Leaders: What is the Right Answer?

It has been said there is one big difference between management and leadership. Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.

getting it right

Have you ever asked yourself this question? What IS the right answer anyway? For people in leadership roles, you are looked upon for the right answer. You better be able to deliver.

However, there are times when the right answer seems so hard to find. Here are some things to consider so that you, as a leader, can do more to find the “right” answer.

Situational Approach

Situational problem solving seems to be popular. In one case, the right answer might be green, but in a different situation, the answer is red. Both pose what seems like the same sets of facts and circumstances which should lead to the same answer, but you will see decision makers opting to let the outcome be different because of the audience that is involved. If the stakeholders are different, the answer gets shifted despite the facts and details bearing on the matter.

The idea of situational problem solving is often referred to in morality debates. There are those who get very excited about certain social issues, making claims for absolute answers involving right from wrong (think gun control, abortion, legalized marihuana, etc.). Yet when it is their family in jeopardy, they choose to go another route.

I contend the truly right answer needs to fit all situations. Circumstance shouldn’t change what was decided as to right or wrong.

The Leaders Curse

Anyone who is deemed a leader, whether at work, at home, or in the community, is expected to come up with answers. Those who are following the leader expect the answers to be “right”.

For the person who sits in the leadership chair, the pressure can be intense. If you are genuinely committed to quality leadership, the power of the position will not be enough. Power alone can literally dictate decisions. However, leaders who embrace the higher calling of duty and seek to make right decisions will suffer the burden of the process to get there.

Perhaps your style is to seek counsel from those around you. I am a big fan of hiring smart people, then getting out of their way. Yet when the final decision is needed, it rests on the leader’s shoulders to make the call.

Once all the input has been reviewed and processed, the right answer is yours to make. What you decide is right is the way things will go.

Oh my, but what is RIGHT?

I never thought about being right in this exact context before. I participate in an organization of highly regarded business leaders. They each have their own resume of incredible accomplishments. Internal meetings with this group are lively and interesting, to say the least.

When I see discussions in the group unfold, there is, on one hand, amazing thought that goes into the answers. So many different angles get presented and explored.

On the other hand, there is the occasional hard stand that insists their individual answer is best (and the only answer). When this happens, the group often tables discussion for a further review. One could argue that lack of consensus is a natural outcome when a group of A++ personalities joust it out, debating the right answer for a question.

The bottom line is this; right is totally a function of the view from the first chair. The type A++ who has been accustomed to making final decisions may not be able to play nicely in a group of similar personalities when the authority is spread across the group and not centered in one seat.

My point is simply this…. the “right” answer may surprise you.

Leaders: How Do You Find Right?

When the responsibility of leadership falls on you, likely you will seek to pull together all your experience, knowledge, wisdom, and technical ability to make good decisions; the right ones. The process is different for everyone.

Think about your own decision-making process. Do you make lists of pros and cons? Do you draw a grid? Do you immediately turn to advisors? Or friends? Where and how do you decide “right?”

How often do you rely on your gut? I hear that a lot. Truthfully, it works. The greater your experience in leadership roles, the greater may be the accuracy of your gut. I see this being true more often than not in the leaders who fully appreciate the role of leader. The key factor though is whether your gut is objective, not subjective. Unfair biases can misguide the gut reaction to finding right.

Managers who are first starting out lack the benefit of seasoned experience. Their gut reaction may be founded on emotion not reality. The experience becomes a teacher, but not by itself.

Experience is not a good teacher. Evaluated experience is. ~John Maxwell

As you gain experience by exercising your leadership decisions making, your sense of right and wrong decisions will get fine-tuned. If you are just now starting out in leadership, keep notes for yourself. You will revisit facts and circumstances from time to time. You will be able to gain strength of conviction through repeated use of your choices.

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Leadership: Finding a Good Fit

Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to identify “good fit” during their hiring process. Candidate selection is driven by the magical, mystical notion of making a good fit decision.

Clearly, the first step usually involves matching job description requirements with the candidate’s stated background experience. Right away, the matching process starts to break down because so much screening is now contingent on keyword matching, and not much else.

