The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters

The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters


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The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters by John Manning

What do the best leaders have in common? As president of MAP, John Manning should know. MAP has helped tens of thousands of top executives accelerate their leadership and management performance. Manning says the answer is one word: discipline. But for Manning, discipline has a very specific meaning.

All leaders have scores of things they could do. But a disciplined leader is one who identifies and focuses on the Vital Few: the 20 percent of activities that will drive 80 percent of the results. And the results that are most important are those tied to the organization’s most precious asset: its people.

The Disciplined Leader offers fifty-two succinct lessons to help you home in on your own Vital Few in three critical areas: leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization. Each lesson comes with recommended tactics and practical “Take Action!” tips for implementing it, so there are literally hundreds of pieces of must-know, time-tested advice here. The chapters are self-contained, so you can read them in any order and come back to the ones that resonate with you—your own Vital Few! This is a hands-on, nuts-and-bolts guide to leadership practice that’s built to inspire action, drive change, and achieve results.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626563254
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 06/15/2015
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

John Manning is president of Management Action Programs, Inc. He has diverse experience in business leadership, having held executive positions in Fortune 500 companies in operations, marketing, and sales. Formerly the director of operations for McKesson Water Products, Inc., he was also part of a leadership team that took the company national. This move made McKesson one of the largest bottled-water companies in the United States.

Katie Roberts is a freelance business and marketing writer/editor. She is a former television reporter, award‐winning magazine editor and writer, and a nonprofit business organization founder/director.

Read an Excerpt

The Disciplined Leader

Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters

By John Manning, Katie Roberts

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP)
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62656-327-8


Make the Commitment

Through life's lessons, you may have come to realize that when you are truly engaged in something, you naturally focus better and almost always achieve a greater outcome. You may have also noticed that your level of engagement for learning is significantly influenced by how you feel emotionally, mentally, and physically. When these aspects of you are in balance, you feel like you are on fire—nothing can stop you. Yet when things are misaligned, you're more prone to experience fear or failure, during which discord, imbalance, and even disease can rear their ugly heads and threaten to destroy the body-mind-spirit balance that's so critical to your well-being.

Change that results in personal growth and achievement is rewarding but rarely easy. For example, when I was very young, my mom enrolled me in swimming lessons at the local city center. To complete the class and be eligible for the next level of lessons, you had to swim the length of the entire pool without grabbing hold of the side. I failed miserably. In fact, I barely let go of the side of the pool during the whole ordeal and was one of just a few kids who didn't pass. Why? Even though I took the lessons and did the work every week, I wasn't ready for the big test, and it reminds me of other times in my life when I started something but didn't hit my goal or finish it. Whenever that has happened, I've examined the root cause of my failures and realized I was the culprit. I wasn't ready for the challenges.

But that's not the end of the story. My mom reenrolled me in the same class, and the second go-round was a different experience. Well before I took my first lesson, I made a personal commitment to pass the test come hell or high water. I would lie in bed and picture myself reaching the other end of the Olympic-size pool and see my mom's approving smile. I didn't know it at the time, but I was creating a vision of success. I took the class again, and on the big day of the test, I achieved success! Now I have to admit, I dog-paddled the whole way. (I was the youngest kid in my class!) But this solution worked, and I achieved my goal.

The need to get engaged and make a commitment to change is something our clients must accept, particularly when beginning the process of improving their personal leadership. For example, we had a client at MAP who was the owner of a chain of family-style restaurants. He thought he could turn around his business by using only a few parts of the MAP program. But when he attended MAP's 2.5 day executive workshop, he realized the degree of change required, and only then did he fully commit to the right mindset and embrace the emotionally, physically, and mentally challenging work. Doing so became the catalyst to his successful leadership and business transformation.

I am confident that you have many similar stories about getting in the right mindset to make change happen. Making the commitment to learn something significant or new takes energy, focus, and determination. When you are not mentally ready to make changes, you find ways to resist them.

To get results, be fully present and get involved with this book's journey. In doing so, you will maximize the benefits of your time and effort. As you move through the lessons offered here, check in with yourself and continually assess whether or not you are present and committed. If you're not, take action to correct the imbalance.

Here are some ways to stay on track:

Be mentally engaged. To make positive change, you've got to get in a positive mindset. Have you ever noticed that when you put your mind to some challenge, you can usually succeed? It's not an accident because success starts with the belief that you can reach your goal. Most leaders want to do a good job and want to be great at their responsibility to lead themselves—just like you. When you mentally commit and create focus, you can get it done. Adopt an "it's time to change" mindset, pushing out thoughts that will distract or deter you.

Be physically engaged.When you're feeling good physically, you have the ability to concentrate more and be more productive. If you want to maximize your leadership potential, it's critical to take care of your health and well-being. A regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising will help sustain a state of physical readiness.

