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May 11, 2016

The purpose of The Leadership Corner is to provide valuable tips, research and connection to business leaders and managers who want to build their knowledge, skills and abilities together.  We also list free webinars and teleclasses on our Free Training Page.  Read more in About Us

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Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Sum Up Your Leadership in Six Words by John Baldoni

March 6, 2012

Once upon a time Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story using only six words. Impossible, some thought. Not for Papa, as Neal Conan explained on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” The next day Hemingway produced this: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Clare Booth Luce, according to columnist “Wall Street Journal” columnist Peggy Noonan, once told President John Kennedy that “a great man is one sentence.” Noonan writes that Lincoln’s life could be summed up as “He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.” My colleague, Scott Eblin, adapted the concept to summing up one’s leadership legacy. “It takes time and effort to boil down the essence of what you’re trying to do to a short and memorable idea.”

Read on…

Categories: Leadership, Leadership development, Personal development.

Tags: ,

Improve Performance with Meaningful Direction

February 6, 2012

How are most organizations doing when it comes to managing the performance of people in their companies? Not very well, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies. In talking with managers and direct reports over the past year, Halsey has heard a lot of frustration with the process of leading others.

As she explains, “Managers are upset because their people aren’t doing what they think they should do. Direct reports are upset because they are not getting the direction that they need.”

Part of the problem comes from confusing competence with commitment, according to Halsey.

“When I ask managers what they most want from their people, I hear things like, ‘I want them to have a positive attitude. I want them to communicate better. I want them to be more of a team player.’

“So, managers are thinking about the traits that they would like their employees to exhibit, instead of the actions they would like them to be taking.”

That’s a challenge, according to Halsey, who points out that managing performance means identifying the goals that you are looking for from that teamwork, from that better attitude, etc. In Halsey’s experience, managers are not being clear enough with their direct reports about what they are supposed to do in terms of the specific tasks and goals. Managers may have a gut instinct about what they want their people doing, but they are not communicating it clearly to their people.

Without a clear sense of what to do and how to rank and accomplish their most important tasks, employees are left on their own to prioritize their work. But if people aren’t clear on what they are supposed to be doing, they won’t be as successful as they could be. They will be involved in a lot of activity, but the activity will not necessarily be in line with the organization’s overall goals.

That’s when morale problems arise. To feel important and valued, people have to see the alignment between their day-to-day work and what the organization is looking to achieve.

Managers are mistaking an employee’s need for direction and support as a lack of engagement. That incorrect diagnosis is leading managers to the mistaken belief that if they get their direct reports more fired up, they’ll get the work done. The real problem is that people want to know what their role is and how they are supposed to do it.

This leads to a “where do you start” situation with people wanting more communication and clarity about how their work aligns with overall organizational goals while managers are expecting people to know what to do and believing that if they can just encourage folks to be more positive and have a better attitude, they will figure out the rest on their own.

How Did We Get into This Situation?

According to Halsey, some of the problem stems from the fact that managers are busier than ever today. As she explains, “Most managers have their own task-related goals in addition to their people-management duties. When you are trying to juggle both, it’s easy to fall back into a mentality of, ‘I hired you to do this job and I expect you to get it done.’ And what I’m hearing from people is that managers are doing a great job of telling people what to do, but rarely are they doing a great job of telling people how to do it.”

To illustrate her point, Halsey describes a recent classroom situation where she asked participants to identify a “best boss” they had worked for and list the leadership behaviors of that person. One participant related his story about an early sales position he had with an organization and how the sales leader went on calls with him. As the participant described, “Each time we went out, he added something new that I had to do. He would show me what it was and then he modeled it for me with the next client we talked to. After that, with the next client, I would have to do it, and he would give me feedback. He took the time to develop me by not only telling me what I needed to do, but helping accelerate my development by showing me how to do it.”

A second factor is that today, more than ever, managers want to be perceived as supportive. In teaching Situational Leadership® II skills to hundreds of thousands of managers over the past 30 years, Halsey explains that the facilitators at The Ken Blanchard Companies have known for a long time that of the four leadership style possibilities—Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating, the dominant natural style of most managers is Supporting, which features a lot of supportive behaviors but little direction.

Supporting is not a “bad” style, but it can lead to frustration among people who are not getting the specifics they need about how to be successful. This can be confusing for managers, especially when employees complain that their manager is not communicating.

As Halsey asks managers who are faced with this situation, “Yes, you are communicating, but are you communicating about the right things, to the right people, at the right time?” She explains, “It is so exciting when you see a leader with a good plan for developing someone through all of the phases of development that employees go through. Most managers are pretty good at assigning the task and then celebrating success, but sometimes they don’t have everything in between figured out.”

So, What Can Managers Do?

Managing performance is challenging these days with all of the different things people need to do and with working managers pressed for time. But, savvy managers can improve the situation by focusing on three areas:

Clarify roles and goals. Create alignment between individual tasks and the organization’s initiatives. Use impact mapping to connect the dots.

Identify individual development levels and needed leader behaviors for each employee’s key tasks. What is the employee’s experience with this task? What does he or she need from a manager in terms of direction and support?

Schedule weekly one-on-ones. Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with direct reports to see how they are doing. A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the direct report can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive.

Get Clear on What’s Important

With time and resources at a premium, leaders need to focus their people on the critical tasks to be accomplished. Begin by identifying the goals and strategic imperatives of the organization. Next, clarify what each team and department needs to be doing to help the organization achieve its goals. Finally, break it down to individual tasks and goals to achieve the desired results.

People will get up to speed faster and produce the results your organization is looking for. In addition to increased productivity, your organization will also see an improvement in morale and engagement. As Halsey explains, “There’s a greater sense of pride in your work and everyone feels better when you’ve worked together to achieve a common goal.”

