Thursday, 30 June 2011
Build your learning agenda
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Effective leadership requires constant learning on a variety of topics.  Business leaders need to be refining leadership skills, learning about the latest developments in your industry and studying all the social and political factors that impact your industry.

Good leaders have a learning agenda that generally includes these:

  • Papers, magazines, etc. for both my industry and for general business
  • Regular and varied involvement in shows, conventions, associations, etc.
  • Networking – inside and outside my company; inside and outside my industry
  • Books – a regular reading schedule on topics that improve your business skills

A question for you: What is your learning agenda?

 
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Posted on 06/30/2011 7:27 AM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 27 June 2011
Get Out of the Way
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There are a number of sayings that hang in our classroom, sayings that resonate with the things that we teach.  One of them is “Good Leaders Make Others Believe:  Great Leaders Make Others Believe in Themselves.”  When I think about what that means it comes down to the fact that great leaders get out of the way of others and let them develop their self-confidence.  It is one thing for a leader to develop a following among his or her staff; it is quite another for a leader to develop other leaders into independent thinkers and believers in themselves.

I personally have experienced both.  One was very willing to share his knowledge and help me learn things while he watched and monitored.  The other actually said he wanted me to experience the feeling of making my own decisions and learning for myself the things that worked and those that weren’t so successful.  I can say that the latter was a much more meaningful way of learning.  

One of the ways our Signature Executive Program differentiates itself is that it encourages students to try new things that they have learned to see what works for them.  They report on their progress, letting the rest of the class and instructors know whether they were successful.  This “safe” environment in which to try new things is only one of the ways we encourage leaders to grow their confidence.

 
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Posted on 06/27/2011 4:10 PM by Mary Fink
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Friday, 24 June 2011
Lead from the front
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We’ve all experienced various types of leaders in our career.   The ones that were always the most inspiring to me were those who lead from the front.   I worked in in an industry where there was always the next “big” thing and in order to make the next thing “big”, you had to get out and make it very visible in the marketplace.   This meant a constant stream of presentations to various size groups who would be interested in hearing about your product.

In this environment, I saw leaders who tried to stay in the back of the room and let their teams do all the presentations and then critique what they said.   These leaders would tell you that their demands as a manager/team lead would so consume them that they didn’t have time to fine tune their presentation skills and stay sharp.   Conversely, I saw leaders who were doing all there standard workload as a team leader AND leading customer presentations on the product.   The latter type of leader was always the most inspiring.   Those that “lead from the front” gained even more points in my book if they’d sit down with me and discuss the finer points of the message and how best to deliver it.   Maybe they didn’t have time to fine tune their message as much as I did because of their extra workload, but I was always more than willing to assist them by providing slides, talking points or scripts.  I felt this collaboration always made the team better and also helped ensure that my leader would feel any specific pain I had and could better assist me.

I think most of us would agree that leaders who are on the front lines with their teams gain the most respect.   Take a minute to evaluate how you lead.   Do you go out and execute on the primary mission of your team in person?   If not, what excuses do you have for not doing that?   Would those excuses pass the sniff test if you were on the receiving end of them?

 
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Posted on 06/24/2011 7:30 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Call back, respond, earn respect
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You earn respect by returning phone calls and emails.  You never know when one of those inquiries could lead to something important – a business breakthrough, a new job for you, or simply a fresh contact that could benefit you down the road.

Whether you realize it or not people talk about you and I don’t think you want a reputation of “he never returns his calls.”  A prompt courteous response says a lot about you.  It only takes a few minutes to say a polite “thank you but we are not interested – good luck in your efforts.” 

 
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Posted on 06/22/2011 10:23 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 20 June 2011
Resilience - A Key Element of Leadership
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Charles Darwin said “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.  We all know that change is the one constant in organizations today, and that the leaders that are able to keep their sanity are the ones that can respond to change—quickly, and without a lot of fanfare.  At our Signature Executive Program retreat, Michael Hewitt, our instructor for living a balanced life, works the participants through an exercise in the book The Resilience Factor, by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte.  In it, the authors have identified eight “Thinking Traps” that can derail anyone’s resilience, including jumping to conclusions and overgeneralizing.  They discuss the thinking traps and offer suggestions for how we can avoid the traps.  The problem with them is that they keep us from responding in an appropriate way, instead shortcutting our thinking to a pre-conceived idea, and preventing us from keeping an open mind.
 
