Disorienting Situations – The Leader’s Response

As someone who works with business leaders in many different sectors, I’ve paused to reflect on exactly how I feel about the current state of affairs around us. Now, I feel it is important to share the outcome of this reflective pause.

A colleague shared the word “disorienting”. Recent events are very disorienting to everyone. Between COVID lock-downs, economic conditions, and now, civil unrest and rage over the death of George Floyd.

On one hand, the past several weeks have shown us that we have an intense undercurrent in the fabric of our country. That is an understatement. Leaders in many sectors have tried to speak up, taking a stand on the matter, only to be told that somehow, someway they were still wrong.

As strongly as some feel about “Black Lives Matter” anyone who whispers ‘all lives matter’ gets ridiculed for “being insensitive and not getting it.”

I hear business leaders saying we need to have more conversations. Haven’t the conversations been going on for decades? My Black colleagues agree, yes that’s the point. The conversations haven’t fixed anything.

The easy answer is to say our leaders have failed us. The U.S. political system has grown more and more galvanized over the past 20 years. We select candidates and elect ‘leaders’ who have the best story to tell us. I stopped being a ‘political party’ member a long time ago. I decided to do my research and place my votes for the person who, to me demonstrated the best, real leadership possibilities. Sadly, I am routinely disappointed. I don’t have a good answer for that.

I am deeply saddened by the senseless death of George Floyd. It was just plain wrong. Our system says even suspected criminals have rights. His rights were ignored and were fatally taken away. That is wrong. Just simply wrong.

However, did a flawed system kill him? I think not. A rouge, overzealous cop did it. One man perpetrating hatred and rage against another.

Sadly this same rage happens night after night in all of our cities. I don’t mean just cop versus citizen, black versus white. I mean one bad person raging against another unsuspecting human. An individual who wants something someone else has. This happens without regard to race and gender.

Leadership Duties

With everything being disoriented around us, what can a leader do?

Clearly the leader must first look inwardly. Do YOU harbor any hatred, bias, or ‘less than’ thinking about the people around you? You may think you have good reason to think as you do, but you must correct that thinking if you ever want to come anywhere close to inclusivity in the workplace.

One way or another, your own biases will be revealed. As a leader that cannot happen.

Unfortunately, the process by which we choose to deal with each other is full of natural bias. It is by no means limited to the color of one’s skin. Every time someone does something that runs either in favor of or opposite of the other person, a checkmark gets put on the list we all have in our brain.

The next time there is an encounter, that checklist gets reviewed and we sit waiting for the other person to ‘prove themselves’ as the friend or foe we expect them to be. That is no way to run effective conversations, clouded with bias.

By the way, as you read this you’re already judging me for what I am saying, right or wrong. It just proves my point.

Sensitivity

Strong leadership requires a keen ability to apply sensitivity. What do I mean by that? For me, it means being aware of the plight and condition of those around you.

I’ve spoken before about the ways every person who shows up for work has a personal process going on similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They move up and down that hierarchy on a daily basis. If they feel threatened at home or in the community where they live, they come to work feeling tired of the situation. They may even be afraid of you as the leader because you represent ‘power’ they may not want to see.

Where’s the Goal Post?

I am not yet convinced anyone has defined where the goal post may be. In terms of the COVID-19, many say we need the vaccine and then things will be safe again. But efforts are already underway to get back to business so that the economic conditions can stabilize. While basic business function can return, may of the activities we all counted as normal will likely not return for quite some time.

As an example, before COVID-19 did you go to a regular, recurring networking meeting? While all of those have tried going virtual, it just doesn’t have the same result. Yet we may not return to the full, in-person gathering like that for a long time.

The more important question is where is the goal post for answering the cries of Black Lives Matter? I don’t say that lightly. I am sympathetic. I can honestly say to my Black friends, I don’t yet know what I can do.

Unfunding police and funding a reparation program doesn’t make any sense because that is a one-time bandaid. When that money runs out, and it will, what do we do? We will have new generations of Black children growing up to what?

I am very willing to work on the exact ‘what’ question that can move us to better harmony.

Even when we get closer to equality, there will still be human nature to recognize we are all different. In my world, I love that diversity. That is what keeps things interesting and exciting.

