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Seen Any Red Flags Lately?

red flag warnings

The new year is always full of new possibilities. Yet sometimes we drag old situations into the new year. One big area where I see people struggle has to do with identifying and managing “red flags.”

What is it about red flags? You know, those subtle warning signs that a new situation is going to have problems.

Whether a new relationship, a new business arrangement, or just a new possibility in our life, the first signs of a red flag should give us pause. Yet too often they don’t. Why is that?

The answer lies in the gap between the “known” and the “unknown”. As you move toward anything new, you will be leaving the known factors and circumstances to move into the unknown. This transition is also why people have difficulty facing change. Change causes this same movement from known to unknown.

Dealing with Comfort Zones

Comfort zones come from the “known” parts of our life. Experiences from the past establish our sense of the known elements in our life. Some experiences are good, some are bad, but all are known.

With the unknown, we establish our own set of expectations. Perceptions about “what could be” start to look very appealing. That’s why we decide to make a change.

Red flags always appear in the “known”. Some fact point is presented right now, today, and it is easy to declare it a red flag. Here’s the rub.

The new red flag, although it is now a “known” item, is weighed against the perceived value of the new deal (the “unknown”). When you choose to ignore a red flag, you have decided the benefit of the unknown is greater than what you know to be true; right here, right now.

 

Relationship 101

Relationships are the easiest examples of dealing with red flags. Entering into a new relationship there is always the phase of getting to know the other person. You make a date, you go out, you spend time talking about each other, sharing experiences and values.

As time goes on, behavioral habits are displayed. Is the other person on time, do they dress well, do they treat other people kindly? The list of possibilities is long. As each item is demonstrated or expressed, you do a mental check off of whether each trait is good or bad. Are they appealing or appalling? The bad ones are red flags.

Sure, no one is perfect, so we allow a certain few red flags to remain. Why, because the potential (remember this is still perceived value) for a better relationship outweighs the red flag.

Occasionally, we look at red flags and think “Oh, we can fix that after we settle down.” Bad idea! My experience says red flags only get worse. They were at odds with one of your values when they were introduced, they will only get worse as time goes on.

Here’s how to burn red flags:

1. Be true to your own values –  Stay centered in your core beliefs and values. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed into a new line of thinking or a new standard of behavior, unless that new direction is a choice you make.

2. Recognize today’s reality –  Make decisions based on as much fact as you can possibly collect. A known, demonstrated behavior that is not acceptable must be rejected. That new life partner or business associate will not change the bad behavior. It might even get worse.

3. Check your perceptions –  The excitement of a new possibility is wonderful. However, if the steps leading up to the new relationship are littered with red flags, take caution.

4. Be assertive –  If you have standards that are going to be compromised by the red flag traits in the other person, stand your ground. Speak the truth. Try to talk it out, be firm. If it costs you the relationship, so be it.

5. Be confident, don’t settle –  Most of all, be confident that you do not have to settle for red flags. Just because that person is available today, if they come with a bag full of red flags, walk away. Search for a better deal.

Managing the red flag scenario is one of the toughest life choices we make. Usually, there are so many reasons to carry on thus ignoring the red flag. However, the red flag is a universal symbol of caution. Why wouldn’t you treat it the same in your personal life and at work? Establish a method to identify and deal with red flags. Your final outcomes will be far more rewarding.

Becoming the Best Boss Ever

What would it take to make you the best boss ever? If you get promoted into a supervisory or management role, you might be asking this question. That is if you get past the “Oh snap, what do I do now” stage.

But seriously, wouldn’t it be better if you really could be the best boss ever to your team? It is said people join companies but quit bosses. How can you avoid being ‘that guy?’

The best place to start is to think about the good bosses you have known. Certainly, you knew some. Maybe it was a coach in school or maybe your first boss who took you under his/her wing. For me, the idea of the best boss ever is more of a collage of many; a patchwork quilt of skills and abilities demonstrated in the trenches by bosses I have had.