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Performance Management.

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Direction, Momentum & Goal Achievement

January 29, 2012

This week’s TIPS has two objectives — to give you a model for achievement in 2012, and to give you a loving but swift kick in the butt to get going! (Or a big hug and high five if you are already on your way!)

It’s the end of January! If you aren’t on your way to making 2012 your best year ever, it’s past time to get started! True, the year is only 8% completed, but that means you should be at least 8% of the way to your goal! As the poet said, it’s time to “be up and doing!”

So, let me ask some questions to help you focus. What, exactly, has changed since January 1st? What are you doing more of? Or less of? What has changed for the better? If I walked into your office, what would tell me (instantly and without any doubt) that you’re serious about your goals? If I were your spouse, how would our family routine have changed since January 1st?

Remember, “nothing changes until something changes.” And the primary thing that has to change is YOU. You either change your focus and your behavior, you develop new patterns or new skills and new priorities, or to be blunt, nothing is going to change for you. It’s the end of January. Let’s get this show on the road!

Which begs the question, How?

By now, many subscribers are probably noticing that the goals you set a few weeks ago have not, so far, resulted in the progress you would like. Perhaps, not much has changed…and that feels all too familiar! (If things have changed, WAY TO GO! Keep it up!)

I believe the great weakness of most goal-setting programs is their lack of daily detail, the lack of a recipe for incremental progress.

One of the quotes that inspires me was Jim Rohn’s definition of success. He said “success is making reasonable progress in reasonable time toward a worthwhile goal.” I like that!

It’s very rare that success happens over-night. Most of the time, success is an on-going process of becoming the person, and doing the things, and getting the things we want.

And that means daily action in the direction you want to go.

Let me be clear. I love BIG goals! I have BIG goals and I hope you do, too. But the bigger the goal, the more steps and the more time will likely be required to get there. So the real questions for big-time goal achievement are about “Daily Direction” and “Maintaining Momentum.”

Daily Direction is having absolute clarity about what you will do and, perhaps even more importantly, what you will no longer do. It’s about knowing that every single day you are either moving toward your goal, or you’re slightly off-course, moving away from our goal. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But the key is that a long journey also requires thousands of consecutive steps that all follow the same path!

Review and re-commit to your goals every day. Be absolutely clear about what it will take to get there, and then be sure you take some step, no matter how large or small, in pursuit of your goals every single day.

It’s rare (and wonderful!) when we can take giant leaps. But most days, we take smaller steps. We read something, or make one more phone call. We problem-solve, or practice a new skill one more time. Every day, make some progress!

And that’s what Maintaining Momentum is all about. Most people fail at this. They work really hard or do something dramatic for a day, but then they get distracted and take no action toward their goals for the next two weeks! That’s a set-up for failure. Don’t do it!

Start every day by reviewing your major goals and write down some action, big or small, that you will take TODAY. Move slightly closer every single day.

“Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch. Yard by yard, everything is hard!” To reach your goals in 2012, remember it’s not a sprint but a marathon. Every day, review and re-commit to your goals, check your direction, and take some action to Maintain Momentum. I think you’ll like the results.

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Change management, Leadership development, Personal development.

We Are Not Billiard Balls!

January 15, 2012

You and I are not ruled by Newton’s Laws of Physics. It’s true that Newton’s Laws do explain a lot about the world around us–gravity and stuff like that. But you and I are not billiard balls bounced around by nature! We are not planets wandering aimlessly through space.

We seem to have something called “Free Will.” We make decisions and occasionally we surprise ourselves! 

Philosophers can debate the details, but as far as I can tell, I DECIDE what to wear each morning. I think you really can DECIDE whether or not to read this article. You can decide what’s for dinner. You can decide what you’ll read or watch or do with your time. And sometimes, just for fun, we make decisions that shock and amaze even our best friends– “You’re doing WHAT????”

This issue of free will has a rich history with philosophers and theologians. It played a huge role in the Reformation, the founding of the early American colonies, and it still troubles behavioral Psychologists today.

And it is the power behind all success (and failure) in life.

In the most practical sense, the biggest force I see opposed to Free Will is a little thing called, “Habit.” Sometimes it goes by other names and you may recognize it as your Comfort Zone or Tradition or Other People’s Expectations.

Try to imagine two grand forces, a very personal little war between Good and Evil, except there’s nothing spiritual or super-natural about it. It exists in your own life, in your thoughts and imagination.

On the one side is Free Will.  For now, this is the good guy!  (Free Will can get us into a world of hurt, too, but for now let’s look at the Good Side.)  Free Will asks you to explore new ideas, to pursue your dreams, and try things. It’s full of possibilities and daring new options. It argues that you could double your income, learn a language, learn to dance or move to Paris, just for the fun of it. Free Will says, “I can if I want to!”

On the other hand is Habit. Habit says things like, “Don’t rock the boat.” Don’t take chances, and “this is how we’ve always done it.” Habit keeps things safe and familiar to the point of boredom. Habit keeps you in a rut.

Personally, I prefer to focus my time and energy on Free Will. It’s seems to be more fun!

If I have Free Will, I can change things. If I have Free Will, I can learn stuff. With Free Will, my life can be different and better than it is! What a concept!

With the power of Free Will, I can look at my life and dream big dreams. Powered by this wild idea that I’m not a billiard ball bouncing through life, I can DECIDE my trajectory! I can break old Habits and learn new skills.

This is what Self-Directed Evolution is all about. If Free Will exists, we should use it! If we have freedom of choice, it seems likely that over time and with some effort and persistence, we can actually create the life we want. Again, what a concept!