Even if resume screening works well, the next step takes the candidate through an interview process. Here’s where it really gets fun.

First, well-coached candidates can ace interviews while really not bringing much value to the company. Poorly trained hiring managers, who only occasionally may conduct interviews, (i.e. it’s not their full-time job) do not possess the right skills for getting maximum value from the interview process. So the “good fit” effort takes yet another hit.

With these two key areas suffering, the station of last resort is the look and feel test. Does the candidate look and feel like the right person for the job? Sadly, this often takes us back to the untrained interviewer who merely decides to hire someone who looks like or thinks like they do, assuming that alignment of core values and ideals will work.

Struck any nerves yet?

Have I touched any nerves yet? How’s your good fit guy doing so far?

Yes, good fit selection is a far more complex challenge for companies and their job seeker candidates. Even more important is the unit manager who gets involved in the selection process.

Finding true good fit requires the ability to properly identify what that means to the company and the team. Jim Collins in his “Good to Great” talks about this challenge as ‘getting the right people on the bus’. Once your company defines its core value and vision, there will be key individuals with unique talent who can make things happen. Hiring anyone short of that impacts the final outcome, not to mention the headache and liability of releasing a “bad fit” employee.

The popular Entrepreneurs Operating System or “EOS” describes doing a kind of per seat analysis throughout the organization. First, you tie the roles and responsibilities off each workstation to the overall company mission/vision. You set a value for each position; value contributed to the company or worth of each slot. Then and only then, do you take a look at the person filling that seat or being recruited for the seat. Does the person have the skills and abilities to deliver on the expectations you previously defined for that position? Now that is fit.

Solutions

There are several emerging ways companies are trying to do more for good fit hiring. Here are a few of the main ideas.

Basic Skills Testing

Many of my client companies have developed basic skills testing to determine a candidates ability to meet baseline requirements. Sadly, there are companies that need good solid workers with basic skills, but too few job seekers can demonstrate core skills like reading, math, and simple logic.

One president of a local manufacturer told me he’s adopted both a skills test and one VERY basic math question for every interview. He takes a piece of paper and writes a five digit number like 52,698. He hands that to the candidate and asks “what is 10% of that number?” This executive swears that after conducting maybe 800 interviews in his career, less than 100 candidates could answer that question. [The answer is 5,269.8]

At one of the companies I owned, we developed a test for job seekers. We had a sample file folder that had numerous documents pertaining to the work we did. The seeker was given a checklist and told to find the applicable document from the folder, stack the file according to the checklist, and tell us if something was missing. A person with reasonable skills could finish the file in 20 minutes. Anyone who didn’t really know the work had no way to fake it.

Personality Traits

Ever since Karl Jung first developed his 4 part personality classification system, there have been spin-off theories that are widely adopted by major corporations. These include DISC, Myers Briggs MBTI (R), and Birkman testing. While the Jung-based psychology gives interesting personality indicators, the complexities of human thinking and its far-reaching impact in the workplace can only be counted as a starting point. Whether someone scores an INTJ or ENFT will only go so far in helping a manager make a good fit decision.

The whole notion of personality assessment having a scale for introvert versus extrovert is under heavy scrutiny now. There is a body of work being studied that suggests “ambiverts” (people who demonstrate either both tendency depending on the situation) represent a bigger segment of the workforce, plus they have been proven to be better performers.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence testing or “EI” has become a popular topic for defining and exploring better fit conditions. We probably know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.

People like this have a high degree of emotional intelligence or EI. They know themselves very well, and they’re also able to sense the emotional needs of others.

Leadership in Placement

For example, one large cosmetics company recently revised their hiring process for salespeople to choose candidates based on their EI. The result? People hired with the new system have sold, on average, $91,000 more than salespeople selected under the old system. There has also been significantly lower staff turnover among the group chosen for their EI.

Cultural Fit

Companies seeking to define their own culture must identify candidates who fit that culture. Whether the elements are work ethic, training, expertise, or attitude, the company’s culture helps define fit.

From Entrepreneur Magazine :

There’s no denying that cultural fit is important but make sure you actually know what it is before judging candidates. It’s easy to mistake cultural fit for personal biases — just because you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an airport with a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a great fit for your company.

