Monday, 30 May 2011
Be the Right Influence
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Napoleon Hill said, “Think twice before you speak.  Your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”  Words are possibly the most powerful tools a leader has, and someone is always listening and paying attention.  For example, depending on word choice, a leader can convince staff that things are good or bad, disastrous or hopeful, or changing in a positive or negative way.  Such influence can set the tone in the entire organization and become self-fulfilling among the entire organization. 

When leaders speak, everyone listens.  Even things that are said informally or in a humorous way are taken as indisputable truth.  Suggestions made are taken as requests or even demands.  And so it is really important that leaders say what they mean and that they not make casual comments that might be interpreted in an incorrect way.  Leaders have an  obligation to be responsible when they speak—remember:  “Leaders are always on stage.”   

 
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Posted on 05/30/2011 3:28 PM by Mary Fink
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Friday, 27 May 2011
Walk the Walk
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Have you ever had a leader in your work or personal life who told you one thing but did another?   How much emphasis did you put on that persons advice/guidance when you saw them doing something completely different?
 
A leader works to ensure his or her team understands what’s important in order to be successful and then demonstrates the value of that guidance by living it every day.   Some great examples of areas you have to watch in order to ensure you’re “walking the walk” include the following:
  1. Live your priorities – for example, if you tell your team that customers are #1, you had better go out of your way to ensure that you throw everything else aside to deal with any customer issues that get to you.   If it’s a #1 priority, you must not delegate it.
  2. Meetings – I once had a leader tell me that the surest way to have people waste an hour in a meeting is to put an hour meeting on the calendar.   Once it’s on a calendar, people feel like they have to spend the time.   Not only that, but if the leader is in the meeting, it’s possible that the team will spend multiple hours in another meeting preparing for the meeting.   If you want to demonstrate that you value your team’s time and you prioritize high value work, schedule meetings only rarely.   Get as much done by dropping by a team member’s desk or calling them directly rather than scheduling a meeting.   The financial performance of entire companies has been seriously compromised because of severe cases of meeting paralysis.
  3. Work/Life Balance – I’ve had leaders who stated they viewed this as a high priority and then I’d receive calls or e-mails from them on a regular basis at 2:00 in the morning.   If you preach this to your team, you need to lead by example (or at least resist the urge to communicate when you’re pulling the all-nighters).
  4. Process – if a process is good enough for your team to follow, you should follow it too.   If a process isn’t important enough for you to do, then why are you forcing it on your team?   Be brutal and honest about your existing processes; get rid of anything you won’t do yourself.
Team members who see a leader that “walks the walk” will most likely follow in their footsteps.   
 
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Posted on 05/27/2011 5:33 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Sell yourself on your voice mail
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When you first walk into an office the receptionist “is that company.” If you get a pleasant greeting and a big smile you immediately have a positive impression of that company. When that receptionist makes you feel comfortable and helps you with your mission you feel even better about that company.
 
Well, the exact same is true about the greeting you leave on your voice mail.  A dull “hello my name is….. - please leave a message after the tone…” telegraphs that you are a dull uninteresting person. A lively energetic and maybe humorous greeting sends an entirely different and very positive message.
 
Many years ago a friend coached me on voice mail greetings by encouraging me to think about the voice mail as if you are talking to a good friend instead of a machine. Be positive and enthusiastic with your greeting.  And then change it every few days. 
 
Sell yourself with your voicemail greeting.  
 
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Posted on 05/25/2011 1:31 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 23 May 2011
Own Your Actions
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For many leaders, it is a point of pride that they not have to apologize to staff or others, with the implied message that “I am always right.”  This is a practice that can destroy trust with staff members and set leaders up for failure.  No one is always right.  Everyone makes mistakes:  it is how we respond to our own mistakes that helps determine what kind of leader we are.  If we are willing and admit mistakes and ask for help in our corrections, we establish ourselves as human, like everyone else, not on a pedestal.   When we admit our mistakes and apologize for them, we model the behavior for everyone else in the organization, making it easier for others to admit their mistakes as well.  What we have to decide is what kind of culture we want to nurture—one where staff are penalized for making and admitting mistakes, therefore creating a “blame others” and “cya” environment; or one where mistakes are accepted as part of trying new things with each failed attempt bringing them one step closer to a successful action.
 
What kind of leader do you want to be?  There is much to be said for the leader who owns his actions and sets that behavior as an example for everyone else in the organization. 
 
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Posted on 05/23/2011 3:21 PM by Mary Fink
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Friday, 20 May 2011
Harnessing Empowerment
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Think about situations when you’ve done the absolute best work of your career.   Think about times when you really didn’t want to stop working –you were just so engaged with whatever it was you were doing that you just couldn’t put it down.    Think about the times when you were the most content in your work life and felt closer than ever before with your employer.   If we all wrote down these times when all of these items aligned in our career and then discussed what was common between our respective experiences, what would we find?  My guess is that we’d hear the word “empowerment” mentioned in more than 90% of these situations.
 
