Leaders: Which Way Do You Shift?

Shift is a simple word, yet it has so many possible meanings. Shift is a motion word. It implies change. We shift gears when we drive. We also make life choices that involve shifting about. First you’re right here, then you’re not. That is shift. More importantly, when it comes to leadership, the shift you make may be critical.

Shifting

Shifting

My wife and I are blessed with a small army of grandkids, all under the age of 4. When they are together, there is a lot of shifting going on. Getting one or more of them to sit still is almost impossible. They have this natural energy to move. One of the boys, a two year old, loves climbing up in my lap to watch his shows. Yet even when he tries to be focused on the cartoon or program on the screen there is movement. It’s just there.

As we grow older though, the ways we shift and the reasons for a shift take on new significance.

First the Downside

Motion or action does not mean success. I know people who can get very busy and accomplish nothing. I’ve been guilty of that myself. If all your effort has no plan or purpose, you might be shifting for the wrong reasons. Hopping from task to task or even job to job may feel like progress, but in reality, it is not.

Causing change in your personal life or work life just for the sake of change is a problem. Before you decide on a new direction, be sure it is consistent with a plan. Napoleon Hill, in his epic book “Think and Grow Rich”, suggests that only 2 people in 100 have ever designed a life plan.

From many years in coaching people through career change, I learned the vast majority of American workers land jobs out of school just to have a paycheck. Then they get stuck doing something that has nothing to do with their real passion in life. It takes years, if not decades, to realize what the passion should have been. A few fortunate souls make the shift and get aligned with what their heart desires for vocation.

There is great success in finding the right balance between your heart’s affection and your mind’s attention. Be sure you get those in right balance and you will have a far more successful career.

When to Shift

There are the wrong kinds of shifting, then the right ones. The right kind of shift happens when we:

  • Realize a conflict has arisen that we must avoid
  • Recognize a situation as being immoral, unethical, or illegal
  • Feel a need to grow
  • Take on a new challenge

Dealing with Conflict

As conflict arises, you might need a shift. Perhaps your mindset needs adjusting. Your attitude about a subject may be the contributing factor to the conflict. As a leader, conflict is not welcome. You need to be the peace maker.

Yes, there may be a critical decision that is all on you. When you make the decision, some conflict might come up. Yet the way you choose to handle it (a shift in mindset) may be the greatest contribution you can make. Draw deep into your inner core. Use your values and leadership principles to set the course, making the shift as smoothly as you can.

Not all of your decisions will be seen as perfect, but you can minimize conflict by having your own willingness to shift your approach as needed without compromising your values and vision.

Facing a Bad Situation

From time to time, you may find yourself inadvertently getting pulled into a circumstance that is either immoral, illegal, or unethical. One of my early mentors in banking was a very senior executive who was a well respected banker. When we brought new loan requests to him, we would review the risk reward factors, but then he would ask “Is there anything about this person or this company that is illegal, immoral or unethical?” You knew he was always going to ask that question. However, it always gave us pause.

I’ve also known business partners who may get into a bind and one or the other person reaches a little too far into this area in hopes of solving the problem. As soon as you sense that a partner is veering off course, you must make the shift to return things to center or abandon the deal. Your reputation is at stake.

If your moral compass (some call it your BS meter) is going wild, check the signals. Avoid the trouble, it’s not worth it. This kind of shift away from destruction is healthy, wise, and prudent.

The Need to Grow

We all have moments in our professional lives where we begin to sense a need to grow. The job is stale. The opportunity is capped. Or you’re just bored. You may need a shift for growth.

Now, I must caution my Millennial readers that this kind of boredom should not set in on a job inside of 90 days. Job opportunities take longer than that to reveal what the job really involves. If you feel bored within 90 days, you made a bad choice to start. It’s not the company or the boss. It is your decision to take the job that needs adjusting. Leave if you must but figure out why you made the bad choice and learn something from that before you go to work somewhere else.

Growth may also come without a job change. You may just feel the need to learn more about your role. You realize you need deeper knowledge of a subject or more technical know-how to perform at a higher level. A growth shift is in order.

