I once read a book titled “If ain’t broke, break it and make it better.” The premise was that almost everything can be improved and made better. If that was easy everyone would do it. Part of the process is looking at issues differently and asking what sometimes sound like crazy questions.
The biggest obstacle to uncovering better anything is an open mind. Your biggest enemy is “we have always done it that way.” As a leader you certainly cannot afford that mindset yourself and should try to eliminate that in your team.
Leaders ask good questions. Leaders challenge the status quo. Leaders ask what if… Leaders make outrageous propositions in an effort to encourage creative thinking. Leaders set targets that may seem unrealistic. Leaders inspire you to look where others do not. Leaders who do these things often achieve astounding results.
One of the principle obstacles to executive growth is simply an outsized ego. When you begin to think you have all the answers you are simultaneously beginning to cut off upward communication. When you talk about how good you are people turn off. When team accomplishments become your accomplishments you are losing the loyalty of the team.
Got the picture? No leader is so good they don’t need the dependability and backing of the team. If you fall into this category, get a grip – you just are not that good.
We all need support to get the job done and when we alienate our team we lose that support. When you lose the support of your team your boss will see that and then your career will likely reach a plateau. You are not superman so stay humble – you will go much farther in business and in life.
Ask yourself if you ever do anything that would influence anyone on your team to blow the whistle on you. If you are doing things that are unethical or just plain dishonest I can’t help - you made your mess. However for all other issues your best offense is called listening. My listening suggestions:
Effective listening is one key way to learn about your team members and about your business operations. It also gives you the opportunity to follow up on issues so you never have to worry about a whistle being blown on you.
I once worked with someone who saw everything through rose colored glasses. Everything was positive which makes everyone feel good. I heard comments like these:
We all tend to feel better when we are surrounded by positive people. Beware of too much positivity - it can be harmful to your career. Force yourself to be realistic regardless of what you are hearing. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled to sleep by too much good news.
Always ask yourself “Does this really make sense?” And if you have any doubts go back to square one and recheck your facts.
Several years ago we made a recommendation to a large institution on a very important issue. Our recommendation was ignored and we were disappointed. Then recently that organization received the report from an expensive consulting firm that drew the exact same conclusion which is now being adopted. My first reaction was to remind them that we said the same thing three years ago. In other words – rub their nose in it.
But before I sent my polite but nasty note I asked for comments from two of my close associates. They made the point that although I was dead right there is nothing to be gained by pointing that out. In fact, in the long run, it could likely harm other relationships. I stopped, reflected and basked in the thought that we got it right three years ago and never sent the note.
The lesson is to ask for counsel on critical issues. Most of your friends and associates are happy to help and take pride in contributing. Don’t ever hesitate to seek the guidance of those around you.
I have found that most successful leaders began their role in leadership at an early age – sometimes a very early age. Often the first leadership roles are in high school, college or the community. I have also found that pushing an older individual contributor into a leadership role is most often a failure.
The lesson is to get into leadership roles as early as you can so you can continually develop those skills. I have been in leadership roles all my life and am still learning and refining my skills. For the parents in the audience, it is never too early to start talking about leadership with your children.
Leaders are made, not born. Learning to be a leader is not complicated but it is hard. Get started as early in life as possible and recognize that becoming a great leader is a lifelong journey.
Do you journal? Its reported that most people who journal and reflect back on the pages they’ve written, often times see they have repeated areas they are well meaning to defeat and improve – but seem to continue repeating. New Years Resolutions typically meet the same declining enthusiasm after a few months. So why do us creatures of habit and comfort slide back?
As a leader, what have you promised to improve for your team? Start now, planning areas of improvements and development. Make a plan, talk to your team and set the stage for a remarkable New Year of leadership and team synergy. Ask for their input, develop a plan, and lead toward the results. When you look back into your journal you’ll see progress, results and sense of accomplishment.
Give your words a heartbeat and start with a New Year’s Plan of Accomplishment.
I attended day three of a five day customized leadership program that we are conducting for a local company. Our program VP, Mary Fink, told me that the class was going very well and she was seeing real positive change is many of the participants.