As I work with my coaching clients, I often ask them to do this same exercise. Think about leaders you have known or know about. What attributes make them good leaders? I have the client write out the list they identify.

Key Themes

In no particular order, here are the common themes I get.

Interpersonal skill – having the ability to connect with employees. The time we spend at work should not be ‘all work’. There has to be some connection that happens. Otherwise, people lose interest.

I was told about a senior leader at a company who had the uncanny ability to recall names and details about workers’ family matters. It was not uncommon for him to see someone in the hall and ask “How did Jimmy’s project go at school?” He was following up on a small detail shared with him in a prior meeting.

Being able to relate to your people is not simply calling them by their names. It’s about getting down to earth with matters that mean something to them.

Integrity – This theme comes up a lot. People simply trust a person of integrity more than they trust anyone else.

Integrity has many layers. It starts with doing what you say you’re going to do. It also means staying away from the petty politics that can happen at work.

In addition, it means not cutting corners or making shady deals to get ahead, win the bid, or get your way.

Being decisive – This one has power. If you want to be a great boss, you have to make decisions, then stick by them. When you take on management of a team, the people need a leader who can make the call. When things happen, decisions must be made.

If you want to earn the respect of your people, you cannot shy away from making the decision when the time comes for one to be made.

Still More

Know Your Stuff – easier said than done. Good bosses contribute by knowing something about what they are leading. On occasion, you may be asked to move into an area you know very little about. When that happens, you should make every effort to learn about the critical aspects of the work being done there. Get coaching, mentoring or other advice from the senior experts on the team.

Don’t fake it. A false effort will be sniffed out. You’ll lose all credibility. But people can accept the new manager who is showing effort to properly learn the scope.

In my banking days, I was recruited to join our real estate lending group to build a team of administrators and take over some operations functions. I told the department head I had a little experience in home building but had no idea what commercial real estate lending was about. He said “No worries.” Then he called our lead counsel at the law firm that supported the bank. He asked for what eventually became my tutoring.

For about three months I had regular weekly sessions with the attorney. I got a first-hand look at all aspects of proper lending and governance of loan agreements. With that learning, I was comfortable leading my team, working with bank executives, and even negotiating with customers. To this day, I value that opportunity. (In subsequent negotiations I’ve even been asked where I got my law degree.)

Process and People

Create the Process – scalable, sustainable work requires a reliable process. This doesn’t matter whether you are building cars, drilling for oil, or pushing paper. A solid process gives you the ability to train, equip, and prepare your people for success.

If you ask your team to do things differently every day, they will get very frustrated. You won’t be able to build accountability. Nor will you be able to build reliable output.

Deal with People – as Jim Collins put it, having the right people on the bus is critical to success. Work on your hiring process and build a solid evaluation system for maintaining accountability. Be clear in setting expectations for the team. Then inspect what you expect.

As potential performance issues arise, deal with them swiftly. A languishing problem employee sucks the life out of your team. Plus if you delay in making the right moves to resolve the problem, the good performers you have will lose respect for YOU.

For those on the team who perform at high levels, celebrate the wins. Give recognition where and when it is deserved.

Summary

There are dozens more to list, but these are the common ones I hear within my own coaching practice. They make sense. Take these ideas to heart and you just might be on your way to being called, the Best Boss Ever.

Ways to Explore the Power of Your Mind’s Attention and Your Heart’s Affection

Nothing can be more powerful than the exact moment you harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection.

Projects, life changes, new directions, and many other parts of our life can become monumental successes when these two dynamics come into perfect alignment.

affection

“Have you realized that today is the tomorrow you talked about yesterday? It is your responsibility to change your life for the better.”
Jaachynma N.E. Agu, The Prince and the Pauper

Let’s break it down.

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Feeling Flat? Here’s How to Rekindle Your Spark for Life

upset couple in bad mood holding cups of coffee and sitting at home on christmas eve

The holidays have a way of triggering certain joyous celebrations. But for many, the holidays bring on serious downside exposure too. Here are some ways to reignite your zest for life.