Can you change everything about your life over-night? Or in 30 days? It seems unlikely. But by exercising your Free Will and persistently doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time, you can evolve to become the person and enjoy the life you truly want. I believe this!

There are some key questions you must ask and answer, however.

  1. What do you want?
  2. What will I have to change?
  3. Will I make the appropriate choices day by day, until I get there? 

If you don’t agree that Free Will exists, then of course I’m mistaken and this is just wishful thinking. Without Free Will, we really are just billiard balls bouncing through space. But if we do have Free Will, then a world of choice and responsibility opens up for us. It’s your call.

For myself, I choose Free Will and the responsibilities of Self-Directed Evolution. I really do believe I can choose, and with time and effort, create the life I truly want. I hope you agree with me!

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Leadership, Leadership development.

The Gift of Gratitude

November 25, 2011

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family.  For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread.  Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or current crises that they simply don’t feel grateful.

Regardless of where you fit on this spectrum, I hope you will approach this Thanksgiving with a commitment to give yourself and others who deserve it the gift of gratitude.

Sincerely thanking others for something they did or for the role they play in your life is not merely good manners and good ethics.  I think William James was right when he said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”  Fortunately, it’s a need easily met.  It costs so little and means so much.  Just putting appreciation into words can make someone’s day, or even change their life.

But there is another side of gratitude and it should play a much larger part in your life.  Expressing gratitude is what you do for others, but experiencing gratitude is what you must do for yourself.  Willie Nelson, after struggling with depression and addiction, said, “When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around.” 

Feeling gratitude is a potent tonic that can immeasurably improve your happiness and sense of well-being.   Author Melodie Beatie tells us why.  “Gratitude” she says, “unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” 

The platitudes are true.  The key to happiness is deciding to be happy.  It’s not getting more than you have; it’s appreciating what you have. 

So, whether things are going well or poorly, this Thanksgiving, open up a new emotional bank account and start filling it with all the things that deserve your gratitude.  If you do, you will have even more to be grateful for.

by Michael Josephson

Categories: Attitude, Culture, Leadership development, Personal development.

The Value of Trust

November 9, 2011

This post was written and published by Susan Mazza at Random Acts of Leadership.

When we don’t trust the people we work for, it can be very difficult to lead.  When trust is lacking we are more likely to try to figure out what “they” want and how we can play it safe than we are to speak up, step up or stand up in any noticeable way.

When we don’t trust our peers we are likely to build a virtual fortress around our particular silo of responsibilities.  Once again the focus is on protecting ourselves and our turf.

When trust is lacking, fear is present.

Protection is the typical strategy for dealing with people and situations in which our trust is weak. We may not even feel particularly afraid.  In fact the better we are at protecting ourselves, our people and/or our turf we may just experience an illusion of safety rather than the fear that is pressing on us to take protective action.  We may even experience the satisfaction of winning every time our protective maneuvers pay off.

Consider the real value of trust, however, is not ultimately that we feel safe to be where we are.

Effectively protecting ourselves from those we don’t trust can create the same effect, except in this circumstance fear is driving us to mitigate the perceived risks.  I use the qualifier “perceived” because whether real or imagined, the feeling of fear is very real.

The real value of being able to trust others is this:  trust creates a condition in which you are more likely to choose to face your fear to do something that matters even if it does scare you.

Mistrust puts our focus on mitigating risks.  Trust fortifies our courage to risk leading the way.

I was reminded recently of this when I had to choose whether to back down on an issue or continue to press on the the face of the resistance of someone with whom I was working.  I could have chosen keeping the peace over ensuring my concerns were fully addressed.

Everything inside of me wanted to back down and take the path of least resistance to keep everyone happy.  Yet it was because I trust this person and believe they trust me that the discomfort of the moment was less important than the achieving the best possible outcome.  It was difficult.  It was uncomfortable.  There were moments when I felt frustrated.

It was even a little scary since I seem to have been wired from a young age to keep the peace.  To this day challenging someone for any reason feels uncomfortable.  So far there is no amount of trust in anyone that has ever changed the way it feels for me.  The degree of trust, however, makes the difference in just how willing I am to press on to forward my commitments despite the discomfort.

I also had to choose to trust myself. I had to make sure in the process I was being trustworthy.

In this case it meant I had to check in with myself a few times along the way to make sure I was keeping my attention on doing what was best for the team rather than reacting when I was triggered or getting caught up in the all too human need to being right.

There were a lot of times along the way in this exchange where it didn’t feel very good.  There is a myth that when we work with people we trust it is always going to be easy and comfortable.

That may be true if we want to stay right where we are, but if we aspire to anything together there will be times we put our trust to the test.

And every time we do and we succeed, our foundation of trust grows that much stronger and ensures we will be ready for the next even bigger test.  Of course, sometimes we may fail.  In the wake of that failure we may have misunderstandings.  It may take some honest conversations to reestablish trust.  Yet this is not an indication that trust is permanently lost or broken, but rather an indication that we have more work to do to build the foundation of trust necessary to fulfill on our aspirations.

When we know someone has our back we are more likely to speak up, step up, and stand up for something that matters to us.

We are more likely to challenge the status quo for the sake a future possibility.   When we are surrounded by people we trust we actually believe the future we want is possible and that our willingness to take a risk serves more than just ourselves.

When we choose to trust the people around us, we are willing to risk feeling uncomfortable for the sake of a higher purpose.

What about you: Do you have sufficient trust in your relationships to face your fears for the sake of doing something remarkable?

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

The Joy of Creative Labor

September 5, 2011

In the U.S., this is our “Labor Day” weekend, a time when we generally do our best to avoid anything that looks like work.  Many will go camping, spend the day at the beach, or perhaps at a family picnic.