One of the key factors in the success was the support of the CEO who sat in each of the classes and participated as an equal in the process. With his presence and his engagement the entire program took on additional importance for each of the sixteen executives in the group.
Leaders who show support for learning achieve much more form the investment. Leaders who encourage learning are most effective if they have attended the same course and studied the same material. And personal participation shows the maximum support.
Now is the time to take stock of your status in life. How are you doing personally? How are you doing professionally? What is your plan in the new year to make your life better? Tough questions but once you answer them you can start to build your plan.
You can never go wrong with an educational plan for yourself. Any form of learning opens your mind to new horizons and often to new acquaintances. When you know more you move forward faster and are more valuable to your company. Plus you are naturally a more interesting person at work and probably also at home.
We here at the Scarlett Leadership Institute hope you include us in your leadership development plans for next year. Visit us at scarlettleadership.com. Now is the time to ask your boss to enroll you in one of our programs.
It was one of those moments when everyone felt good about what happened, and it cost nothing and took maybe two minutes of the group’s time. It was, however, huge in its impact. The CEO modeled something that everyone can easily do, and the individual receiving the thanks was motivated to do even more in the future. It’s a win for everyone!
For thousands of years the world changed at an incredibly slow pace. Then in the early 1800s came the Industrial Revolution which put the world on a very fast growth path that continues to accelerate.
Everything around us is in a constant state of change and improvement. Every product and service faces competition which inevitably leads to new ideas and usually positive change.
The only way to keep up is to continually learn about everything we can. We all have to keep learning just to stay even, let alone get ahead. So I will ask a question that only you can answer:
“What is your learning agenda?”
If you don’t have a learning agenda you will inevitably fall behind. If you have a good one you will keep up and if you have a strong commitment to the whole process you just might be on a path to career and personal growth.
…You surrounded yourself with other leaders that accentuate your strengths and provided insight for areas of development
…You were inspired and want others to be inspired
…To you ”Can’t” is not an option
...Vision needs Movement – a Movement needs Agreement – Agreement needs People – People need a Leader – Together they build Culture – Culture builds Business
My longtime friend, mentor and boss Tom Hennesy once told me that when you are in trouble is when you need to communicate the most. Hmm? That seems counter intuitive. When you are in trouble is when most of us seek to stay out of the limelight and particularly out of the path of our boss and others of importance. “Let’s hide and all the bad news will go away.”
However the opposite is the real path to success. Go talk to your boss when you are in trouble and the sooner the better. Talk a lot, get to the bottom of the issues and work out a plan to get back on track. Communication is the path to success – lots of it – issue discussions, redirection, evaluation and eventual good performance.
Your boss wants you to do well. If your boss did not want you to succeed he would have gotten rid of you long ago so take the bull by the horns to get yourself back on track.
Everyone’s thoughts on important topics are essential to success. You just might be the one who has that special idea that really makes a difference. Don’t hold back your ideas. Real leaders depend on the collective knowledge of the whole team.
Plan your comments so they are most logically presented. It is not always helpful to blurt out the most recent thought that popped into your mind. Your ideas will get the best reception when presented thoughtfully and with reason.
I tell people who work for me that they have an obligation to express themselves on important subjects. If they do and I make a bad decision then the “monkey is on my back.” But if I make a bad decision and do not get your key input then the “monkey is on your back.” And you probably won’t work for me much longer.
You earn respect of your peers and your team when you take full charge of your meetings. Try the following next time you are going to run a meeting:
Meetings that stick to the objective, topic and time schedule usually produce the desired results. If this is not the practice in your organization maybe you can be the leader to change things for the better. When you run meetings this way you will earn the respect of all involved.
Let’s say we are playing football and after a touchback your team starts on the twenty and my team starts on the forty. Would you consider that fair?
I am a big proponent of free markets with open competition and a “best man wins” mentality. If I can make a better product or deliver a better service, I win. If the reverse occurs, you win. If I am really bad, I go out of business and my assets, people, etc. will be redeployed as the market provides opportunities. If I do a really great job my business grows which typically means more jobs, better wages, happy stockholders, etc. All I ask is that we compete on the same playing field and neither of us receives preferential treatment. I think most business people would agree with me.