Taking on a New Challenge

A shift is required when change happens. Whether the change is in your position or your duties at work. Or maybe it involves a relocation. New challenges come in the birth of a child or grandchild. All of the other major life events create change that requires a shift of some sort or another. Making the right shift is critical to having the best possible outcome.

The life shifts we make to handle the changes around us will dictate whether we succeed or fail. Choose wisely my friend.

Question: When was the last time you had to shift? Was it the right kind of shift? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Link Your Brand to a Story for Greater Success

Your business provides a great product or service, right? What sets you apart from the next guy? Study successful brands, and you’ll see they each link their brand with a story. Doing so generates more than simple interest; it connects with their clients’ unconscious minds.

your brand needs a storyLink your brand with a narrative, and you will increase business success.

Why people love a story

The human brain loves a good story. Stories connect with the subconscious mind, which, incidentally is where beliefs are stored. Potential clients don’t just adopt logical thinking when deciding whether to buy products or employ a firm’s services. Their beliefs influence their choices as well.

The subconscious mind uses metaphors to communicate with the conscious mind.

Its wisdom rises in the form of stories and pictures to guide people’s actions. Thus, it might show you an image of someone carrying a heavy load if you contemplate tackling what you consider a difficult task. Or, your mind might present a picture of you meeting success if you believe doing so is possible.

Create a story for your brand that inspires people, and they will like your business. Their unconscious minds will tap into the story, and it will influence their decision to use your services.

What type of story do people love?

First, on an unconscious level, people adore a story that feeds their need to overcome obstacles. They love narratives about rising from difficult circumstances and accomplishing success. Think about your favorite movies. Usually there is a struggle in the story. Whether it is overcoming evil for good, rags to riches, or the victory for a cause, this dynamic reach for something better grabs our hearts and minds.

Furthermore, the human brain is designed to seek improvement. Tales of starting small and achieving big victories provide a feel-good factor that puts people in a good mood. Connecting with this internal wiring for improvement through a good story line helps lock in the message.

Why authenticity counts

At this point, you might imagine you can simply make up a brilliant story to attract customers, but hold on a moment. Before you get too creative, remember, people love authenticity as much as they love a great story. Winning stories are based on facts. Clients will soon smell a rat if your brand’s narrative isn’t genuine.

We all have our own BS meter. We know when people are not being real. The story you choose to build your brand must originate from sincerity and authenticity.

Finding a story for your brand

Your brand already has a story; it just needs to be recognized. You’ll uncover the right story if you think of its beginning stemming from how you had a dream. After all, there was a time when your business was a thought rather than a reality. Here lies the part of the tale where you hadn’t yet achieved success.

What were you doing back then? How did you know you wanted your life to change? What did you want to give to the world by starting your business? Answer such questions, and you’ll have the basis for the story.

The tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe 

Bear in mind the tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe your business has what it takes to improve their lives. Thus, don’t only mention how you were poor but rose from the ashes of poverty like a phoenix to make money. Consider how you discovered you could help others overcome challenges and meet their needs, and weave this element into the story.

12392060 brand story large

Do NOT be afraid

Apart from not thinking of the idea, want to know why some business people never tell their story and link it to their brand? They are scared. Telling their tale involves stepping out of their comfort zone and getting personal. When you reveal your struggles in life, you are vulnerable. However, speaking about how you began your journey will help your clients feel a connection with your brand.

If your story were only about the success of your brand, it wouldn’t be inspiring. Your customers want to be able to relate to the story. Thus, it needs to feed their desire to hear about moving from humble beginnings to achieving a dream.

You might not think you need to link your brand to a story to find success, and you may be right.

You’re more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale

You are more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale of your business to tell. Doing so will not only attract clients, but it will also boost your confidence, inspire employees, and make you proud. You’ll love your business even more than you do now, and what you love you nurture.

Footnote: Much of this article was contributed by Austin Tenette, a certified business coach at Focal Point.

Dealing with the Pain of Uncertainty

Uncertainty grips us all at some point in our lives. Perhaps it happens multiple times. It comes in many ways. When circumstances become unclear about “where this is going”, you suffer from doubt, fear, and a whole host of other emotions.

