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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.

3 Ways to Better Accountability

accountability in action

The word for today is accountability. It’s an elusive yet powerful tool for your leadership toolbox.

As a young manager, I don’t think I ever thought specifically about accountability. Sure, there were deadlines and goals, but as my teams reached those, seldom, if ever, did I include intentional accountability.

It was later in my career that I discovered the incredible power of accountability. I was invited to join a men’s mastermind group. At each meeting, we shared the truth about where we stood with important areas of our life. We banded together to hold each other accountable for accomplishing the growth and change we each desired.

During the following several years, the collective outcome from that group enriched lives, expanded businesses, and strengthened families. Powerful indeed!

Here are three, very important ways accountability impacts you and those around you.

It Starts with You

The leader must set the tone, communicate the vision, and establish expectations. “Inspect what you expect” is a wise old saying. Once you establish the expectations, you have to monitor the progress.

Team members failing to meet expectations must be called to accountability.

But accountability isn’t punitive. It’s responsible.

Accountability gives the team the sense of “I’ve got your back.” If the leader sets that tone, then it is much easier for others to follow.

Leaders can demonstrate accountability by being accountable to the team. Let them know when hurdles are met, but also when they are missed. Which hurdles? YOUR hurdles.

Acknowledge when you need to stand up to something that has slipped or fallen behind; i.e. below standard. Call yourself out for that and let the team know you’re serious about meeting those expectations yourself.

Your Teams Want It

Yes, it’s true. People inherently know whether they have met the mark or not.

Among your best performers, they are looking for that small margin of gain which they truly believe is there. Despite how gifted and talented your team may be, the best performers know there is more that can be achieved.

Team success

If you, as their leader, ignore this margin, your action (by avoiding the subject) becomes a disincentive to your best performers. You’ll lose their respect.

It would be like you denying them one element of what it takes to build job satisfaction.

For your workers who are already on the cusp of performance, they too know they should be doing more. If you ignore this part of accountability with them, then they will slide further away from the desired performance.

Your Peers Expect It

In every 360 review I’ve ever been a part of, there is a mention from the peer raters that the subject person needs to do something with accountability.

Either they need to see it across the organization or within the team. Simply put, accountability is at a premium regardless of your position in the organization.

When you ask a sister department for support, they know they should be accountable. If you don’t manage that expectation, you will lose face with your peers too.

What About the Servant Leader

When I coach clients in the area of accountability, the ones who rate high on the servant leadership scale are often soft on accountability.

accountability on your team

Consciously or unconsciously they feel enforcing accountability will detract from their collaborative leadership approach. They err on the side of letting people figure things out for themselves i.e. the “less than” performance issues.

For all the reasons cited above, even the best servant leader needs to hold people accountable. And the great ones do.

Set Goals That Are Measurable

Be sure your expectations have measurable attributes to gauge the “wins”. What does success look like? Think about that as you plot the strategy for your team. Then clearly communicate your view of success.

Define it for the team. That way, you have a clear goal by which you can hold others accountable.

Leading Your Team’s Accountability

Finding the right tools to lead your team’s accountability is not hard. For the leader, accountability is about setting the expectations, then following up on them.

Many years ago I was introduced to Big 5 Performance tools for doing just that.

With Big 5, you and your team establish five things you want to accomplish during the month. At the end of the month, you report on those five and set a new five for the next month. Right at the start of the new month, you sit with each of your team members and review the report; aligning expectations and talking about results.

Building better accountability

That is great accountability.

The report is simple but elegant in nature. Using Big 5, you are always on the same page with your team. It’s a great coaching tool for you, as a leader, to implement for your team.

Let me stress Big 5 is not a “big” report. It’s a one-line summary of each task you decide is a priority. Many of my clients administer it using email between the manager and the employee. (Although there is a cloud-based app to get it done).

Using a tool like Big 5 can increase clarity on the expectations and deliver regular accountability for everyone on your team.

Leave a comment. Tell us the approach you have used to hold your team and yourself accountable.