In the world of retailing, internet sales in Tennessee have an automatic approximate 9% (depending on local options) sales tax advantage. That is simply not fair. No major retailer has a 9% profit. It is not right that certain retailers have a government imposed profit advantage.
Our free market system works best when we have the best competitive situation. More competition gives consumers the best quality, the biggest selection and the lowest prices. Last month I had an unsuccessful conversation on the topic with Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina and quite frankly I could not follow his reasoning. There is no way that a category of retailer should receive a 9% government imposed advantage over other retailers selling exactly the same products.
We all love our kids and want them to be universally successful. How many times have we asked our children what they want to be when they grow up? We love our kids and we want them to follow their dreams.
Wait a minute. Do we want our kids to follow a dream that leads to no job or just a low paying job? I don’t think so. I remember a friend of mine in a competitive business twenty years ago thinking it would be good to have veterinarians in his farm stores. This seemed like a good idea so he started recruiting. Guess what? He had hundreds of applicants willing to work for minimum wage. As good parents we need to guide our children into the careers that will be most rewarding personally and financially.
Where are the good jobs today? Read the papers or go on the internet – health care, engineers, scientists, business managers, anything in technology. You can probably build a better list than I can.
We love our kids so let’s coach them for the greatest overall lifetime success.
If you don’t stay focused in your business strategy and culture, sooner or later your train will run off the track. At Tractor Supply you will find that there have been three CEOs in the last thirty years and you would also find that the basic business strategy and the company culture have been on the same track for three decades. That is focus.
I was reading in the Wall Street Journal the other day about how much money Volvo is losing and how they plan to open factories in China in spite of losing still more market share in their two largest markets – Western Europe and the United States. Is their management crazy?
For probably fifty years Volvo was known a safe car. They promoted safety all the time. Their customers were typically the conservative safety conscious type. I’ll bet half the college professors in America owned a Volvo at one time or another. The cars were not particularly stylish but their customers’ prime concern was safety. What a fabulous position to have in the market. What a fabulous position to have in the minds of your customers.
For those of you in leadership roles, do all you can to keep your organization focused. Clear focus is a winning business strategy.
Public speaking is difficult for all of us and to some it can even be terrifying. Many people say standing in front of a group delivering a talk is the greatest fear in life. The way to overcome the fear is simply to do it. I know. I know. I used to be scared to death but have overcome the fear by forcing myself into situations where public speaking was required.
Speaking is like any other skill in life – the more you do it the better you will become. Good planning and lots of practice are the keys to becoming a good speaker. Outline your talk focusing on only a few key points and be sure to get your opening and closing remarks down pat. Practice your talk out loud in front of a mirror. Record yourself and then listen; then do it again – you will slowly gain confidence. Don’t memorize – just practice. Video is even better if it is available.
Your audience does not know that you are nervous, or confused, or that you just missed a key point – only you do – so just keep going. Arrive at your speaking venue early and get comfortable with your surroundings. Dress one level up – you need to look like a pro. You can also get a book on public speaking and take a class.
Effective leaders communicate mission, values, direction, objectives, etc. to the team. People follow leaders that communicate clearly and frequently. Your team looks to you for leadership and needs to hear your message in order to deliver the results you want to achieve. When you speak regularly and clearly they will develop confidence and respect for you. And, you will gain greater confidence in yourself.
Learning of the death of Stephen Covey has caused me to stop and think of all the things he taught me, either in person or through his books. As a certified trainer in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we dug more deeply into his concepts, and he was the first to say that his books were not a product of original thinking, but a compilation of years of research about what made people excel at what they do. I was fortunate to attend one of his leadership weeks in Sundance and further learned that it’s about doing the things you know to be the right things, not always coming up with something new or original. There is a reason that his habits were the seven that were chosen to be in the book…they are tested and continue to be prevalent today.
I think the habit that has motivated me most is the first, “Be Proactive”, the basic message of which is that I can’t control what happens to me but I can totally control how I respond to those things. Many times in my career I have reminded myself of that and it has always served me well, whether I was dealing with issues in my career or family.
Stephen Covey was a great voice in life leadership. I am grateful that I know his work.