Dealing with Uncertainty

Dealing with Uncertainty

I am writing this firsthand as I and my community are experiencing the unfolding uncertainty of Hurricane Harvey. The Houston area has been impacted by what some are calling rain fall of Biblical proportions. The last reading was 52 inches in five days. For most parts of the world, that amount is a couple of years of rainfall. Houston got it in a few days.

The widespread flooding has forced thousands out of cars, homes and apartments. This event has not been partial to age, race, creed, or financial status. Anyone in the path of the flooding has been impacted. Volunteer effort has also been epic in its response. The efforts of local, state and government officials has been amazing. Thankfully the death toll has been very low, relatively speaking. With an area that is home to 6.5 million, the loss of life can be counted on both hands. This could have been much worse.

In my own neighborhood, we have not been impacted as much as the central Houston area flood water. Yet we have had our own uncertainty. My community is inside a levee district. We have the levee because of the Brazos River. The Brazos is a main artery and the largest river that slices across Texas, running from high central Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Its watershed collects a lot of rain when virtually any part of Texas gets downfall. Last year this river flooded at all-time highs. This year, we are forecast to exceed those levels by 3 feet. That’s a record you don’t want to beat.

The uncertainty of what the outcomes of these events may look like is easy to understand, but hard to comprehend. More importantly it is hard to rationalize your decisions about what to do, who to listen to, and how to go forward.

Uncertainty is by no means limited to catastrophic weather events. It can happen in all other aspects of life too. I’ve had coaching clients who are facing great uncertainty at work. The company is getting bought, sold, or reorganized. Pre and post-merger scenarios often create great uncertainty, even for the chief executives driving those changes.

Uncertainty is difficult because you suffer a wide range of possible human emotion and reaction. The list includes these:

  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • Faulty information/assumptions
  • Bad conclusions
  • Compounding effects

FEAR

Fear may be the greatest of all reactions to uncertainty. The fear of the unknown. You may have your own reaction to circumstances. Yet the person right next to, perhaps your spouse, may have a totally different response.

When we take in the information that is surrounding us, we try to process it against the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Will this thing effect my safety, my security, my well-being, my livelihood, or my sense of self? If you decide YES, it does effect one or all of those things, then fear kicks in.

Fear is often associated with the fight or flight mechanisms we have. If the threat, whether real or perceived, exists, then we ultimately choose to fight to defend ourselves (literally or figuratively) or we flee from danger, running away.

If you are experiencing uncertainty, the first emotion to get in check is your fear. Though it is a natural response, the energy and emotion it consumes is detrimental to successful outcomes in the face of uncertainty.

DOUBT

Uncertainty creates doubt. What you may have believed to be true is now called into question when uncertainty arises. You can doubt the circumstance, the source of information, or the people around you. Worst of all is starting to doubt yourself.

If you are in management and leadership, self-doubt is a killer. You must avoid doubting yourself. When any question about you comes up because of an uncertain situation, dig deep into your soul. Pull on your character. Stay strong in your beliefs about who and what you are.

If you are not yet certain about those elements of your being, then you have an opportunity to do some work to improve. If grabbing onto core values and key principles is hard for you, then perhaps you have not yet accurately identified them. A coach can help build that base.

MISTRUST

Uncertainty can cause a great deal of mistrust between otherwise civil partners. Friends, neighbors, or co-workers can become adversaries when uncertainty raises its ugly head. As people make decisions about the uncertainty they are facing, their conclusions may run contrary to others.

This is especially problematic between partners and co-workers. When the uncertainty causes a rift between parties, the damage in the relationship may become permanent.

There is no good reason to mistrust someone you formerly trusted during a momentary condition. Wait for the actual, final outcomes to pass judgment on the other person. Hopefully, you will find the temporary interruption in the relationship was not about trust at all. Instead it was a difference of opinions and outlooks that can be repaired with some basic collaboration and communication after the fact. Clear the air as it were.

FAULTY INFORMATION OR ASSUMPTIONS

The panic that might happen inside of uncertainty can be hungry for good information. But you have to be careful. The appetite cannot be satisfied with bad information. Check your facts.

As Reagan once said, “Trust but verify”. Check that data.