Here’s the View from My Seat on the Bus

My seat on the bus

Managers at various levels struggle with common issues. Regardless of the industry where you serve, leadership challenges are very similar. There are some common themes I see played out time and time again. This article will explore those themes. But first, a story.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Throwerby Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

You might be the One

If you have management responsibility, you have control over certain situations. Keeping your eyes and ears, heart and mind open to new ideas just might make YOU the one who can make a difference.

We who attempt to provide coaching services to executives and business owners operate like the little boy on the beach. Yes, there are thousands of professionals who go to work every day, trying to do something right. For managers, you model your behaviors after others or you “fake it ’til you make it.” Those of you in executive roles have an even greater burden to establish vision and guide direction, navigating troubled waters.

Occasionally, someone in a leadership role, whether elected, selected or neglected, decides to ask for some help. You know there is more, but you have no idea where to go or how to get there.

Manager Challenges

As I meet with clients, here are some of the common themes I hear.

I want to do something really different from where I am but the company culture won’t allow it. First let me say, how sad an indictment. When a well-meaning manager feels so bound by the culture that they are afraid to act, you have a pretty lousy culture. No empowerment. No inclusion. And even less diversity.

I tell these folks to be bold and ask for the ear of their boss. Share openly, but candidly without making threats or pointing the finger as to blame someone. Instead make it a suggestion i.e. use a “no harm, no foul” spirit in the discussion. Don’t challenge the boss but offer your idea as an observation and suggestion.

I have no clue what I need to do next. Truer words have never been spoken. But few managers ever come close to saying this out loud. Finding the right Master Coach may be a huge blessing. Why? Because speaking the truth about your situation may be the fastest way to resolution and achievement. You cannot make a change if you don’t name the issue.

I am so busy, some things just have to wait. There are busy calendars and there are effective people. Usually, both never meet. Said another way, when I see calendars booked 2 deep, I seldom see a powerful, influential leader.

overwhelmed

Instead, I find a frustrated, tired, and burned out human being. How does your calendar look? Have you found effective ways to better manage the demands on your time?

It’s time to get serious about delegation. There are likely many things you can ask others on your team to do. Trust them and let them fly.

Free up space on your calendar to reflect. Create some margin in the time you have each day. 

The solution is not perfect, so I need to wait before executing the plan. It has been said that Perfect is the enemy of Good. I believe that. While I’d never advocate for going off half-cocked and ill-prepared, I’ve seen far too many projects stifled by over-thinking in the spirit of perfection. You won’t ever achieve perfection.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

Even the Appolo moon shots had some degree of chance in the tiniest of components.

I need to figure out how to be like George or Sally. No, you don’t! There is only one of you and that job is taken. Become the best version of YOU. Forget matching up to others. Give yourself the freedom to act as you know best. Sure, get good data and be informed about your decisions, but don’t let someone else’s personality or style impact who you need impact. Stop comparing to others.

These are just a few of my observations. Hope you enjoy. Feel free to send me your favorites. I am sure I’ll have a story to match up.

Stuck Right Now? Here’s How to Get 3 Levels Beyond

Are you feeling stuck? It’s like walking in quicksand. You can’t make any forward progress.

We’ve all been there before. This feeling is a common event in most people’s lives. As the chapters of life unfold, there are moments when everything seems to just get stuck and you start to lose the vision of the way ahead. Some may think of this as drifting through life.

The future vision is missing, lost, or forgotten. You just want to make it through another day. You, my friend, need to know there is more waiting for you. Here are three steps to get past feeling stuck.

The Shift

First, you need to make a shift. There needs to be a disruptive force or series of events that can shake things up. Mostly this is a shift that needs to happen in your mind; the way you are thinking needs to change.

I see so many people every day who are stuck in their mindset. Their head is filled with negative, limiting thoughts. “I can’t do that”, “I am too weak”, “I don’t have that skill”, “I don’t know that subject”.

You may also need to shift the people who are around you, especially if they serve to enforce those negative thoughts. If you speak a limiting thought and they agree with you, they are not being any help. Find some new friends.

Start growing away from old, bad thoughts. Read new books, watch some TED talk videos, open your mind to new ideas. Get a refresh!

By engaging a shift mindset, you can begin to pull out of the muck where you are stuck.