A candidate’s approach shouldn’t be so divisive that it creates rifts among employees, but you shouldn’t be afraid to hire somebody whose personality clashes with your own. If you perceive that a candidate would make a meaningful contribution to your company while maintaining decorum, that candidate might be a cultural match.

If you have doubts about making a career change, take my free assessment. Find out exactly where you stand.

The Bigger Question

Good fit ultimately comes down to being able to harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. Managers tapping into the hearts and minds of their team will yield the greatest results. Having employees who are not open to contributing at that level will never be a good fit.

Using the tools mentioned above can give insight into ways people might fit well with your team. However, your own ability as the leader to direct, inspire and instill fit within your team is your biggest task.

Question: How do you and your company manage to find the right fit?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Calling All Remote Workers

Since 2000 there has been a growing trend to let workers do their duties remotely; telecommuting it was once called. With the availability of so much good technology, it seemed extra generous of employers to allow workers to avoid the hassles of doing a daily commute. The company saved on facilities expense. While the trend grew steadily for a number of years, there is now a reversal happening.

Work at Home

Between 2012 and 2016, the share of employees who spend 80% or more of their time working remotely grew from 24% to 31%, according to a survey from Gallup. Some 59% of business executives said that more than half of their companies’ full-time workforce would be remote by 2020, per the results of a 2014 survey at London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit.

But not all business leaders are in favor of this trend. In May, IBM told thousands of its remote employees that they needed to return to a regional office or leave the company, Fox Business reported. Last year, insurance giant Aetna began to cut back on its work-from-home program due to concerns regarding collaboration. And in 2013, Yahoo ended its telecommuting program shortly after the beginning of former CEO Marissa Mayer’s tenure with the company.

Smaller businesses who jumped on the bandwagon are now getting off. I received a question from one of my readers who said:

…  love to see something on how to move people “ back to the office”. Many companies are doing that now since [much of their] collaborative energy has been lost as more and more people work remote from home. Is their a best practice on how to [make this recall] to limit impact on morale? 

I didn’t want to jump on this grenade by myself, so I consulted a few of my colleagues who also have successful executive coaching practices. Here are some of the issues to consider (in no particular order).

Mastering the Commute

The original reason many employers ventured down this rabbit hole was to assist workers by lessening commute times. In large metropolitan areas, daily commutes can consume 2 to 5 hours for workers. That doesn’t leave room for any family life. By eliminating the grind of a daunting commute, workers can spend time with family in a.m., get a good breakfast and be “at work” by whatever start time you declare.

The Commute

On the flip side, shutting down in the p.m. involves a simple flip of a switch and a short walk to the kitchen to say hello to kids and spouses.

By reversing the policy and asking workers to return to central facilities, you invoke the dreaded commute. As an employer, even though it’s not your fault where your people choose to live, if they’ve gotten used to no commute, the shift back may be more egregious than you think.

It Gets More Complicated

There are numerous pros and cons of telecommuting. Ultimately the primary factors that determine whether an employees experience with working remotely is successful or not involves that person’s natural personality and needs for feedback.

We have plenty of workers who want the camaraderie of working inside a team. They feed off the energy and vibe of the team around them. Team chemistry can become a perk for many employees.

If a good esprit de corps is established within the workgroup when everyone is together, you get a bonus incentive for the workers who want and need such feedback.

On the other side of that coin is the worker who likes going solo. A personality that is a little more introverted may appreciate the solitude of being able to do their work without disruptive chatter and buzz around them.

It’s not easy to accurately determine which camp all employees fall into. It has been reported that even some workers who seemed like they would be OK working alone are reporting a problem with the solitude after an extended absence from the team setting. This can be explained by the new thinking about ambivert personalities. An ambivert is someone who, depending on the situation, switches between being an extrovert and introvert.

Management’s Trust Factor

All too often I hear managers expressing concerns about whether their people are “really” working. For a boss who is prone to go there first, you may have some trust issues, my friend. If you and your company do not have accountability and productivity measures figured out, then yes, I get it. Remote workers would be a problem for you. However, if you are missing those indicators, you likely don’t know any more information about the people sitting outside your door either.