Within a team setting, information can take strange shapes. There will be those who insist they have the inside track, getting juicy info to explain the situation or even cast further fear and doubt. In my case lately, there have been those who want to yell “the levee has been breached” when in fact it has not.

It is hard to understand the desire some people may have for spreading such bad information, but they do it anyway. As a leader, you must quiet those storms and share as much good information as you can.

Nothing can confuse a situation more than bad information. Prudent people perform best with solid, reliable information and assumptions. Get the facts, then craft your ideas for desirable outcomes.

BAD CONCLUSIONS

Combining all of the pieces above will usually lead to bad conclusions. Fear, doubt, lack of trust, and bad data create the perfect storm for making bad decisions. Whether these decisions are personal or professional, avoid making a bad decision by fixing the other things first.

During uncertainty, you may still make a bad decision, but you can minimize its risk and significance by eliminating the other things we talked about above.

COMPOUNDING EFFECTS

Lastly, be cautious of compounding effects. If you period of uncertainty is prolonged, one bad decisions can compound and create more bad decisions. Stay vigilant when you are facing uncertainty. You will know when you are.

Avoid making rash choices based on fear and doubt. Dig for the truth and as much actual information as you can so that your choices are smarter, more effective ones.

CONCLUSION

As I write this piece, I sit in the midst of uncertainty. A nearby river is rising to an all-time flood level. There are real people already in jeopardy. Some are homeless, some are displaced, most are just very wet. Property damages are yet to be totalled. It may be days if not weeks before we can get accurate information about what has happened.

This is no time to make decisions based on fear and doubt. We must find trusted relationships to lean on. Anyone introducing new, inflammatory information must be questioned or ignored.

Solid leadership is required.

You can eliminate the uncertainty from your job as a manager by hiring a coach to lead you through to the next level of certainty.

 

Learn More

 

10 Rules for High-Performing Teams

Being a successful leader implies success within the team you influence. While a leader’s impact on specific individuals is easier to measure, team dynamics create exponential challenges for leaders.

21139567 – teamwork works together to build a gear system

Success in today’s work world is more about team than individual performance. A team is more than just a group of workers, located together, doing their jobs. Real teams are interdependent. That means they must rely on one another to get the job done. So what are best practices for effective teams? Here are 10 rules from a chapter on “Best Practices in Team Leadership” by Kevin Stagl, Eduardo Salas, and C.Shawn Burke.

1. Define and Create Interdependencies. There is a need to define and structure team members’ roles. Think of sports teams, everyone has their position to play, and success happens when all of the players are playing their roles effectively. In baseball, a double-play is a beautiful example of team interdependency.

2. Establish Goals. Teams need to be focused on shared goals and outcomes. Commitment to that goal is essential for success. Ideally, team goals should allow both the team as a unit and the individual members to achieve both personal and group goals.

3. Determine How Teams Will Make Decisions. Whether the leader makes the decision, or it is a democratic or consensus process, the team needs to understand beforehand how decisions will be made. This reduces conflict within the team when a decision or choice has to be made.

4. Provide Clear and Constant Feedback. Teams need to know how they are doing in order to stay motivated and to correct performance problems or inefficiencies. Ideally, a system should be in place so that team members receive ongoing feedback while doing their jobs. A simple example from manufacturing is when the team members do both production and quality control testing. They find out immediately what their success/failure rate is and can take action to improve.

5. Keep Team Membership Stable. Particularly in complex tasks, it takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level. In sports, there is a relationship between how long team members have played together and their winning record.

6. Allow Team Members to Challenge the Status Quo. If innovation is important, it is critical that team members feel secure in being able to challenge processes if they feel that there is a way to improve. In order to innovate, teams need to be open to considering and constructively criticizing existing practices when needed.

7. Learn How to Identify and Attract Talent. Just as processes sometimes need improvement, teams can get better by attracting new talent. Organizations that put a lot of resources into identifying and recruiting talent simply do better.

8. Use Team-Based Reward Systems. Too much emphasis on individual rewards can lead to in-fighting and resentment. A combination of individual and team-based rewards is often best.

9. Create a Learning Environment. Emphasize the development of the team, learning through successes, but particularly through mistakes. A team with a culture of continuous improvement and where members are motivated to develop their skills and knowledge are high-performing teams.