PS – A good friend, West Point Grad, and fellow Veteran sent me this link, commemorating D-Day, which by the way was June 6. Nobody said much about that. If you still believe in America, this is worth the watch.

6 Great Questions to Lead Your Team

Being a leader requires the ability to build rapport with your team. Those following you must have good reason to do so.

Every time you have a one-on-one talk with your employees, you have a big opportunity to add to and build that individual rapport.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, too many teams are separated, working remotely, and having trouble connecting. Or do they?

The very best leaders I know have been using the following six questions (and then some) to stay connected, stay in communication, and thrive during this period.

Use this in some form or another every time you get that golden opportunity to talk to each individual on your team.

The 6 questions are:

Where are WE going?

Ask this intentionally so that the employee or follower is able to express in their own words their understanding of the current state. Let them tell you what they understand to be the mission and direction.

If the answer catches you off guard, then maybe you have a big disconnect that needs to be handled immediately.

The “we” here is about the team. Be sure to gauge whether the individual’s understanding is in step with the team direction you hope for.

Where are YOU going?

This is a logical follow-up to #1. If the person expresses a correct team direction but shares a personal variance in what they think is happening, then you have another opportunity to connect and correct.

The where are you going question also measures engagement. When an individual has begun to disengage with the team, they must be offered the opportunity to reconnect.

What do you think you are doing well?

This is a great opportunity to let the individual team member express their pride for what might be working for them. Let them share their focus.

Again though, if there is a bit of misalignment, this is the perfect opportunity to realign, recalibrate the role and the duties to set the path for better performance.

By allowing the person to share, you open the communication letting them state in their own words the accomplishments they view as significant.

What are some suggestions for improvement?

Open the door for individual dialogue about ways to improve things. The people who are on the frontlines see things differently than you. Be open to listening to these observations. You just might get the next great idea.

How can I help?

This may be the most powerful of all questions a manager/leader can ask a follower. Letting them know you are there to help is the biggest proof of your commitment to seeing them succeed.

This is an especially important question during remote working conditions. 

Don’t ask it if you don’t mean it, but use it sincerely and you will see team commitment rise significantly.

If something is suggested, you must follow through to get it resolved or delivered. Don’t let this golden opportunity fall flat on its face from your inability to deliver.

If the ask is too big, then say so. Explain what the limitations are, but be real. Let the person know they were heard and that you understand.

What suggestions do you have for me to be a better manager?

This is last but by no means the least of these 6 questions. Again, your hope should be to receive sincere feedback. Your response should be an open acceptance of what you get told.

If all you do is ask the question but recoil, then you’ve missed the opportunity.

However, if you take the suggestion and do something with the feedback, you build great rapport and trust.

Speaking of Trust

Trust is at the root of the best performing teams. Building an atmosphere of high trust keeps the whole team engaged with you as the boss. Having the rapport through regular, recurring one-on-ones with your team, using these six questions, will keep the trust growing.

In a recent study conducted at Google, they spent two years researching what made some of their teams perform better than others.

The overwhelming answer was “psychological safety” or TRUST. When teams created a safety net of trust, team members performed at much higher levels.

I’ve developed the following model to help explain the six elements for building and maintaining trust within your team. This model has been used by industry giants in several different settings. 

Team Trust

When trust is present, people can accept bad news. They won’t necessarily like it but they can better accept it when they know you have their backs. They get to that end by seeing you make the effort to build the rapport at each chance you get. As rapport improves, so will the trust they have.

Call to Action

If you are a manager or executive who needs a little help with any of these ideas, perhaps a coach can help. To learn more about the coaching I do, schedule a call to speak with someone about the programs and ways we can help.

Here’s a Great Mash-Up of Ideas for Better Leadership

leadership mash-up

In recent posts, I’ve explored two great themes that have received a lot of attention on social media. Leaders and managers can benefit from both ideas. Today, we’re going to do a mash-up of the two.

The first topic is Inspect What You Expect. It’s about an old piece of sage advice that often gets spoken but can be misunderstood. When you set goals or objectives for your team, you have to follow-up and check up on them.

The other topic is increasing accountability; your personal accountability as well as making those around you be accountable.

If we do the mash-up on these two principles of leadership, you’ll get a much better understanding of a powerful way to get the most from your team.

First, let’s review Expectation Inspection.

