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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Five Ways to Clear the Decks

I’m a little late writing this post this morning because I’ve spent the past 45 minutes clearing the decks.

When I sat down at my desk this morning, it looked like it had been through a hurricane. I’ve got lots of reasons (excuses) for that. I’ve been away on business a lot this past month, we have multiple projects underway, there have been deadlines to hit for clients and, finally, we’ve had a ton (that’s probably a literal word) of stuff to sort through that’s come back into the house following a fire in our storage units last year.

The effect of all of that is that stuff has just been thrown on my desk by me and others in my family for weeks as the incoming exceeded our capacity to generate the outgoing. When I sat down this morning, I knew something had to give. The mini-mountains of clutter were distracting, demoralizing and draining my focus. I could either try to keep ignoring them or I could remove them. I chose the latter and, wow, do I feel better.

My guess is that I’m not the only one who faced a ...

Are You the Fire Hose or the Nozzle?

As you enter into countless live and virtual conversations this week, here’s a question to consider. Are you the firehose or the nozzle? Here’s a quick description of each and a few ways to tell the difference.

To get the mental picture of a fire hose, imagine the real thing hooked up to a fire hydrant on a summer day. The water is turned on full force and is just gushing everywhere and in no particular direction. There’s a lot of waste and, other than getting the street soaked, very little is being accomplished.

In contrast to that picture, imagine the last time you saw a video of firefighters using the nozzles at the end of their hoses to expertly direct the water where it needs to go to do the most good. They’re acting with purpose to target their resources for maximum effect.

In conversations and written communications you can either be the firehose or the nozzle.

On the one hand, you’re flooding the zone with everything that crosses your mind. You’re not really approaching things with a particular outcome in mind; you’re just dumping all of your thoughts out there.

With ...

10 Ways to Lead Bigger

As I wrote here a few months ago, the biggest development opportunity for many of the rising leaders I work with as an executive coach is to play a bigger game. Once a leader achieves a level of mastery in leading his or her functional team, the next step is to play a bigger leadership role (informal, formal or both) in the broader organization.

This dynamic has come up in a couple of coaching conversations I’ve had lately which prompts me to share these 10 tips for how you or the rising leaders you work with can step up and lead bigger. The list that follows are based on 10 of the 72 specific leadership behaviors in the 360-degree assessment that’s based on my book The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

Which ones present the biggest opportunity for you? Which ones would you like to read more about? Leave a comment and let me know.

1. Take time to get to know your peers and their interests.
2. Work to understand what is important to other functions and how those priorities fit into the bigger picture for the organization.
3. Seek out the input of ...

The Steps to Happiness: One Less, One More

We’ve all heard the phrase less is more. Perhaps it’s also true that more is less. I think that’s where Robbie Vorhaus is coming from with his recent book, One Less. One More. Follow Your Heart. Be Happy. Change Slowly. Vorhaus is a well respected crisis expert and communications strategist with years of experience advising corporate leaders, government officials and celebrities about how to get things back on track when they’ve run off the rails. After years of building his business and reputation, Vorhaus found himself about to run off his own rails and decided to make a change.

More accurately, he began to make a series of changes. That process is what led to his book, One Less, One More. Profound in its simplicity, the big idea of the book is to commit each day to doing one less thing that keeps you from following your heart and one more thing that will enable you to do that. From there, it’s rinse and repeat. It’s one less thing and one more thing each day.

In the accompanying conversation (which is a little longer than most of my interviews), Vorhaus and I talk about ...

Make Better Choices for Better Time Management

There’s a very high likelihood that you’ve heard the counsel to spend your time on the things that are important but not urgent. Easy to advise, hard to do, right? It’s all too easy to end up spending your day reacting to things that are both urgent and important or, worse, not that important to you but urgent to someone else. And, after hours and days of that, burnout can easily occur and you end up wasting your time and attention on stuff that is neither urgent or important just to get some relief.

The time management framework based on urgency and importance was first introduced back in 1989 by the late Stephen R. Covey in his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. While the principles behind the Seven Habits are timeless, the world has changed a lot since 1989. A do more with less operating environment fueled by 24/7 connectivity makes focusing on the important but not urgent more challenging than ever.

Kory Kogon and her co-authors of  The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity are picking up where Covey left off by offering a book full of practical advice for ...