10. Focus on the Collective Mission. Mission-driven teams and organizations perform better because they see beyond their individual workload and tasks and feel as if they are working for a higher purpose. It is imperative that team members be committed to the shared mission, or they should be replaced.

These rules apply whether teams have a formal, appointed leader, or whether they are self-governing. The key is to put in the time and energy needed to adhere to these best practices.

Reference:

Stagl, K.C., Salas, E., & Burke, C.S. (2007). Best Practices in Team Leadership. In Jay Conger and Ronald Riggio (Eds.). The Practice of Leadership (pp. 172-197). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This article is contributed by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.. Ron is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology and social psychology.

Where Do the Other Guys Go?

Have you ever been to a leadership conference where everyone in the room tries to give you the impression they already know the answers? You spend the day or two making small talk, perhaps exploring some “new ideas”, yet there is an overwhelming sense that all the people there have already climbed the mountain.

Where do the Other Guys go?

Where do the Other Guys go?

If that’s true, where did all the other guys go? Surely there are some colleagues in your industry who don’t have all the answers. You know it’s true because you deal with some of them on a regular basis.

I never seem to meet the executives who are the “bad guys”; the ones who are bad bosses. Where do they go? Is there a bad boss conference that is secretly held at some discreet location halfway around the globe?

Or is it possible the bad bosses are just simply so bad they aren’t even aware they need help?

Enter the 80/20

The practical reality is The Pareto Principle. You may know it as the 80/20 rule. Yes, I firmly believe only about 20% of our business executives can be rated as good leaders. The other 80% might be rated as OK managers, but they fail to achieve effective leadership.

The good ones are the ones that keep looking for ways to improve. They are hungry to participate in industry groups, networking, TED Talks, round-tables, or workshops attended by other like-minded leaders. They keep growing. They even help facilitate and organize events to attract great leaders.

Sadly, the other 80% keep going to work making life relatively miserable for employees or volunteers.

When I try to broach this topic at a leadership mastermind, I get mixed responses. On one hand, I get reactions like the preachers see every Sunday at church. When a touchy subject is mentioned, people squirm in their seats, but look around as if to say, “certainly that is not me, it must be the other person over there”. On the other hand, I have people say “yes, I want to work on this”.

Executives who have been thrown into management roles are seldom fully prepared to be in the position. They were identified as a high potential or a leading single performer. For that effort, they are rewarded with a promotion into management. Yet they lack the preparation to lead, so there is a need to grow. The other option is the fake-it-until-you-make-it mindset. Maybe they will be successful, likely not.

Lastly, there is a small percentage of talent in the leadership pool who move around between companies and industries because they have achieved proven results. Then there are those “up-and-comers” who are demonstrating leadership talent and who will one day be the next wave of key leaders.

Where Are You?

Where do you fit in this spectrum? Have you recognized the need to do more or be more to be a better leader? There may be forces working against you.

When your company asks you to take on a management role, are you ready to accept it and admit you need help? Probably not. You dive in, using the same energy and zeal that got you recognized as a key contributor. You work harder. Maybe you spend more hours at the office or take work home.

The pressure will mount. Various things you try to do are received with mixed results. Some things work. Other things do not. Your team is getting restless. You know there is a gap in what the job requires versus what you can deliver. What can you do?

Hiring an Executive Coach might be the best investment you can make.
You might want to talk to someone on our team today
to discuss ways to achieve measurable results from executive coaching.

Three Things to Master

Maintain your confidence –  stay true to yourself. You were selected because the company needed you in that job. They had a reason to give it a try. Be confident in knowing that. Come back to that truth as often as you need to. Use trusted advisors to prop up your confidence. Share what you can with close associates (not work colleagues).

Core competencies –  there will be key elements of the job you should master. Whether it is technical knowledge or subject matter expertise, become the guru on those topics. Read more, search more; get the most information you can to show the team you have a mastery of the work.

Stay centered –  don’t let the demands of the job take you off your game. Re-establish your core beliefs about who and what you are, how you can contribute, and the ways you can make a difference. Be true to those beliefs. Maintain an identity as the person you want to be at work. I’m not talking about arrogance. I’m talking about reliability and trust.