Inspect what you expect maybe a bit obvious, yet it is frequently ignored or forgotten by busy managers.

Once you explain your vision for your team and begin plotting the course for what success should look like, you will be tasking members of your team with their own duties and responsibilities.

If you then hide in your office and simply wait for results, you’re going to be disappointed.

You have to mingle within your team, making yourself available to answer clarifying questions, lead people through problem-solving, and guide the effort.

Periodically, you have to simply ask about progress. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Let people tell you whether they have roadblocks or not. Give them the chance to show you the progress they are making.

A few decades ago a popular management theory grew up called “management by walking around”. I still run into managers who were taught that as their primary leadership style.

It sounds great, but it’s too easily misapplied. Just walking the office floor or shop area isn’t enough. It’s what you do out there that makes a difference.

You have to engage with the team. Interact with everyone at all levels. Let them ask you questions.

Accountability

Good teams set goals and standards. Great teams are accountable for results. It all starts with the leader.

Becoming a better leader with accountability

Leaders need to clearly communicate the vision, plan, and expectations. There has to be an understanding of what a win should look like.

If your team is not clear on these basic terms, the leader must do more to provide clarity.

However, once the clarity is understood, everyone on the team, including the leader, must be held accountable for driving toward success.

To understand more about the reasons accountability is so important, refer to this article.

Hand In Hand

Applying both principles creates a big win. By setting the vision and creating standards you now have the measure of success.

But to get there, you have to inspect the very thing you expect. If adjustments are needed, that is the accountability piece.

leadership accountability

Holding others accountable, then re-inspecting what you expect assures greater success.

It’s really a cycle that needs to be administered daily if you really want to score high returns.

How to Avoid Having a Frozen Middle in Your Company

frozen middle image

Do you remember the last time you took something out of the freezer and stuck it in the microwave? You were hoping for a tasty treat. But when the buzzer went off, you grabbed your food and stuck your fork in only to find a frozen middle.

The edges were hot and bubbly, but the center was just as cold as when you got it out of the fridge.

In today’s ever-increasing complexity of business, companies of all sizes are developing frozen middles.

What exactly does that mean?

Senior executives spend their days plotting vision and trying to get the workforce to execute on that vision. Yet the larger the corporation, the greater is the chance to suffer from the frozen middle.

Here’s how it happens.

Senior leaders set a course to deliver a new product or service. Junior executives distill the demands from the top and begin trying to communicate the details of a complex plan.

If the company has reverted to more of a matrix style reporting structure, i.e. people have dual reporting responsibilities, subordinate workers begin to suffer from command and control fatigue.

Signals get crossed and focus is lost. Rather than do something wrong, the folks in the middle freeze. They stop ‘doing’ for fear of doing it wrong. They will work, but the level of productivity lags simply because there is an unintended fear of doing something out of line or off the mark.

Creativity, collaboration, and even inclusion suffer.

Gifted and talented workers simply freeze in place.

What can Leaders do to thaw or avoid the frozen middle?

First, pay attention to your communication. The bigger the company, the greater is the flow of information. New policies, new procedures, new systems, etc. All of these serve to complicate the message(s) circulating through your offices and workshops.

You must strive for crystal clear clarity at every turn. Are your messages coherent and complementary to one another, or have you sent mixed signals?

Are your instructions consistent with the vision, mission, and goals you have launched?

Next, are your subordinate managers able to state the mission, values, and goals? Watch for simple parroting of the message; that is, repeating it back to you like a robot. Instead, they should each be able to state the purpose and vision for their teams in their own words. Yes, it should align with the greater good, but it has to come from their center of understanding, not some plaque on the wall.

Manager Challenges

Encourage your direct reports to work on this clarification of the message with their individual teams. Coach them through the process to create the message for their teams.

In addition, build trust in your circle of influence so that trust can be shared beyond just your inner circle. Model a trusting behavior for others to see so they can begin trusting you.

Speak empathetically. Embrace change.

Be patient. As change comes, not everyone aligns at exactly the same pace. Many will lag your understanding and enthusiasm. As a leader, you get an early preview of the changes that are needed.

Team success

Just because you “got it” and became excited about the change, not everyone else will immediately get it too. It is likely you needed your own time to process a pending change. Remember that. Allow your team their time to process change.

