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Change and Progress, Are They Twins?

In today’s complex business world, change is hard. Companies venturing through major culture shifts, mergers or other forms of change often struggle to make it to the end.

The idea that people hate change is a phenomenon that is taught, coached and wrestled with in many ways, shapes, and forms. Regardless of your mindset about CHANGE, there is one vital aspect you should explore.

PROGRESS is what you should be focused on. Change for the sake of change is meaningless. However, progress toward a new goal or achievement is more vital and more valuable to your organization.

Dean Lindsay, America’s premier authority on Progress, writes:

All progress is change, but not all change is progress.

Lindsay uses an illustration. If you wake up in the morning with a stomach ache, you want to change. You want it to go away.

If you tell a friend and they punch you in the nose, you got a change. But it wasn’t progress toward curing your stomach ache.

The Rhetoric

There are voices in the media demanding change. The word has been worn out. Again, change for the sake of change is not progress.

When you sense the need for change or you design an intentional change in the way your business operates, be sure you are designing progress toward a new goal.

I know companies who have launched major change initiatives (they call it that) with the intent to become more profitable, increase margin, find efficiencies, or become more competitive.

Those are great objectives.

Yet what they are really saying is we need progress forward to be better situated for growth and survival in our industry.

Too often the well-intended change that is initiated gets bogged down in all the adoption and adaptation process. As soon as the change feels hard and resistance begins to mount, plans are adjusted.

Many times the shift is pulled back or canceled in the face of resistance.

Living Through the Curve

Roxanne Chugg writes: “The fact is that most change initiatives are done “to” employees, not implemented “with” them or “by” them. Although leaders are pushing behavior change from the top and expecting it to cascade through the formal structure, an informal culture left to instinct and chance will likely dig in its heels and resist or even hijack the change.”

There is a popular model that describes the change cycle. Dr. Virginia Satir first introduced this model when explaining emotional life-change events in family therapy. However, it has been widely adopted in change management circles to help businesses plan for and implement change.

The “S” shape of this curve helps us see the complexity of making a change. When applied to a work team, each member of the team will experience their own progression through the curve, each moving at their own pace.

The key matter here is that everyone in the organization faces their own emotional curve when forced into change. Acceptance or adoption of the change is dependent upon the progress one can make moving through the curve.

If plotted together on a single graph you could see the lag points where the manager/leader may be further along the curve than his people. If the leader is not sensitive to this lag factor, then the message from the top might be skewed.

The leader could be thinking “Come on people, don’t you get this? Why aren’t we further along?”

In reality, the team may be lagging behind the leader’s position moving along the curve. A little bit of lag is normal. However, the leader must decide how much lag is tolerable.

Back to Progress

Given the tremendous effort and disruption a change may cause at work, leaders must be mindful of the progress being made.

Leaders need to ask: “Is the company moving ahead because of this change or are we merely spinning our wheels, burning out the staff, and creating very little value?”

Question: What change initiative has your company gone through recently? Or were you the one directing it?

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Who Lights Your Fire?

This quote from W.B. Yeats is a great reminder for those of us in leadership roles. Let me repeat it :

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~W.B. Yeats

When we try to train our team or build a new product or service, education surrounding the details is not the ultimate “win.” No, our focus as leaders should be inspiring those we lead to take a personal vested interest in the success of what we set out to do.

You can teach, preach and educate all day long, but until you impress someone to buy in to the project, it really doesn’t matter how much they know about the subject.

There’s another saying “Harness the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection.” That sums it up.

When was the last time that you, as a leader, were properly focused on this kind of impact? Do you light people’s fire in their hearts and minds or do you simply teach them something new?

There is a big difference. In today’s high-tech world, information flows in an instant. Instead of competing with information at the fingertips, why not think about ways to inspire your team?

Here are a few powerful ideas you might try.

Show Them Why the Outcome Matters.

I once took responsibility for a new team. I decided to visit each person’s area, asking them a bit about what they did. At one desk, a lady who had been with the company for years sat quietly pushing paper from one stack to the next.

I watched this a few moments then asked, “Where does it go when you’re done?” She said “I’m not sure. So and so picks it up then I never see it again.”

I asked, “Where did the first pile come from?” She again said I don’t know.

So I made some notes then started doing my own research.

Know Your People

When you spend time with your employees, make it matter. Don’t just expect your time and title to inspire them. Employees want a leader that pays attention and genuinely cares about them.

Great leaders take the time to know the ingredients before they can create the best recipe for success. Employees are most inspired when a leader takes the time to know them and show that they have their best interests at heart.