Everyone feels down and lost at certain points in their life. Sometimes, this has a more obvious cause, like a break-up or failing an exam. Sometimes nothing bad has happened at all, and you’re just having a bad day. However, when those feelings start to affect your relationships, decision-making skills, and career over a prolonged period of time, it might be time to start doing something about it.

It can be quite overwhelming to know just where to start when it comes to turning your mindset around and banishing self-doubt. However, one common solution is to seek professional help in the form of a life coach. They will help uncover the root of why you’re feeling the way you are, and come up with strategies to change your day-to-day mood and more importantly your life.

Here are three ways you can find the missing piece to help overcome negative thoughts, and how a life coach could assist you along the way.

man in chair with head in hand

Get out of your comfort zone

Whether that’s signing up to a dating app and talking to new people, or confronting a phobia you’ve always had, moving out of your comfort zone can have endless benefits.

If you’ve always played it safe in terms of meeting new people, traveling to different locations, and looking for work opportunities, then you are restricting both your personal and professional development.

Instead, you need to open yourself up to new experiences that are going to allow you to make new connections and gain perspectives you otherwise wouldn’t have had. This might seem scary, but can be incredibly rewarding.

There may be a good reason why you haven’t got out of your comfort zone, such as a lack of confidence due to a past experience. Whatever the reason, life coaches will work through everything at your own pace.

They will challenge you in an empowering way so that you embrace new opportunities rather than running for the hills.

All of which is going to help you rekindle that spark for life and help you to feel more satisfied in your career and personal life as a result.

man looking over a cliff after climbing to the top

Set goals for yourself

Coasting along with no real direction is a sure-fire way to end up feeling bored in your life. After all, if you’re not working towards anything, then what do you have to look forward to? Every day will just roll into the next, which is about as fun as it sounds.

Setting personal goals can seem a daunting task. However, no goal is too small or too big. Starting off with small, easily achievable goals can help you build up greater confidence and self-belief, which can help when it comes to reaching your longer-term goals.

Now is the time to decide what you want out of life and to figure out how you’re going to get it. A life coach is the perfect professional for the job, since helping people create goals and making sure they achieve them is a big part of what they do.

typewriter setting out goals

Hold yourself accountable

It’s always the easier option in life to apportion the blame to someone or something else when things go wrong. However, taking ownership of both your mistakes and your achievements will help you to feel more in control of your own life.

Holding you personally accountable is a big part of life coaching. Coaches will turn the emphasis on you, including what has prevented you from achieving your aims in the past.

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects is owning up to yourself about things you could or should have done differently. While there’s no way of winding back the clock, you must recognize your own failures so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes going forward.

Accountability also extends into how you live your daily life. For example, this can include noticing when your timekeeping isn’t good enough, or that you are procrastinating. From simple bad habits to the more damaging ones, from now on if you want to rekindle your spark for life, you’re going to have to leave such unproductive traits behind.

When Others Are Making the Assessment

What would your personal story look like if you went away, permanently, and left someone else to sort through things and figure out how and what you did as a manager, leader, spouse, or parent?

Is your leadership creating the outcomes and results you intended?

Courtesy 123rf.com
Courtesy 123rf.com

In my consulting days, I often worked for the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). The assignments involved going and mopping up after a bank failed. I have had a lot of experience looking at banks and businesses that failed. As a person who was asked to act in a legal receivership capacity, I got to see a lot of deals that went bad.

In my situation, I was combing over the records of failed banks. My team and I reviewed files from bank customers who may have been involved in creating “less than stellar results.”

Usually, the loss is not sudden, but rather a series of events. Some are justifiable as ‘economic’ factors or ‘market conditions,’ but others are purely spawned by ‘operator error’ or ‘pilot error’ if you will.