Finding Tools and Solutions

There is simply no better way to avoid the frozen middle than finding ways to keep your teams on the same page.

I’ve been coaching and advocating the Big 5 method of performance management for decades. In every situation where Big 5 has been adopted, work teams experience higher productivity, reduced stress, and greater team morale.

Tools and solutions like Big 5 go a long way to help. Big 5 is a way to get every employee to align with stated priorities for the next week or month. Then a simple, and short, review with the team lead/manager/supervisor can provide coaching and a checkpoint for keeping things aligned.

Adversity and Leadership-Are Leaders Born or Made?

business leaders

‘Are leaders born or made?’ is a question often asked whenever there is any debate regarding leadership.

Seeing the examples around us, of people coming from humble backgrounds and see them raising to success makes us believe that leadership is a skill that can be learned. Anyone can be a leader if nurtured in an environment that instills in him/her the confidence, consistency, power to make decisions, and the adaptability that is required of a leader.

Leadership is not a trait or something that is in your genes, it is a skill that anyone can master upon by focusing on polishing one’s persona. In the world of marketing, good leadership is a force that attracts customers and branding agency, thus, resulting in the success of the business venture.

Whether it is business, sports, politics, or any other domain of life, a set of a few skills, experience, and self-development are required to become a successful leader. No matter how intelligent or charismatic your personality may be, it is of no use until you are skilled at dealing with the issues within the particular domain you are working.

Here are some tips that support the idea that ‘leaders are made’ and will help you polish the leadership skills that are vital to your success:

Bringing Vision to Reality:

To be a true leader it is important to have a clear vision and goal. You cannot start working in a vacuum unless you are aware of what you want to achieve. Having a definite goal is not just helpful for the leader but also for the entire team.

It gives you a clear direction on how to reach your goal.

To lead a team, it is essential for you to fully understand and execute your plan. For this matter, firstly make list a list of things required to achieve your goal. Make sure to design an easily achievable plan.

The next step is to convey it to your team with clarity and be open to suggestions. To be a good leader it is necessary to keep your team on board because you cannot do everything all by yourself.

Adaptability and Responsibility:

Adaptability is key to deal with the unplanned hurdles with patience. For a good leader, adapting to the changes is vital to be successful. Adaptability allows you to make informed decisions timely.

Besides, your ability to change as per circumstances is what makes you a reliable leader, thus winning you the confidence of your team members. Change is the only constant in life, and it makes you decisive. The key to adapt to change is, always be prepared for it!

Likewise, a leader should be able to take responsibility for the success or failure of the entire team because being a leader is to ensure that you are willing to accept whatever the consequences of your efforts are. 

Being an Influencer:

Your success as a leader is not just dependent on your intelligence, your persona is what makes people follow your leader. You can work on polishing your speaking skills to create an inspiring aura and make people understand and be attracted to your leadership.

Besides, being compassionate and willing to listen to what to hear have to say makes you your personality alluring. Practice well to refine your thoughts and to convey them effectively. It is easy to build a team, but it is a real struggle to keep everyone on board like a family who is willing to put in their best efforts to head to success as a whole.

Moreover, be selective with your outfit choices as we all know everyone is easily inspired by appearances. Do not go for heavily embellished or highly expensive outfits. Rather wear solid colored and slim fit dresses as they make you look more confident and organized. 

If a person is nurtured in an environment that allows people to explore their selves, be free in their thoughts and enlighten them with the skills mentioned above, we can surely make a successful leader.

Just as a poor do not remain poor until he works hard, a common person can transform into a great leader if he/she works on their self-development with consistency and motivation.

Having a motivation to be successful and leave your mark in this world is what leads you to the summit that you dreamt of, as we all believe in the cliché ‘hard work is the key to success’. 

This article was submitted by William Roy.

Leaders: If you Confuse, You Lose

There’s an old saying in the sales world. “The confused mind says NO.” Clearly that has big implications when trying to sell a product or service.

A prospect who gets confused by your sales pitch will revert to a NO answer all the time. On the other hand, a clear, concise explanation of the thing you are trying to sell will help close the deal.

The same is true of leadership responsibility. A confused mind says NO. If you confuse the people around you, the overall performance will be greatly reduced or even eliminated.

An employee’s willingness to perform is centered on their ability to clearly understand expectations and directions.

