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11 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Tim Cook

11 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Tim Cook

All eyes were on Apple CEO Tim Cook after he took over from the iconic and masterful Steve Jobs. People did not believe he possessed the necessary leadership qualities required to help Apple continue as a tech powerhouse. We have quickly realized that this is not the case and Tim Cook is more than capable of taking Apple to the next level.

Leadership requires skills that you must continue to refine as you progress through your career. To help you do that, here are 11 leadership lessons we can learn from Tim Cook.

1. Take risks.

The life of a leader is not an easy one. At times leaders must make extremely difficult decisions that can affect the lives of those around them. Although it’s difficult, you must be able to trust in your ability to take risks.

Tim Cook understands he must take risks in order to succeed. He believes that “[w]e take risks knowing that risks will sometimes result in failure, but without the possibility of failure there is no possibility of success.”

Without the confidence to take calculated risks, it will be almost impossible to have the full support of those around you.

2. Focus and listen attentively to those you speak to.

Steve Jobs was always a boisterous and unique individual, while Tim Cook is far quieter and reserved. This may be because he is focused and listening attentively to what those around him are saying. Saeed Magahsooloo, a professor from Auburn University said, “I hardly ever saw him asking questions. He sat quietly and studied.” The moment you notice your mind starting to drift away from the conversation, you should focus and take down the key points.

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The old adage goes, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. This is a lesson from Tim Cook that should be implemented by anyone with the goal of becoming a great leader.

3. Trust others around you.

Tim Cook is known as a leader who will trust the opinions and voices of the team he surrounds himself with.

He is fortunate to have many top executives that can help share the workload of the business. He understands these individuals are successful people with innovative and brilliant ideas, and will often allow these executives to take the lead. Philip W. Schiller, the senior vice president of marketing at Apple, has turned the image and sales around during his 14 year tenure with Apple. Mr Schiller made an impact on the company because Mr. Cook allowed him to do so.

Part of being a leader is understanding that you don’t know everything, and handing some of the workload to others on your team will go a long way in helping you become a successful leader.

4. Diversity is important.

Apple is a company at the forefront of innovation, and that requires different minded and unique individuals to help create the future.

Tim Cook, as a leader of a company that is founded on innovation, understands he needs thinkers who can offer a different insight. “We want diversity of thought,” he said in a recent interview with Businessweek. “We want diversity of style. We want people to be themselves.”

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Bringing the best out of people is not a quality many leaders possess and working on refining this skill will give people the confidence to follow your lead.

5. Be humble.

Never forget where you came from. Tim Cook manages to find the time to visit his Apple stores and engage with his customers, either face-to-face or by reading their emails.

It’s easy to get swept away when you are CEO of the biggest company in the world and it’s important to keep yourself grounded. During the interview Tim Cook did with Businessweek, he said, “Not allowing yourself to become insular is very important–maybe the most important thing, I think, as a CEO.” Staying humble will give you the respect of your employees and is a quality that is necessary to becoming a great leader.

6. Admit when you’re wrong.

Strong leaders need to understand when they are wrong and admit it so that they can move forward.

Tim Cook strongly believes in admitting when you are wrong. Mr. Cook spoke about Steve Jobs and his ability to admit wrongs to Businessweek. He said, “Maybe the most under-appreciated thing about Steve was that he had the courage to change his mind. And you know–it’s a talent. It’s a talent.”

This is a strong lesson in leadership, having the courage to admit when you are wrong and avoiding the mistakes of the past.

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7. Do what you do and do it well.

Apple is a company that is built around doing what they do and doing it well. It may be shocking to believe, but Apple really only creates a few products.

Tim Cook stresses that this focus is a key to Apple’s continued success. “I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two main iPhones. We have two iPads, and we have a few Macs. That’s it.” Mr. Cook is patient and understands that new and unique ideas will come. In the meantime, Apple focuses on improving its foundation and the products people love.

8. Believe in what you’re doing and take actions that reflect that.

To truly be a great leader you must believe in yourself and trust that you are making the right decisions. Your actions also must reflect the belief you have in yourself and this is a key attribute of Tim Cook.

Many people are unaware just how much Tim Cook believes in himself to make the right decision. According to Fox Business, when Apple’s stock was tanking, Mr. Cook chose to forfeit up to one third of his stock-based compensation (nearly $130 million over 8 years) if the stock under-performed the S&P 500. There was no fine print; he chose to lead by example and put his money where his mouth is.

9. Be you and don’t pretend to be anyone else.

Succeeding as a leader does not mean you have to give up being who you are in the process. Staying true to yourself and being the same person will help you become a strong leader. After all, that’s what got you there.

Many believed Tim Cook didn’t have the right personality to complete the role as Apple CEO successfully, because of his calm and passive demeanor. But he has more than proved he is the right man for the job. While Steve Jobs was a far more aggressive individual, Tim Cook has not changed to fit the mold of CEO before him; he has stayed true to himself and is completing the job with his own strengths.

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10. Write your own rules.

If you truly want to excel as a leader you must write your own rules. You will struggle to find continued success if you lead based on the confines of a textbook. You will rarely find real life scenarios and problems following those in textbooks.

During a Q & A at Duke University, Tim Cook mentioned you must “write your own rules”. If you do everything in a formulated manner, then the best you can do is reach the same position as everybody else. It is a strong lesson in leadership, knowing when to follow the rules and when to throw them away.

11. Be transparent.

Tim Cook knows that transparency is crucial to sustained success. Upon receiving harsh criticism about the standards of Apple’s global employees, he decided to open up the doors to the public and allow them to see how Apple’s operation really works. By doing this he instilled confidence for those in the company and set new industry standards for manufacturers everywhere.

“We want to be as innovative with supply responsibility as we are with our products. That’s a high bar. The more transparent we are, the more it’s in the public space,” Mr. Cook said to Businessweek. Being transparent is a solid foundation for leadership.

Tim Cook has been an inspiration to many people since taking the role as Apple CEO. His approach to leadership is admirable and his lessons can teach us all how to build a solid foundation as a leader.

Featured photo credit: Apple CEO Tim Cook/Mike Deerkoski via flickr.com

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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