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January 18, 2016 Biz Books

Conscious, daily reflection key to improving leadership

“Take Your Soul to Work: 365 Meditations on Every Day Leadership” by Erica Brown (Simon and Schuster, $24.95).

With the start of 2016, Brown's 365 meditations are timely reminders about making good decisions rooted in character, honesty, trust, respect and courage. The daily dose of inspiration reinforces the habits of effective leaders. Here are some that you should keep in mind every day:

Day 22: “Are you working hard at the right things in your leadership?” While every leader has goals, it's easy to lose sight of them when you're in a hyper-connected workplace with many things demanding attention. Problems can cause your commitment to wane; stay on track by seeing them as part of the learning process that leads to achievement.

Lead by example and others will follow your lead.

Day 39: “Let go of your control over one thing today.” Leaders seeking to control everything fail to acknowledge that the actions of the marketplace and many stakeholders are beyond their control.

Internally, letting go of control shows that you trust your employees to make decisions and solve problems. This encourages the creativity and innovation needed to achieve goals and create opportunity.

Day 57: “What is the most productive hour of your day, and how can you leverage it better?” Recognizing when you're most productive allows you to squeeze more into that period. How? Short lists with time limits force you to concentrate on individual tasks. Leveraging productive time also involves taking short breaks to recharge your batteries.

Day 84: “Name one area of your leadership that needs to be simplified now.” Be honest. Are you trying to do too much? Look inward to find better ways to use your talent and skills, and those of your staff. Separate the musts from the would be nice of today. Important should not take a long-term backseat to urgent.

Day 111: “What can you do to lower your defensive wall right now?” To be effective, leaders must be approachable. People don't want to speak to someone who's always on the defensive? Why? They know that the defensive party won't listen to them. When someone criticizes, don't fire back or go into “Yes, but … ” mode. Instead, hear them out and think about their perspective before responding with “Yes, and … ).

Day 137: “As a leader, when has a change in your expectations helped you better negotiate reality?” No plan ever goes as planned; there are always things beyond your control and unforeseen obstacles. By altering your short-term expectations, you can deal with today's issues and still keep a commitment to tomorrow's outcome.

Day 173: “Make an intentional effort at transparency and overcommunication today?” Employees cite the lack of communication as a major reason for disengagement. Not telling them what's going on (the good and the bad) doesn't help them do their jobs better. Fill in their blanks or they'll fill them in themselves through gossip and the rumor mill, which have an adverse, death-spiral effect on their productivity.

While transparency doesn't always make the situation better, a lack of information always makes things worse. Keeping employees informed helps create a “we're in this together” culture.

Day 250: “Name a leadership moment that required real bravery on your part?” Maybe it was a decision you made. Maybe it was a decision you decided not to make. Maybe it was your response to criticism. Regardless of the reason, think how your choice affected the way you lead.

Key takeaway: make the time to meditate. Set aside five minutes when you awaken to read the day's meditation and decide how it could affect your actions, and those working with you, that day.

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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