The Extraordinary Leader Workout

Written by Carol Coughlin. Posted in Business Leadership

How often do you sit down and think about who you are as a leader right now, and what kind of leader you want to be in the future?


If you’re a CEO on the growth fast-track, it’s likely you consider this quite often – and, if you’re super motivated (and smart), you probably have worked with a mentor, coach or consultant who helps you design your vision and holds your feet to the fire.


Following are five workouts that I follow myself, and that I recommend to my CEO clients as part of growing into an even more extraordinary leader while they are growing extraordinary companies. The details under each workout may change each week, month or year, but the overarching ideas are enduring and will have a tangible impact in your personal growth.


Workout #1: Design a Day-Sparking Morning Routine

Many of us start our days in the worst possible way – we wake up, shower, eat (maybe), have coffee (definitely) and rush to get to work. Once we’re there, it’s email, phone calls, meetings. You know the routine. Not very exciting and certainly the only thing our “rush, rush, rush” sparks is our adrenaline. Here’s a better way to begin the day:

Design a morning routine that supports you in being your best. For some CEOs, that means journaling or meditating first thing in the morning. For others, it might mean cartoons and cereal with the kids followed by a super short but intense exercise routine. There are also CEOs who create a morning routine around a treasured hobby that if not done first thing, will never fit into their schedules.

Figure out what you want your day-sparking morning routine to look like and figure out how much time you realistically need to complete it (don’t underestimate the time required or it will feel like a chore). Then simply start.

The benefits vary for everyone and depending on what your routine includes, because you are designing it in support of being your best self for the rest of the day, it’s going to have a significant impact. Just keep it up long enough to notice that impact, and also change it up as your needs change.

TIP: If sticking to your morning routine is difficult, or if you find your mind wandering to all sorts of other things, consider making a list of your priorities and tasks for the next day the night before. Knowing this has been handled, frees you to be fully present during your morning routine, rather than worrying about what you have to do next.


Workout #2: Find Your Personal Power Time & Protect it at All Costs

We all have a time of day when we are naturally at our most creative and powerful.

That time is highly valuable and, if you’re seeking to up your game, you need to reserve that time for those activities that require your brain to be on fire.

Many CEOs have a good idea about when their personal power time is, but they allow it to get squandered on things that make them feel productive but are really not critical. This makes sense because all challenging projects have the tendency to wake up our internal critic who will do anything to make sure we don’t get burned by failure. So, to avoid that result (often subconsciously) we substitute important work for busy work.

Do not let this be you.

Figure out your personal power time and then make a list of your big projects and the intermediate goals you want to accomplish each day during your reserved power period. Turn off your phone, don’t look at email – your only job during this time is to do the one thing that is most important that day to your forward motion.

TIP: Some innovative companies – and especially businesses that rely on the creativity of their employees for success – will set aside a collective personal power time each day. During this period team members are allowed to work completely uninterrupted on the company’s biggest projects and challenges.


Workout #3: Keep Up with the Study of Leadership

This is a very broad workout and it’s your job to make it specific by choosing from a long list of possible areas to explore and learn about. You might pick a different area each week, month or year – it just depends on how extensive the subject matter is, how much time it takes to learn it and how deep you want to go.

For example, you might study Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Creatives, Neuro-Lingusitic Programming (NLP), Millennials, Innovation, Lean Business and the list goes on.

Reading content from websites such as Fast Company, HBR, Entrepreneur, LinkedIn Pulse and the Huffington Post, will give you ideas about what leaders in business are talking about and where science and new thinking might inspire you to do things differently as a leader.


Workout #4: Re-Evaluate Your Values

As a CEO, it’s highly likely you have explored your values – whether you did it with a coach when you were first launching your business or as part of the process of developing the values your company is now based on.

But how long has it been since you revisited your personal core values to assess how well you are “walking your talk” as a leader?

Take the time to deeply consider which values you are honoring and which you may have let slip. Also, ask yourself if it’s time to consider allowing a different core value to be in the driver’s seat.

For example, you may have a core value around creativity that has taken a back seat to other core values. If you made the choice to let creativity drive your leadership for a month, you might be happily surprised by what emerges within yourself and within your company.

Remember there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to core values. The secret to using them to become a more extraordinary leader is in making conscious choices about which of your core values to honor most highly and at what time – and also to remain aware of when one of your core values needs to go on vacation so another aspect of yourself can take the steering wheel.


Workout #5: Spend Time with Your Mentors, Coaches and Consultants

I have mentored, coached and consulted with countless CEOs – many formally and some casually. I’m very proud of this because supporting others feeds me deeply. It is core to who I am.

However, what I’m even more proud of is how many mentors, coaches and consultants I’ve personally asked or hired to work with me – on me. I’ve also participated long-term in peer CEO groups, as well as been mentored by those who sit on the same boards that I do.

I cannot stress enough the difference doing this has made on the growth of my company, but, equally, on my growth personally and as leader. I am not the same CEO I was when I first entered the C-suite and I’m not the same CEO I was when I launched my own company – and I know I won’t be the same CEO that I am now when next year rolls around. Much of that is a direct result of doing leadership “workouts” like those I’ve outlined above, and much is a direct result of always have mentors and other supporters at my side.

The power of these relationships – and the specific “workout” of spending real time with mentors, coaches, consultants and peers – is probably the single most important action a leader who wants to be extraordinary can take.


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Carol Coughlin

Carol Coughlin founded BottomLine Growth Strategies, Inc., in 2006 as a way for small and medium-sized businesses to access the same high-level financial and operational expertise that gives large companies a distinct advantage. Using her own extensive corporate experience and willingness to sit in the hot seat as a catalyst, Carol helps BottomLine Growth clients climb to the summit of their success.
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