Clarity may be your best secret weapon to achieve better team performance.

It’s a Complicated World

There’s no denying the increased complexity in business these days. Whether you blame the exponential growth of technology or just the deeper understanding of things around us, it’s much harder to operate a business today than it once was.

Confused minds say NO

However, operating a highly specialized or technical business should not distract you from trying to make things simple for your team to comprehend.

Military people learned the KISS principle; Keep It Simple Stupid. When giving orders, it is the leader’s duty to make the instructions as simple to comprehend as possible. In combat, confused minds get people killed.

In business, the smartest guy in the room shouldn’t be rubbing that in, especially if they are the boss. Rather, if you think you truly are the smartest guy at the table, then you should be able to figure out ways to make directions and instructions easier to understand.

What To Do

Sometimes in figuring out what to do to make things more clear for your team, it is valuable to talk about what NOT to do. Here are a few big ideas to follow.

First, don’t be vague about directives. Masking your meaning immediately leads to confusion. The odds of your people going off in the wrong direction are far greater when you are unclear about your own expectations.

Think of 360 degrees on a compass (in a circle). The direction you need people to take is likely on one of a few degrees on that compass. If you are vague, your team has a minimum of 350+ other directions to go.

If you’re not exactly sure about the direction you want to take, invest the time and energy in getting your own clarity first.

Next, watch your communication style. In times of high stress and urgent deadlines, lookout for accelerating your own reactions to things going on around you. Create more measured responses.

Don’t react, respond instead. There is a big difference.

Lastly, remember the acronym FAST to increase your leadership effectiveness.

International leadership guru Gordon Tredgold coined the term FAST for his book by the same name and his teaching on effective leadership.

FAST is an acronym that encompasses all the best attributes for finding success. Whether your dreams are personal or professional, FAST can help.

FOCUS. You must be able to focus your vision and view of the goal you are trying to achieve. Too many business leaders are fuzzy on the exact expectation they have.

If you’re not clear on where you’re going most any road will get you there.

ACCOUNTABILITY. You must be accountable to the team, the cause and the process to get you to your goal.

Look at the organizational setup. Does everyone know what they are supposed to be doing, do they know what is expected of them, and do they have the right skills, tools, and training to be successful.

SIMPLICITY. You must find the simplest ways to make things happen.

It has been said complexity is the enemy of execution. Trying to reach the desired destination with too many complex and conflicting pieces of information or procedure can only interrupt the desired results.

TRANSPARENCY. Transparency allows the leader to be genuine and clear for the benefit of everyone around them.

Look at the progress tracking. How easy is it to check that progress is being made and was outcome-based rather than just recording effort spent? Is the information accurate and fact-based, or just based on gut feel? How often is it shared with the teams? Do they know how they are doing, or are they just running blind?

Eliminate Confusion

Eliminating confusion can bring greater results. Remember, the confused mind says “NO” every time.

Question: When was the last time you experienced being confused by what the boss said? Were YOU the boss creating confusion?

Finding Focus Creates Clarity

focus image of camera lens

Discovering your Core Focus is an essential element of creating your company Vision. In my last article about becoming a FAST leader, the first part of the FAST acronym is FOCUS.

Core Focus has been called many things in the history of business strategy. Many people call it a Vision Statement. Stephen Covey calls it VoiceJim Collins calls it Hedgehog concept

My least favorite is the Mission Statement. These are usually eighteen sentence paragraphs that proclaim to the world all the things you think your customers want you to be – “We’re the best company with the best people and the best products and the best service and the best value and the best quality and the best delivery and the best . . . “ 

Usually, it is 90% aspirational and does nothing to define what the company stands for. Customers gloss past it, and employees shake their heads when they read it. Patrick Lencioni calls this “Blather” and said this about Mission Statements in his book, The Advantage

“Though I can’t be sure, I suspect that at some point about thirty years ago a cleverly sadistic and antibusiness consultant decided that the best way to really screw up companies was to convince them that what they needed was a convoluted, jargony, and all-encompassing declaration of intent. The more times those declarations used phrases like ‘world class,’ ‘shareholder value,’ and ‘adding value,’ the better. And if companies would actually print those declarations and hang them in their lobbies and break rooms for public viewing, well, that would be a real coup.”