Learning is Still Important

Employees do appreciate the opportunity to learn. Teaching new skills or sharing new information helps them feel appreciated and valued. However, the delivery of that information is important.

Don’t just lecture, but share. Create a space for open dialogue about new material you want to spread. Adults learn best when they have a chance to engage in a feedback cycle where they state in their own words what they just heard. This is your opportunity to fine-tune and/or affirm the message has been received.

There’s a Fine Line Between Success and Significance

We all want to feel significant about what we do and who we are. Jobs can actually provide that IF the boss allows it to happen. If the boss is too concerned about his own reputation and doesn’t care about the people on the team, no one gets any significance from the job. Heck, they even get very little sense of success.

However, if you as the enabled leader decide to share the significance with each team member, you can win much greater employee trust.

Ownership, Not Just Accountability

Enforcing accountability is a key component to sustaining performance momentum. However, when you can give your employees “ownership” in the process of defining how accountability is enforced – you inspire trust and a desire to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Giving your employees ownership means that you have shared and entrusted them with your authority. You are now allowing your employees to “call the shots” based on what they believe is in the best interest of the team and the organization.

For example, create a special project and allow an employee to take ownership of it. Outline your expectations for the end result, but allow him or her to take charge of the project. Agree to meet once a week and observe the change in attitude and desire to perform.

Respect, Not Just Recognition

Beyond appreciation and praise, show your respect and admiration for the work of your employees. While people want to know they are respected, you must establish the ground rules for how respect is earned.

There are too many recognition addicts in the workplace. In a world of fierce competition, we have come to believe we are our own best allies. We believe we must rely only on ourselves. We believe we can sell ourselves better than anyone else. But this attitude puts our long-term careers in danger.

Unfortunately, too many people want recognition because they forgot the significantly greater value of earning respect. Re-train your employees about the importance of respect and lead them in how to earn it. When they see the greater impact respect delivers, they will be inspired by your example.

Ukraine Invaded by Madman Leader

A Leadership Fail

This past week, the world witnessed the senseless invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces led by madman Vladimir Putin. His deranged vision for seizing control of Ukraine was met with harsh criticism and strong tactical resistance. Global allies rallied to rebuke his moves.

The whole tragic affair, whose outcome is yet decided, highlights the extremes of leadership gone bad. Since this publication is never a political rant but a thesis on leadership, I’d like to break down the issues surrounding Putin’s latest colossal misstep of epic proportions.

First, let me say this. What Putin has chosen to do in the past several months has proven his shift from governmental chieftain to insane lunatic, neither of which deserves the mention of ‘leadership’ in the description.

Sidebar

Frequently, I see discussions and commentary on various social media channels that ask questions about dictators and oligarchs having leadership traits. I routinely respond to those saying “NO.” You can’t be what they really are and qualify as a leader.

Everything I have ever learned and experienced under true leaders results in people being lifted up, not beaten down. A leader builds consensus and collaboration. They find the “win-win.” The leader supports doing the right thing regardless of how difficult it may be. There is never any notion of being swayed by popular opinion.

What has been evidenced in the past few weeks coming from Putin himself, suggests none of the above. Rather, it screams spoiled child throwing a supreme tantrum. One that will cause fatal outcomes to hundreds if not thousands of lives, both on the Ukrainian side as well as his own Russian troops. The assault will destroy infrastructure, making conditions in Ukraine unlivable for generations to come. Senseless it is.

Rising to Power

The first step contributing to this situation is a rise to power. In any organization with a diagram explaining “who’s on top,” there are some boxes that indicate one person with authority over others. It is true in business and government. With the designated position comes a certain power. I call it simply the ‘Power of the Position.’

People get promoted, assigned, or elected to these positions. Anyone sitting in the role, who should be exercising true leadership, will have access to this positional power at all times. However, the use of that power should be limited for use as a last resort.

Example – I am your boss. We have exhausted all effort to get you to be a better employee. Now I must resort to giving you notice, you are fired.

Hiring and firing is a classic example of the Power of Position.

In the case of dictators and madmen, they manipulate systems to gain this power. They then use this power as their first choice. It is their sole purpose, to press this power onto the people they have under control. They rule with fear and intimidation.

Anyone opposing the head is treated with severe consequences. ‘Do as I say or go to jail or be executed.’

Putin is not without his own allegations of such cruel intimidation. Now he is putting it on display for the whole world to see.

His actions have already been called lunacy. Statesmen who have dealt with Putin in the past are admitting his recent behavior is way beyond his ‘usual self.’