In business, it is often easy to piece together the back-story. Legal documents and work papers often tell those stories. Even with that knowledge though, as told by the paper trails, one is often left to ask why? Why did that executive choose that path? Why that choice? How did the Board come to that conclusion? What was going on that drove the leadership decision-making process in that direction? Which values were being considered or ignored?

For the moment, I will take greed, corruption, and fraud off the table. I am not even talking about those obvious lapses in human character. I am talking about decisions made in good faith that ultimately lead to a disaster.

So What?

So if that is the business side of the question, what about our personal management and leadership roles? Your communities or families; your tribes? Our marriages and our children? With families, there is usually not an administrative, legal receiver-like individual arrangement. Oh yes, divorce courts have influence, but I mean a forensic review into the hearts and minds of those we say we love. What if there was a moment when those people spoke and said “here’s the deal; here’s what has happened and is still happening.”

Would your score look the way you meant it to? Would the feedback be something you could be proud of?

Legacy

We’re talking about leaving a legacy here. If all of the day-by-day effort you put in to achieve something went for nothing, how would you feel about other people looking at that and passing judgment? You know what you meant to be doing, but was it the right thing?

There is always time to make a change. Here are a few ideas about where to start:

  • Evaluate – make your own evaluation with this thought in mind – what is the assessment?
  • Adjust – make the changes you decide are not keeping you on course.
  • Change – make the move to do something different.

Don’t agree to live by chance. Instead, operate by choice. Choice v. chance is a big factor. Is what you are about to do something intentional that serves the greater good in your life? Or is it just an exercise at burning daylight?

Pretty soon there won’t be any extra days to make the big changes you meant to be doing.

Perhaps today is a good day to start.

If you are wondering how to answer this question in your life, consider hiring a coach.

Leadership Principles: My Elite 8

Principle based leadership is like setting a deep and strong foundation. The principles you choose to guide you will shape the character and substance of what you decide to do.

Whether you are leading a team at work, your family, or an organization in your community, I like these 8 principles. I call them my “Elite 8”.

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Leadership, It’s in the Bag

When trying to coach leadership, there is one word picture that does so much more than all the others. That picture is golf. Those of you might ‘hate golf’ or don’t know much about it, please stay with me.

The game of golf is a collection of challenges intentionally designed to test your skills. In a standard round of golf, there are 18 holes, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Some of the holes are longer than others. Some have water obstacles, others have sand. Some have both. Elevations change, grass changes, shapes and cuts give every hole a special personality.

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You tee off on each hole, hoping to reach the green in as few strokes as possible. Once you have reached the green, all that remains are a few shorter touches to sink the ball into the cup, but oh how hard those last strokes can be. The turns and twists of the surface of the green make some hard uphill runs while others are slippery downhill slopes. Here, even the length and density of the grass can influence your effectiveness at putting.

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Beating Procrastination at Its Own Game – and Ways to Thrive

People often ask me about ways to beat procrastination. I usually say “I’ll get back to you.” Just kidding.

Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day.

procrastinate1

If you do a Google search, there are over 380,000 references to “overcoming procrastination”.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort.

Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari (1).

I too struggle with procrastination. From my own observations with decades of clients behind me, plus my own ever-present struggle with it, here are the key reasons for procrastination.

  1. Desire to achieve perfection –  When a normally high energy, high achiever procrastinates, it’s usually due to the desire to achieve perfection. Perfection though is unachievable, especially in most business settings.
  2. Lack of direction –  You can’t leave for a trip if you don’t know where you’re going. Without a good sense of where you want to go with a project or a task, you likely wont want to start.
  3. Self-talk – Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.” But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying “this isn’t important.” Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  4. It’s unpleasant –  Not everything we need to do each day is fun and exciting. Things can be downright unappealing, so we put them off.

Here are the most popular ways to overcome procrastination (2).

STEP 1: Recognize you ARE A PROCRASTINATOR.

Here’s a fun little test for you to take. CLICK HERE

Here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you’re procrastinating:

  • Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List.
  • Reading e-mails several times without starting work on them or deciding what you’re going to do with them.
  • Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee.
  • Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it’s important.
  • Regularly saying “Yes” to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
  • Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.

