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Elevate Your Leadership

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Are You Ready to Take a Chance?

As businesses across the globe begin to ponder their choices for reopening in a post-COVID-19 world, people will be faced with choices. While governmental restrictions dictate some of those choices, it appears all other choices will be left up to the owner/manager. Are you ready to take a chance?

The choices will involve taking chances. How are you set for taking a chance? Here are just a few of the situations I am seeing among the businesses I serve.

Leader making choices

Social distancing is still going to be a ‘rule of the road’. Large companies with grand office footprints are talking about limiting on-site presence, at least for the near future. Ideas like allowing only those employees with enclosed offices to return to work first. Cubicle workers will stay home a bit longer.

Restaurants are looking at separating tables by six feet, reducing seating areas. Stores may keep the Plexiglas panels they have installed at checkout stands.

As an executive, leader or manager making these choices, you create a risk for taking the chance to do something one way or the other. How will you handle that?

The Basis for Decision

Responding to the post-crisis world will be testing your leadership resolve. Do you have the ‘metal’ to stand firm in your convictions about the right thing to do? Clearly acting too soon to deploy large numbers of employees, patrons, or traffic in your facility may tag you an outlier. Are you ready to accept that risk?

The process to make these choices will demonstrate what you have been made of all along. As John Maxwell says:

“Experiences make us, but crisis reveals us.”

How will you be revealed in the face of the crisis around you? As the world finds its new normal, will your leadership character be strong or weak?

Core and Edge Thinking

There is a good explanation for dealing with taking chances as a leader. It has to do with the agility you have in moving from your core out to the edge. Let me explain.

Your Core is the center of your leadership framework. It is made up of all your beliefs, values, and relational experiences. The core includes your technical training and experience too. Likely you have worked hard to develop your leadership core. Just like working on your body’s core at the gym, having a strong leadership core makes you a better leader.

Diagram of core-edge-agility

Your core provides the foundation of who and what you may be as a leader. It inspires your own sense of right and wrong, weak and strong.

However, your core can become your comfort zone too. You might be one who finds safety in staying very close to the core. This can be the downside of relying too much on core strengths.

Then There’s the Edge

For every one of us, there is an edge out there. The edge is the horizon of opportunity and challenge. The edge is where new growth happens. It is often an unknown situation or circumstance.

This is why taking a chance is a good example of being on the edge. The risk that is associated with going out to the edge is what makes leadership challenges so significant.

Explorers love the edge challenge. Finding new horizons.

That is why your willingness to go out to the edge is as much an indicator of your leadership prowess as is your core strength.

Agility

The third dimension of this model is called agility. Agility is a leader’s ability to move smoothly from core thinking to the edge and back again.

On one hand, being willing to freely go out to the edge is good, but if you get stuck there, you’re in trouble. You have to be able to get back to your center, your foundation. Think about Apollo 13.

taking a chance with core, edge and agility

Agility is the beauty of good leadership. Keeping your values high yet exploring new opportunities to grow and prosper your team, your work, and your business. By gracefully going to the edge while maintaining clear visibility of core strengths, you become a trusted leader.

Back to the New Chances

The new normal we are looking to establish represents the edge for all of us. The way we define the edge may be different, but it is an edge nonetheless. If your core cries out for certain values and expectations, but the edge is not clear, you are dealing with taking a big chance.

Your agility will be the factor that determines your success. Ask yourself what it will take to move forward.

Will an old habit of decision making fail you in this new crisis? Will you be afraid to take chances?

Or can you effectively, maybe even boldly, make the right decision to choose next steps for your business? By exercising your agility you can go out to the new edges, do what you have to do, then know you can always return to your core for strength.

Note: Core, Edge, and Agility concepts courtesy of Lee Hecht Harrison

Certain graphics courtesy of 123rf.com and unsplash.com

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Cultivating Harmony: Growing vs. Building Company Culture

Company culture. It’s a buzzword thrown around in boardrooms and plastered across job postings. But what exactly is it, and how do you achieve it? There seems to be a common misconception: culture is something you build, a foundation laid from scratch. But a thriving company culture is more akin to a garden – something nurtured and encouraged to grow organically.

