If you as a leader are spending all your time and effort thinking about yourself as a leader, think again. As leaders, we accomplish very little ourselves—we are not on the front line taking care of customers or clients—we get that done through other people. So as leaders, our primary responsibility is to take care of those who are taking care of our customers. Danny Thomas said, “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.” Leaders are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to do something for someone every day in the course of their normal work. Research studies have shown that when leaders are asked what in their career they are most proud of, it is almost always about the people they helped to develop, not bricks and mortar or strategy. Organizational culture is always a reflection of the top leader(s), and when you walk in the door of a company you can sense what kind of leader they have, because it is demonstrated through the behavior of those working there. It is important that what others sense about your company’s culture is what you want it to be, so make sure that it is!
Career focus on a mission and goals will generally yield results. The more engaged you become with the business purpose the greater your store of knowledge – you begin to become a respected expert in your specialty. Building credibility and earning respect will lead to ever increasing business success.
Stay glued to the basic business objectives in your quest for accomplishment. If you get sidetracked with gossip and politics, it can only lead you off track. Stay focused, committed and passionate on the core business purposes.
When I hear people say their primary career goal in is to get rich my reaction is that is simply not a business objective, unless your career is robbing banks. Accumulating wealth, status and respect comes about as a result of business accomplishment, so stay passionate and focused on the basic business objectives.
Roger Babson said “It is wise to keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.” This quote reminds me of a talk I once heard from someone who was sharing some wisdom from The East. She was talking about the fact that no matter how well or how badly things are going, “this too shall pass.” If we are bemoaning the fact that something is going badly, eventually it will turn around and get better. We may have to reach rock bottom to begin the upward trend, but it will happen. Likewise, when things are going great and it seems that we will be on top indefinitely, we need to remember that things can change quickly. Leaders have to be vigilant to situations that can change quickly for better or worse. Thus it is dangerous for leaders to become too despondent when things are going badly, or to become complacent when things are going well. “This too will pass” is true, but leaders must do what they can to influence their results. As an old Greek saying goes, “trust in God, but row away from the rocks.”
Working for an enthusiastic manager is often fun and exciting. People want to follow leaders who demonstrate passion for their mission.
Some say that your personality determines your level of enthusiasm and there is not much you can do about it. Baloney! Anyone can get excited about a business task or company mission including you. Get fired up – you can do it! It is simply a matter of getting engaged with the business and then telling yourself that you are passionate about the goal. Start to act with enthusiasm and speak with passion and before you know it will become part of your persona.
When you exude confidence others will look up to you and you will earn their respect. Demonstrate “the fire in your belly” and you will be amazed by the interest and engagement of your associates and your team.
Let’s face it – unless you are a regular, speaking in front of an audience is terrifying. It is often said that public speaking is the number two fear in life after death. Some would say it is worse than death.
You will never become a good speaker if you don’t start, so my advice is to take every opportunity that comes your way at work, in your industry or anywhere in the community. Better yet, seek opportunities to speak about topics which you are knowledgeable and passionate.
Preparation is your key to success. Gather your material, organize it in bullet point format and start practicing. Add personal stories that drive home your key thoughts. Deliver your talk out loud in front of a mirror and, if you can, record or video yourself. Listening and watching the practice session can be your best teacher.
If you want to move up the executive ladder, become an effective speaker. Speaking in front of groups is like any other skill in life - the more you do of it the better you will become.
We talk a lot in our classes about the down side of micro-managing—a problem for the manager and the managed. For the manager, it becomes very difficult if not impossible to transition to leadership when he or she wants to be in control of everything employees do. Micro-managing is a very time-consuming activity, leaving little time for high level thinking or planning. It creates a mindset in the organization of a lack of trust, of fear (fear of not pleasing, not being fast enough, smart enough, providing the right results). Leaders must step further and further away from the everyday tasks if they are going to do the real work of leadership, and employees must be left to do the work themselves if they are ever going to develop confidence in their abilities, and grow in their jobs. I saw a quote recently that struck a chord with me: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results” (George Patton). If managers will leave employees alone to do the jobs they are asked to do, everyone might be surprised at the results. Will employees do things exactly as managers think they should be done? Probably not, but in many cases the results will exceed expectations. And isn’t that a happy surprise?