Step 2: Work Out WHY You’re Procrastinating

Even if you’re organized, you can feel overwhelmed by the task. You may doubt that you have the skills or resources you think you need, so you seek comfort in doing tasks you know you’re capable of completing. Unfortunately, the big task isn’t going to go away – truly important tasks rarely do. You may also fear success as much as failure. For example, you may think that success will lead to you being swamped with more requests to do this type of task, or that you’ll be pushed to take on things that you feel are beyond you.

Step 3: Adopt Anti-Procrastination Strategies

Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior. That means that you won’t just break it overnight. Habits only stop being habits when you have persistently stopped practicing them, so use as many approaches as possible to maximize your chances of beating them. Some tips will work better for some people than for others, and for some tasks than others. And, sometimes, you may simply need to try a fresh approach to beat the “procrastination peril”!

These general tips will help motivate you to get moving:

  • Make up your own rewards. For example, promise yourself a piece of tasty flapjack at lunchtime if you’ve completed a certain task. And make sure you notice how good it feels to finish things!
  • Ask someone else to check up on you. Peer pressure works! This is the principle behind slimming and other self-help groups, and it is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
  • Identify the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task.
  • Work out the cost of your time  to your employer. As your employers are paying you to do the things that they think are important, you’re not delivering value for money if you’re not doing those things. Shame yourself into getting going!

If you’re procrastinating because you’re disorganized, here’s how to get organized!

Use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle to help prioritize your To-Do List so that you cannot try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it is unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.

eisenhower-box

If you’re putting off starting a project because you find it overwhelming, you need to take a different approach. Here are some tips:

  • Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. You may find it helpful to create an action plan.
  • Start with some quick, small tasks if you can, even if these aren’t the logical first actions. You’ll feel that you’re achieving things, and so perhaps the whole project won’t be so overwhelming after all.

If you’re doing it because you find the task unpleasant:

  • Many procrastinators overestimate the unpleasantness of a task. So give it a try! You may find that it’s not as bad as you thought!
  • Hold the unpleasant consequences of not doing the work at the front of your mind.
  • Reward yourself for doing the task.

Here’s a bonus. Have you seen the story about rocks, pebbles and sand? Watch this video

(1) Quotes courtesy of Psychology Today and Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

(2) Other references courtesy of Mindtools.com

The Issue of Trust in Today’s Workforce

Employees in all job grades want to trust the people they work with. They want to trust their co-workers, their bosses, and the company leaders where they work.

Trends in recent employee engagement studies have revealed there is a declining spirit of trust. Actually the results are mixed in a strange sort of way.

In a recent study I conducted using my own base of social media followers, 63% of respondents said company leadership was trusted the least. The boss only got challenged by 16% while co-workers were mistrusted by 21% of the people answering the survey.

For many years, when employees were asked about trust at work, they pointed to their bosses as being the problem. Not so any more. Even co-worker trust was not a real issue.

The biggest gaps show up when talking about leadership at the top of the business. C-suite leaders are getting challenged by employees.

Internal and external surveys are showing that we have a growing chasm of trust between the top-of-house leaders and the employee masses.

How can that be?

First, it seems there is a credibility issue. Leaders may blame it on the pace of business. That means, things are moving so darn fast, decisions have to get made then changed right away.

However, workers see it as a flip-flop. The seeming flip flop of decisions cause employees to doubt the sincerity of what is coming from on high.

Next there is a reality issue. Workers don’t think senior leaders are adequately tuned in to the challenges on the front line. Budget cuts reduce jobs, leaving the survivors to struggle with doubled and tripled work loads to sustain revenue numbers that are not declining.

Seeing no actual decline in a company’s revenue leads workers to believe the leaders are not present, knowing what is really required to produce the outcome.

In addition we see a sociability issue. The younger workforce is asking their company to become socially responsible for social significance. Whether that is for carbon footprint reduction, social justice, or diversity, leaders are under pressure to perform. Those who turn blind eyes to these issues are not trusted.