Be emotionally engaged. Disciplined Leaders realize that they can't control everything happening around them but are conscientious about how they react and consistently choose the "higher ground." A perfect example of this was when George W. Bush received the 9/11 news while meeting in front of an elementary class in Florida. Realizing that he needed to maintain composure in front of these school children, who had no clue what the president had just learned, he generally appeared calm and let the children finish their presentation. Yet he obviously had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Bush and so many other leaders have been in countless situations in which they've disciplined themselves to maintain control over their emotional reactions. You, too, have the ability to be in complete command of how you handle whatever is thrown your way. There are many things in life you can't control, so you must develop the ability to maturely manage your emotions. Of course, if you're physically and mentally alert, it will help with your emotional engagement as well. All of these elements tie together when we're talking about creating that state of engagement from which you can launch, commit to, and excel in leadership.

In Summary: The Disciplined Leader takes charge first with an inward focus. To become fully disciplined, balance and sustain your state of readiness on a physical and emotional level. Equip yourself with the physical energy and mental focus to optimize the disciplines put forth in this book. Be disciplined enough to overcome the fear of what those disciplines are—keep reading.


Exercise Courage

The word courage takes its roots in the Latin word cor, which means the "heart." It should be no surprise that calling upon your courage to overcome whatever challenges you must face, whether in your personal life or leadership journey, will require heart, steadfast bravery, and sheer guts—and not just on occasion. Depending on the habit you're trying to break, the practice you're aiming to implement, or the change you're trying to drive within yourself, invoking your courage may become a regular, even daily practice for you.

Without courage, you may struggle to remain focused on The Vital Few. You will struggle to overcome difficult challenges. Courage is a requirement for facing your fears, doing things differently, and applying any new habits that align with and support your goals.

That said, fear is a natural emotion—we all have it to some degree or another. In fact, many MAP clients struggle with fears of failing. What we help them understand is that having no failures is evidence that someone is too cautious and not taking enough healthy risks in business. But as you'll come to find, great leadership isn't just about facing fears but taking positive action in spite of your fears. As you experience success, your confidence will grow, and those fears simply won't be so frightful anymore.

Here are a few ways to find your courage:

Look the fear in its face. There's nothing magical about how to conquer what's causing your anxiety. The best way is to stand up to it, look at it, and take it head on. For example, after one of MAP's 2.5 day executive workshops, one attendee had a clear realization about the seriousness of the problem she had. In a follow-up meeting, this CEO confided to her MAP consultant that she had a fear of presenting to her board of directors. She had a bona fide phobia of public speaking. It was particularly elevated in stressful situations, such as during monthly meetings in which she had to provide company performance updates. The board members sometimes asked tough questions, and she didn't always have answers—something that made her feel insecure and weak. Through coaching, she discovered how big a barrier her fear was. She also came to understand how important it was to face her fear around public speaking and feeling she always needed to have the right answer. Simply acknowledging the fear was a big step. But the even bigger step was her decision to discipline herself to act against it. It was also her only option if she ever hoped to mitigate, if not eliminate, her fear altogether.

Create a plan of attack. Sometimes working a fear over and over in your mind can make it feel larger than life. That's what happened with this particular CEO—the more she thought about presenting in front of her board of directors, the bigger her fear grew. After deciding to face it, she worked with her MAP consultant on how she would fight it. She built a plan and implemented a process for managing public-speaking situations with greater calm and ease. She received training in public speaking, learned tools and tricks to help her improve, and invested more time into planning for her presentations. Most important, however, she learned and embraced a very freeing and important truth: to admit you do not always have the answers is more a sign of strength than weakness. So in dry runs with her MAP coach, this CEO learned to confidently say, "I don't have the answer, but I am willing to get back to you in 'x' amount of time." In essence, she took action against what she feared specifically by using a plan that gave her direction and a way to deal with it. This solution washed away a lot of worry. Speaking to the board of directors became something she could confidently manage.

Acknowledge when you succeed. Like this CEO who, despite her fears, had a lot of talent and accomplishments, you have probably done a lot more right than you've done wrong in life. You may be in the habit of taking such past success and accomplishments for granted—but don't. Part of sustaining your confidence is choosing to think more about your successes and less about your failures. Therefore, think about your personal success stories, the goals you have achieved, or anything else you've mastered. Scrutinize how your actions played a role in these big wins. This understanding can empower you to feel more confident and capable in general. Use this perspective to confirm, inspire, and grow your courage. Only you can cultivate and harvest your own courage, a required resource for your job as a leader.

In Summary: No one is without fears. The Disciplined Leader manages fears by first acknowledging them, analyzing them, and dissecting them. Doing what you fear will minimize the power fear has over you, boost confidence, and enable you to move beyond it. Create a plan to face your fears, one by one, and celebrate successes along the way, one by one.