As leaders, we must always be looking for different ways of responding to challenges or roadblocks.  Resilience keeps our minds sharp, allowing our actions to move us in the right direction.  Just as our bodies need to exercise for flexibility, so do our minds benefit from focusing on becoming and remaining resilient.
 
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Posted on 06/20/2011 5:36 PM by Mary Fink
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Friday, 17 June 2011
Respectfully Impatient
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Some of the best leadership advice I ever received was when I was told to learn to be “respectfully impatient” by a mentor.   It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what he meant but after a lot of starts and stops, I finally realized the power of that one statement.
 
In a role with a lot of responsibility, there are always things that are not going exactly as planned.   You are always behind in some area or another and trying to tweak the focus of the team to address the areas that are lagging.   You learn very quickly that a large team doesn’t change their focus on a dime.   In these scenarios, a leader has to figure out a style where they are literally never satisfied with the status quo.   They have to always be pointing out the areas that are not up to par and recommending new actions that will address the areas that are suffering.   If not careful however, the approach of never being satisfied and always wanting something different quickly causes a team to generate the attitude that they’ll never please the leader so why try.
  
As a leader, you have to find a way to never be satisfied, but you also have to do it in a way that people realize this is part of the journey.   You have to insert yourself into the problems and/or lagging areas and are part of the solution rather than just talking about the problem and telling others how to fix it.   The easiest way to think about this is to have the entire teams, leader included, own any challenges.   If you are attacking the problems as a team, no one in particular feels singled out or that you are complaining about them specifically.   They see a leader who is deeply engaged with them helping to solve problems so the whole team can be more successful.   Not a whiner who is never satisfied and is always searching for the next issue.  The team bonds because they are working together and seeing directly the progress being made and they view the leader as someone who is directly involved, easily approached and a productive member of the team.   When a problem is resolved, celebrate it as a team and then move on to the next one.
 
There are lots of nuances to mastering this art, but once there, being “respectfully impatient” can be a very powerful tool in the leader’s belt.
 
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Posted on 06/17/2011 7:47 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Don't shoot the messenger
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Listening carefully to all those around us on every conceivable topic is a basic and irreplaceable skill of good leaders. We need to hear every possible point of view, new idea, sales thought,   etc. in order to build the broadest knowledge base that will then give us the best possible foundation on which to set direction and to make decisions.  
 
In our listening we will likely hear a lot of good suggestions and some thought provoking ideas. We will also hear some opinions that we immediately reject but how we react to these sends a message about our receptivity.  If we become defensive and argue it is not likely that we will receive many more controversial ideas.  If we “shoot the messenger” then in the future people will only tell us what they think we want to hear leaving out the controversial thoughts and ideas that so often lead to real breakthroughs.
 
The simple rule of thumb is “don’t ever shoot the messenger” no matter how you feel.  Listen carefully, probe for further content and then, most importantly, say “thank you.”  If don’t argue and always conclude with ‘thank you” you will continue to receive the feedback you need to be an effective leader.
 
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Posted on 06/15/2011 9:09 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Monday, 13 June 2011
Culture and Leadership
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I read recently that when Tony Hsieh founded Zappos, his goal was not to create an environment that was fanatical about customer service, but to build a culture that celebrated and supported those that worked in the culture, and the wildly successful customer service was an unanticipated consequence of that action.  How often have we heard that if we take care of our associates, they will take care of the customers and the stockholder/stakeholders will do just fine?  We’ve seen evidence of this in organizations where associates are supported and made a priority and the organizations flourish as a result.  Several of our clients are in this category and it has been proven over and over again that success is a result of a happy and satisfied workforce.
 
As we begin doing business as a small company we have worked hard to begin to put into place a culture that will provide a meaningful and satisfying environment for all who come to work here.  And that environment will spill over to all of our clients, creating a good place for people to come to learn.  As a retired CEO once said, “Don’t aspire to be a leader if you don’t love people—you’ll be miserable and so will everyone else.”  Leadership is a people business, and you can’t fake it—people always know.
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Posted on 06/13/2011 8:50 AM by Mary Fink
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Saturday, 11 June 2011
The power of execution
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We’ve all been around leaders who are will amaze people with their strategic foresight and ability to put together the most detailed of visions.   Rare however is the leader who can dream those ideas and then focus enough to “execute” them well.   For today’s leader, the capability to execute has to be nine tenths of their job.
 