Any owner or executive who agrees to let workers stay at home must decide on what they will do to create and maintain visibility for consistent delivery of company mission/vision and value propositions.

The person in charge needs to check their motives for wanting everyone back in the office after remote commuting has been the policy. Unwinding that arrangement must be done for the best of reasons. A manager, partner, owner or principal should never ask people to give up the freedom of the remote work for bad ideas like ego, and their own control issues. Hiding behind thinly veiled ideas won’t work. Here are the excuses I know about:

  • We work better together
  • We need the chemistry
  • We need the energy of being able to collaborate

Perhaps remote delegation should have never been allowed in the first place.

What About the Office Culture?

Even if you get everyone to come back together, you as the boss may not be creating the optimum operating environment. I’ve seen too many smaller businesses with a so-called entrepreneurial spirit that are just nut houses (pardon me). The principals lead the pack with a wired and frenzied climate where meetings run too long too often, minds get changed too much, and direction is scattered at best.

Good employees will never suffer that environment for long. If a good and talented worker likes the mission and the work but hates the way the boss treats everyone, working from home is a sanctuary. It will be next to impossible to unwind that scenario.

After all, it’s been said

In the End

It’s all about setting clear expectations. Not all managers know enough about leadership to be able to do this. The leader must be able to articulate clear, concise expectations about work demands. Then you need to stick with them.

If you do end up deciding that you generally want people limiting their working from home to one day a week, I’d say this:

I want to talk to you about our work from home policy. In general, I prefer people to work from home no more than _____ days a week, because of (give your reasons). On rare occasions, I’m willing to approve more than that, but I’d like the default to be no more than ____ a week. I realize I didn’t clarify this earlier, and you haven’t done anything wrong by doing it more often, but going forward, please stick to this guideline.

Also, say this now rather than just rejecting their next work from home request and explaining it then. This is a big-picture conversation to have since they’re now used to doing it a different way, not something to spring on them the next time it comes up.

E-Myth Revisited (for Everyone)

Discovering your WHY

Michael E. Gerber’s works called the E-Myth seek to define entrepreneurship and business leadership. As I study those volumes, I find some key essentials that apply to every business executive, owner or aspiring manager. For many, the E-Myth has become a bible of business success and growth.

You have to start with WHY. Gerber’s work even pre-dates Simon Sinek‘s epic book “Find Your Why”. When a business leader, whether owner or employee, finds their ‘why’, it is like putting a match to a huge bonfire swirling with passion, excitement, commitment, and drive. Without why we collect paychecks and produce less than exciting outcomes. Without the why we merely survive.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, a leader of a team or division or you want to tackle the WHY of your entire organization, discovering the WHY injects passion into your work. And it’s those who start with WHY that have the ability to inspire those around them.

If you’ve ever started a business or taken on a new career challenge or even a major life change, you realize YOU must be something more. Your perception of the new role carries a weight that demands more. Getting to “more” requires a form of change. Whether you like it or not, this essential change is what causes the greatest hurdles to successfully making the move.

Consciously or subconsciously, you know a change is needed, but how and where do you start with that change? I like what both writers mentioned above have to say about WHY. Finding your why is the center of the answer for the change.

If you pursue a change without knowing your why, you are just shooting in the dark. Yes, you might be able to make some logical decisions about the change that has to happen, yet even if you adopt those changes, your results may be less than rewarding.

Finding your why is vital to growing a business or rising to the next level in life. Take my FREE Career Satisfaction Survey.

Here’s a story

Two years ago I wanted to do more about my physical condition. I was getting older, less flexible and packing on a few too many pounds. I definitely sensed the need for change. I chose to join a program that helped me accomplish my goals. I didn’t just hire a coach, but I essentially hired a whole culture of change. The fitness program and the gym itself was off the chart (I loved it). What they taught about eating and food content also made sense to me; not just some radically weird diet like eating cardboard wrappers off cereal boxes.

With my own commitment to the program, I did exactly what I had hoped to do. I lost almost 25 pounds, changed pant sizes twice, and generally felt better. Plus it was a program that stuck. But do you want to know the real reason it worked? They insisted I find my why before I ever started. They didn’t want my membership fees unless I could explain my own why.