What’s the Fix?

Building trust impacts all areas of our life. When we meet someone new, we start down the path for seeking trust by asking and answering questions.

The questions help inform us about the other party. Do we like the same things? Is there a common ground from which we can start building our relationship? The list of key questions can be long.

Employees do the same thing. We all show up to work with fundamental questions in our mind. The company leader/manager who does the best job of answering our questions gets our respect and trust.

My own experience as an executive and now, coach, has shown me six fundamental areas for the questions. All of the questions fall into one of these six buckets. I’m going to quickly list each section.

First, the People questions – do I even want to be here? Basic but powerful.

Next the Purpose – what is this team about and why do we exist?

Then the Plan questions – what is the plan we must follow to win?

Following those, there are the Practice questions – how do we operate? Systems, policies, and procedures can make or break our success.

Next you find Performance questions – how will I be scored and rated? Will the system be fair?

Lastly, we see Payoff questions – was it worth it? Should I do it over again?

Leaders Can Make a Difference

If you manage a team, think about any and all of the issues you face keeping the team inspired, motivated, and moving forward. I’ll bet you a nice steak dinner your team’s questions will fall into one of those six buckets.

Knowing these six secrets can radically improve your ability as a leader to increase the trust within your team. Answer the questions well and you will see your team transform.

Ignore the questions or give half-hearted answers and your trust scores will be very low.

I and a colleague, Roger Ferguson, have made a deep dive into this subject with our new book Trust at Work.” My coaching clients like ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, and UPS have taken these directions and seen great results. You can too.

trust at work

The Keys to Becoming a Great Leader

Today it seems everybody knows something about leadership. 

But when I taught strategic leadership courses to MBA students at the University of Houston, in the beginning, my first question to the students was “who wanted to be a leader and a great one at that?”

There was always this look of bewilderment on their faces not knowing how to answer. 

Leadership can be puzzling and seems like a lofty aspiration as many times leaders are put on a pedestal.

Leadership does make a significant difference in the performance of an organization. Jim Collins demonstrated that in his well-researched book Good to Great. 

Normally, when people begin to talk about leadership, they start rattling off a long list of characteristics.

Well, I am not going to tell you my top ten characteristics of being a great leader as many articles do. 

But in my opinion, listing attributes is coming from the wrong starting place.

If you begin with characteristics and try to figure out who is great, you enter into a mindset of rating one leader against another based on the characteristics they possess.

The focus is all on the leader trying to find that special one. It’s grading on the curve.  You are better than that guy, but this other bloke is better than you.

When the conversation begins with the leader and their characteristics, it leaves out the other half of the equation.

What is really fundamental about leadership is that there are followers. There is no leadership without followers. You can be a great solo performer, but that is not leadership. Leadership requires followers. 

Think of the Other Person First

But why do people follow? 

They follow you because their needs are being fulfilled in some meaningful way.

In effect, the leader must provide a value proposition that fulfills follower’s needs as discussed in my other leadership blogs. 

This is the first key to becoming a great leader, you must start with the needs of the follower by developing a value proposition that motivates them to follow you.

That is what a company does with customers.  It provides a value proposition that causes people to buy. 

You must have a value proposition that potential followers can buy into.

What about the natural-born leader? Don’t people just want to follow them naturally regardless?

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. You shouldn’t rely on whether you got that special leadership gene. 

In fact, most serious leadership authors advocate that leadership can be learned and dismiss this great man theory from days of yore.

Develop the We Mindset

Unfortunately, we grow up being graded solely on ourselves.  It begins in grade school right on through to high school, and then on to college.  It is all about me.

When I worked for Shell, there was a lot of emphasis on the qualities the leader possessed. I always felt under the microscope to be this superhuman leader with all these wonderful characteristics. 

I knew an awful lot about leadership theories, but it wasn’t until my later years in senior management that the second key came to light. 