Manage Your Worries

In your efforts to build greater courage, you might find yourself preoccupied with worry. The origins of the word worry are in the root words for choke or strangle. Worry is a toxic emotional condition that can feel like it's choking us at times, even though most of what we worry about doesn't ever happen. Nevertheless, many of us spend a lot of energy on the "what ifs" in life. We often find ourselves thinking about threats, pitfalls, and failures—a mindset that, like fear, can easily spiral out of control and hold you back from reaching your potential.

It's important for you to spot worry and realize its symptoms. Anxiety and procrastination can paralyze your potential to lead effectively. Chronic worrying can not only keep you from acting when you need to the most, but it can also blow you off an already windy course, prevent goal achievement, and crush dreams. Worse, it may even fuel compulsive and self-defeating behaviors.

MAP had a client whose vice president of human resources was struggling with her boss, the CEO. Specifically, the CEO wasn't listening to all the recommendations that the VP was making to support the management team. Therefore, the VP was both frustrated and worried. In the end, however, the VP couldn't control her boss, only her worries. So MAP coached her to invest more energy into those areas and aspects of her work that she could control. The result was reduced stress and anxiety.

We all struggle with worry. Try to make a new personal commitment to courageously ignore what's out of your hands, zero in on the present, and then act on what you can control.

Here are a few suggestions to help you leave your worries in the wind:

Understand that worrying is not a solution. Some people get stuck in a worry rut, where they seemingly enjoy or feel comfortable dwelling in their anxiety. There are also those who believe that by constantly thinking about what could happen, they're going to be prepared for whatever comes their way. They allow worrying to be the strategy for managing fears about the future. Most of their anxieties are about things that won't ever happen. Worse, they spend a lot of time fretting over what eventually amounts to a lot of nothing. What's the lesson for you? Anything that needlessly robs you of your time, energy, and other precious resources is destructive to you and your leadership. Remember: the Vital Few, not the Trivial Many.

Surface your worries. One of the best ways to address worries effectively is to get them out of your head by talking with a trusted confidant, someone who can help you sort through your thoughts, feelings, and options. It could be a mentor—a coach who can provide much-needed perspective and help you achieve greater clarity and calm. If you'd prefer not to talk to someone, simply writing down your worries on paper can be useful. Carve out a few minutes every week or day (if necessary) to make a list of those troubles. Categorize your list: (1) what you can control; and (2) what you cannot control.

Reduce worries. Once you identify what you can control, create an action plan. For example, if you're worried about losing your job but see that event as something you can likely prevent, then ask what steps you can take to do just that. Perhaps you will work more hours, show more enthusiasm at work, nurture key relationships, learn new skills, and so on. There are no guarantees in life, but if you proactively take control where you can, you'll most likely reduce your worries.


Excerpted from The Disciplined Leader by John Manning, Katie Roberts. Copyright © 2015 Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP). Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part I Where You Must Start: The Responsibility to Lead Yourself
#1 Make the Commitment
#2 Exercise Courage
#3 Manage Your Worries
#4 Know Yourself
#5 Be Truthful
#6 Have Humility
#7 Zero in on Your Values
#8 Recognize Your Talents
#9 Get Out of Your Way
#10 Push beyond the Comfort Zone
#11 Drop Defensiveness
#12 Eliminate the “Victim” Mentality
#13 See Mistakes as Opportunities
#14 Listen More, Talk Less
#15 Manage Your Time
#16 Tackle the Tough Stuff
#17 Plan Each Day
#18 Write Your Professional Development Plan
#19 Believe in Your Potential
Wrap-up to Part I
Part II Break Through and Get Results: The Responsibility to Lead Your Team
#20 Choose the Right Words
The Disciplined Leader
#21 Put Your Game Face On
#22 Be in the Moment
#23 Focus on What Is Right, Not Who Is Right
#24 Don’t Cross the Line
#25 Treat Everyone Fairly
#26 Honor Your Commitments
#27 Don’t Overuse the “I” Word
#28 Surround Yourself With Great Talent
#29 Hire Who Is Right
#30 Empower Employees
#31 Hold Your Team Accountable
#32 Check up Daily on Goals
#33 Give Effective Performance Feedback
#34 Spot Opportunities to Coach
#35 Demand More Solutions
#36 Encourage Disagreement
#37 Advocate for Your Team
#38 Recognize Your Employees
Wrap-up to Part II
Part III Extend Your Reach: The Responsibility to Lead Your Organization
#39 Develop a “What’s the Goal?” Culture
#40 Stay the Course
#41 Lead from the Front
#42 Learn from Success
#43 Put More Weight on “Why?”
#44 Cultivate Curiosity
#45 Pick Your Battles
#46 Avoid the Dangerous Gap between Good Ideas and Execution
#47 Avoid “Flavor of the Month” Syndrome
#48 Listen to Your Customers
#49 Keep Customers in the Crosshairs of Decision Making
#50 Know Your Competition
#51 Keep Ethics Strong
#52 Give Back
Wrap-up to Part III
Conclusion: Now Pay It Forward
About the Author
About MAP

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