Finding Purpose

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Lencioni on his take on Mission Statement. However, it is essential for a company to discover the reason they exist. Their purpose, cause or passion. The sweet spot for the organization. 

There is a reason every business owner took that leap of faith and accepted the risk to start their company. The reason they put in those 12-hour days and will do anything to make their company successful.   Moreover, it is rarely, if ever only about money.  Most Core Focus falls into one of four areas:

·       Solving problems

·       Helping others

·       Building a great company

·       Competition and winning

Shining Example – Simple

Starbucks states their purpose and vision in one simple sentence:

Every day, we go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better. 

The purpose and passion are clear, simple, and direct. No one should be confused about what Starbucks stands for. Customers, employees, shareholders, and everyone else can read this and “get it.”

Once you clearly define this core focus, it becomes a compass, a guiding principle that you can use for all your strategic decisions. If your next choice does not support or enhance such a focus, you should seriously question the direction it may take you.

Note: Portions of this article were contributed by Jeff Bain of TeamTraction LLC, an EOS Implementer

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP – 5 STEPS TO HELP YOU DELEGATE AND ELEVATE

delegating-at-work

Is your time getting away from you? What would it look like if you only worked the hours you want to, but got everything done? Can you effectively delegate?

delegating-at-work

One of the surest ways to break through the ceiling and get to where you want to go is to delegate and elevate yourself to your God-given unique abilities.

If you’re like most business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, you’re probably feeling a little stuck, with way too much on your plate. There are just not enough hours in the day. You may be feeling like you could and should be accomplishing a heck of a lot more than you are. If so, these five steps will take you to the next level:

Step 1: Define your 100% – Your 100% is your maximum number of hours per week you want to work and still remain balanced. For me, it’s around 60 hours a week, but this is different for everyone. You can’t move to the next step without answering this question. All progress begins here. The answer to this question represents your 100%.

Step 2: Determine if you’re over capacity – How much time will it take to do everything you need to do well? While this calculation is not entirely easy, it is vital. If your answer exceeds your 100%, it’s time to delegate and elevate. Therefore, move to step 3.

Step 3: List everything you do every day – It may seem daunting, but it’s worth 30 minutes and will save you hundreds of hours every year going forward. Literally list each and every activity, big and small, and then move on to step 4.

Step 4: Create your two columns – Take everything from the previous list in step 3 and put them in one of two columns. Column one is where you list everything you love and/or like to do and are great and/or good at. Column two is where you list everything remaining from the step 3 list. Once everything from step 3 is in one of the two columns, move to step 5.

Step 5: Delegate and elevate – Either stop doing or delegate the excess capacity items in the second column to the people around you until you’re comfortably within your 100%. You should also consider outsourcing the tasks that don’t fit on your perfect list. Get a virtual assistant, or find solutions where new partners can handle the workload on a contract basis. Don’t work below your pay grade.

Find the Sweet Spot

As a leader in your organization, you must operate in your sweet spot. By spending most of your time on “column 1” activities, you will. You owe it to yourself and your company. This makes you more valuable, gives you more energy, and makes you happier, which then leads to you being a much better leader for your people.

This piece was contributed by a good friend and colleague, Jeff Bain of Team Traction. Jeff is an EOS Implementer. If you want to know more about the EOS principles for growing and managing your business, contact Jeff at his website.

Leadership : #MeToo vs Improving Personal Accountability

Personal accountability is a wide and somewhat confusing concept. When it comes to leadership, the best leaders not only embrace personal accountability, but they demand it.

Sadly, the headlines today contain stories about cover-ups and sexual improprieties (that’s me being very nice about it). Celebrities, athletes, politicians, key executives, and others are being “found out”. Those who are reported allegedly engaged in bad acts that included theft, fraud, sexual abuses, and collusion, just to name a few.

The #MeToo movement is not limited to the entertainment world. It reaches the boardrooms and back rooms of many of our best respected corporate brands. [Writer’s note: in case you are wondering, the #MeToo movement hit Twitter after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. People who had been sexually assaulted were encouraged to tweet simply #MeToo.].

It seems that the old saying is still true:

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

People in power take license with the authority that comes with their position. When the power is abused as in lording it over those with whom you work, whether for sexual favor or financial twisting, it is still wrong. So what is the remedy, the fix?