This post dives into the difference between building and growing a company culture, exploring the benefits of the latter and offering tips for cultivating a positive and thriving work environment.

Building vs. Growing: A Tale of Two Cultures

Imagine a company with a sleek mission statement and a list of core values displayed prominently on the lobby wall. They offer ping pong tables and free lunches, perks meant to foster a fun and collaborative atmosphere. This is an example of a “built” culture. It’s designed from the top down, with leaders dictating the desired behaviors and interactions.

While these elements can be a good starting point, a built culture often feels inauthentic. Perks become gimmicks, and core values remain unlived principles. Employees may go through the motions, but a genuine sense of belonging and purpose is missing.

Growing a company culture, on the other hand, is a collaborative effort. It’s about creating an environment where the seeds of shared values, open communication, and trust can take root and flourish. Here, leadership plays a crucial role in providing the right conditions for growth, not dictating the outcome.

The Advantages of Growing a Culture

So why choose to grow a culture over building one? Here are some compelling reasons:

  • Sustainability: A built culture can feel forced and fragile. When the focus is on maintaining a facade, cracks can easily appear as situations change. A grown culture, however, is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the company, making it more resilient and adaptable.
  • Authenticity: When employees are empowered to contribute to the culture, it reflects their genuine values and preferences. This authenticity leads to a higher level of engagement and overall satisfaction.
  • Innovation: A thriving culture fosters open communication and collaboration. This environment encourages employees to share ideas and experiment, leading to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
  • Employee Ownership: When employees feel a sense of ownership over the culture, they become invested in its success. This translates into higher levels of accountability, productivity, and talent retention.

Growing Your Garden: Practical Tips for Cultivating Culture

Now that we understand the benefits of a grown culture, how do we actually cultivate it? Here are some practical tips:

  • Define Your Core Values – Together: Core values are the guiding principles that shape employee behavior and decision-making. Involve your team in defining these values through workshops, surveys, or open discussions.
  • Lead by Example: Leaders set the tone for the culture. Live and breathe the company values in your daily interactions and decision-making.
  • Empower Your People: Give your employees a voice. Encourage open communication, feedback, and participation in shaping the work environment.
  • Celebrate Successes: Recognize and reward employees who exemplify your core values. This reinforces positive behaviors and motivates others to follow suit.
  • Transparency is Key: Keep your team informed about company decisions, goals, and challenges. Transparency fosters trust and a sense of shared purpose.
  • Focus on Learning and Growth: Invest in your employees’ personal and professional development. When people feel valued and have opportunities to learn, they’re more engaged and contribute more to the overall culture.
  • Recognize and Address Issues Quickly: A positive culture doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. When problems arise, address them openly and honestly to prevent them from festering and undermining trust.

Conclusion: A Continuous Journey

Growing a company culture is an ongoing process. It requires continuous nurturing, adaptation, and celebration. There will be setbacks and challenges, but by fostering an environment of trust, transparency, and shared values, you can cultivate a thriving work environment that attracts top talent, drives innovation, and fuels success.

Remember, your company culture is not a destination, but a journey. Embrace the growth mindset, empower your people, and watch your garden bloom.

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The Spectrum of Workplace Personalities: Beyond Cool Breezes and Fog Machines

A few years ago I wrote a piece contrasting the “cool breeze” and the “fog machine”, whimsically (at least my attempt at whimsy) to illustrate extreme possibilities in the way a leader can show up at work. I think It’s time to delve deeper into that idea (minus the whimsy part).

While the “Cool Breeze” and “Fog Machine” personalities capture a fundamental aspect of workplace dynamics, the reality presents a more nuanced spectrum. Let’s dive deeper and explore the shades in between:

The Gentle Breeze: Similar to the “Cool Breeze,” these individuals are positive and solution-oriented. However, they might not be overly exuberant or outspoken. They contribute steadily, providing valuable perspectives and quietly uplifting the team spirit.

The Steady Wind: These individuals are reliable and consistent. They may not be the first to suggest new ideas, but they diligently follow through on tasks and offer unwavering support to colleagues.

The Occasional Squall: Everyone encounters occasional frustration or negativity. Unlike “Fog Machines,” however, these individuals don’t let negativity define them. They may express their concerns constructively and bounce back quickly, contributing positively to the overall atmosphere.

