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Ever hear, or seen on Facebook, this phrase: Make time for your health or you’ll be forced to make time for your illness? Leadership is similar. Make time to improve it or you’ll be forced to find time to fire, interview, hire and visit HR. You may even be forced to personally find time to search for a new position. But that sounds crazy!  Fifteen thousand things to do in twenty-four measly daily hours and no real time to truly dig into an issue, much less develop others to be or become better. Sure, there’s articles you could read. You could attend valuable classes. You could even hire a coach to distill your learning into one-hour weekly bite sized pieces. Each of which admittedly takes time. And then there’s time to practice. Or you could keep making errors, continue being fearless in believing the problems around you have nothing to do with the way you’re leading, and then make time for your likely exit strategy or simple stagnation in your current position. Ouch. Perhaps in the moments of time you can spare or carve out, start first by making it your mission to make these three areas and actions your primary focus. Not only do you have time to be a leader, but you can also find the time to become better. Grab a pen and your list and let’s do this!

First, Prioritize People

The task list is always going to be long, but when you’re a leader, you’re a leader of people, not action items. If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not delegating to, or developing, those people, as effectively as needed. If you’re mired in drama, you’re not nipping issues in the bud, or your might be letting every mole hill feel like a mountain. The key is to put the people you have the privilege of leading and the task of helping them get better, at the top of your to-do list. Put each employee or manager’s name on a separate page or paper. Record what they do well, where they struggle, and what is needed from you to help them get better. The size of the team you lead will determine your speed of progress on this next step, but take one item needed from you, per person, and add it to your list of important tasks to be completed.

Second, Keep You on Your List

Many leaders wake daily with the sincere hope of completing each and every item on their list. About as likely as Santa getting through all the naughty and nice kid list in one evening, it is that very hope and belief that leads to things like burn out. Instead of the only marker of success being that one has completed everything on your list, make the measure of success the completion of your top six priorities. Then, make sure you are on that list of six. Leaders who are highly driven, regularly leave themselves off of their own list. They give, they give, then give some more and then end up giving all they’ve got, which turns into short fuses, barking orders, and a lack of patience, all precursors to burn out. Try this: once weekly, record a task that you need to do for the primary purpose of making you feel better or giving you energy. Maybe it’s read that report from start to finish. Maybe it’s buy a new outfit for the big board meeting. Maybe it’s leave at five so you can see your kids before it’s dark at 5:30. Whatever the item or task is, make sure to keep you and your needs, and the leadership of their priority placement, ON your list. You’ll be glad you did when you watch your colleagues get crispy and you feel like the Energizer bunny.

Third, Manage Your Leader

Well, that sounds interesting, you may be thinking, but let’s look at one big reality. Disgruntled employees and leaders don’t leave positions because they don’t like what they’re doing. People leave jobs because they don’t like, don’t connect with, or don’t respect, their leader, which means people will do jobs they hate for YEARS, as long as its with people who make coming to work have meaning. Your own manager may or may not fulfill that role for you, but it’s your job in becoming a better leader, to effectively manage his or her behavior, when in your presence. If you’re complaining about the way your boss treats you, respond to this treatment in a way that provokes a change in their behavior. Mind you, the implication in this entire third section is that you act with professionalism and avoid making the back end of a burro out of yourself. Next, if you feel as if your boss doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, or doesn’t like you figure out what they need from you and what does he or she find motivating. Influence their behavior by learning as much about them as possible. Much as you’ve made a list of those you lead, make a list of the positive attributes, the not so positive ones, and the areas where you struggle, with your own leader. In the areas of struggle listed, make it a point to DO something different that reduces the struggle. Find help. Ask a colleague. Stop whining and make changes. Bosses are people, too and as much as you might expect them to lead you and be exactly what you need, the reality is YOU are a leader, so be one…and not just with those you have the privilege of leading.

These three areas of focus will elevate the way in which you lead. A consistent effort in these areas, in fact, and completion of the tasks suggested, will give others the impression that you are one heck a leader. Now, let’s talk about being, or becoming, better together or going it alone in your improvement in the area of leadership. Leaders run fast, but even in a marathon, someone keeps time, police guard your path, and somebody hands you a freaking Gatorade. Your business coach can serve in similar roles. You can go it alone and practice on your own. Yet, if you’ve already worked in these three areas and found your progress to be slow, or if you’ve just remained steadfast in your efforts in these three priority areas, but not much is happening, get help. If you feel stuck at all or want to speed up that climb up the ladder to full speed, then by all means, let’s talk. You’ve read this far, so you’re ready. (a common question) Let’s do this and speed up the process and rapidly improve your leadership of you and others. The number to call is 1-866-382-0121 and it will be a pleasure to connect soon.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!

Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.

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