The Lift

As the shift builds momentum, you will get a feeling of lift. Just like the wind passing over the wings of a bird or an airplane, there is lift. The whole body rises into flight.

Pressure and stress will ease. Old burdens will fall away and you will feel a growing energy.

Lift creates a move to new direction. You sense a freedom of thought, action, and purpose. You are renewed.

The Gift

As you rise above the old state of mind, you achieve a newness; a renewed sense of purpose. You get a fresh look at the world ahead. Empowered by the new energy you will become a gift to those around you.

As a manager and leader, your fresh view of things can become contagious. Your smile and energy will impact others. You can help them begin their own shift out of ‘stuckness’.

If you need help embarking on a life change like this, I’d be happy to explain my coaching programs. I’ve helped hundreds of seasoned professionals get unstuck.

How to Find Perspective in Your Own Leadership Ability

gaining perspective

Having the right perspective in life is vitally important, but it has special meaning for people in leadership positions.

Maintaining the right perspective is sometimes hard to do.

During a recent trip to Las Vegas to speak during the AWS re:Invent conference, I had the chance to take a side trip out to the Grand Canyon. More specifically, I flew in a helicopter hovering just above the rim of the canyon.

gaining perspective in the Grand Canyon

We were flying at 5,000 feet but it looked like (and felt like) we were almost touching the rocks beneath us. Yet even from the rim, the drop to the canyon floor was huge. The perspective was hard to judge at first.

We had been cruising around the rim for a few minutes when we approached the Skywalk observation deck on the west end. The whole compound looked like a dot on the landscape. Yet that visitor center cycles thousands of visitors around the Skywalk every day.

It proved just how magnificent the Grand Canyon truly is. The Skywalk was a mere speck on the horizon and our helicopter was even smaller compared to the canyon itself.

When you as a leader look around your situation at work, at home, or in your community, you have to find the correct perspective to gain the most from the self-reflection process.

Using Assessment Tools

I often work with companies that use the Hogan Personality Assessment tools. Hogan has been around for decades. Their process uses predictive analysis to look at a leader’s personality, giving you a look forward at who and what you might be to those around you.

Hogan provides a multi-dimensional personality profile analysis. Among many positive indicators it tracks, it also includes one very critical analysis called “derailers”. These are personality attributes that can undermine your effectiveness as a leader if used to an extreme.

Like my view of the Grand Canyon from a seat in the helicopter, you have to get the right perspective when looking at the derailers in your personality.

If you take the feedback too lightly, you may miss the significance of the meaning. Absorb them too harshly (i.e. judging yourself too strictly) and you over-correct.

Finding a healthy way to receive any feedback you get and then apply it to your leadership style is the best way to grow as a leader.

Easier Said Than Done

However, that is much easier said than done. So how can you find the right perspective from derailers and apply good corrective measures to achieve more?

First, look at the input. Using highly developed tools like a Hogan assessment is one way to get reliable data. I’m highlighting Hogan here, but there are many others.

One free tool you can self-administer is from 16 Personalities. I have found their results to be compelling and similar to the results you get from many of the higher-priced tools.

Getting good data is better than simply spending a weekend meditating about things you think you need to look at. Using comprehensive analysis tools will uncover blind spots.

Next, take the results from your profiling and share it with a trusted advisor/friend. Ask them to verify what the report tells you. They too can add color to the findings. More importantly, they can help you gauge just how extreme a trait might be.

trusted advisor

Lastly, find a mentor/coach to help you map a plan for implementing the right dose of corrective measures to grow as a leader. A coach can be your guide on the journey to improving and growing as a leader.

Footnote and Disclaimer: Mention of Hogan Assessments and 16Personalities does not represent a personal gain from either of those companies. I share information about tools and tips I have used myself and find helpful.

Here’s a shot just before takeoff.

Happy Thanksgiving

happy thanksgiving

In this edition, I have no new material to share. In honor of the Thanksgiving Holiday, I simply want to say THANK YOU to the many who have chosen to follow my blog, podcasts, and videos.

It is you, the reader/listener/viewer who bless me with your interest and comments.

The date we call Thanksgiving is a United States thing, I get that. Yet the concept is global and should be important to think about.