Highly effective and well-respected leaders didn’t get there by chance. They work an intentional plan. They grow, they seek counsel, and they are constantly learning.

Question: Where are you in the leadership growth process? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you own or operate a mid-stage company, you may want to explore ways to strengthen your leadership team. I am here to help make that transition.

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F-5 Framework for Leadership

Ever seen any purple unicorns? Pretty rare sightings, right? When we talk about leadership, often it seems like we are talking about something as vague and unique as purple unicorns. Leadership is in the eye of the beholder. Leadership is something you are born with. Leadership is a skill that can be taught. Leadership is the final answer. All of these are true and none of these are true.

Purple Unicorn courtesy BigThumbnail

Purple Unicorn courtesy BigThumbnail

For anyone facing a need to improve on leadership style or effectiveness, there are five core principles to master. Not 10, not 16, not 21. Yes, you can get granular, but as you first begin your journey to grow as a leader, stay centered on these five. I call this program the F-5 Framework for Leadership(TM).

  • Foundation
  • Fundamentals
  • Future Vision
  • Focus
  • Forward Motion

Let’s unpack each one.

Foundation

You have to begin somewhere. You cannot give what you don’t have. As a leader, you must establish your own foundation. The pilings must be driven deep in the ground underneath you until you reach a bedrock of guiding principles and disciplines.

These principles may have been instilled in you as a child. They might be faith based. Whatever values you bring to the moment will be tested. You must engage a full and deep understanding of who you are and what you want to be, so that you can withstand the test of trials as a leader. You will be needing to return to this foundation often.

Disciplines can be learned and sharpened to add to your foundation. Just like structures are girded for extra strength, so too can be your foundation. As challenges come to you, and they will, you must be able to stand firm on this foundation. It cannot waiver or sway. The foundation from which you operate will establish your reputation as a leader.

The foundation sets the tone for your overall leadership effectiveness. If the foundation is strong, you can take on more and greater responsibility. Your success will come.

Fundamentals

Here you add to the leadership toolkit. The Fundamentals are the attributes and skills that cover management requirements.

Management is about controlling quality, time, and money. You have to develop some mastery of being able to do that. Managers are not necessarily good leaders, but good leaders are good managers.

Fundamentals include your people skills; communication, delegation, direction, supervision, motivation, and performance. There may be technical fundamentals you bring to the table; a knowledge of subject matter. However, in the later stages of very senior management, the technical skills become less important. Instead the core principles of being an effective leader take on the greater value.

The best leaders I have known draw on their fundamentals, almost as a source of strength, from which they can prosper. Your proven experience in key areas will also be the source of some great stories you can share with an audience. Story telling is widely known as a secret weapon of effective leaders.

Future Vision

FURTURE VISION

FUTURE VISION

We say leaders are visionary or at least we admire “visionary leaders”. That is not a euphemism. It has merit. John Maxwell says that in every culture without regard for gender or age, the people identified as Leaders have these two traits:

That is vision. You have to commit to perpetual growth as a leader in order to sustain the ability to see more and see before. Allowing yourself the opportunity to grow through coaching, reading, being mentored, or studying your leadership craft is the way to maintain this unique ability to have vision.

In today’s world we relate to the stories of Steve Jobs and his incredible vision to change the world through user interfaces with technology. He didn’t want to build hardware. He wanted hardware to be a tool for enhanced user connection to the world around them. That was vision.

Focus

Leaders maintain focus. As the world around them erupts with change and circumstance, the leader must stay focused on the destination that has been mapped. Yes, the course may take many turns.

FOCUS

FOCUS

I live near Houston. I can get to New York many ways. Yet if I intend to go to New York, I have to stay focused on that destination. The plane that was part of my original travel plan might get grounded, but if I want to be in New York, I have to find alternate ways to get there; train, bus, or car. I might even bike or walk part way, but I will get to New York nonetheless.

That’s an oversimplified example, but the principle is clear. Stay focused on the destination. The best leaders know the outcome they want to achieve. Stephen Covey called it “begin with the end in mind”. That’s a perfect summation of this point. Focus on the end game, then as the work begins, you can adjust your tactical execution to stay on course for achieving the goal.

