Leadership Series: Eat Your Frogs

05-21-2012 7:27 AM

Today’s post is from Laura Beitler, Vice President and Associate General Counsel. Laura has been with Mary Kay for 12 years and sees her Mary Kay job as a true blessing filled with daily opportunities to learn more about leadership and personal development from the best of the best. In the spirit of Mary Kay Ash’s advice to always remember the KISS rule - Keep It Simple Sweetie! Laura shares three simple yet effective tips that have had an impact on her approach to leadership.  

Laura Beitler, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Mary KayStep One: Eat a frog for breakfast every day.
Step Two: Don’t walk so fast.
Step Three: Remember the trim tab.

Sounds like the latest fad diet, doesn’t it?  Actually, these are three of my favorite (and easiest!) leadership lessons learned over the years.

Eat a Frog for Breakfast Every Day
Do you have important “to-do” items that you’ve been procrastinating, or just can’t seem to get done?  Do you have days where you are busy all day, but you don’t seem to get anything of substance done? Then you’ll want to remember this saying: "If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!" 

Your "FROG" is the one project/task you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it now. Consider developing a routine of "eating your frog" before you do anything else each day and without taking too much time to think about it.  Otherwise, between emails, phone calls, meetings and the needs of your team, your day can easily pass by, and you find yourself at the end of the day feeling as though you didn’t get anything of substance done. And remember, If you have to eat a frog for breakfast, it does not pay to sit and look at it for a long time.  Do it now!

Don’t Walk So Fast
Do you walk fast?  I do.  Really fast. I used to think that this was OK because it meant that I was busy.  I had places to go and people to see, after all. But then someone once asked me, “When you walk fast down the hall at the office, what message are you sending to others?”  I said, “It tells others I’m busy.  I have places to go and people to see.”  She said, “Exactly.  It tells others you are not approachable.” Hmmm.   I hadn’t thought of it that way, but she was absolutely right.

As leaders, people are watching us everywhere we go.   Whether we’re in our office, in the company cafeteria, in a meeting or at a social event, people are watching.  Think carefully about what your behavior says to others.  Are you conveying a message of calm and approachability?  Or are you conveying a message of being hurried, out of time and unapproachable?

Remember the Trim Tab
I’ve taken tons of leadership courses, but one concept really stuck with me. It was a Franklin Covey class on effecting change in an organization. The class talked about how tiny actions make a difference.
“Imagine you are at the helm of a huge ship moving forward at high speed.  You’re the driver, you control the direction of this ship. Now, how is it possible for a single, small person to change the course of something so massive? To change the ship’s course, you move a steering wheel that operates a rudder, which then turns the ship. But the rudder itself can be enormous, perhaps even 10 stories tall on some ocean liners. So what moves the rudder? A tiny second rudder called a trim tab, which is attached to the big rudder. Through the marvels of engineering, when the trim tab swings to one side, it creates just enough vacuum to pull the big rudder around. The trim tab is tiny compared to the size and weight of the ship, yet it is the trim tab that determines the ship’s course.”

So, when you ask yourself, “How can I possibly create change in my organization?” Think of being a trim tab. Remember that your small actions and your work in your circle of influence can over time, have a significant impact on your organization. 

The same concept applies to developing your leadership style, which is why I love these three easy (albeit funny-sounding) tips so much.  What are some simple yet effective leadership tips that have worked for you?