Unfortunately, very few will pause to be thankful for the work they do.  Only a handful will take time to honor and acknowledge the joy of work, and I find that very sad.

Too many of us believe “work” is something to be avoided, and these people wish for a path to instant wealth, because then they would “never work again.” I suspect that’s one reason the universe makes sure most of them never acquire that kind of instant wealth! I see work as a great honor and source of fulfillment, although I admit there is both “good” work and “bad” work.

“Bad” work is something for which we are not suited, or which we do for the wrong motives. For me, “bad” work would be trying to earn a living as a musician.  My brother plays cello for the Jacksonville symphony, and for him, music is the work of the angels.  He was blessed with great talent and he loves it.  I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and when I was a kid, piano lessons were a lot of “work” for me, my parents, and Mrs. Bystrom, my long-suffering piano teacher.

Doing work for which we are ill-suited, it seems to me, is so stressful that it borders on the immoral.  Life is meant to be lived, to be joyful, and to be productive.  Doing “work” we hate gives honorable work a bad name.

As I see it, work is our chance to partner with God in the creation of a better, richer, more exciting world.  Work is our opportunity to build, to create, to leave our footprints in the sands of time.  Work is our chance to say, “I was here, I made a difference and I left things better than I found them.”  That is work worth doing! 

Over the years, through my various jobs and hobbies, I’ve met wonderful people who reflected their life’s meaning and purpose in their work.  Some were artists in how they drove a delivery truck, others found joy in Police work, writing, doing therapy, or in construction.  One of my golfing partners loves teaching high school biology, and it shows in his attitude and in his student’s grades.

Vicki is a server at my favorite coffee shop. She has 3 kids, her husband is a chef, and for whatever reason, helping a couple hundred people start their day with hot coffee, a good breakfast and a smile is her calling in life.  She’s a treasure, and is loved by hundreds of loyal customers.

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me is, “Find something you truly love to do, and you’ll never work another day the rest of your life.”  While I quibble with that disparaging definition of “work,” the point is essential.  In our technological age, we have the greatest freedom in history to find work that is perfect for us!

Work is a very personal thing.  It’s about combining your time and effort with your talents, skills and the situation around you to make things better.  It’s about making a difference.  It’s about making your contribution, and being productive. 

This Labor Day, give thanks for the work you do and the difference it makes.  Celebrate your contribution to your community and our world. And, if you are not doing the “perfect” job for you, pledge that by next year, you WILL be doing the right work.  Life is too short to spend it doing work for which you are not suited or passionate! You owe that to yourself and to the world.  We need your best stuff, your best effort, your passion and your unique genius.  We need Vicki’s smile at breakfast.

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Employee satisfaction, Leadership development, Personal development.

Five Leadership Rules

June 22, 2011

1.  Have confidence in yourself.   Always believe in your abilities to be a great manager and leader.  Tackle all situations and dilemmas that come your way with enthusiasm and gusto.  The fact that you are reading this shows you have the desire and talent that exists within you.  Show you have the confidence and believe in yourself, and others will believe in you as well.  In time you will develop a sort of “instinct” when something needs attention, and a “presence” that people will find ensuring.  You will come across like a leader without even having to say a word.

 2.  Act the way you want others to act, walk the walk you talk, lead  by example, practice what you preach, etc.  These are old clichés but some of the most important tips to build respect within your organization.  If your team sees you working hard, they will work hard.  If they think your slacking, they will start slacking off.  If you tell them what to do, but you do it differently, they will not see you as an honest leader.  If you want an optimistic and positive team, then you need to always be optimistic and positive.  When your employees see that you act in the same manner you expect from them, a true sense of respect will begin to build.  These are just a few of some obvious, but extremely important, leadership skills.

 3.  Honesty and integrity is key.  People do not necessarily expect managers to always have a quick fix to solve the issues, but do expect fundamental leadership principles of honesty and goodness.  In due time you will earn credibility, which is a major leadership trait.  With the high level of integrity they will see in you as a leader, comes the trust that you are not the cause of the issues.  They will automatically know that you, as a manager, will truly do all you can to solve the issues.

4.  Emulate a person who you truly respect as a leader.  There must be someone you know whose leadership skills you thought were admirable.  It could be, or could have been, a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a relative who you admired as a person with respectable leadership characteristics.  Someone who inspired you to want to work hard, to not only try to impress, but to show you cared about the mission at hand.  Study how they made the right and effective decisions using certain facts, opinions, and ideas.  Look for the leadership qualities you would like to incorporate into your leadership style.  By remembering what it was about them that inspired you, you can emulate that style when your leadership skills are called upon.

5.  Listen more than talk.  You will earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening, rather than just blowing your own hot air.  Let them share their passion, and when the time is right, you can interject with passion of your own about the subject at hand.

Question:  What is one of your leadership rules?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Are you a Strong Leader?

June 8, 2011

Being known as a strong leader is easy to obtain when you know in your heart you are doing the right thing for the “good of all.”  Here are five key points, which are the pillars to being a successful leader that you should absorb into your consciousness.   

 1.  Develop trust and credibility.  When people trust you, they will be more inclined to follow you.  If they follow you, and you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, you will succeed.  A leader builds trust by considering the “good of all” when making decisions. Leaders do not abuse their power, but build trust by using it properly.  Trust fosters collaboration, which contributes to openly sharing information, which then creates a solid team who supports each other.  Trust is based on the respect and expectations of a leader who cares and acts with compassion in a most positive way.  With trust there is:  

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Good relationships

Incorporating these five traits will help guide you on the right path to strong leadership.