The Shifting Winds: These individuals can adapt their behaviour to the situation. They can be positive and collaborative with the right colleagues but may struggle with negativity or demanding personalities.

The Crossroads: Some individuals haven’t yet settled into a specific behavior pattern. They might be influenced by the dominant personalities around them, making their contribution variable.

Beyond the Individual: While individual personalities play a significant role, we must also acknowledge the impact of organizational culture, leadership styles, and team dynamics. A positive work environment can foster the “Cool Breeze” spirit, while a toxic environment can exacerbate negativity.

The Power of Choice: The statement “we have a choice each day to be either personality” is a powerful one. However, it’s important to recognize that choices are influenced by personal dispositions, work situations, and external factors.

What can we do?

  • Promote a culture of self-awareness: Encourage individuals to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and how their behavior impacts others.
  • Develop emotional intelligence: Learning to manage emotions and respond effectively to different personalities fosters better communication and collaboration.
  • Focus on solutions: Shift the focus from judging personalities to finding constructive solutions to challenges.
  • Lead by example: Leaders have a significant influence on the team’s overall demeanor. They should embody the positive qualities they desire to see in their team.

By understanding the spectrum of personalities, promoting self-awareness, and nurturing a positive work environment, we can create teams that are not simply resilient but also thrive despite encountering “Fog Machines” along the way.

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Maximizing Your Return on Invested TIME

Many years ago, a business coach and mentor I knew named Gerry Fusco introduced me to a phrase he invented. Return on invested time (ROIT).

As business owners and leaders, we know about ROI, ROE, EBITDA, SDE, etc. But have you ever spent any waking hours measuring ROIT?

We make plans, build budgets, measure KPIs, and do many other quantitative things to assess business performance yet we seldom ask about the time we spend and the return on THAT! However, time is the one thing that can be the most valuable commodity you manage.

Or does time manage you? There are so many related questions to ask ourselves.

Qualitative Assessment

I mentioned quantitative assessment measures. What about qualitative ones? I’d argue that ROIT is both quantitative and qualitative.

It’s the qualitative aspects of ROIT that give us the right blend and harmony in our search for work/life rhythm.

In my last article, I challenged us to revisit our thoughts about time. I said time is the ONE THING we all share. Each and every one of us is blessed with 86,400 seconds every day. How we choose to use that time makes all the difference in the world.

It’s the key difference between becoming a multi-millionaire or the next entrepreneur barely making it.

Choices about time can pay big dividends. So that brings us back to ROIT.

For all of the time on your calendar, how do you choose the best opportunities to spend time? And to what events, people, or things, do you give time?

Once time gets scheduled, how do evaluate the benefit of having spent that time?

Here are some options

First, decide whether time spent advances any part of your master plan. It’s likely answering those 300 emails at 8:00 AM does NOT!

It has been said (in many ways) that we should focus on working toward our “big rocks” first. Those big things we’re trying to move and make progress against often get set aside because they are big.

We fool ourselves into thinking that clearing away a thousand little things buys us time to do the big things. That mindset is exactly 180 degrees upside down.

Next, a failure to delegate keeps us bound up and distracted. The myth that “I can do it better myself” has kept many good people down. No, Teaching a team to do the little things can free you up for bigger things. Yes, you have to invest some time to do that teaching, but the ROIT will pay off in big ways.

Too many founders live in the mindset of “only I know what we’re really trying to do here.” If that’s actually true, SHAME ON YOU! Why have you not shared that with a team? Why hasn’t your crew learned what your idea of success is about?

Lastly, elevate your idea about the real value of your time. If you think too little of the time in your day, no one else will think more of it.

Work to eliminate any kind of limiting belief about how you spend time. Things like ‘it’s no big deal, I can do it tomorrow.’ Reframe everything you ever thought or felt about time in the day.

Time is precious. Value it. Use it wisely.

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Ditch the Emerald City: Why True Leaders Step Out From the Curtain

The Wizard of Oz may have been pulling levers and projecting smoke and mirrors, but that wouldn’t make him a very effective leader. In today’s dynamic world, the “man behind the curtain” approach simply doesn’t work.