You earn respect when you keep your word both in business and in your personal life. If you don’t keep your word you may become the topic of gossip and which is never positive. A few tips about keeping your word:
There are occasions from time to time when you have done all possible and you are unable to keep your word. In these rare circumstances you should be proactive with your communication. Seek out the impacted parties and give a thorough accurate and realistic analysis of the situation. Then apologize for the shortcoming.
It occurred to me this afternoon as we were having our monthly conference call, this one being on the topic of networking, that this skill is one of the best things leaders can pass along to their staff members. Leadership being all about relationships, it makes perfect sense that great leaders will model for their staff the importance of networking as well as encouraging them learn how to do it well. I can imagine that some leaders would not encourage their staff to build relationships outside the organization (except for sales) because they would not want them to become aware of opportunities that might take them away from their organization. I have always believed, however, that an organization has a responsibility to encourage staff to improve for whatever reason. When the economy is failing and many fear for their jobs, I believe it is the obligation of an organization who can’t promise employment to everyone to keep them employable by whatever means possible, including training, education, and a wide network of people on whom they can call.
So become a model networker. It will serve your staff well, and you will find that you get huge benefits from it as well.
“Under promise -Over deliver” is an age old and very simple formula that really works and will help you achieve personal success. I often see business people who, in an effort to please the boss, promise to deliver more than can likely be achieved. The over promising may feel good at the time but in the long run is a path that can lead to substantial disappointment.
Whatever your style do everything you can to set and be held accountable for realistic achievable goals. Don’t allow yourself to be pushed into promising what cannot be confidently delivered. If you are sure you can achieve “X,” work to set the goal at “X minus a small percentage.”
Remember, the boss loves the ones who exceed expectations.
I was at a networking breakfast recently and the speaker was telling the story of her business experience and growth. To be honest, it's an impressive story. However; ten minutes into the program there seemed to be a pattern. Her entire story was about herself. Over and over we heard, "I bought this system, I implemented this program, I made this presentation, I made that decision." Not one time in the forty minute presentation did she refer to "us, we or they".
I am certain that with a multi-million dollar international corporation the success did not happen by herself. There must have been people along the way with whom she discussed, partnered or shared her experiences, triumphs and hardships.
Success stories are always motivational, but are much more inspiring when they include more than one person.
I recently had the privilege of hearing a local senior executive speak about the culture in his organization and it was clear from the start that the company’s values are central to the culture and everything that happens in that organization. From day one, new associates are introduced the values and everything going forward has a focus on them. Recruitment is based on candidates sharing the values, performance is evaluated against employees behaving in a way consistent with the values, and business is conducted according to them. There is no mistaking the expectations of leaders in the organization because they talk about it all the time. There is complete transparency, and as a result, everyone knows what is going well and what isn’t. Goals are shared and discussed frequently, and when there is bad news, it is shared just as openly as the good. The rest of the story is that employees are very engaged, turnover is low, and results continue to get better and better. That kind of success is not an accident and it is a pleasure to watch.
I recently observed a supervisor loudly criticizing an employee in front of several customers. The supervisor achieved resentment from his employee and bad feeling from this customer. And does work improve with that type of criticism – almost never.
A more logical and effective supervisory approach is a calm clear conversation regarding the assignment at hand. A definition of the main goals followed by a discussion of the tasks will likely lead to improved performance, a sense of mutual respect and certainly a reduction of stress.
Leaders who teach achieve results and earn respect.
One of the things we remind our students about time after time is that they need to have a learning agenda that is theirs, not just their company’s agenda for them. It can be as simple as a routine of reading a business journal weekly to something much more time-consuming. It is critical that leaders keep up with what is happening in their organization, their industry and the business world in general. Decision-making is difficult enough without trying to make them in a vacuum. What are others in your industry doing? What are other companies doing that is wildly successful and that you can build on. Some find that reading (or listening to) books, journals and other publications is helpful. Others prefer a more hands-on method, whether it be conferences and meetings within your profession, or learning new skills in a workshop or seminar. Whatever your preference, it’s important to take the time to continue to learn throughout your career. If it isn’t a habit of yours already, why not make it one starting today?
