Date: 5/22/2015 1:00 PM UTC

For some of us, Monday is a holiday.  Here in the U.S., we spend Memorial Day weekend grilling or boating or really anything outside in the nice weather - it's the unofficial start of summer.  It's a holiday, but we're usually busy.  Remember to take some part of the weekend to rest.  In our society we don't put enough value on rest, or energy, or refreshing our minds.  We feel bad about ourselves if we're not constantly doing something "productive".  Yet restoring our energy is one of the most productive things we can do.  So take time with your family, or a book, or with a fishing pole.  Take a nap, or a walk, or a bike ride.  Look at the flowers, or the birds, or the trees.  Whatever recharges your batteries, whatever refreshes your mind & spirit, make sure to do that this holiday weekend.

See you in June.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 5/18/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” – Alvin Toffler

Quite often when people are inquiring about someone’s business, they’ll ask, “Are you keeping busy?” Usually the person will respond with some comment to the effect that yes, they’re very busy, things are great, or no, we’re not busy, things are bad, etc. The point being that “keeping busy” is considered a positive, as if business success is measured by busyness.

I understand what they mean, but we need to be careful about how “busy” we are. It’s fine if the organization is busy, producing lots of great quality products & services and selling them to satisfied customers – no problem. But a lot of businesses aren’t busy in that way. They’re just busy being busy – not being productive.

That’s especially true of leaders. I’ve seen people with great responsibility in organizations who never stop for a minute, never idle away time, never leave early, etc. They’re busy, and they’re looked at as successful by a lot of people. The problem is that they’re busy doing small things, tasks, little detail work that could be done by someone with much less skill and likely could just be not done altogether. None of what they’re doing is focused on the future, or change, or the vision they have for the organization.

That has to stop. If you’re a leader you need to be thinking about what your organization needs to look like in the future, what your customers will need in the future, what your people need to make those things happen, etc. You have to be thinking about the big picture, and doing it regularly. You can’t just think about strategy or big picture things for two days a year at your management retreat. People call me and ask for help with strategic planning because “it’s that time of year again”. News flash: it’s always that time of year.

Think about your business. Think about what you’re doing in it. Is it strategic? Are you taking time regularly to think about the big picture? Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have enough time. If you don’t have time to be strategic it’s because you’re spending your time doing less important things. And if you aren’t capable of clearing time to be strategic, then somebody else should be the leader.

Don’t let your organization just go wherever events take it – get busy working on your future.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 5/11/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“Productivity is being able to do things you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka

Advance apology – the title of this post is misleading. I don’t think there really is one key to productivity. If there really was just one, and I knew it, I’d have already written my book, sold millions of copies, and I’d be writing this from my private island in the Caribbean.

Regardless of the potential solutions, productivity is a huge issue facing all of us. I have yet to meet anyone anywhere who doesn’t wish they could be more productive. Leaders of organizations not only try to make themselves more productive, they also are trying to get groups (sometimes very large groups) of other people to be more productive as a team, in concert with one another.

I know a lot of people who spend time working on to-do lists, or Must-Should-Could lists, or lock themselves in their offices for some quiet time, or any other number of ‘time management’ techniques. All of them in the name of being more productive. And all of those things have some value.

But think about something a little different than the traditional ideas. Think about clarity. These days we have what feels like a million things coming at us. Somehow we (and the people who work for us) have to figure out what to spend our time and energy on. For that, you need clarity.

What’s the most important role you play? Notice I didn’t ask what your most important task was. But what’s your most important role? Getting the right people in the rights seats on the bus? Strategy development? Keeping everyone focused on the vision? There are any number of things it could be. Whatever it is, make sure you use it as a filter for your day.

When you have 50 emails and a desk piled high with things that are all supposedly urgent, ask yourself: What’s my key role in this organization? What is the most important thing I bring? Then focus on that. You’d be surprised what you spend time on that probably doesn’t need to be done at all.

As a leader, you have to ask yourself this question: Do my people know what their most important role is? They’re struggling to prioritize and focus just like you are. How can they possibly get it together if they don’t know what’s most valued from them? Tell them what you need most of all, and tell them early and often.

This isn’t a magic bullet, and even if you have clarity about your role you still have to execute. But so often we get bogged down in things that don’t matter and we forget what our real purpose is. Don’t lose sight of why you’re in your role. That clarity can make all the difference.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 5/4/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

If you ask people what they’re supposed to do or what they’re supposed to be, you’ll get a variety of responses. Virtually all of them will have one thing in common. “Supposed to” will be based on what someone else thinks. People will talk about what their boss expects, what their spouse expects, what their friends expect, what society expects, etc. We spend a huge percentage of our life doing what we’re “supposed” to do – based on somebody else’s ideas.

That’s not how it really works. What we’re really supposed to do is what we’re passionate about. What we’re really supposed to be is what that voice in our head tells us we’re supposed to be. When people say that someone “marches to the beat of their own drummer”, it’s usually meant to be an insult. But you’re supposed to march to the beat of your own drummer! That’s why he’s your drummer!

Think about your life. How many things are there because somebody else thinks it should be that way? Better question: how many things aren’t there that you wish were present? There are very few people in the world who can honestly say that they’re being and doing exactly what their passion tells them to do (or at least trying). Why do you think you’re passionate about things? Is it just by chance? No way. You’re passionate about those things because that’s what you are supposed to be doing.

What’s true about you personally also applies to you as a leader. So many leaders are afraid to try and move their organizations in a new direction and they make lots of excuses about why. I think one of the core reasons is they’re afraid that others within the organization (and without) will think they’re crazy. They’re afraid to chase what they’re passionate about because they’re afraid they might fail and look ridiculous. The problem is that if you don’t chase what you’re passionate about, you’ll definitely fail and look ridiculous.

Whether it’s personally or professionally, make sure that you do what you’re truly supposed to do.  Make sure you're dancing to your music.  And stop caring whether anybody else can hear it.

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

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