Forward Motion

Last but not least, forward motion is required. Leadership is about bringing people along to achieve the goal. You don’t push people. Rather you bring them along. Just like the chain General Dwight Eisenhower used to test his subordinate commanders. If you push on the pile, you cannot predict where it will go. You must pull it with you toward the direction you intend. The direction of forward motion should be about your vision and your focus.

Forward motion includes teaching and training of your team or your staff. They need to grow under your leadership too. The real test of the influence of a leader is not what you accomplish, but what the other people who have followed you achieve. Their lives must demonstrate the positive impact of having served under your guidance. Are they different, in a good way, for having served with you? Or did you simply complete a project or reach a goal and there is no measurable result after all that?

Purple Unicorns?

No, understanding leadership is not about chasing purple unicorns. There are these five areas that, once mastered, can help you become a better leader. Let me repeat, Leadership requires growth. That is part of your forward motion. Commit to grow where you already are. Revisit each of these five areas to strengthen your effectiveness as a leader.

Regardless of which authors or speakers you follow on the topic of leadership development, I am certain you can plug each of their teachings into one or more of these five areas. I like to keep things simple. Think of F-5 Framework for Leadership(TM) as you embark on leadership growth.

Question: Let me know the ways you have tried growing your own leadership effectiveness. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leaders: Sometimes There Aren’t Enough Rocks

Being a child of the 60’s I love the movie “Forrest Gump”. It was on cable recently, cycling through the home spun wisdom of the south and reflecting on the troubling times of the age.

FORREST GUMP, Robin Wright, Tom Hanks, 1994

There are many classic scenes throughout the movie. There is one that touches me every time I see it. Forrest and Jenny are walking through the countryside and come upon her childhood home. At first she gazes, then stares. She steps slowly toward the old, ramshackle house that once was a home. Paint is dried an peeling. Windows are broken. The roof sags. It’s obviously not lived in for quite some time.

Slowly Jenny’s stare turns to anger. She bends over, picks up some rocks, and begins hurling them at the house. Her frenzy intensifies.

Forrest is stunned, not knowing what to do. Jenny finally connects with a fast ball through one of the windows. Glass shatters. She tumbles to the ground sobbing. For sure this house was NOT a home to her. There had been too many disturbing memories. By her own admission her life was a mess. Now we seem to know why.

As she sobs, Forrest quietly and slowly bends over, first a crouch, then he takes a seat in the mud beside Jenny. In the narrative voice you hear him say “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Let’s talk about rocks and leadership.

Anger can be like that.

A burning hurt or disappointment can fester over the years. Unresolved issues boil into contempt and rage. Have you ever worked for someone who seems to be right on the edge with such emotion? It’s not a pretty picture.

As managers and leaders, we run out of rocks before we start. I contend you cannot be willing to throw even the first rock.

He who throws the first rock usually loses.

No, leaders must refrain from letting emotional turmoil boil over. Any issues you might be handling must be dealt with in more subtle, but hopefully, effective ways.

Your team doesn’t deserve the outburst. To be an effective leader, you must be seen as more even tempered. Though things may be swirling around you, the heat of battle cannot trigger other, unrelated matters that might cause some rock throwing.

Oh, it’s easy

Wanting to throw a few rocks seems easy. A rock is small but hard. It makes a great projectile when launched with the right velocity. Here’s the problem. Most of us don’t throw that well. I mean that figuratively.

Even when launching a tirade intended for one someone or some thing, the message might be misguided. If it lands off the mark, you certainly may cause collateral damage.

You might be furious at Steve, but spew something that hits Sally. Steve feels fortunate to have been missed, but Sally is now upset. Steve knows it was intended for him, so he starts running scared. It’s a mess that can only spiral further downward.

Managers and leaders have to do much better. There just cannot be any ‘rock throwing’.

Effective Leadership needs a throttle

To be a good leader you have to have a throttle mechanism. Let’s face it, the heat of battle can fray your nerves. Pressures mount and you have to vent somehow. A well disciplined leader knows NOT to vent in the direction of the troops. Your people never deserve that.

