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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Better Beginnings: 9 Tips for Successful Starts

by | Oct 4, 2012 | By Karin Hurt, Employee Engagement & Energy |

How you begin matters. Better beginnings lead to better outcomes.

Prepare the team. Reinforce the vision. Energize the plans. Refresh the excitement.

Do you begin well?

“Let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.”
~Muriel Rukeyser

A Sweet Story of Beginning Well

This Sunday, I watched our youth choir director warming up the kids by playing a game.

When she said “Ready” the kids all perfected their posture and looked at her with attentive eyes and big grins.

Then, “Not Ready” they got to be as silly as they wanted (they loved that).

Until she again said, “Ready” and they immediately assumed their sweet singing stance.

Brilliant.

She had them visualizing and embodying exactly what she needed from them. Instead, they were showing.

I asked one of the kids why this works, “Ms. Allison is great because she teaches us and we don’t even know it.”

Yes, she is a great teacher and leader who knows the importance of great beginnings.

Better Beginnings for Grown-ups

Since church came next, I had lots of time to think about beginnings and the leaders I have known who have mastered the art of beginning well.

  • Call centers where every leader is visible on the floor for the first hour of each shift, greeting and inspiring and checking the temperature
  • Retail stores with pre-opening huddles to create energized focus and fantastic service
  • Leaders with remote teams call and check in with each team member at the beginning of the day
  • “You’ve got this” calls to team members headed into a big event, presentation, or interview
  • Use of technology for virtual connection and early morning inspiration
  • Caffeine distribution yup, I have been known to drive from location to location with a trunk of Red Bull on important days
  • …???

Tips for Beginning Well

The art of beginning well can be learned. It requires a deliberate approach and focused energy. Here are some tried and true techniques.

  1. Start with big energy differentiate important days by making them feel like holidays
  2. Reinforce the vision and goals
  3. Explain why this day or project is vital to the bigger picture
  4. Help the team visualize success “how will we know this day was amazing what will have happened?”
  5. Set specific, individual goals
  6. Establish celebration milestones throughout the day or project
  7. Be visible and interact either face to face or virtually
  8. Role model “ready”
  9. Have them role model “ready”
  10. ____what tips do you have?

Please share: What works best for you when beginning something new?

2022 Update

If you’ve stumbled on this article, you’ve found one of my very earliest blog posts, when I was just blogging casually and still in my day job as a Verizon executive. I’m keeping it here for nostalgic sake… but want to be sure you get a chance to read something more recent to help you on your growing leaders’ journey.

Here are a few foundational articles you might find helpful.

Leadership Skills: 6 Competencies You Can’t Lead Without 

Share Your Ideas: Practical Ways to Ensure Your Voice is Heard.

How to Prepare for a Better Leadership Development Program (Video)

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?

10 Comments

  1. Berni

    I love what the student quoted about their teacher: teaching without them knowing it. That’s always the sign of a great leader.

    And that’s called empowerment.

    The students are not driven by fear of their leader. Rather, they want to succeed and do well because they feel empowered by her to do so…

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Berni, thanks so much for your comment. Yes, I love the concept of a leader helping people to discover what’s possible within them.

      Reply
  2. Chery Gegelman

    Karin – I love the list you created titled “Beginning for grown-ups!” The trunk of Red Bull was a new one for me! Love anything that is creative, different, and shows people you thought about them! What a great example of you directing the choir… “Ready?”

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Chery, Thanks so much for joining the conversation! I do love the creative side of leading… I am getting “ready” for for our next endeavor … should be fun.

      Reply
  3. Anya Faingersh

    Hi Karin, I love that you are aiming all ages. Many times people assume there will be the right time to learn this or that, but our evaluation of when the right time is often off and many important things are getting missed. I enjoyed very much reading your article!

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Anya, thanks so much for sharing your comment. Yes! I do believe that kids can think reflect and work on their own leadership early … and notice what they admire in others. Today, my 7 year old has a guest post on my blog which you may enjoy. Great to have you contributing to the conversation!

      Reply
  4. Robert Tanner

    Karin,

    Another great post! It reminds me how important it is for leaders of any function to set the right tone for an activity at its beginning. It’s similar to the saying about starting off on the right foot.

    I really like your comment: Be visible and interact… either face to face or virtually. This is really important. I do a lot of interactive virtual management and leadership seminars in my professional work. While the delivery method for virtual training differs from my on-ground training, some principles are the same–such as connecting with the participants in a meaningful way so they are receptive to the seminar content. As you said, be deliberate. When we make it a point to start off well, we usually do.

    Regards,

    Robert

    Reply
  5. letsgrowleaders

    Robert,
    Thanks so much for joining the conversation and for your very thoughtful response. Yes! I think it is vital in a virtual environment… working to engage and inspire from the beginning to draw people in. Thanks for adding that element!
    Karin

    Reply
  6. Steve Borek

    What works best for me when I’m beginning something new is to say to myself, “You’re learning something new.” In fact, today I’m going to learn something new even though I’m not starting a project. I’m setting the intention to be surprised.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, What a great addition to the conversation! I really like the idea of acknowledging what is happening to yourself. “setting an intention to be surprised”… sounds like its going to be a great day.

      Reply

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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