We as humans just naturally enjoy feeling like we own something and are enabled by whatever authority to make the decisions that impact that specific one thing.   As employees, we will do our best work when our leaders show the trust in us to make decisions and “own” something and ultimately be responsible for the success or failure of that work product.  
 
As a leader, here are some tips on how you can harness Empowerment to make your team a great place to work :    
  1. Where-ever possible arm people with facts and then get out of their way to let them do the work.  Make sure they know your expectations, but don’t micromanage.
  2. Break large projects down into smaller pieces and allow people to own those pieces.   Also help each person understand how their part plays a critical role in the whole pie. Push ownership as far down in the organization as possible.  
  3. Be disciplined about how you voice your opinion when asked by one of the owners.   If you bias them by stating your opinion, it’s likely they will only consider your way in their solution because they want to please you.   Allow them to consider all solutions by not pre-determining the path for them ahead of time.   They’ll feel more empowered and you will get a more diverse set of solutions.
  4. Reward innovative, out of the box solutions and ensure they are called out for the whole company/division/department to see.   This helps establish the culture that people are rewarded for doing their best work.
Leaders that learn to harness empowerment not only create a more satisfying place to work, but also maximize productivity and the delivery of effective solutions.  Word will travel fast in an organization with a leader that empowers – all of the great talent in the organization will beat a path to their door to be part of that person’s team.
 
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Posted on 05/20/2011 9:46 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Over-communicate the important stuff
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Leaders have an obligation to give clear logical direction to followers and most of us do a relatively good job of this. However the nature of our roles often leads us to too much detail and not enough focus on the most important topics. It is easy to get immersed in new and big projects and all the deadlines and actions involved. 

But what is really important? The mission and values of the organization override the current assignment; however we tend to focus on the current tasks. The challenge for leaders is to repetitively talk about the core values of the organization -- not once or twice but all the time.  Your team should never be confused about the basic mission and values of your company. 

Leaders who over-communicate the important stuff seldom see their teams lose focus.

 
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Posted on 05/18/2011 10:18 AM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 16 May 2011
What's Trust Got to do with Leadership?
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Some would say trust has everything to do with leadership.  It helps develop relationships that allow us to get the work done, find new customers, work with the best vendors and be good corporate citizens.  In his recent book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M. R. Covey reminds us that the economic implications of the lack of trust can be as significant as the social ones.  Time, productivity, and money are frequently lost as a result of an organization that does not trust its staff.  Covey talks about the taxes of low-trust organizations, and the dividends of organizations high in trust.  
 
Think about the level of trust you demonstrate in those with whom you work—it can determine what kind of job they will do for you, and it will most certainly determine the environment they experience on the job.  While blind trust is something that can create all sorts of problems for the organization, that trust which is given after thoughtful consideration can make the difference between a positive, pleasant environment and one that is defined by bureaucracy and disengagement.
 
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Posted on 05/16/2011 8:20 AM by Mary Fink
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Friday, 13 May 2011
Servant Leadership
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Servant Leaders, according to the folks at Wikipedia, achieves their results by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those of whom they serve.   To aspire to servant leadership, one requires the qualities of listening, empathy, awareness, persuasion, stewardship and building community.  Having these qualities tends to give a person natural “authority” versus power.   I’m sure that we’ve all seen leaders with power but without natural authority – what characteristics do they lack that would help them “earn” authority?
 
Think of those in your life or work that you feel are great at the skills above.   Are they naturally someone you view as a leader?   If the answer is yes, chances are there are additional reasons why you view them that way.   Another very important characteristic of a servant leader is the fact that they are proactive in their actions.    Additionally, and probably most importantly, their actions always seem to be guided in the appropriate direction by all the characteristics listed above.    I think of it this way, if I truly listen to people, gather facts, apply appropriate awareness to a situation along with empathy, then I have a greater chance of taking the appropriate actions in difficult situations.   If I’m not proactive in acting however, the other steps I’ve taken don’t matter.
 
Earning the opportunity to be a servant leader doesn’t happen overnight with your team.   The qualities and skills necessary require action every day to eventually earn that status.   This is another situation where small steps every day can yield great returns somewhere down the road.
 
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Posted on 05/13/2011 4:12 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Prepare for your career
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A wise friend once said, “You will get that promotion long after you think you should have gotten it and when you least expect it.”  Preparation is fundamental to career success. No matter where you are today, always be preparing yourself for the next step in your career. Even if you don’t exactly know what that step is, do everything in your power to get ready. Here’s how:
 
Build a personal niche. Businesses are continually searching for that differentiated niche in the market that will yield competitive advantage.   Become so knowledgeable that you are considered the “go-to person” on a least one subject. 
 
Volunteer. Volunteer for special assignments, particularly on new projects or when the challenges will be the toughest. Embrace change and be a positive champion of it in your organization.  And when times are tough, your boss will not forget those who helped and embraced change.  
 
Live like a leader. As a professional and a leader, everything you do and say is likely being observed. Remember, leaders are always “on stage.” 
 
Recognize performance. Be a positive influence on others. Sincere recognition is the number one motivator, so don’t be shy about congratulating others with a simple pat on the back or a nice note. 
 