Where have you ever seen that in a gym program? It made all the difference. Oh, and my why was about connecting with the legacy I want to have with my 7 grandkids. I knew I needed to fix some health issues before I could expect to be around for their graduations and weddings.

What is YOUR Why?

You may have read some of the books or heard Simon Sinek’s great TED talk, but have you done the work? Have you figured out your why? Finding your why is not as difficult as you might think.

The process to find your why often requires taking a look back at some signposts in your life. Seeing the history of where you have been and what you have done can go a long way to helping you discover your why. What experiences did the most to inspire and energize you?

Ask yourself some questions

We should take a step back and ask ourselves some questions. You can start by asking yourself a few of these:

  • Why is it that you do what you do?
  • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
  • What does a great day look like?
  • What does success look like beyond the paycheck?
  • What does real success feel like for you?
  • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

You could also ask yourself these follow-up questions:

  • What do you hate about your current job role or career?
  • Why don’t you do something else?
  • What does a bad day look like?
  • What is it you don’t enjoy about your job and why?
  • What does failure look like beyond the paycheck?
  • What does real failure feel like for you?

Once again, it’s essential that you know your professional purpose before you tackle your personal brand. If you don’t take control of your brand image and who you are, someone else will.

Often, the simple process of taking a step back and taking stock of where you are at and where you want to go can answer a raft of questions that can point your professional career in a more meaningful and satisfying direction.

Question: Have you found your why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If the effort to find your why has left you searching, perhaps a coach can help. Not just any coach, but someone who has the training, experience, and passion (their own why) to come alongside and help.

 

Leaders: Are You Equipping Others?

We are a tribal species. The human race thrives best when groups of people live, work, and act in support of one another. Yes, differences can arise, but for the most part, we achieve the best when we operate within a group. Leaders who focus on equipping others can build the better tribes.

Equipping the tribe

Equipping the tribe

To lead such a group requires not just personal accomplishment, but group advancement too. Becoming a better person is not limited to the leader’s responsibility alone. The leader must be able to equip others within the organization to grow and prosper. There are different kinds of growth to consider. The levels of equipping for this growth change depending upon the subject. Here are a few areas to find.

  • Growth in knowledge and understanding for a task
  • Increase in personal sense of achievement
  • Basic prosperity
  • Sense of well-being, belonging

Leaders have the daunting task of doing the equipping of those in their tribe so that members of the team make appropriate contributions to the group as a whole. The best question a business leader can ask is team is “how can I help you?” That matter opens the door for productive growth discussions. It builds trust and allows the group member to express needs for ways to make the team and the business better.

Starting with that simple question begins the process of equipping your team, your tribe, your community with ways to grow and thrive.

Growth in knowledge and understanding for a task

For any employee or associate to make the best contribution to the greater good, they must be equipped with the basic understanding of the work they have been assigned to do. Yes, we often hire skill sets that we believe can make the right choices. However, every business has its own set of process and procedures to follow so that the outcome is consistent. You must equip individual team members with the knowledge of those requirements.

This is why training is such a big deal at most companies. We train about the process, procedure, regulatory matters, safety, production, and so on. Growing your team’s understanding of these things allows them to operate in proper accord with your vision and mission. Otherwise, they might be doing things that are functionally correct, but inconsistent with your brand’s objectives.

If I’m supposed to fry a quarter pound hamburger patty, but I make them half a pound instead, the customer may be happy, but my burger hut won’t last long. Conversely, if the patty is just a few ounces, not a full quarter pound, the customer may be angry. Again, my little burger hut won’t last long. If I teach my team to make fantastic quarter-pound hamburgers with just the right ratio of meat to bun, then I can build a brand that attracts repeat business from happy customers.

Growth in personal sense of achievement

Much is written and studied these days about employee engagement. The most frequently rated topic is the notion of an individual sense of accomplishment. People want to come to work or to their tribe setting able to be rewarded with a sense of doing something meaningful. It makes good common sense. People think if what I do doesn’t mean anything, why should I do it. It’s wiring in the brain folks.

