Each week, I produce a communication titled Happy Monday! to my team. It is filled with kudos, FYIs, photos they share from their previous week, educational segments and my favorite element, a quote for them to ponder throughout their week. I would be delusional to believe everyone reads it or that some of them even care that it arrives in their inbox each week. I can’t take credit for the creation of Happy Monday! as the idea was borrowed years ago from my then-boss, a highly successful and continued leader in the Cyber Security world. The goal of Happy Monday!? Employee engagement, awareness and to voice the many ideas that stemmed from conversations with the group throughout the week.
The unintended outcome? Discipline.
Not the discipline of my team. They already have that in spades by crushing deadlines, delivering high quality products and creating insanely unique ways to solve problems. Happy Monday! has given me discipline.
I can hear you asking, “How does leader in a successful company lack discipline?” Easily. Whether it’s from working too many hours, allowing email to become a quest or not managing the most important things first, discipline can quickly erode.
For the most part, a team appreciates a consistent, repeatable, and predictable process. They want to come to work each day, do a great job and end knowing they made a difference. In providing an atmosphere of relative predictability, we allow for the variations that consistently arise while simultaneously opening the doors to creativity. Within this 80% of the predictable equation is the status quo where most people live. It’s inside the other 20%, the unknown/unscripted/unpredictable, where amazing things happen. My goal to provide a path to the 20%.
Creating an environment where this is the norm is an output of discipline.
I find I am constantly combing conversations, meetings and learnings for topics and quotes to share with my team; fodder may originate from a new idea on Ted Talks, a snippet from a magazine or a pop-up from a random feed. Every element has value as all provide valuable data points. There is something in the routine process of gathering information about the team and their world that keeps me curious as well as on track. I find I will miss the gym (late meeting) or skip lunch (email won that battle), yet Happy Monday! arrives as planned, predictably, every Monday.
I started producing Happy Monday! eight years and three teams ago. What I have learned over this time is that the sharing the successes of the team and finding a quote to place at the end are the bookends. A wise friend and mentor once advised, “Put their photos and kudos first. It’s all about them and not you. Make sure they know it.”
The team is most important. Each of us relies on the others to complete the massive tasks that we are faced with each week. It’s easy to lose sight of personal accomplishments in the face of an Everest of distractions, but it is critical not to do so. The human element in all work requires satisfaction and recognition. People are the driving force of every endeavor. I make sure that those on my team know just how much they mean to me and their team mates.
Much like any local broadcast news department starts locally to grab viewers’ attention and then moves globally to increase awareness to other, larger issues, I close Happy Monday! with an inspirational or insightful quote for the team to ponder during the coming week. These messages seem to inspire those who read them and give them connection to a higher perspective than just, “I gotta get this done right now.”
This week, I have come across a quote from Shaa Wasmund that reads, “Choose to be incredible”.
Choosing to be incredible seems simple. We should wake-up and be amazing every day. Whatever adversity we face is trounced by this force and regardless of the outcome, for example, of a meeting, we will be lauded for our preparation and delivery of the content. Perhaps we kick off a major project, bring an interface live or solve a recurring system issue. It may be we do all of these things and no one notices them because it is what we are expected to do. As I thought more about this quote, it made think of discipline creating the ability to be incredible. Am I incredible for producing a weekly communication? Absolutely not. The incredible part of discipline is finding it and sticking to it.
The art of discipline lies in believing you can do something. How can you create an aura of discipline in your life and be incredible when it is expected? Here are three effective ways that have worked for me:
1. Allow yourself to fail – What? Failure is not incredible! It’s average, it’s embarrassing and anyone can fail. Of course they can. It’s how they fail that matters. Michael Jordan is lauded for his 6 NBA Championships, yet one of his most endearing sentiments is “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Lincoln lost bids for Congress, two for the Senate, and the Vice-Presidential seat before being elected President. Edison invented the light bulb after 1,000 previous failed attempts.
I recently attended a new yoga class with one of my girlfriends. I felt humbled as our instructor gracefully moved from a side plank to a wheel as I flipped over with a loud thud. She provided support, encouragement, and reminded me that when she started, she did the same thing. My takeaway? I can’t wait to go next week and try again. I want to be good at yoga, even though I will fail many times in my attempt to succeed. I certainly hope it does not take a 1,000 times to master that move, yet I will get into great shape trying!
Not applicable in the work world? Hardly – yoga now gets me out of work on time 2 days a week. Big improvement and a literal quest for balance.
2. Do what you love to do – Do you wake up with a sense of purpose every day? Do you have meaning beyond the daily grind of school lunches, board meetings, laundry, and cooking? Or, have you found purpose in these and put the most important priorities first? While I truly enjoy my daily work, it does not define me. It has taken me several years of introspection to admit this. After taking a leap of faith by changing companies and locations, I have learned to prioritize life by doing what I love at work and also doing what I love in my spare time. This means sometimes shutting off the phone, eschewing my digital world, and making it home on time to make dinner with my family followed by taking our dogs for a walk – both chores that now provide fulfillment. Am I incredible for doing it? No – I am incredibly happy for creating that sacred space and sticking to it because I love it.
3. Don’t place all of your eggs in one basket – I like to ask people what they do. When they respond with what they do for a living, I find they are defined by their work. When they respond with what they do for fun, I find they are more balanced in their life. This includes the responses of, “I am retired”, “I run a company”, or “I am a rock climber”. Each response will elicit passion for their hard work, entrepreneurship and passion. It’s when an individual responds with, “I am a retired vet who fosters puppies and likes to run 5ks” that I know I have encountered a balanced soul who diversifies life with a mixture of complimentary purposes. If you find yourself a answering the question with a brief response that merely contains your job title or description, consider adding an ‘and’ to your reply. You may just find it gives you the impetus to be balanced and amazing.
The incredulity of discipline has wound its way through me in the ability to not be defined by my job, finding time to walk the dog and collapse on the yoga mat with a smile. It also gives me a foundation for my team at work as they know each week will indeed begin anew with a Happy Monday! From this foundation, I can cultivate the ability to find balance and choose to be incredible.
What you will do to find balance and be amazing?
Let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, by following me on Twitter @sarahleader101 or on Facebook at sarahleader101.