Personal Accountability

Large corporations and many smaller businesses have built-in accountabilities for things like accounting, finance, compliance, and other regulatory mandates. Yet the integrity of the leadership is left somewhat unchecked. Yes, there are Boards who write morality clauses into employment contracts. People are fired for violation of those clauses. Great for the Board who demanded that control. Unfortunately, the presence of these controls is seen in only a few cases.

When there is a contractual clause, there is accountability of a statutory nature. The person subject to such control may or may not be very influenced by its presence. If the leader’s tendency is to conduct bad acts, they will figure out ways to do it in secret. The secret only lasts so long.

Accountability must begin in the heart. A moral compass must be engaged that prevents any such bad act. The best leader has long ago figured out what, when and how to establish their own personal system of accountability.

Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of knowing a group of business leaders who started very young making pledges to one another for accountability. They met regularly and shared the temptations they faced. If one member was slipping, the group lifted them up (figuratively). They routinely reaffirmed the pledge for proper conduct. The discipline grew. As they rose in prominence in their respective professions, the habits for accountability became the foundation of integrity. To this day these leaders enjoy reputations for good character and high standards of integrity.

Accountable

I argue this came from a discipline adopted at that early stage of their career. They made decisions long ago about the right ways to act.

Fighting the Beast

The coin here definitely has two sides; at least if you try to be objective. As I began preparing this article, I spoke with several close confidants. Even within this small sampling, the extremes on the scale revealed thoughts I had never considered.

One executive, a male, expressed total frustration with the dynamic. While he couldn’t deny the presence of a small percentage of male managers with horrible reputations for sexual harassment, he was equally appalled by the presence of females who cry foul without a real threat.

My friend contends, at a minimum, the line gets blurry. What action at work, physical or verbal, can be construed to be harmful? What about the office dating that has led to marriages that work. Yes, many do not, but plenty do. In the story above, my friend, a life-long HR professional said that he’s even heard complaints about “Susie, you look nice today.” Where is the line?

Managers have been sunk by false allegations of impropriety, careers ruined, yet there was no recourse. The consensus was, trust the female’s complaint. My friend’s summary statement was “there are some crazy people out there.”

On the other extreme, a female entrepreneur I know just happened to be writing her own story about the #MeToo movement. In her version she states yes, she’s been the ‘victim’ of actions that could be taken as sexually explicit, but she admits never being forced into being violated. While she’s had her own experience with men making statements and doing things like reaching and groping, she calls it a blessing to have never had to experience what many other women are now revealing.

While acknowledging this smaller segment of bad actors, she chooses to stake a claim on the men who have been mentors, champions, coaches, and supporters of her career. She says the ‘good guy’ population is much larger (thankfully). She even goes so far as to say we should add a #WeToo alternative to the #MeToo campaign. i.e. for every woman who has felt threatened, there are probably two or more who have been encouraged and helped by male influence.

[callout]If you need help building your own system for personal accountability, consider joining a Mastermind group like those we host at HeadwayExec.[/callout]

In the end

It all comes back to moral character or decay. Which direction are you heading? If you are a leader (male or female) have you established your own moral high ground from which you choose to operate? In small entrepreneurial shops, you may get away with being a hugging kind of person, but larger corporate settings may not allow such behavior. Regardless, the boundaries have to be set.

Boundary setting is not just for your employees to protect themselves from you, but boundaries you choose never to cross. As an example, I know one male leader who will not permit private, one-on-one meetings with female staffers. It doesn’t matter how long the employee has been there, if a woman wants to meet with him, there will be another party in the room. That may be extreme, but I can tell you it has earned him a high degree of respect. People don’t even try to share an off-color story with him. He wants a straight narrow line shining brightly in his organization. His people respect that and want to work there.

Do they have fun? Yes, they do. It’s the kind of fun everyone can enjoy. The business thrives.

[reminder]What have you done to establish accountability and raise your own standards for office behavior?[/reminder]

 

 

 

F-5 Framework for Leadership

Purple Unicorn courtesy BigThumbnail

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:

[shareable cite=”John Maxwell”]They see more than the people around them and they see things before the people around them.[/shareable]

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. [easyazon_link keywords=”Stephen Covey” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]Stephen Covey[/easyazon_link] 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.

[reminder]Let me know the ways you have tried growing your own leadership effectiveness.[/reminder]