We all feel a little better when we receive a “thank you” no matter the reason. So the challenge for all of us in leadership roles is to set the example with liberal and sincere use of “thank you.” At home, at work and in the community there is only upside benefit in using “thank you” in every possible circumstance.
When we leaders model the right behavior others will follow. When we are seen as thoughtful by thanking others we earn the respect of those around us.
New Year’s resolution suggestion: “I will use ‘thank you’ twice as often in 2012”.
In a coaching discussion recently we were assessing a certain business decision and how that decision impacted individuals. One of my associates raised the question “how was that decision made?” That moved us into a very enlightening review of the decision factors and of the individual making the decision. The details are too complicated to get into but I want to leave you with the following thought:
Next time you are reviewing a decision made by one of your people either before or after the fact ask “what factors did you use in arriving at your decision?”
You will likely learn a lot about the skill level of the individual, their knowledge of the business process and probably a bit about your coaching and leadership skills.
Those leaders who are most successful are those who are always out talking with the staff, and not hunkered down in their offices. Staff want to see leaders walking around, asking and inviting questions so that they can know what is going on in the organization. When the only source of information is an official report or financial statement, much information is missing. And when there is a void of information, people make things up—usually negative, not positive. I have several friends in organizations where the only time the boss is seen is when there is something “official” to be communicated. Real communication happens when people are able to talk long and often enough to get past the pleasantries and official statements and have real conversations about what is going on, or on their minds. Great leaders welcome those conversations and seek out opportunities to engage with employees so they know what’s really going on the organization. So get out there and talk with someone!
You have all heard the basic rule “praise in public and criticize in private” and that is certainly excellent advice. And the criticism should generally be as close the event as possible – delayed criticism creates serious uncertainly in other people’s confidence in your leadership.
Recognizing good performance is a trait of the most respected leaders. The process is simple: recognize good performance sincerely and frequently and you will get more of it. And it is never too late to recognize the winners in your organization. A week, a month, a year later – it makes no difference. “Pat people on the back for good work” and you will achieve both good performance from your people and earn respect for yourself.
We hear a lot about team-building activities and what we need to do to bring teams together so that they are better able to work as a cohesive group. Sometimes these activities involve getting to know each other on a little deeper level, and understanding what everyone brings to the team, and other times it involves organizing the team to be the most effective it can be. No matter the goal of team building, there is follow-up work to do as well, and that is team maintenance. Often teams get off to a great start and then when the excitement of the new project or assignment wears off, the team begins to lose energy. It is important to continue to encourage teams to do things that keep them engaged. Jon Katzenbach wrote in The Wisdom of Teams, that high performing teams must, among other things, have a commonly-agreed upon working approach, and mutual accountability. These are things that must be agreed on before the work begins and that the team leader or someone on the team is watching to make sure they are in place and, in the case of mutual accountability, are being monitored.
Working in teams can be a very satisfying and productive method, but even the best teams need a tune-up from time to time. Make sure that your team(s) is intentional about being the best it can be. Great teams are no accident!
When I think about writing these blogs I often procrastinate waiting for a more “opportune time” to get to work. What does procrastinating accomplish? Let’s start with the stress of worrying about doing it later. Then I have that assignment hanging over my head. Plus I have probably frustrated Susie who wants to get everything in the queue ahead of time.
So my advice to myself is plan, schedule and commit to the job. I do plan by making notes about topics regularly and I have a reminder in my calendar that dings me every day if I am behind. So right now in front of all who read this I am making “blogs on time” a key New Year’s resolution. Susie – hold me accountable!
Sounds like a simple philosophy, doesn’t it? It is simple, but not easily accomplished. If you as a leader are spending all your time worrying about your image or your success, a change is needed. The whole concept of leadership is that you are able to get things done through other people—preferable people who want to do those things and follow you. If this is to be the case, it is important that you assume an outward-focused leadership style. If others are the ones who do the work, then your real work is to provide them with what they need, whether it be supplies, skills, people, organization or encouragement, and to remove barriers for them. The other thing they need from you is your gratitude. They need to know that you recognize and appreciate what they do, and that you are aware that they are the ones who make it happen every day.
Simple concept—difficult to execute.