What if we all said “thank you” a little more? Say it to the ones we love. Say it to those who perform acts of kindness or service along our journey each day. Maybe it’s the barista at Starbucks or the clerk at the dry cleaners. Maybe it’s your child’s teacher or coach.

There are dozens of people each one of us will contact each day. If we offered a simple thank you to so many more, think how much friendlier our world might be.

It doesn’t take heroic acts to bless others. Sometimes a simple gesture like “Thanks” is enough.

So again, THANK YOU, be blessed.

For more thoughts on being grateful click here

Living With a Gratitude Attitude

Across the wide spectrum of mindsets you might have when you walk through the door each day, how often does gratitude make it to the front of your list? If you’re like many of the executive leaders out there, you probably aren’t thinking about being thankful on a daily basis.

Not everyone thinks gratitude is an easy or desirable thing. Joseph Stalin said, “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.” Actually, dogs are great at saying thanks. They practically make themselves ill expressing their enthusiastic gratitude for even the smallest gift.

Acknowledging life’s every little miracle (like a dog might do) is a habit that humans would benefit to learn. What a wonderful change it would be to view the world through grateful eyes.

Too often your mindset is impacted by the burdens of yesterday or deadlines you face tomorrow. Perhaps you get distracted by the lousy commute you just endured or the fight you had with your spouse or kids on the way out the door.

There are so many things that can shape our outlook at work before we even step into the building. Today, though, we’re going to talk about gratitude.

Gratitude is a word we usually don’t hear about enough. Maybe your minister, priest or rabbi says something occasionally. Yet when we stop and think about it, being grateful can have a big impact on the rest of our thinking.

If you live in modern culture, you should be more grateful than two-thirds of the rest of the world. You should recall that some two-thirds of the world still lives within the immediate need for good soil to farm and live animals to sustain their lives.

Yet if you’re reading this article from a laptop or other mobile device, you likely rely upon some deli or grocery store to buy your food; far removed from the earth producing it.

How does it apply to work?

While we can be thankful for material possessions around us, how can we be grateful for work and the things about your job?

gratitude smile

First, are you grateful you have a job? When was the last time you wondered when or from where the next paycheck would come? If yours is a steady situation, be thankful for that.

Read more about leadership with gratitude here.

Next, what about the team around you? Unless you truly work absolutely alone (and there are few of us who really do that), are you grateful for the team?

Or is your attitude about your team less flattering as in, “these guys are trouble.” Or, “It is such a hassle to work with them.”

Shift that thinking to be grateful for the talents, skills, and resources the team can offer. They were hired for a reason, right? Unless you had full control of the hiring process and blew the call, the team assigned to you are precious resources. Be thankful.

Read more about building team trust here.

What about the work itself?

Are you grateful for the scope, depth, and breadth of the work itself? Are you challenged? Do you see the opportunity around you? If so, be VERY grateful.

Here are 16 quotes from wiser minds to remind you to say thanks every day:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

Brian Tracy

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all .”

~Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

Seneca

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her . A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”

Elie Wiesel


“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I got the in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”

Irving Berlin

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Willie Nelson


“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.”

Helen Keller


“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude leads me to be happy.

Will Arnett

“Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.”

Wayne Dyer

Building Team Trust When Some Don’t Trust Anyone

Dan was recognized as a strong and effective leader. He had earned the respect from the CEO and other senior leaders at his company.

In his newest assignment, he had been working hard to establish the framework of trust that he knew would be vital to the team’s success.

From the very first day as the new division head, he was speaking with his direct reports one-on-one and in small groups, using his best practices to tear down walls and create the right harmony he knew he needed.

Yet he could sense total pushback from two of his longest-tenured technical people. Sandy and Ted were not buying it.

Dan decided to take his concerns directly to both Ted and Sandy. One by one he called them in for a private chat.

He opened with acknowledging how important he thought their roles were to the team’s success. They each agreed with that. Then he asked a fairly pointed question.

co-workers not trusting

Ted Went First

Dan started “I’ve been watching the development of this leadership team. We’ve been working to understand the clarity of our purpose and align our resources for the best outcomes toward our goals. Yet I sense a reluctance from you. I’d really like to understand what it is that is blocking things for you.”

