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“How Three Cigars Changed the Course of American History!” (…and the lesson can change yours!)

Managing all the life’s details is hard work. The key is to remember that sometimes the most important details are hidden withing things we might overlook at first glance. It’s important to stop from time to time; focus on what’s important and remember to look for what we might be missing. Here’s an example from the book, “The Greatest Stories Never Told” by Rick Beyer.

Confederate General Robert E Lee was looking for a decisive victory in the fall of 1862. If the South could score a powerful victory against the North, it may have been possible for them to gain the support of the European nations as an independent country.

General Lee boldly marched his troops North and invaded. As a result, he was pursued by a very cautious Northern General, George McClellan. Being very indecisive and lacking self confidence, McClellan tentatively searched throughout Maryland and agonized about what to do.

As luck would have it, three of McClellan’s men from an Indiana regiment camped overnight in an area previously occupied by General Lee’s troops. As the men were spreading out to bed down, one of them spotted a small envelope containing three cigars and one piece of paper. The men thought is was their lucky day because of the cigars but it was much more than that.

The paper just happened to be the the marching orders for Lee’s troops. One of Lee’s Asistant Adjutant General’s had obviously lost them on the field days before. As a result, McClellan got the confidence he needed and was motivated to move. He ended up winning one of the most bloody and decisive battles of the Civil War: the Battle of Antietam.

What are the small, yet extremely important tasks that may be hidden from your immediate view this week?

Is there something important you need to keep track of and have misplaced it?

What are the actions that must happen even at the inconvenience of others?

What do you need to ask for help to find?

Those three cigars and the critical information inside changed the course of history for the 5,000 men who died and the 20,000 who were wounded that bloody day.

Stay focused on the actions this week will change your life and don’t move on until you make sure they are completed and everything is in its right place.

In Business, “What are the KEY REVENUE GENERATING Activities that MUST be done?”

In Personal, “What are the KEY FINANCIAL, HEALTH, SPIRITUAL & RELATIONSHIP Activities that MUST be done?

Look past the envelopes and cigars to find your marching orders for the week. Keeping track of the small things in life, really does make a difference!

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Effective Leadership…

Every manager and business executive is faced with higher and higher demands for their team’s productivity and work output. Pushing directly back against those demands are the employees’ needs to feel that they, and their work, is appreciated. With increased stress and pressure on performance and output, it is easy to see how management and employees can easily become divided.

As a top executive or business owner, how do you effectively bridge the gap between pushing for productivity and genuine appreciation for a job well done? One of the places to start is in understanding where you employees’s “finish line” is. Their “finish line” is the optimum place to give positive feedback and appreciation for their efforts.

Look at your employees and ask yourself, “What is John Smith weakest at: starting tasks, changing tasks or finishing tasks?” You may ask yourself, “why not focus on what they are best at instead?” The answer is because they already know they are good in that area, it comes naturally, and people only grow in confidence when they have to do something tough and overcome an obstacle.

The employees’ weakness identifies their personal “finish line.” This is where a leader can be most effective in showing appreciation because this is where the persons greatest obstacles lie.

Someone who has trouble starting things, needs reinforcement when they start. People who have trouble being flexible and changing things in mid-stride, need reinforcement when they are flexible. And people who have problems finishing tasks get the most from accepting what they “have” finished. Most managers just want to focus on giving feedback when the job is completed. This fails to acknowledge the moments when the employees overcame their limitations to get the job finished.

Simply stated, some people need reinforcement just for starting, others for being flexible and changing things, while others need the reinforcement when they finish the task. An effective leader will identify where their employees cross their own personal finish line and take advantage of it!

So take a little bit of a different approach with your staff and ask yourself, “Where are they weakest in their job; starting tasks, being flexible to change in the middle of things, or completing the task?”  Take advantage of when you see them overcome their personal weaknesses because that is the perfect moment appreciate their efforts and maximize the productivity of the team!

Leaders Think Outside The Box

One of the most important traits of effective leaders is to define a problem, think outside the box, and come up with an innovative solution. It is an art that some people seem to be a “natural” at. But, if we take a look at just throwing away the box, then there will always be a space for creativity to come into play. Here are a few ways to prevent putting yourself in a box!

First, be wary of being caught in an “either-or” mindset. A great way to look at it is that one choice is a dictatorship (no choice), two choices is a dilemma (either-or), and three choices are where creativity and opportunity begin. In business, statements like “we either need to do this or that” are restricting and put you in a box. When three or more ideas are generated, they have to be compared how they can solve the problem instead of being compared against each other. Stay away from thinking “it is this OR that.”

Second, listen for “if…then” statements. “If he would just do this…THEN I would be able to…” or “IF accounting would just…then sales would…” These statements are dangerous, especially from leadership within an organization. They can point blame and shut down ways for creative solutions to emerge. It is a great pattern to deflect taking responsibility for an issue. That creates a box that can be tough to get out of.

Third, is a proactive way to really think outside of the box, practice the simple art of “saying it the way you want it to be.” So many people can tell you what they “don’t” want. I know this sound simple, but simple things can create the greatest change. Many times the “box” is created by resisting change. Saying it the way you want it to be keeps the focus towards the future and away from the past. Moving from what you “don’t want” to what you “do want,” creates vision, possibility and solutions.

Thinking “outside the box” starts with staying away from “either-or” and “if-then”. Staying proactive by “saying it the way you want it to be” will open up a future oriented positive focus. Identifying these language patterns are a powerful first step to finding solutions.