Associate with winners. Get to know the “movers and the shakers,” particularly those in more senior roles in your organization. Also, start to associate with your competitive peers inside and outside your company. Making winning associations can advance your career in more ways than you can count.
 
Become a communications pro. Effective writing is a basic building block of success—and practice is the key to improvement.  Also, practice your conversational skills and be prepared to ask good questions and then listen—very carefully—to what others are saying. And as scary as it may be, speak in front of groups at every opportunity. You can influence your career more through effective communications skills than in any other way. 
 
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Posted on 05/11/2011 1:59 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 9 May 2011
Leadership and Change
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As I prepare to teach a session on change I am reminded that leading an organization through change is one of the greatest challenges a leader can face.  It is during times of change that all the elements of leadership must assert themselves—communication, empathy and understanding of what staff are going through (especially understanding that different staff have different worries and concerns), and most important, trust.  It has been said that if a leader can gain the trust of his associates during times of change, they will follow him anywhere.
 
Change brings out all our fears—where will I end up?  Will I keep my job?  What will my company/division/department look like after the change.  It is truly the special leader that can deal with his or her own issues and at the same time help staff members feel positive about and engaged in the change.
 
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Posted on 05/09/2011 11:08 AM by Mary Fink
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Friday, 6 May 2011
Empowered Leadership
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All of us have been associated with people who we would hold up to others as an example of a great leader.   I was thinking thru the people that I’ve had the fortune to work with and would put on that list.   I then began to consider what talents I saw in these individuals that caused me to view their leadership skills so favorably.   There were several qualities about each that I could list, but the one common thread among them is they empowered, even encouraged me to make decisions and have true ownership of my actions.
 
My lists of leaders that impacted my life includes family members, past bosses, coaches for sports teams and friends.   All of them excelled at listening to my problems and providing advice to how to solve those problems.   What they all did consistently after providing that advice however was allow me to think thru the situation and make my own decisions about what to do.   Naturally, there were times when I made bad choices in either ignoring their advice or applying it incorrectly.   Among these are some of my greatest learning experiences in my life.   Mistakes, however painful, definitely force learning in even the most stubborn of us.
 
Empowering those that look upon us as coaches/mentors/bosses/parental figures, etc. is one of the greatest gifts we can provide.  Recognizing that we all learn more by making decisions and then seeing how those decisions address the situation at hand is something a leader should never forget.   That being said, as a parent, I can attest to the fact that there has to be limits to this approach – particularly if the decision about to be made is potentially disastrous (to the individual or business).   It’s natural to want to tell someone who’s about to make the same mistake you’ve made a thousand times that they shouldn’t do something.   Next time you are in that situation, take a deep breath, coach the person about what could happen and then get out of the way.
 
Please use the comment capability below to tell us about some of the leaders you’ve been around in your life.   What qualities did you see that made them a great leader?   
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Posted on 05/06/2011 5:07 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Be a "no secrets" leader
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A “no secrets” approach to leadership offers tremendous benefit—and surprisingly little risk. Over the years, I have met and worked with business people who were reluctant to share more than “the basics” with employees. They all suffered from that “too much information” mentality—that somehow sharing too much might lead a competitor to uncover a big trade secret or more confusion among employees. 
 
There are a variety of justifications for keeping workers—and even business partners—in the dark, but in my experience these are unfounded. Instead, it’s this very secrecy that erodes productivity in organizations. A few thoughts on being open:
 
Sharing information goes a long way in building trust and loyalty in the business world.  Put yourself in the position of an employee who is either in the know or in the dark. When included, you feel like you genuinely belong and can contribute more than just labor. If you are left in the dark, you are more likely to feel insecure and suspicious, and may be recruited more easily to work for another company.  
 
With no secrets about how and why a company does business, employees understand or are free to inquire about all aspects of the organization—sales, new products, trends, the direction of the company, etc. Likewise, in a no-secrets environment, leaders who share, ask good questions and listen carefully can collect the best overall knowledge about the business. 
 
When you share your business vision with employees and business partners they can better grasp the value of their contribution. Employees who are included and valued can become engaged more productively, contribute more frequently and build loyalty more quickly. 
 
So remember, keep no secrets. Trust breeds trust. Trust your people and they will trust you and your organization as a whole. 
 
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Posted on 05/04/2011 12:17 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 2 May 2011
Leadership and Hope
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A leader is a dealer in hope—Napoleon Bonaparte

 

What does hope have to do with great leadership?  Nothing, some might say.  On the other hand, who wants to follow someone who doesn’t demonstrate hope?  It often provides the difference between giving up and holding on just long enough.  In their book Strengths-Based Leadership, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie talk about the importance of demonstrating hope that is real, and that it is one of the top five characteristics that people look for in a leader.  If followers believe the leader is sincerely hopeful they not only will follow—they will line up to follow.  

 

Even in the worst of times (sometimes especially in the worst of times), we look for our leader to demonstrate hope or optimism that things will be all right.  It is the shining light that can lead whole organizations out of the darkness.  So be a dealer in hope!

 
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Posted on 05/02/2011 1:42 PM by Mary Fink
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