not mine.

Your situation or setup is not mine.

Your beliefs, values, perspective are not always mine.

However, if I ask for yours, I’ll put it in the spreadsheet of my mind I use to make my own decisions, on my own path.

Yes, I may fail and make mistakes, but I’m determined to learn something from them.

I’ve often learned making my own mistakes is the key to unlocking what my happiness and joy is, for me.

When someone asks me my opinion or advice, I consciously try to default to what EO preaches in our forum groups … and simply share my experiences, and not advice.

Yes, sometimes I want your advice and you might want mine. Sometimes, I may ask you to tell me exactly what you think, or how you’d do it in my shoes.

With folly, I too often ask though, “If you were me, what would you do?”

But you’re not me. You’re you.

And if I do it exactly like you, I’m living your life, through the lense of your decisions, beliefs, philosophies and past … and not my own.

I will listen intently though and ask clarifying questions. I do that but it’s not to live your life, it’s to inform mine.

I weigh that input with what else I’ve learned to make the best decision for me.

And that’s helped me stay on the right path, my path.

I’ve been guilty of much of this though. When I blog (like this), tweet, take a call or do a talk, I say it all with deep conviction of belief … but it’s ALL based on my unique experiences. That’s my constant asterisk and disclaimer though as it should be.

And some of those experiences have, can and will change as I experience new things, ways, approaches and paths.

But many of us DO want to be told and directed what to do and I’ll admit, sometimes, I do too, especially with someone with more experience than me.

But knowing that I’m truly asking for experiences in deciding my own path, however they may come out helps in truly finding my own, is essential to sorting yours from mine. So now I know when I ask someone to share their opinion, advice, experiences or conviction, and they do so rather passionately or forcefully with me, it is merely their experiences baked in a crust of advice.

The best gold nuggets and informative, enriching experiences I’ve heard though is down in the deep core of it — the memories, experiences and stories, without me ever being a character in it. I’m simply hearing a good story.

When someone shares their experiences and emotions and reasons behind their path, without that deep-fried advice, it should sound more like, “I did X, because of Y, and Z is what happened.”

When it comes out like this, I can take my own truth from it and apply it appropriately.

This has given me immense freedom to be and do me. And to find the right path for me.

Only then, can I safely say:

I found and choose my own path …

… one that was mostly informed, sometimes guided, by all the experiences of others who graciously shared theirs with me.

Happy trails.

How We Do Recruiting and Hiring

We’re often asked by rookie leaders, managers and entrepreneurs how we do recruiting and hiring. We’ve had our share of misfires as well as excellent hires in the last 8+ years at iThemes.

In Episode 5 of our new Leader.Team podcast, Matt Danner and I talk about ins and outs of how we do it, even though we readily admit it’s more art than science. It’s a big subject so we broke it up into two parts.

Go download or subscribe to Episode 5 here 

You Have 137 Days Left in 2016: Make The Most Of Them

Numerous times throughout the year (and quarter) I look at the calendar and see how much time we have left to make progress on our goals.

Today, Aug, 17, 2016, you have 137 days left and about 20 weeks to make the most of.

I just put my process in this post but the four steps are simple:

  1. Take an inventory of your time left. You’ve got 137 days left in 2016!
  2. Get clarity on what you want to accomplish.
  3. Identify obstacles to blow up. Obstacles are really opportunities.
  4. Pinpoint the key steps to make next.

This can be used for personal, business, or career or a combination of it all for maximum goal achievement.

Download the PDF Worksheet Here

Finish 2016 Strong: Here’s An Exercise To Help

My New Business Leadership Podcast with Matt Danner

For a couple of months or maybe years, my business sidekick Matt Danner (COO of iThemes) and I have been talking about sharing the lessons and experiences we’ve learned leading and growing a team and business at iThemes over the last 8+ years.

This morning, we finally made actual progress on that dream and recorded the first two episodes this morning of a business podcast called Leader.Team.

In the first episode aka The Pilot, we talk about our backstories and background to where we are today. IN the second episode, we talk about our current roles and responsibilities, how we got here and why we think our unique, distinct personalities and strengths have made for a very successful leadership team.

Here’s some details about what we’re hoping to do with this podcast series:

Goal — To post a short (15-25 minute), easily digestible, practical and applicable podcast, from our experiences, twice a month on topics that young leaders and managers are interested in.

Purpose — To share our experiences and expertise as leaders and managers at iThemes in order to help others who want to lead, grow and care for teams, while also making purpose and profit.

Significance — We’ve learned a lot about leading and managing people as well as growing a business, often the hard, painful, costly way.

Prior to starting iThemes, I was a journalist, having “managed” only a part-time person before starting iThemes.

Matt was a college student when he started at iThemes, initially handling our sales emails, now managing 25+ people, many of whom are older than him.

Now, after 8+ years, we have a team of 25+ people, some in office, some remote, and thousands of customers around the world.

We want to share the stories, lessons, values, beliefs, philosophies, tools and experiences we’ve gleaned over the years to help you learn and grow … from each of our unique and different perspectives.

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Go signup to be the first to know when we launch the Leader.Team podcast series here.