How did we get here?

A common question I’ve heard about this growing problem is ‘how did we get here?’

I refer to my ‘Frog in the Pot’ analogy. The story says you put a frog in a pot of water, then slowly turn up the heat. Eventually, he boils to death. Yet if you boil the water, then drop him in, he jumps out immediately.

Authorities inside the Kremlin have no doubt been suffering the plight of the frog in the pot. Over the past decade, Putin has slowly amplified his rants and views of the West. The circle of governmental authorities elsewhere in the org chart have taken these orders and proceeded with compliance.

In my humble opinion, the key question right now is “Will anyone in Russian government circles be willing to challenge Putin?” Will the protests inside of Russia persuade him to stop?

Or has his ego gotten so big that, in his mind, there is no way to save face other than to destroy all of the Ukrainian countrysides?

While I certainly hope and pray that is not the case, it is seeming unlikely that such a coup is likely.

Will sanctions actually work?

Next, we turn to the possibility that government sanctions can deter or turn around the Russian attacks. The basic problem with sanctions is that the world’s economy is so tightly intertwined, taking one country out of the loop has unintended consequences for others.

Unlike the world’s economy of pre-war WWII, we now have complex networks of interdependent events, obligations, and currency swaps that drive the whole world. It’s the ultimate domino chain of events. COuntries and continents rely on energy and commerce to fuel currencies and sustain valuations across the globe. Once we start tinkering with bits and pieces, we may well adversely impact a wider segment of the world’s economy, not just Russia.

Leaders on all sides are carefully measuring the impact on their own countries. As they should.

Leadership Contrasts

The contrast between leadership examples is extreme. Inside Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been solid, resolute, and outright inspiring.

His now-famous response to President Biden’s appeal to help him evacuate shows exactly where Zelenskyy stands. “I don’t want a ride, I want ammunition.” was his response. That, my friend, is powerful, motivational leadership.

Putin on the other hand, issues daily rants and tweets about this and that, none of which is very coherent. Citizens inside their own country are protesting and questioning the initiatives.

Again, I’d argue that Putin’s action has done nothing to demonstrate real leadership. Rather, he’s shown himself a cruel dictator with no regard for human life. Zelenskyy rallies his people, delivering empowering messages, touching the hearts of the whole world.

The Outcome

The final outcome for this horrific siege will be resolved by solid leadership. Plain and simple. Whether it comes from a coalition of allies forcing Putin’s hand to stand down or from within the governmental org chart that is Communist Russia, we need leadership to prevail.

It is my prayer that the latter rises up and creates a more peaceful shut down of the invasion. And I hope it happens soon.

Top 10 Critical Competencies of Great Leaders

10 great leadership attributes doug thorpe

Great leaders share many common traits. Though criteria for leadership in the workplace can vary from company to company, the majority of effective leaders exemplify certain skills. By focusing on developing these same skills, you can take your leadership abilities to the next level.

Develop these 10 important traits necessary to become a great leader:

Self-motivated. As a leader, it’s important to be able to motivate yourself to take action to move forward toward your goals – whether they’re personal or team goals. Leaders are driven to get things done and they lead their team to do the same.

If you are the leader, you can’t wait for someone else to get you started each day. YOU have to be the spark, the fire to light others up.

The ability to delegate. You can’t do it all yourself. The most effective leaders surround themselves with skilled people, define their responsibilities, and then get out of the way. A single person is quite limited, but many hands can get a lot done. Learn how to share your workload.

This is not always easy, especially for someone who gets promoted up from the ranks. Yet it is vital to your success.

Communicate effectively. You might have a clear picture in your mind of what you’d like to see happen. Unfortunately, no one can read your mind. A leader is responsible for sharing his vision and making his desires known.

  • People can give you what you want when you can communicate clearly what needs to be done.
  • Provide status updates and keep everyone on the same page. Employees lose motivation when they don’t understand the current situation fully.

More Examples

Develop others. Being a leader isn’t just about utilizing others to reach your goals. It’s developing those around you. From a more selfish perspective, the more skilled your employees, the more they can assist you and the company.

  • Share your expertise and help everyone around you to grow.

Be committed. You can’t expect greater commitment than you’re willing to provide. A leader sets the ceiling. Everyone else settles in somewhere below that point. Set the ceiling high and show them what true commitment looks like.

Inspire others. A great leader knows how to inspire others to do their best work. It’s not always easy to inspire those content to simply show up each day and collect a paycheck, but it’s possible. Show your motivation and commitment.