 2.  Share the vision with absolute clarity.  Leaders need to share the vision of what they want their department to achieve.  For example, a leader might share a vision like, “We will be a world class customer service organization that provides the benchmark for customer satisfaction.”  To get others to see and understand your vision, you need to motivate and inspire with the same enthusiasm and positivity you have inside you. 

It is vital, however, that your team understands the vision, and is 100% clear on the objectives.  People with a shared vision are more productive and have a greater sense of achievement. 

You also need to listen to what they are saying.  Doing all the talking does not let them participate in the vision quest with their ideas.   

Tracking and assessing successes, as well as failures, helps put the right goals and processes in place to reach the vision.  If the employees always know where they stand, they will know what part they played in achieving the vision. 

3.  Be there to help them succeed – Coaching, mentoring, communicating, and listening.  Great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader.  You don’t lead by sitting behind your desk.  Be out there and find the strengths and talents of your employees, and place them where they can shine.  They need to know how their strengths serve the objectives.  Show them the respect they deserve and that you have their interests at heart. 

The bottom line is that they need to know that you will be there to help them succeed.  You can do this by:

  • Coaching.  Try and help them improve their skills to do their job better.  Give them feedback on their performance with observations and give good advice.  Use specific statements rather than general comments, whether good or bad.
  • Mentoring.  Help them understand what you are all about, guide them for a better chance of promotion and have them learn about other aspects and functions of the business.
  • Communicating.  Clearly share your vision and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due and take the time for one-on-one meetings. 
  • Listening.  Let them share ideas, concerns and know you are approachable and caring without judgment.    

The most important aspect here is that you are always looking at ways to help develop your employees’ unique skills, both individually and as a group, for a better future including possible growth in the company.  This is a win for the company as well.  The company will gain more productive employees who are ready to take on new challenges and roles as they become available.  

4.  Make the decisions and be held accountable.  Make the right decisions and guide your department into the right direction. 

Clearly define the issue you are solving

  • Sift the data for facts and relevance. 
  • Look closely at the issue at hand while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • Talk to and involve subject experts if needed. 
  • Don’t make a decision too quickly unless necessary. 
  • Think about the cost-benefit for both short-term and long-term. 
  • Once a decision is made, do not be wishy-washy or unsure about yourself.  You will be seen as a person who can be easily persuaded with little confidence. 

You as a leader are expected to take some chances and you might make some risky decisions.  In saying that, as people expect to be held accountable in their job performance, they also expect you to be held accountable as their leader.  If you fail or deny any wrong doing on your part, or place blame on someone else, you will lose credibility and not be seen as an effective leader. 

You also need to know when it is better to follow, rather than lead, by trusting your employees’ suggestions.  Leaders realize they can’t know all the answers, and earn respect when they seek advice of others when needed.    

Being held accountable is a positive thing, as you want to be known for the good things that you do.  The same goes for your employees as it makes them feel important and appreciated.  You do, however, need to allow people to sometimes fail or make mistakes during the process of achieving difficult goals.  You also need to confront them.  By using your management and leadership skills, people will admit their mistakes and accept accountability.  Your skills as leader will also help and coach them to improve.  

Make sure your decisions are always ethically sound.  Do not ask or expect your team to get the results unethically or use a “no matter what it takes” approach.

5.   Keep it all under control and headed in the right direction.  The objective of every leader should come with the mindset of striving for “mission accomplished.”  You, as leader and manager, need to focus on what’s most important related to the vision and goals of the organization.  You need to eliminate chaos and be known as a person with authority who can make the right decisions.  You might have 5 projects going on at once, but focusing more on the least important when the most important is in need of help will destroy your vision and miss your goals.  Make sure you get your team to focus on the most important and critical tasks to achieve the goals.  By delegating tasks to the right people, fulfillment of the vision will become more likely.

  Everyone needs to have the same focus and direction you have.  A sense of community within the team, with a common goal, is key.  If you waver and change your mind and direction continually, you will lose trust.  Consistency is key to maintaining control and keep things going in the right direction. 

 These “five key points” are the core competencies to strong leadership.  Which of these competencies are your strengths and what could you be doing better?

Question:  What do you think your employees would rate you on each of these competencies?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Teamwork.

Another Lesson from the Horses

June 1, 2011

It was a gorgeous, warm day with LOTS of wind.  So I decided to work the horses in the round pen rather than go for a ride.  It also gave me an opportunity to work with both horses, rather than only take one out that day.  

The primary purpose of using the round pen is to teach your horse to listen and respect you.  You do this by talking to the horse in his language – body language – not by talking out loud.  Do you remember the cartoon Charlie Brown?  When the adults talked, all the kids heard was ‘blah blah blah . . . “  I think it’s the same with horses.  We want to believe that they understand ‘our’ language, and in some cases they do.  But if we really want our horses to listen and do what we want them to do, we need to speak their language.  

So, there we were in the round pen.  And, I was speaking their language and they were listening!  I worked with Buddy first and he was an angel.  I would point him in the direction I wanted him to go and he did exactly what I wanted.  I gave him the cue to trot and he did.  I cued him to canter and he did.  He was perfect.  When I stepped back and stopped moving, he turned towards me and stopped – perfect!  I would point him in the opposite direction and he did what I asked.  After a while, he started to get bored with the circling and I began to get frustrated that he was no longer being perfect.  My frustration led me to be inconsistent with my language with Buddy which led Buddy to get confused and frustrated with me.  We weren’t communicating and as hard as Buddy was trying to do what I was asking, he couldn’t perform.  I finally began to listen to Buddy, figured out what he needed to meet the expectations and we ended on a good note.  