Because often times it’s the ideas that get all the press, I’ve known people with great power to execute that felt they were not great leaders.   Because they spent a great deal of time executing on ideas that others created they felt their ability to contribute to the greater whole was lagging.   Nothing could be further from the truth.   It is said that “All ideas die without execution”.   Ideas can’t be great unless someone (either the creator of the idea or someone else) is there to put it into practice in real life.     If you are someone who excels in this area, recognize it and continue to improve these much sought after capabilities.   
 
If you are someone who's brain constantly churns out ideas, but most of those ideas "die" because you can’t execute on them, here’s some advice.   Find someone in the above mentioned camp who’s a great executor and make them a mentor.  Let them help you discover how exciting it can be to grasp onto just 1 of those great ideas and see it thru to reality.   If you do this once, you will find it to be addicting.   Additionally, you will become a more effective leader and executive.
 
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Posted on 06/11/2011 4:57 PM by Scott Carlton
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Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Confidence: The Greatest Gift
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A student in one of our classes shared a quote from his boss:  “Good leaders make people believe.  Great leaders make people believe in themselves.”  It reminds me that the greatest gift a leader can give his or her staff is confidence--belief in themselves.  It opens all doors for success, both for staff and for the organization.  When staff are confident and the leader believes in them, there is little that can’t be accomplished.  
 
In the Signature Executive Program at the Scarlett Leadership Institute, students agree that one of the most valuable results of the program is that their confidence soars.  Whether it is in making effective presentations, preparing for and having difficult conversations, coaching and developing others in the organization, or discovering and practicing his or her own leadership style based on strengths, the common thread in doing all of this successfully is confidence.  If yours needs building up, work on it.  If you have it already, pass it on!
 
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Posted on 06/08/2011 9:18 PM by Mary Fink
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Monday, 6 June 2011
Scared to speak in front of groups?
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Leaders have to speak in front of groups – you have no choice, so get going.  Everyone is scared. The experts will tell you that pubic speaking is the greatest fear in life. Get over it and get moving.
 
Read a book on public speaking.  Take a course.  Join Toastmasters. Plan, practice and plan and practice some more.  Record yourself and then listen and watch. Public speaking is like any other skill in life – the more you do the better you will perform. 
 
It is easy for you to say it Scarlett because you have been doing it for so long.  You are right but you should also know that I was just as scared as you when I started and even today there is a certain tension every time I speak. 
 
Stop procrastinating and get started. The sooner you master the skill the sooner people will more clearly define you as a leader. 
 
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Posted on 06/06/2011 6:45 PM by Joe Scarlett
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Friday, 3 June 2011
Give respectful and direct feedback
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How many of us have shied away from giving someone that works for us a negative message?   Early in my career, this was one of the most difficult hurdles I had to cross as I moved into leadership roles.   I quickly figured out if I wasn’t willing to do it, my team (and thus our results) would never improve.
 
The most important aspect of giving any type of feedback is to provide it in a way that is respectful of the individual.   I always put myself in the other person’s shoes and think about how I’d most readily receive this feedback if it were being given to me.     I’d consider all aspects of how to communicate the message including the following:
1) Location – phone or in person, in the office or out of the office 
2) Documented or non-documented
3) Witnessed by another leader or not
4) Personality of the person and communication style that fits them
 
Most importantly, I’d practice my delivery of the feedback, rehearsing my delivery in a calm and respectful manner.  I’d attempt to cover multiple scenarios of potential responses from the individual.  I’d focus on making no part of the feedback personal but rather keep it confined to just the matter at hand.   I also focused on keeping any emotion out of the conversation.
 
One approach I learned that helped me was to write the feedback first as if it were going to be delivered in letter form.   Doing this helped ensure my message stayed on track and also ensured that I'd have documented feedback ready to send after my conversation was complete.   I could also share the written feedback with the HR professionals in my company who could provide recommendations on how I could improve it.
 
Always remember to respect the individual in these situations and your message is more likely to be heard, internalized and hopefully acted upon.  
 
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Posted on 06/03/2011 9:39 PM by Scott Carlton
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Thursday, 2 June 2011
Success Stories Motivate
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If you want to achieve good performance from your team, celebrate good performance every time you see it.  Better yet get everyone in your organization to celebrate the success that you want repeated.
 
At Tractor Supply we encourage our managers to write success stories as often as they want.  Then we pass those stories around a district (10 stores) and often the entire region (100 stores).
 
The result: 
   An individual gets recognized for an achievement -- WOW – what a moral builder.  
   The store is recognized among its peers -- the team is proud.
   The other stores learn about how that success was achieves and strive for the same.
 
Everyone wins!! 
 
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Posted on 06/02/2011 7:09 PM by Joe Scarlett
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