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Thoughts Become Thinks road sign with sun backgroundLeaders who want to succeed must embark on a self-development plan. Without it, they will, at some level, join the ranks of those who choose to fail or languish in mediocrity. Those who struggle often have one thing in common. Examples abound.

Judy, a woman who always said that she wanted to move up in her organization, made the decision to go back to college for a Master’s degree, a positive move. In other important areas, however, her life always seems in shambles. She called me one day, overwrought and on the verge of hysteria. “I’m doing everything I can to get rid of the drama in my life, but it just keeps chasing after me. Just as I get things caught up in one area, another area falls apart.  I get one situation straightened out and another one crops up. I just can’t seem to win for losing.”

Next is Allan, a guy in his 40’s, a man who’d had some success but had been demoted. He’s unhappy with his work life because of the people he works with daily. His mantra is, “Nothing will ever change. The guy I work for will never be any different. He can’t see that I’m doing everything I can to help this company be successful. There is nothing I can do to get him to see that. He treats me rudely, ignores my suggestions to help him, and can’t seem to return a phone call.”

Last is Bonnie. She’s bright, educated, and articulate, but lacks positive professional relationships. Consequently, her career is stalled, going nowhere. According to her, “People can be such jerks.” They never seem to know enough, do enough, or be enough to satisfy her.  As a result, she has few real friends, lacks the power to influence her peers, let alone higher ups, at work, and feels blocked for career advancement.

Did you notice the common thread of negativity running through the life (and conversations) of each one? All three are miserable and none of them realize that they are trapped in circumstances of their own making. They either don’t recognize or fail to accept that their beliefs about themselves, their situations, or other people are their greatest stumbling block to personal happiness and career advancement. It’s easier to point the finger of blame at fate, the system or someone else than it is to confront the real issue – their own faulty belief system.

One day while walking through the bookstore, I spied the book, Thin Thighs in 30 Days. I bought the book, took it home, threw it in the drawer, and didn’t look at it for probably 30 days. When I finally pulled the book out of the drawer, I looked at it and then looked down at my thighs. They were the same thighs – they hadn’t changed a bit. But I’d wished for thin thighs. Well, as Carl Sandburg said, “Wishes won’t want the dishes, it’s action that will do it.”

The same is true for anything else we want, whether it’s greater influence, better relationships, or career advancement. We can’t wish our way to something better. We must move into action, the first step being a willingness to take a long hard look at ourselves and what we believe. Nothing changes until our beliefs change. We must believe that work, relationships, and career success can be better if we’re willing to put in the effort to develop ourselves, beginning with an examination of our beliefs. Belief always precedes action. Positive beliefs provide the energy and drive required to do or to have whatever it is you want.

When you believe something else is possible, the how-to-get-there appears. When interviewing women leaders who have achieved uncommon success for my upcoming book, The Unstoppables, a common theme that ran through the lives of each is the belief that they could overcome any obstacle, learn what was needed, garner the resources, build the team, and develop the relationships to be successful at what they put their hand to.  Mary Ellen Sheets, Founder of Two Men and a Truck, America’s first and largest franchise moving company, said it best when she said that she just never believed that she wouldn’t be successful.

Believe success in any arena and you propel yourself to succeed. Believe failure and you propel yourself to fail. Harness the power of positive belief, and you will harness your ability to get the results you want.

Today’s demand for top-level leadership—those who have superior ability to influence others, solve complex problems, get work done, and create desired outcomes—is increasing exponentially.

Decades ago, Mr. Ralph J. Cordiner, Chairman of the Board of the General Electric Company, said, “…We need from every man [and woman] who aspires to leadership—for himself and his company—a determination to undertake a personal program of self-development. Nobody is going to order a man to develop…. Whether a man lags behind or moves ahead in his specialty is a matter of his own personal application. This is something which takes time, work, and sacrifice. Nobody can do it for you.”

Belief in the need for self-development is fundamental. As someone who not only speaks to leaders and sales professionals across the country, but who coaches them to improved performance, I know the power held in one’s beliefs—the power to build and the power to destroy, the power to move forward and the power to stay stuck. A coaching client of mine who gave me permission to tell her story made the decision to embark on a self-development journey, but only after her job was on the line. In her own words, here is what she had to say:

“How can she [Mary Jane] teach me anything?” I thought when the new COO introduced me to Mary Jane Mapes. Truthfully, I even told myself that there was a thing or two I could teach her.

A year before meeting Mary Jane, I’d been hired to clean up one of our satellite hospitals and its healthcare clinics. Things needed to change fast and the hospital called on me to solve the problems. As usual, I was fueled by the challenge and soon had made remarkable progress. The result of my effort was massive change for the better in all areas. I accomplished what they’d expected and was ready to move on. That’s when I was confronted by a totally unexpected request—that I stay and become Director of Clinics. Ugh. The climate and service were greatly improved, and the entire operation was much more efficient. However, as you might imagine, my reputation was anything but stellar. People can know that things need to change, but rarely do they appreciate the person who makes immediate changes and enforces those changes.

I was not perceived as a team player, but rather someone who was directive and control oriented, and my employee engagement scores reflected it. The new COO took one look at my scores and said, “I’m going get you some help.” That’s where Mary Jane and ALI came in. The COO was confident Mary Jane could help me, but, as I said earlier, I wasn’t so sure.

My first meeting with Mary Jane targeted areas such as team play, communication, and leadership. The bottom line, however, was GET THOSE GALLUP ENGAGEMENT SCORES UP!

In less than 9 months with Mary Jane, my employee engagement scores went from 2.19 to 4.35. Needless to say, the COO was delighted, and I was thrilled. I had some things to learn after all.

Mary Jane’ skill is exceptional. She can take you from someone who lacks essential communication and leadership skills to someone who can lead a corporation. I know because she did it with me.

My executive coaching experience has been the most life changing experience of my entire adult life.

It is important to note that this woman quickly went on to become the CEO of another healthcare organization, and she attributes her selection, ultimately, to a willingness to fully engage in a self-development program.

Superior leadership requires self-development and self-development begins with the belief that nothing will change until you do. And, nobody can change you, but you.

Become the leader you were meant to become by being your own best coach.  Answer the following questions as honestly as possible:

  • Am I on a conscious path of continuous self-development?
  • What do I currently believe about myself? About others? About my situation?
  • Are any of my beliefs holding me back? If so, what action am I willing to take to change my limiting belief(s)?
  • Am I satisfied with where I am?  Will I be satisfied in five years if nothing changes?
  • What must I be willing to give up in order to embark on a self-development plan?
  • What benefits might I glean through self-development?

Some of our world’s greatest thinkers and philosophers had much to say on the subject of self-development. Here are just a couple of my favorites: Mahatma Ghandi said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world—that is the myth of the atomic age—as in being able to remake ourselves.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.”

If you haven’t already “poured your purse into your own head” and embarked on a self-development plan to remake yourself, when will you begin? As someone once said, “If not now, when? If not you, who?” Those who make the choice will become the real leaders of tomorrow.

(c) 2015  Mary Jane Mapes  All rights reserved.

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