Then it was Blue’s turn.  Lucky for Blue, I was a quick learner.  Buddy had taught me that I needed to listen and communicate consistently with him.  Because of that, Blue performed well, neither of us got frustrated or confused and we met the expectations for the day.   

Moral of this story

  1. Consistent communication – Communicate the expectations in a way that your employee can understand.  Speak their language, not yours, and make sure you are consistent in the way you communicate and reinforce the performance with rewards and consequences. 
  2. Listen – Check in with your employees on a regular basis to assess progress and offer support.  Listen to what’s working and where they may need some support. 
  3. Keep it under control – Manage your emotions – if things aren’t going well, point the finger towards yourself first.  Assess whether you have communicated the expectations clearly and if you have provided the necessary training and resources for your employee to be successful. 

Question:   How do you manage your emotions when expectations are not met?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development, Teamwork.

Your Pursuit of Happiness

May 25, 2011

I’ve been thinking about happiness. Specifically, in the days since our World Class Life Conference ended, I’ve been pondering the keys to total happiness and a wonderful book by the Dalai Lama, “The Art of Happiness”. 

The Dalai Lama argues that, fundamentally, we all seek more and greater happiness in our lives and that the one really key questions in life is, “What makes me truly happy?” 

For many people, happiness is related to money, and happiness means accumulating wealth. For them, money has great value and they are motivated to work hard and smarter, and to use money in ways that make them happy.  But there are thousands of individual differences in the details of exactly how that works. Some make money and give it all away. Some make money and hoard it, even burying it in the backyard, while others invest it, and still others make a show of displaying a wealth of possessions.

For others, happiness has little to do with money, and they seek fulfillment in their creativity, or they find ultimate happiness in family relationships, or by serving others.

There are many paths up the mountain called “happiness”!

One of the most important distinctions the Dalai Lama makes is between happiness and pleasure. We can all think of experiences that bring us delightful pleasure but which utterly fail to make us “happy” in life. Almost everyone enjoys a fine meal, perhaps with good wine, but we all reject a life of gluttony and drunkenness.

 So the question:  What makes you truly happy? 

This is a central question for the World Class Life Conference because in order to have a GREAT life, we must first determine what it might look like. What are the key pieces of a great and joyful life FOR YOU? 

Almost 150 years ago, Henry Thoreau wrote that most people “live lives of quiet desperation”, and sadly, I think that’s still true. All our wealth and freedom, our education and power, even access to the greatest wisdom and literature of past generations, has not created a society in which most people seem truly happy. 

Indeed, many people seem to be incredibly unhappy. While some are overtly miserable, millions more are stressed, anxious, uncomfortable or angry. Some focus their discomfort on their work, others on politics or public policy, while some are simply annoyed by noise, pollution or road construction. Whatever the details, the question remains:

With our incredible freedom to create the life we truly want and live as we please, why aren’t more people happy? 

I think this is a vital question. It may even be THE question for modern adults to ponder and answer. Given that you can live almost anywhere you choose, read and learn almost any skill, and have pretty much any lifestyle you want, WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? 

What are your happiest memories? What are your happiest fantasies, dreams and aspirations? Who do you know who seems to be truly, massively happy? 

What makes you happy? At the end of life, what will let you say, “I did it right. I made good choices. I am HAPPY with how I lived my life!” Whatever your answer, in the coming days and weeks, do more of that, and less of everything else.

by Phil Humbert

Question:  What makes YOU happy?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development.

Communication 101

May 4, 2011

Never talk over people, rarely talk at them, at the very least

talk to them, and try to talk with them.

Talking over = diatribe They’ll leave at the earliest opportunity because you’re insulting them by treating them as if they’re not there. They’re thinking: “What a buffoon, I’m outta’ here at the next break.” Never do this.

Talking at = debate  They feel like you’re sticking your finger in their face. They’ll either: a) hunker down in a submissive pose with their chin tucked into their neck if they’re intimidated. It’s as if they’re saying: “Please don’t be angry at me;” or b) they’ll stick their chin out at you and narrow their eyes if they’re ticked off. It’s as if they’re saying: “You can’t talk to me like that!” Do this only in a situation such as being in overtime in the seventh game of the NBA finals, your players know you respect them and you need them to execute, not think.

Talking to = discussion  They’ll nod from the neck up as if to say, “Yes, that makes sense,” and may or may not follow through. This is the language of doing business as usual. Use this as your usual mode of speaking.

Talking with = dialogue They’ll relax their shoulders and neck as if you’ve moved over to their side and put your arm around their shoulder like a loving parent or grandparent. It’s as if you’ve told them: “It’ll be okay. We can work this out.” This is the language of intimacy. Aspire to this in matters of the heart and when possible in matters of the world.

Question:  What’s your preferred communication style?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

Follow-up with Regular Employee One-on-Ones

March 17, 2011

Outcome

Individual goals/commitments are always met.

Purpose

  • Provide a structure for opening up communication and monitoring performance. 
  • Review, assessment and planning to ensure goals are on-track or renegotiated.
  • Employee knows how they are doing, receives helpful feedback and coaching, participates in problem solving and feels valued for their contribution

 Guidelines

  • Short—15 to 30 minutes
  • Frequent—at least once every two weeks
  • Focused on individual goals and commitments
  • Individual owns bringing the necessary information to show results, issues and recommended solutions
  • Scheduled in advance (recommend a regularly scheduled meeting)
  • A top priority—If a meeting is postponed, it needs to be rescheduled promptly

 Agenda

  • Review goals/metrics and commitments

                  –  On-track?