Ted was pretty quick to respond. He said “Dan, I haven’t been honest with you. I’ve been at this company for a long time. This latest change is too much for me. I’m eligible to retire and I think now is the right time to do that.”

Dan was not surprised, that made perfect sense. He responded “Ted, I’d sure hate to lose you, but I respect everything you’ve done here. Is there anything that might help you change your mind?”

Ted smiled a wry grin. “Thanks, but no. It’s time. This has nothing to do with you or the company. I just need to get serious with my own situation and quit holding you guys back. It’s been a good run. I want to leave a good legacy.”

Dan said “Thank you for that honesty. If there’s anything I can do while you get situated, let me know.”

On the Other Hand

Sandy’s talk didn’t go so well. Dan opened the same way but got a totally different reaction.

Sandy shook her head and replied “I just don’t trust these people. I’ve worked with a few of them before and know what they do behind people’s backs.”

Dan thought about how contrary this sounded based on his own history with the team from prior assignments. He knew about their performance elsewhere and the accolades they had gotten from others, both above and below them in the organization.

He simply said to Sandy, “Tell me more.”

“Well…..” and her list began. Interesting to Dan was the level of petty complaints he heard. He was shocked at just how petty many of these grievances sounded when compared to the duties Sandy had on her plate.

He had not known Sandy that well from before, but had always relied on her technical delivery of work product and was pleased. Yet hearing her voiced concerns about others made him realize one big thing about Sandy.

She really didn’t trust anyone.

The Leader’s Boundaries

In the effort to be an effective leader, there are many things you must do but there are some you cannot do.

Becoming a therapist for an employee who exhibits behaviors that are not conducive to good teamwork is just not something you should delve into.

We’ve all been there before, realizing you have an employee who has some psycho-emotional baggage that will not allow open and reliable cooperation on the team.

So what do you do?

First, don’t let it get personal. Stick to team outcomes when describing expectations. Make those expectations very clear.

Shifting the Spotlight

Watch for tell-tale signs of behavioral problems. An untrusting soul may often try to shift the spotlight away from themselves onto others.

anger at work

Examples include placing blame for minor matters and accusing others of “failing” to deliver properly. They somehow think that constantly churning the team around them will keep the focus away from their own issues.

Someone who is more trusting will accept responsibility and become vulnerable to things needing more attention.

I’ve seen situations where the highest performer on the team was actually the least trusting individual. Despite adding significant value to the team, they cause so much confusion and disruption, their actual worth starts to be questionable.

This latter situation may be the leader’s biggest challenge. If you’ve ever been frustrated by someone’s behavior yet asked yourself something like this “Can I afford to lose them?”, you should start the process to do just that.

Keeping a team member who will never trust the rest of the team will derail everything you may try to accomplish. It happens every time.

Question: When was a time that you had someone on your team who couldn’t trust others? Leave a comment.

Great Leaders Don’t Set Out to Be a Leader

Seldom does an individual sense the call of leadership at an early age; as in “I’m going to be a fireman” or “I’m going to be an astronaut”.

“I’m going to be a leader” is not usually the designated path. People with innate skills and passions to make good leaders start out with a desire to make a difference. As the graphic says, “it’s not about the role, but always about the goal.”

Leader-role

I spent my early years pursuing a military career. It wasn’t because I liked war; quite the contrary. I wanted to make a difference by serving my country.

Without exception, the other military personnel I met and worked with had the same sense of purpose. They never wanted to GO to war, but they not afraid of the potential outcome should a war develop.

The Servant Leader

Since its inception, the servant leadership movement has been growing. Being a Servant Leader flips the script on traditional organization theory.

Instead of being a CEO at the top of the company pyramid with all the implications of power and authority, the true Servant Leader chooses to sit in that spot, but approach the job with a whole different mindset.

“The servant-leader is a servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.

Servant leaders worry about the growth of the people who report to them. They expect growth of the enterprise through the well-being of the people on the team.

This is radically different from autocratic and benevolent dictator led organizations.

Servant leaders manage by asking questions like:

  • How are you doing (and mean it)?
  • What are the hurdles in your way?
  • What can I do to help?