True leaders understand that inspiration stems from visibility, trust from approachability, and connection from relatability. Just like Dorothy needed to see the Wizard face-to-face to gain courage, your team needs to experience you as a real, accessible human to truly follow and be motivated.

So, how do you shed the illusion and step out from the shadows? Here are 5 ways to BE more and become a leader your team can truly rally behind:

1. Open the Door: Embrace Transparency and Communication. No more smoke and mirrors! Share information openly and regularly, fostering an environment of trust and shared understanding. Encourage questions, answer honestly, and be upfront about challenges.

2. Walk the Yellow Brick Road: Get Down in the Trenches. Don’t just delegate and observe from afar. Be present with your team, understand their daily struggles and successes, and participate in the trenches alongside them. This builds empathy and shows you’re invested in their journey.

3. Embrace the Munchkins: Celebrate Diverse Voices. Don’t surround yourself with yes-men (or women). Value diverse perspectives and encourage open dialogue. Listen to and learn from everyone, regardless of their position or background.

4. Tin Man Up: Foster Growth and Development. Be an advocate for your team’s growth. Offer opportunities for learning, mentorship, and skill development. Invest in their success and watch them blossom into confident, capable individuals.

5. Show Your Heart: Share Your Humanity. True leaders connect on a human level. Don’t be afraid to share your own vulnerabilities, passions, and experiences. This fosters authenticity and creates a space for deeper connection.

Remember, leadership isn’t about pulling levers from behind the curtain. It’s about stepping out, engaging, and inspiring. Show your team the real you, be open to feedback, and be present in their journey. By embodying these principles, you’ll watch your team transform from wide-eyed Munchkins to confident lions, ready to take on any challenge!

Bonus Tip: Don’t underestimate the power of humor and fun! Just like Dorothy and her companions, a shared experience, a laugh, or a moment of levity can create lasting bonds and strengthen your team spirit.

So, are you ready to step out from the shadows and become the leader your team truly needs? Remember, there’s no place like “being more” for building trust, fostering passion, and achieving common goals. Click your ruby slippers and start your journey today!

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Beyond the Big Stage: Crafting Your Leadership Legacy One Moment at a Time

We often imagine leadership as a grand production. Spotlight moments, heroic decisions, and sweeping pronouncements come to mind. But what if the key to building a truly impactful reputation isn’t found in these blockbuster scenes? What if it lies in the quiet, seemingly insignificant interactions that fill our daily lives?

The truth is, leadership isn’t a one-time performance; it’s an ongoing narrative woven from countless threads. Each conversation, each decision, each gesture contributes to the tapestry of how you’re perceived by those around you. These small moments, not the big events, are the bricks and mortar of your leadership legacy.

Why the Minutes Matter:

  • Consistency trumps the occasional grand gesture. People remember how you make them feel, not just the one time you saved the day. Consistent acts of kindness, support, and encouragement leave a lasting impression.
  • Authenticity resonates more than theatrics. People crave genuine connections. Being your true self, even in small moments, builds trust and fosters deeper relationships.
  • Small acts inspire big ripples. A kind word, a listening ear, a thoughtful gesture – these seemingly insignificant moments can spark motivation and ignite positive change.

Embracing the Power of the Everyday:

So how do we harness the power of these daily interactions? Here are a few tips:

  • Be present and engaged. Give people your full attention, listen actively, and show genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings.
  • Celebrate the small wins. Recognize and appreciate individual and team accomplishments, big or small.
  • Offer encouragement and support. Be a cheerleader for others, offer constructive feedback, and empower them to grow.
  • Lead by example. Be the embodiment of the values you espouse. Your actions speak louder than words.
  • Embrace vulnerability. Sharing your own struggles and imperfections fosters connection and authenticity.

Remember, every interaction is an opportunity to inspire, enthuse, and motivate. Don’t wait for the big moments. Start right now, with the person in front of you. Be intentional, be present, and be the leader you were meant to be, one small moment at a time.

By weaving a tapestry of positive daily interactions, you’ll build a leadership legacy that resonates long after the spotlight fades. So, step off the grand stage and embrace the power of the everyday. You might be surprised at the impact you can make.

NOTE: The principle described here is often referred to as servant leadership. For more on this topic, visit the rest of my archives. Links below.

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