A lot of my conversation had too much I.

To be a great leader you must shift your mindset from me to “we”, which is the second key to becoming a great leader.

That requires going out talking to people finding out what really drives them. Thinking in a “we” mindset opens them up to describing their needs.  People truly love to talk about themselves.

Leadership and Planning Go Together

Leadership is not a random hit or miss process. How do you figure out a value proposition that motivates people to follow you? This requires planning. 

What big thing have you ever accomplished without a plan?  Planning sets a direction. 

Thus, the third key to leadership is planning and setting a motivating direction.

Execution is the Fourth Key

Planning by itself is not enough, even though it does set the stage. The plan must be executed achieving the desired results. People follow successful performance. 

Therefore, the way to measure a great leader is to look at the absolute results. 

If you want to be an effective leader, YOU must focus on results.

That is the mindset shift that makes all the difference. Look at the results, but what results are we talking about?

A leader has various stakeholders with different needs as set out in the first key. Targeting these needs means forming value propositions for each key stakeholder, and since every leader has multiple stakeholders, that means multiple value propositions. 

Great results come from satisfying these different value propositions that cause your stakeholders to follow you. 

Moreover, if you judge leadership on the basis of absolute results, it’s absolutely possible for everyone to become a great leader.  

Leadership Maturity develops a Situational Style

People have different needs; situations require different leadership, and things change over time. 

There is no cookie-cutter approach to being a great leader.

Thus, the fifth key is to recognize that leadership is situational depending on the world you and your followers face.

Look to Other’s Strengths

Next, you win by utilizing your and other’s strengths.

That is what companies do with their value propositions.  They capitalize on their strengths. 

 Great leadership is all about building a winning team, where people step up with their greatest strengths.  That is the sixth key.

You build a game plan that leverages and synergizes on these strengths.

Develop Specific Actions

Many plans fail for lack of execution as set out in the Fourth Key.

The plans must have executable components with specific actions and be constantly reviewed and revised as results dictate. 

Leadership is not about how many initiatives you can create.  It’s about how well did you deliver on your value propositions by taking well-defined actions. 

Thus, the seventh key to leadership is delivering on your value propositions with specific targeted actions.  

That creates authenticity.  Doing what you say you are going to do.

Those are my seven keys to becoming a great leader.

Develop your Leadership Plan

This is a prelude to my book Develop a Leadership Plan Become a Great Leader that recognizes that your personal planning is the key catalyst for greatness.

Typically planning is done from the business perspective, at the corporate or business unit levels on what the company is going to do.

The leader needs to figure out how to integrate into these business plans with his or her leadership actions. Some of the leader’s value propositions to key stakeholders will be integral in the business plans. 

Other elements require the leader to formulate more specifically a leadership plan to fulfill those people’s value propositions. In developing these leadership plans, the focus can then turn to what strengths the leader needs to develop and what fatal flaws to correct. 

That requires the leader to fully assess his/her inner profile. 

What is your leadership style?  Which are your proficiencies, things you are really good at?  What are your values, beliefs, and character?  And fundamentally, what is your purpose in life? What legacy do you want to leave?

Weaving together the “outer” world of a leader’s work environment with their “inner” world of character, style, strength, and purpose brings a practical focus to leadership development efforts.

Inner Self

The leader can then reflect on those aspects of the inner self that more directly impact the outer world and pursue improvement in the areas that will make a significant performance difference, and much sooner.

In doing this, the chances of becoming a great leader go up significantly because there is a targeted focus on your actions and behaviors that will make a real difference in achieving great results.

That is the whole concept that led to my book Develop a Leadership Plan Become a Great Leader. 

The quest for great results doesn’t end with one great achievement. It’s not one and done; it’s a marathon. 

People will follow the leader who consistently produces great results.  And when these great results occur, that is a great leader.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was contributed by Lane Sloan, former CFO at Shell Oil. Lane is semi-retired but teaches, coaches and provides business advisory services to small and mid-cap business.