As leaders, we can encourage our team to do more by equipping them with this sense of achievement. This cannot be a false accolade, as people smell that a mile away. No, it has to be real, practical, and meaningful acknowledgment for things done well and done right. Nothing should be taken for granted.

The way you as a leader communicate the accomplishments of a team means a lot. You need to do it in group settings and individually with your team. I am an advocate for a management practice called Big 5. It sets a framework and a process by which employees (or any team members like volunteer organizations) can make routine, monthly reports of the things they think are accomplishments. The manager reviews the reports and sets a time to go over the details of the person, every month. It allows a routine for talking about individual achievement. Companies and organizations who have adopted Big 5 have seen employee engagement rise significantly.

Leaders offering a framework like Big 5 can prove they are equipping their people with ways to experience a personal sense of achievement.

Basic prosperity

The leader’s role in equipping their followers with an underlying sense of well-being is, in my mind, a tricky subject. I mean how much can I, as a leader, worry about making someone happy. The answer is I cannot. However, I can build an environment for my team wherein there is a sense of worth and a sense of growth that happens.

A leader must engage their followers in ways to recognize their individuality while still showing a way for them to have a meaningful place on the team (see above). To the extent that you and your company can impact financial prosperity, you must do so. It is the reward for the individual’s contribution to the work effort. Success though is not limited to financial matters.

The mental environment is critical too. Stress, pressure, and outside distractions must be controlled as much as possible by the leader. Equipping your team with a healthy environment for doing their work adds to a sense of prosperity.

Sense of well-being, belonging

Lastly, if we as leaders can equip our followers with a healthy sense of belonging, they will become faithful followers of our cause. This is not cult-like following, but stable, efficient building of the climate for helping your tribe want to belong. When your followers are happy they are there, you will achieve more and see better results. It will make people want to show up each day, ready to get to work, whatever that effort may be.

Again, this is not limited to the traditional workplace. These principles apply to the community, church, and even home life.

Question: In what others ways can you think of ideas for equipping your team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Harnessing the Power of Your Mind’s Attention and Your Heart’s Affection

It’s a noisy world out there with all the dopamine induced gratification we get from social media. That ping on our smart phone or that message in our inbox telling us something about someone else somewhere. Ah, the satisfaction. How do you sift through it all?

Learning Styles Debunked

For quite some time, I have been a student of management and leadership. The topic is not limited to just the business world. Rather it is all around us. I believe our world is in serious need of solid, meaningful leadership. I don’t mean the kind that wears red or blue, but the kind that truly inspires us to be more and do more.

Yet the “more” is not only about corporate growth. I mean ‘more’ in terms of life; seeing those around us thrive and prosper intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as well as financially. A real leader can help do that. It doesn’t matter whether the leadership role is formally appointed as in head of some community group, or informally ordained for a bunch of well-meaning volunteers as we witnessed during the Harvey flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Leadership can raise the bar of success regardless of the domain it influences.

We need leaders in all sectors of life. Yet what distinguishes some leaders from others? From my observations both being a leader and working for great leaders, I find one common bond. The best leader has found a way to harness the power of marrying the mind’s attention with the heart’s affection. What does that mean?

The Mind’s Attention

Much has been written about the power of positive thinking. For decades we have heard about “you are what you think”. No doubt a positive mental state adds much to one’s ability to focus and thrive. Likewise a bad frame of mind can draw you down into deep depression and even suicide.

Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate for working on positive thinking, eliminating limiting thoughts, and building your mind muscle for more positive thinking. A wise old farmer called it “getting rid of stinkin’ thinkin.” The Bible calls it renewing your mind. I’m all in favor of that.

As much as having a great attitude about your outlook and daily regiment is powerful, it can only go so far. Someone once said, if thinking the right thoughts is all there is to final outcome, we’d all be brains on a stick.

No, the best outcome takes more.

The Heart’s Affection

Our heart must be engaged. Our passion must be summoned to give fuel to the fire. It is the fire. When a person becomes passionate about their cause, there is little anyone can do to deter them.

Passion gives us energy to climb mountains, cross great divides, and leap tall buildings (ok yes that sounds like Superman). This heart’s affection for a purpose gives almost unstoppable energy to any situation.