While you might have occasion to sit everyone down and have a stern talk about performance, direction, or momentum, the message should never feel like you are throwing rocks.

I started this piece by saying ‘sometimes there aren’t enough rocks’. In leadership, there shouldn’t be ANY rocks.

Leaders: Are You Disturbed?

The meeting had been going on for a few minutes, when a junior executive rushed in, late. The boss looked up and glared. The junior said “excuse me, I didn’t mean to disturb.”

The executive grinned and said, “No problem, I’ve been disturbed for quite some time.” There were uncomfortable chuckles.

Disturbed leadership

What can you make from that? On one hand, there’s the obvious, which is a more literal interpretation. The boss admitting his deranged approach to people and life. Thus the chuckles and the squirms in the chairs.

I prefer to take another view to explain the statement; one which I favor a great deal. I like staying disturbed; in perpetual motion with a hunger for growth and advancement of new ideas.

I love being able to remain open to new ideas, fresh thoughts from sources you trust, or great books and programs.

Disturbed or Comfortable?

Being disturbed is the opposite of being comfortable. Comfort zones feel good for a while, but they prevent sustained growth and performance. The world around us doesn’t sit still. Why should we?

Fresh ideas make for growth. There is nothing worse in a leader than the attitude “this is the way we’ve always done it.” I actually hate that mindset.

The global markets today like to talk about disruptive ideas. Uber disrupted transportation. AirBnB disrupted hospitality. Amazon disrupted retail shopping. SO on and so on…

Ford’s Ford

Disruption causes disturbing ripples wherever it goes. The status quo gets disturbed in a big way. Henry Ford has been quoted as saying “I had no interest in asking people what they wanted in transportation. They would have said faster horse.” Ford’s “Quadricycle” that later became the Model-T disrupted the horse and buggy era.

At approximately 4:00 a.m. on June 4, 1896, in the shed behind his home on Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Henry Ford unveils the “Quadricycle,” the first automobile he ever designed or drove.

Ford was working as the chief engineer for the main plant of the Edison Illuminating Company when he began working on the Quadricycle. On call at all hours to ensure that Detroit had electrical service 24 hours a day, Ford was able to use his flexible working schedule to experiment with his pet project–building a horseless carriage with a gasoline-powered engine. His obsession with the gasoline engine had begun when he saw an article on the subject in a November 1895 issue of American Machinist magazine.

The following March, another Detroit engineer named Charles King took his own hand-built vehicle–made of wood, it had a four-cylinder engine and could travel up to five miles per hour–out for a ride, fueling Ford’s desire to build a lighter and faster gasoline-powered model.

As he would do throughout his career, Ford used his considerable powers of motivation and organization to get the job done, enlisting friends–including King–and assistants to help him bring his vision to life. After months of work and many setbacks, Ford was finally ready to test-drive his creation–basically a light metal frame fitted with four bicycle wheels and powered by a two-cylinder, four-horsepower gasoline engine–on the morning of June 4, 1896.

When Ford and James Bishop, his chief assistant, attempted to wheel the Quadricycle out of the shed, however, they discovered that it was too wide to fit through the door. To solve the problem, Ford took an axe to the brick wall of the shed, smashing it to make space for the vehicle to be rolled out.

With Bishop bicycling ahead to alert passing carriages and pedestrians, Ford drove the 500-pound Quadricycle down Detroit’s Grand River Avenue, circling around three major thoroughfares. The Quadricycle had two driving speeds, no reverse, no brakes, rudimentary steering ability and a doorbell button as a horn, and it could reach about 20 miles per hour, easily overpowering King’s invention.

Aside from one breakdown on Washington Boulevard due to a faulty spring, the drive was a success, and Ford was on his way to becoming one of the most formidable success stories in American business history.

That was total disruption of a period in history. There have been many more since.

As a leader, are you disturbed? Maybe you should be?

 

“Reforming Our View of Fatherhood”
by Doug Thorpe

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Reforming Our View of Fatherhood
June 18, 2017

Father’s Day June 18, 2017 I had the honor of delivering the sermon at First Baptist Church Richmond, TX. Listen to a message about fatherhood and the ways our view of our fathers here in this world can impact our understanding of our Heavenly Father.