                  –  If off-track, assess cause (resources, information, development need)

  • Create plan to address (owners, timeline, etc.)
  • Any urgent issues/needs? 
  • What support do they need from you?
  • Ask what else is on their mind
  • Schedule follow-up, as appropriate

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Personal development.

Moving from “The Company” to “Our Company”

February 2, 2011

The heart and soul of engagement is ownership.  As long as your employees feel they are working to help you make your company succeed, engagement will be low.  Once you get them to see themselves as partners in the endeavor—making decisions, staying informed, linking the impact of their day-day job to the company’s success —everything changes.  Engagement rises, productivity soars, customer satisfaction increases and profit grows! 

Engagement does not come from dollars but from more personal factors.  Here are seven things that will help your employees stay engaged for the long term. 

  1. An employer who cares enough to listen. The best way to know what your employees need and expect is to ask them.  And to listen carefully to their answers. 
  2. Clear, consistent expectations.  Clear expectations are key to ownership and self-motivation.  Vague policies and unclear expectations can make employees feel irritated, unsafe, even paranoid – and disengaged.  They click into survival mode instead of focusing on how to help the company succeed. 
  3. A sense of the importance of their work.  Giving an employee line of sight to how their day-day job impacts the bigger picture – customer and company goals – gives them a sense of belonging and an opportunity to see how they make a difference.  This has a greater impact on loyalty and customer service than all other factors combined.
  4. Opportunities for advancement. The chance to learn something new, whether it’s development to be better in their current job or work their way up the ladder, is a tremendous incentive for productivity, bonding, and engagement. 
  5. Good relationships with others in the workplace—especially their boss. If that relationship is weak or toxic, you can forget about asking the employee to put their shoulder to the wheel for the company.
  6. Regular feedback.  If you want to keep employees moving forward, give them regular feedback. And don’t forget positive feedback, which should ideally outnumber the negative by about 5 to 1.   After all, you get what you measure and acknowledge. 
  7. Celebration and rewards for success. Set realistic targets, then reward and celebrate when they are reached.  And don’t wait for the end of a big project to celebrate.  Pick milestones along the way and recognize them (aka have fun, party) when you hit them.  

Help your employees feel a part of the company – our company!   Help them know that ‘we are in this together’ and you will see amazing, positive results! 

Action plan

  1. Assess your current use of the seven factors above.  Do you believe ‘we’re in this together’?  Do your employees? 
  2. Identify and implement a plan to improve at least one within the next week. 

Question:  

Do you work for ‘the’ company or ‘our’ company?  What would make you change your answer?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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Managing All Employees Alike Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

January 26, 2011

By Mark Powers and Andy Kanefield

It has been said that good people don’t leave good companies — they leave poor managers. No one wants to lose their best people, but in the midst of time pressures to produce better results, managers often cut corners — one of which is acknowledging the importance of managing according to the strengths of their people. 

Many parents understand that their children are unique individuals and know when to treat one child differently than the others. Managing employees needs to be a similar journey of better understanding their unique strengths and learning how to maximize those strengths within the context of the shared goals of teams within the organization.

Consider the following broad categories of people within an organization and the accompanying guidelines on how to manage them. 

Futurist employees: These are employees who need to know what’s next. They have a directional focus; they’re looking at the horizon. While there are different types of futurists, there are certain principles that are important to manage any futurist.     
•    Respecting their strengths means giving them an opportunity to help shape the future. Managers can give them roles that allow them to co-create what comes next for the team.
•    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that some may need help implementing their ideas. Place them on teams with people who are good at execution.
•    Helping them develop may mean reminding them that not everyone can see the same things they can and that they need to paint tangible pictures of what the future could look like. 

Analysts: These are employees who excel at execution because they can see the steps needed to get things done. They’re the ones people depend on to get things done. How does one manage analysts?

•    Respecting their strengths means giving them clear instructions of what your desired endpoint is and then giving them the opportunity to create the steps to get there.
•    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that managers may need to check in with them occasionally to ensure the steps being executed are still leading toward the desired end result.
•    Helping them develop may mean reminding them of the necessity to change at times and that the tried-and-true approaches of yesterday were at one time the new approaches. 

Connectors: These are employees who view organizations as a network of people with a common cause, who see the need for a common rally cry or mantra that provides focus and energy. They are the cheerleaders of the organization.

1.    Respecting their strengths means making sure that the team has a clearly articulated shared purpose and that they have a role in reinforcing it and helping keep people focused on it.
2.    Understanding their limitations means avoiding overly conceptual and theoretical discussions that don’t directly relate to improving organizational or individual performance.
3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that other members of the team can still be team players by contributing strengths in isolation that contribute toward team success. 

Interpreters: These are employees who think first about the needs of customers or clients. If the organization is anticipating or going through a change, the first question an interpreter will ask is, “How will this affect our clients?”

1.    Respecting their strengths means ensuring that the team listens to their customer insights. They may not have organized, empirical data for each conclusion, but don’t dismiss their conclusions due to lack of numbers.
2.    Understanding their limitations means making sure that project priorities are clear. Interpreters want to help, and as such, they will overcommit. They need to understand the highest priorities and have timelines based in reality.
3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that great ideas are truly great when you put them into practice. 

Action plan

1.  Look at your employees and your interactions with each of them.  Determine which of these  characteristics best describes each of them. 

2. During your next interaction, modify your management style and see what happens. 

 Question:  What characteristics best describe YOUR style (Futurist, Analyst, Connector, Interpreter)? 

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management.

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Time for Your Annual Tune Up Part Two

January 5, 2011

It’s a new year – yea!  What a great time to set ourselves and our employees up for success to ensure we all meet our 2011 goals!  

Last week, we shared the 6 Steps to a More Effective Strategic PlanThis week we’re sharing some supporting research and tips on the best ways to engage your employees.  