Workers who have not had their passion for the job tapped into, will only perform at  a modest level. This is why making employment selection is so critical for employers and employees alike. Make the wrong fit, and you passion will never rise up. Yet by finding that work where you can become passionate, you can inspire others.

Harness the Power

Binding both parts together can achieve great things. Great minds don’t go very far without a heart filled passion. Conversely passion can be wasted without a clever mind to design a solution.

The best leaders know how to do both. They are driven by a sense of purpose which fuels the passion. Their heart’s affection is a dominating force. In conjunction, they have their mind’s attention fully engaged, finding solutions for problems and devising great alternatives to the hurdles that come up.

Leaders leverage this power, catching lightening in a bottle so to speak. You can hear and almost feel the power of the passion in their voice. You sense the wisdom in their mind’s vision for things to come. You can more easily buy-in to their ideas and direction.

Leaders build this inspiration in their team.

Here’s the Test

If you are in a management or leadership role, do you have both parts engaged and fully deployed? Is your mind flowing with ideas for ways to go to the next level, solving the problems of the day and offering great ideas? Is your heart in it? Do you feel passionate about your cause, your purpose where you are?

One without the other is a broken, unbalanced equation. You might find temporary success, but it will not last. Usually it will not be enough to get to the next level.

Make an evaluation of this amazing blend of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. If you have been operating too heavily with one and not the other, look around. You might be missing some achievement. You are likely not to be your best.

Take a moment and project what it would be like to harness this power, with both spheres in better balance, overlapping at the center for amazing results.

Question: Let us know when and how you found this balance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

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.

Dealing With Pressure

It's Not If But When

Leaders must know how to handle pressure. Pressure is one of those “not if, but when” factors in life. You will face pressure. The key question is how do you deal with pressure? Is your leadership style changed when pressure comes?

When you face the outward forces crashing in on you, the heat rising, or the magnitude of consequences growing, you sense the pressure. Will the force of pressure draw you closer to your core or drive you away from it? What do I mean by “core”?

The Foundation

Your core is your foundation for leadership. You must routinely seek to build your foundation. Values, principles, and disciplines make up your foundation or core. Without a strong foundation, no structure can endure. So it is with your ability to lead.

Your foundation gives you the under-girding that is necessary to be an effective leader. You cannot give what you don’t have. So your foundation is also the source of strength to guide and direct your leadership efforts.

When pressure comes around, does it send you back to your core or drive you away from it? The best response is to revert to your core or foundation based principles, practices and beliefs. Be true to yourself.

Ask yourself whether the forces of pressure are testing your core. Respond with core-centered action. Do not take the alternative approach and run to some other system of belief or set of principles. Get back to your basics. Likely you were placed in leadership for a reason. The reputation and character that got you into your position is a function of the foundation you used.

When pressure rises, get back in touch with that foundation. Use the solid experience you know about to guide you through the current challenge.

It Truly Is Inward

If you analyze the situation or circumstance that you view as pressure, you will find that factors or elements that make up the sense of pressure are usually identifiable. The big difference is how you inwardly react to those factors.

Your reaction might be radically different form another leader’s reaction, yet the circumstances are exactly the same. What makes the difference?

The answer is your inward process. The way you choose to react or respond to the pressure is the key. Here are some important questions to consider.

Do you react the same way to pressure or does it matter what the details include?

Do you respond or react?

Think about when the doctor gives you medicine. If you respond to it, you are healing. If you react to it, you have more problems.

The way you handle pressure is much the same. By simply reacting, you may be increasing the consequences of your pressure. An inappropriate reaction may draw others into the battle or the circumstances may get worse before they get better. You may create your own compounding effect.

Instead, think in terms of responding to the pressure. Use your experience, your values, your leadership principles. Craft an emotionally intelligent response, not a reaction.

Unmask the Lone Ranger

There was once a story character called The Lone Ranger. It was set in the wild west. As the name suggests, he did most everything by himself. Yet not really. He had a trusted Indian sidekick named Tonto. The whole story is no longer PC, but that’s not my point right now. Pressure may make you feel like trying to find answers by yourself. That should be the last thing you need to do.