Opportunity

Great leaders emerge from the dedicated effort to make a difference. As they go about their work, the sense of commitment, direction, and drive are recognized by those around them.

Opportunities open up. Others begin to say “I want that person on my team”.

Why do you think it is that CEO’s with good records move across whole industries to take on new challenges? The proven skills that come from the commitment to make the difference become hot commodities.

New Managers

As a young, first-time manager, your primary focus should be to define the difference you can make. You may have been selected to be a unit manager without ever first wanting the job.

New leader

Now that the role is yours, stop thinking about how to be a better manager and start thinking about the difference you can make for your team.

Leadership will emerge.

As you set about making the decisions needed to make the difference, your natural leadership tendencies will begin to take shape. Day by day, your leadership skills will evolve. Experience will become your best teacher.

When challenges arise (and they will), you can seek advice from those more senior, get a mentor or coach, and grow into the role.

Stay centered on the purpose for your role; the difference you can make.

For more ideas on ways to become a better manager, check out my new book “The Uncommon Commodity

I’ll show simple, common sense ways to build your management and leadership skill sets and grow your ability to make a difference.

Find a Coach or Mentor

For every new level in your career progression, you will need to grow into the role.  I firmly believe rising executives have  abit of fear in knowing they need something more to fit a new role they’ve been given.

mentoring

Few are the leaders who find an easy fit in a new role.

If you are wondering how best to achieve the growth you need, consider enlisting a mentor or engaging with a leadership coach.

Find someone who has been there before. Consult with them to plot your personal growth into the next role.

As you find leadership responsibilities being heeped upon you, take pride in being given that opportunity.

Likely you said you wanted to make a difference. Now the chance is yours.

Trust in the Workplace

“My employer” was named by 75% of those surveyed worldwide as the most trusted institution in the recently released 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. These findings from the annual report, now in its 19th year, reflect the significance of building and maintaining trust in the workplace.

workplace team in a meeting

As a manager, your role in leading your teams toward higher levels of trust is at a premium.

Modeling Behaviors

One of the most direct approaches to building trust in an organization is for the leader(s) to model the desired behaviors.

You need to be the one embracing and encouraging the shift in behavior if you want trust to grow.

All too often the simple “walk the talk” metaphor is ignored. If you stand up in a team meeting and deliver a beautiful speech about new goals and values, it means nothing if you turn right around and violate those principles.

I’ve seen companies who attempt to implement sweeping culture change yet allow individual executives to stay with old behaviors. The impact is significant.

When employees in lower levels of the organization see or hear about an executive violating the principles, the trust factor goes right out the window.

Setting and Managing Expectations

It’s really about defining and measuring expectations. If you say you want to build a high-trust workplace, then you need to paint the picture for what that might look like at your business.

Not all definitions apply to all companies equally. Yours needs to be tailored to your business.

There are, however, some common themes that can be used to improve your employees level of trust. I provide you with 6 key areas to explore.

Team trust model diagram

Each of the six topics is really a set of questions that each employee will ask. In order for them to feel a sense of trust, each set of questions must have a satisfactory answer.

For the highest level of team trust to emerge, the answer cannot be lukewarm. The employee must get wowed by the answers they receive to their questions.

More importantly, the leader must be able to clearly and reliably speak to each of the areas as they pertain to the team.

This model is an ever-present and on-going continuum of activity as the team evolves. Yet having the process in place to understand the effort toward greater trust, gives everyone a common language from which they can express doubts, fears, and concerns.

Back to Walking the Talk

Once the answers to the team trust questions have been shared, leaders must model their behavior accordingly.

If you say you want collaboration across teams, then be the one to start that process. As issues arise, suggest or direct collaborative effort with other teams.

As you describe team purpose, be proactive in enforcing that purpose with the decisions you make. When something comes up that is not aligned with your team’s purpose, either reject it outright or open the discussion about why it might not be a fit. Let others persuade you to change if a change is needed.

If you are the manager who needs to lead a team to higher levels of trust, look in the mirror. See if you are properly prepared to guide that effort.

If not, seek help in making the changes you need to make. A coach can always help.

Question: Are you modeling the behaviors that might increase trust in your employees?