4 Keys to Emotionally Engaged Employees 

We know that emotionally engaged employees are more likely to recommend an employer’s products, support outreach efforts to the community and buy stock in the company, according to a new study from The Brand Union, a brand strategy and design consultancy.

“Our findings demonstrate the importance of companies implementing programs that don’t just reward but further connect employees to their brand,” said Toby Southgate, managing director for The Brand Union. “In order to connect emotionally, employees need consistent and compelling experiences that help formulate a clear understanding of what the company represents.”

The study concludes that emotional engagement drives job satisfaction and has a greater impact than intellectual understanding alone of a company’s mission, goals or financial benefits such as monetary compensation. These findings imply that employee engagement tactics that create dialogue, interaction and provide direction are more powerful and economically efficient in connecting employees with the company.

Furthermore, one of the most critical times to engage employees is during the first six to 12 months of employment.  According to the study, this period represents the lowest engagement period in the relationship between employees and their employer.

Proven strategies to increase engagement throughout the employee lifecycle include:

1.  Link every employee’s day-day job and business goals to the company goals in order to create an understanding of how their work impacts the business and customer experience. 

2.  Foster open sharing of information, to and from leadership and across departments.

3.  Have a performance management system that provides clear expectations and frequent, informal reviews with each employee to build employee confidence and ensure success. 

4.  Understand each employee’s development and career goals and provide opportunities for development and advancement.

For ultimate success, leaders must be sensitive to the fact that one size does not fit all with employees.  Successful outcomes depend on understanding your employees, your team and how best to engage them.

 Action plan

  1. Ask your employees how their job impacts the business every day?  Our customers every day? 
  2. Based on their answers, implement new ways to keep them informed of their value and impact every day. 

Question:  How do you add value and impact the business every day?

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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Time for Your Annual Tune-up

December 29, 2010

In a few days we’ll begin a brand new year and two key questions are whether and how you will make it a better, fulfilled and more successful year than this one?  I hope you’ll answer these questions for your business and personal life.  Today, we’ll focus on the business side. 

One important step to achieve a better, fulfilled and more successful business year is to have a solid plan.  Another is to engage your employees.  This week we’ll focus on the plan.  Next week, we’ll share some tips on best ways to engage your employees. 

The most essential pieces to both of these plans are involvement and alignment

6 Steps to a More Effective Annual Plan

If you’ve done annual planning and goal setting as a ‘check-the-box’ exercise in the past, you know that it can be unnecessarily complex and marginally useful.  Here are 6 steps to help you create a more effective plan that gets you the intended results.  

1.  Keep the plan simple and alive.  An effective annual plan provides clear direction for all employees.  It shows the goals as the target (the bulls-eye) and helps guide employee actions (the arrows) day to day.  As Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems once said, a good plan puts “all the wood behind one arrow”.   

2.  Involve key stakeholders.  Ensure that the plan reflects the voice of the organization by including key stakeholders in the planning and goal setting process.  When you invite others to participate, they feel ownership of the plan and are more willing to focus their efforts on achieving the results.   

3.  Clearly outline responsibilities and accountability.  If everyone owns it, no one owns it.  Without goal “owners” who develop and drive the action plan, the goals become everybody’s job with no clear accountability. An owner will take the lead in identifying a team, implementing tactics, monitoring progress and rewarding and recognizing desired behaviors and results.  

4.  Review organizational performance frequently.  Ensure that measurement of actual performance against goals is agreed to at the time the goals are set.  Every measure should have a defined measurement interval (e.g. daily, monthly, quarterly) in order to correct and modify the plan along the way and ensure achievement.  If we only look at our performance at the end of the quarter, it is too late to take corrective action and hit the target.  

5.  Assess your organization’s capabilities and capacities before setting goals.  Do you have the right people in the right jobs with the right skills to set aggressive goals?  Are senior leaders aligned and engaged in the journey?  Do you have the right tools and systems in place?   These answers will determine how aggressive your goals can be.  Part of your plan may include building new capabilities within the organization.  

6.  Link company goals to all employees.  To ensure organizational alignment, every employee needs to have a clear line-of-sight as to how their job impacts the annual plan and the customer experience.   Use your formal and informal communication and performance management processes to ensure this insight and alignment.   

Action Plan

  1. Review your plan and identify potential obstacles to success (personal and business).
  2. Determine what you can and will do to overcome them if these obstacles appear. 

Question:  Which of your 2011 goals are the most important to you?

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

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Leadership Development isn’t a spare time activity

November 9, 2010

Many of us think – I’ll do professional development when things slow down, when I find time, when I really need it.  But, what we need to consider is that development happens every day.

We learn by listening to our employees.  We learn from discussions with peers.  We learn from our mistakes (hopefully).  We learn from what we read, groups we attend  . . .

Learning happens whether it’s formal or informal.

Answer these questions and determine where you are on the leadership development scale.

  • What did you learn today?
  • When was the last time you scheduled professional development for yourself (a class, a MasterMind group, a teleconference or webinar, a coach)?
  • Beyond the scheduled training sessions from the training department, when do you work on developing you?
  • When the opportunity to do the next job in your leadership career emerges, will you be ready?
  • Are you too busy to find time to develop yourself?
  • Will you be as effective tomorrow as you are today if you remain static in your development?
  • Do you only work on you when you have “free time”?

Action Plan

  1. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to think about what you learned that day.
  2. Determine what you are going to do to make sure that you continue to develop yourself as a leader with formal and informal practices and make it happen.

Question:  Who is your mentor (dead or alive)?

Categories: Collaboration, Leadership, Leadership development, Personal development.

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