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A Leader's S.I.M.P.L.E Rules Of Success (Part 1)

In part one of a two-part article, Ms Underhill tackles the S.I.M.P.L.E rules of success.

Is the journey to success ever simple? It all depends on what success means to you and why you are chasing it. Having asked many leaders this question, many could only briefly mention what success is to them but were unable to provide a clear actionable plan to show their journey. In this two-part article, we cover the key essentials to help leaders learn how to coach themselves through the S.I.M.P.L.E. rules of success. Rule 1: Self-Empowerment What or who do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you pleased with the leader in you? If you see failure written all over your face then you are right, but if you see success on your face, you are right as well. The decision to lead successfully lies within you. Self-employment is all about you and your actions. It is the willingness to allow and lead yourself to take charge. We often hear leaders talk about why they found it difficult to achieve their goals because of too many uncontrollable external factors. Why is it always easier to convince oneself that the fault lies in others? Think about every time you used your index finger to point the blame at someone else. You forget that three other fingers were pointing right back at you. Success and failure starts with one’s self. If each leader understands what they truly want, they will find ways to make it happen. Ms Pauline Kael, a 1950s film critic, author, and writer for The New Yorker, once said: “When there is a will, there is a way. If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending—do it”. Before you do anything, understand that without self-employment and with self-coaching to encourage you to pursue self-learning, you will never have self-improvement which will lead you to self-leadership, and ultimately achieve self-actualisation. Often leaders feel that they already hold the high positions so continuous learning is unnecessary for them. For those who pursue knowledge continuously, by the time they get to self-actualisation, they would have already achieved success in self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realisation, and self-exploration. Having said that, if leaders decide not to do anything but sit around and wait for somebody else to grow or even lead them, not only will they remain stagnant, but they will slowly but surely slip backward and eventually self-destruct.

Every step a leader takes is linked to one’s self. Empowering oneself to lead before leading others is key. Do not simply talk about it or wait for someone to give you that power. Take charge. Rule 2: Intentionality—First Things First Simply put, Intentionality is the thinking behind our behaviour and actions to serve the purpose of why we do what we do. Throughout my years in corporate and having to manage people, I’ve seen one common behaviour among leaders: the tendency to rush to act. The minute they think about wanting something, they spring into action with little or no thought given to the intention behind it. They are constantly reactive and hardly proactive in their actions. Clarity of ‘why we do what we do’ is often vague. We need to recognise that our actions are highly aligned to intentionality, not just when we are leading people. It is necessary especially when leading oneself. I have leaders telling me that they want success. But when asked if they knew specifically in which part of business or life that they want success in, they provide generic answers such as ‘profitable growth’, ‘career growth’, ‘financial freedom’, etc. Without specifics and clarity, it is impossible to see the intentionality behind all the wants. How often do employees attend training workshops without knowing exactly why they were selected? Many even commented that they were there because “my boss told me so”. It is disappointing to see the lack of intentionality or clarity between leaders and their teammates. Often such behaviour results in “the blind leading the blind” or “don’t ask, just do”. Twenty-five years ago, I was given the chance to return to school for six years. While I successfully went through the process of certification to diploma to degree, I did not give much thought as to why I did it and what I wanted to get out of it. Without intentionality, I would not have completed the six difficult years of night school, ultimately leading to a better career and a better life for my family. So set your daily intention and have a debrief with yourself, at the end of each day to see how you fair. Only when you take baby steps, will you have clarity in your progress. Rule 3: Mindset—Shift Your Thinking from Challenge to Choice How do we define Mindset? One of my workshop participants said that it is the difference between a stubborn person and a people pleaser. I thought that this was a rather interesting definition. Mindset refers to our mental choice and readiness. We often go through life without thinking about what our Mindset is and I doubt it was even discussed at social gatherings. Do you have any idea what kind of mindset you have? In A New Psychology of Success by Dr Carol Dweck from Stanford University, she explained that it can be categorised as Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset, fairly similar to the ‘stubborn person versus people pleaser’ finding. Fixed Mindset—it is said that those with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, ignore useful feedback, feel threatened by the success of others, just to name a few. With a one-track mind, people with a fixed mindset can be stubborn in their way of seeing or doing things. Such have the tendency to constantly watch over their own shoulder as they are guarded at all times and feel somewhat insecure about themselves, hence displaying the need to defend their familiar environment. It is easy to spot someone with a fixed mindset. You will often hear from them statements like “that is the way I am”, “please do not try to change me”, “I will learn it at my own pace”, and “decision is made, just do it”. Growth Mindset—on the other hand, a person with a Growth Mindset embraces challenges, persists when faced with setbacks, learns from criticism, and often finds inspiration from other’s successes. To succeed, we need to have a Growth Mindset and perceive everything with an open mind. This makes us a better person by consciously letting people around us express their thoughts and allowing a situation to run its course before forming our opinions. With good patience and active listening skills, it is about making an analysis before forming a judgment, which eventually determines your forward action. Leaders need to dedicate their first 90 days in any new role to understand not just the business and the organisational structures (which are usually rather straightforward) but applying emphasis on the people (who are more complex). To put it simply, from the receptionist who you meet at the office lobby to the chief executive officer (CEO) seated at the top floor corner office, it all boils down to the organisational culture derived from the company’s people and their Mindset. The following are three key essentials in strengthening one’s mindset:

  • Start CONSCIOUS of our daily behaviour. Right from the minute we wake up, be consciously reminded of how we can positively react to every situation. Even in the most difficult of situations, ensure that the impact of our action remains positive;

  • We need to CONDITION ourselves to always check our body language, intended choice of words, and tone of voice used when communicating to the people around us. Take occasional 10-minute meditation breaks (with deep breathing) is very helpful to calm our mind, body, and soul; and

  • Lastly, always be COMMITTED to think positive first, regardless of how bad any situation seems. If we constantly start with a negative mindset, everything becomes a challenge. If we commit to cultivating a positive mindset, we get to decide if the situation is a CHALLENGE or CHOICE.

Time to start looking within yourself in your success journey.

First published on SIM's Today's Manager magazine

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