There’s something called discretionary effort. Everyone has it. You can choose to apply it to the work or not. You can meet most job descriptions without ever tapping into discretionary effort. Leaders find ways to tap into this valuable resource in each one of their people.

Even if you’re only able to inspire a few people to do their best, it will make a positive difference.

And here are a few more

Have a clear focus. If you don’t know what you want, you won’t get it. Leaders are clear on their vision and readily share it with others. A clear vision serves as a roadmap. Employees can easily ask themselves if their actions are contributing to the attainment of your vision. Know your focus and communicate it effectively.

Show respect. Strive to treat everyone fairly and avoid playing favorites. Everyone is worthy of a basic level of respect. Ensure that you’re giving it.

Confidence. It’s natural to be drawn to others with confidence. You are viewed as more capable and trustworthy when your confidence level is high. Be comfortable with your skills and your plan.

A lack of self-confidence will limit the ability of others to trust your vision and judgment.

Decisiveness. Leaders make the tough decisions fearlessly and take responsibility for the outcome. It’s easy to make quick decisions when you’re clear on your values and those of the company. If you can’t make up your mind, your leadership skills will be called into question.

Practice by making small decisions quickly and following through on them. It gets easier with practice. You’ll be surprised by how much more you accomplish when you’re able to make a clear decision.

Summary

Leaders are necessary in any organization. Great leaders share common characteristics that you can develop in yourself. Even if you don’t feel you currently possess these qualities, you can grow your capacity to be an effective leader.

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Building Trust at Work – Improving Team Results

building team trust

Trust is a critical element in our everyday lives. The relationships we enter are centered on trust. Whether we are going to work, shopping online, or meeting a stranger, trust becomes the yardstick for how far that relationship may go.

For those of you in a significant relationship with a life partner, trust means everything to that relationship. Break the trust and the relationship bond shrivels and dies.

Bob Burg is famous for coining the phrase “know, like and trust (KLT).” His teaching says we only do business with people we know, like and trust. It’s a progression of experience that gets us over the goal line. You visit each of the three stages before you are ready to make the bigger commitments.

The same is true at work. We spend most of our waking hours dedicated to work. Trust in the workplace should be a vital part of success and reward. Yet managers seldom focus on building trust to build a great team. Instead, they focus on the tasks at hand. They agonize over process and procedure to get things done.

Yet employees struggle to perform at the higher levels of success.

If I can’t trust my boss, why should I give much effort to the task? A low or no trust situation is like meeting the clerk at the convenience store. I don’t have much vested in that transaction. I give the clerk my money to buy my gas or pack of gum. If I watch them put the money in the cash register…end of relationship. It doesn’t require a high level of trust.

However, when I take a job, I expect a lot more in the way of trust from the boss. He/she needs to drive that train. They need to be the ones demonstrating how trust is going to work in that situation. Once I can determine the level of trust I am going to get (remember know, like, and trust), then I begin opening up my trust bank to give back.

By the way. The whole notion of trust is just like a bank account. Deposits must be made for funds to be available from which you can spend. I must get trust to give trust.

But as a leader, that model shifts in a big way. YOU must be the one making the deposits in your people. Show them trust and confidence, then they will begin to pay it back.

join our team graphic

The Trust Gap

Trust is never mentioned by my coaching clients as a ‘top of the list’ goal. Often, they have been introduced to leadership frameworks that are intended to build a certain leadership culture or change an old one. They engage me for helping direct those leadership development efforts.

With the focus on conceptual principles, leaders forget the value of simply building trust. When we start doing the coaching work, we inevitably run head-long into the issue of low trust.

They acknowledge a sense of no trust, yet they are stuck when challenged to think about ways to build better trust.

Talking about trust gives way to more frustration about how to get there. After all, think about how you chose your spouse (if you have one). Was there a specific, tangible set of criteria or did you just ‘know.’?

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

That is why I like the Team Trust Model as the answer for practical and tactical ways to build trust. Since the model is really a process of logical thought about the dynamics of how trust can be built, a leader can craft a methodical and measurable system for gaining better trust within the team.

team trust model

Building trust is a process to answer a list of key questions. The questions might be obvious or subtle, but they are questions, nonetheless.

When the leader effectively and systematically answers all of the questions his/her team may have, then trust begins to evolve. The process naturally fits the KLT method. As employees, the more we know about the work team, the better we are equipped to like what we’re about. If we like it, then we can begin trusting it.