Instead you need to rally your support network. Gather the trusted advisers you have recruited. Oh wait, you don’t have any of those? Well, when you’re between high pressure situations, you should work on finding a few individuals who can serve as this personal Mastermind group for you. Let them come along side to provide encouragement and guidance.

Then, when you face pressure, make your assessment of the situation and turn to your network of advisers to assist with ideas for weathering the storm.

Question: When was the last time you faced pressure? How did you respond? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Procedures? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Procedures

Wait, maybe we do.....

Managers and leaders at all levels rely on process and procedure to execute scalable and sustainable delivery of the work they do. Yet from time to time, you will hear talk of being totally free-form in the operation of a business. Results speak for themselves. When you dive deep into the leadership success story of business, you will find prescribed process that is reliant upon standard procedure to make it hum.

Process and ProcedureOnce, as I was assuming responsibility for an operating unit at the bank were I worked, I was talking to one of the clerks. I asked her to describe the work she did on a daily basis. Her description was, “I take this form out of this drawer, make these entries in the computer, and place the form in the other drawer.” The drawers were right side/left side of her desk. I paused, thought, then asked “Well, who puts the form in the right side drawer and who takes the completed form out of the left side drawer?” She said she didn’t’ know because it happened on another shift. I asked how long she had been with the company. “Three years in this same job.” Wow, I was stunned.

I decided to research the rest of the story. I talked to the people on the other shift and got their version. I then went back to the first lady and explained the whole process. Turns out, her part was an important piece of the overall procedure that allowed my unit to operate at peak performance, yet she had no idea. When I shared with her the significance of what she did, she got very inspired. We arranged a meeting between personnel on both shifts to share their views of the work. The harmony this generated was appreciated by all.

While this seems like an overly simple experience, it happens thousands of times daily with hundreds of operations everywhere. Procedure is something that must be understood by all employees. As the leader of a unit, the responsibility for establishing this understanding is on you. Yes, you may delegate the training and monitoring of the work, but when the final tally is made, it will be on you to be sure procedure has been followed.

Depending on the circumstance and the nature of your work, procedure takes on significance ranging from the mundane to the life saving. Go out on a military firing range and ask whether procedure needs to be followed or not. “Keep your weapons pointed up and down range” is a procedural command that saves lives. With live rounds chambered in a weapon, the participants in target practice cannot be pointing the weapon at other people. Your job may not be as dramatic, but the importance of following procedure is just as important.

At the Beginning

There was an interview where a company representative said “At my company, we see as many as 92% of our job applicants failing to follow the prescribed job posting procedures. We count that as immediate elimination.”

No kidding! Wow, 92% of the job seekers applying to this company’s posted jobs cannot follow enough instructions to pass through the grid and become potential interviewees. What are these people thinking? Ok, maybe the company has some special requirements they have laid out, but so what? I am sure the nature of their business has some unique requirements too (as do most companies). If someone cannot or will not follow the steps, then what kind of worker might they be?

Since the job search process is as much about elimination as it is selection. Candidates cannot give the employer a reason to eliminate them by failing to follow a step in the process. If your company has rigid procedures that must be followed, job candidates must follow procedure in order to be deemed a fit for that environment.

Leadership for the Procedures

Once a process has been defined, procedure must follow. When Henry Ford decided how the assembly line would operate, procedure had to follow to let every worker know the steps they need to perform. Skip a step and a wheel might fall off.

Leaders must introduce, teach, train, monitor and adjust procedure so that maximum execution can be achieved. Management can check the boxes toward completion and delivery, but leadership brings the people into the fold. With effective leadership, you can obtain total buy-in by the work team. Since process, driven by procedure is unavoidable for best execution, the people cannot violate the procedure. Otherwise chaos happens.

Leaders must be able to inspire the team to follow the procedures that have been written. If there is any confusion about the expectation it must be resolved. If there is any inconsistency in following procedures, it must be dealt with. Coaching by the leader to address individual exceptions to the rule is required.

Question: When was the last time you had to enforce a procedure to make your team perform better? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Learn more about executive and business coaching offered by Doug Thorpe

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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.