At the Core

The Team Trust Model is here to promote trust at work. It does so by inspiring people to invest their discretionary effort. Every employee comes to work with a certain capacity to deliver. However, this overall capacity is divided into segments. The first, and most basic level, is the bare minimum. We agree to deliver our bare minimum effort to keep from getting fired.

It’s the lowest of effort expended. It keeps things moving at an acceptable pace. But it won’t set records.

Discretionary effort, on the other hand, is that extra effort; the 110%. Employees all have the ability to spend this extra. The question is whether they want to.

For leaders, the challenge is to inspire folks to do that on a regular basis. Come to work and give the extra all the time.

When the team setting is right, people never question the willingness to give it all.

A New Series

The preceding message is the start of a series of articles presenting the dynamics and power of the Team Trust Model. Over the next few weeks, I will be diving deeper into this approach for practical and tactical ways to improve your team’s performance while building a more rewarding work experience.

Position Yourself as a Leader in 20 Minutes or Less

Positioning yourself as a leader will make your work more meaningful and advance your career. You can gain influence based on your title, or on knowledge and skills you already possess.

While it could take years to climb the ladder up into senior management, tapping into your personal strengths is something you can start doing right now. Learn how to use your current assets to build up your clout in the workplace.

Using Your Knowledge to Position Yourself as a Leader

Read daily. Pick up books about business advice or any topic that interests you. The more you read, the better prepared you’ll be to contribute to any discussion. You’ll sound like a leader whether you’re engaging in small talk or critiquing a new logo.

Keep up with trends in your industry or around you. This is especially important in small business. Don’t let yourself get so small you miss opportunities that might be right at your door.

Sign up for training. Take advantage of programs your employer offers. Brush up on your high school Spanish or become proficient with a new software package. Don’t be afraid of new technologies. If you don’t know or understand something, there are thousands of opportunities to make the knowlledge gap shrink.

LinkedIn has begun archiving amazing videos and presentations in the Learning Center. It would be worth a few minutes to scan their offerings. And don’t miss the TEDTalk series of videos all over YouTube.

Browse during breaks. Those brief intervals you spend on hold or pausing between meetings can be put to good use. Break out your phone and search for industry news. You’ll stand out if you’re the first one to notice a major lawsuit or merger.

Take a course. Many adults juggle full time jobs while going back to school. Schedule an appointment at your local university to see what you need to complete your degree.

Consult an expert. Contact others in your network who would be willing to share their wisdom. Interview a colleague who has published a new book and promote her work on your personal blog. You’ll both benefit from increased information and publicity.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone you admire if they would provide you with some mentoring. You’ll be amazed at how willing those wise old souls may be.

Shadow a star employee. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a high performer may be pleased to show you the ropes. Let them know that you admire their style. Offer to assist them with specific tasks so you can learn from their example.

Using Your Skills to Position Yourself as a Leader

Take responsibility. Prove that you can be trusted to live up to your obligations. Develop a reputation for completing assignments and meeting deadlines.

Document your accomplishments. Make it a habit to write down your ideas and achievements. Looking over your victories will boost your confidence. Even the missteps will suggest adjustments you can make to do better next time.

My personal favorite tool for tracking these accomplishments is the Big 5 Process. Read about it here.

Express enthusiasm. Attitude is an important part of leadership. Speak kindly to your coworkers and care about their welfare. Find gratification in your work and how it serves the community.

Take initiative. Be willing to go the extra mile. Volunteer for tasks that fall outside of your job description even if they’re less than glamorous. Pitch in when the sales team needs a hand entering quarterly data.

Share feedback. Thank people for commenting on your performance and recommending steps you can take to further your professional growth. Offer constructive and tactful criticism that enables others to do the same.

Give generously. Above all, let your colleagues know that they can count on you when they need your time and expertise. Strive to be a valuable team member. Keep an eye out for anyone who’s struggling so you can create mutually beneficial relationships.

You don’t have to be sitting in a manger’s role or hold some big title to be a leader.

Transform yourself into the kind of leader other employees will want to follow. Your knowledge and skills are valuable resources that can help you to develop your talents and inspire others.

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Burn the Boats – The Toughest Leadership Command

burn the ships

We all like Plan “B” options that afford us an escape when things don’t work out. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. How’s that for bold leadership?

What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. A retreat was not an option.

In order to achieve the highest level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the boats.”

The obvious question becomes “what are my ships or boats”? For starters, your ship may be anything that you are afraid to let go of.

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Lead by Example – Learn by Example

When starting with a new executive coaching client I often ask ‘what kind of leader do you want to be?’ ‘Someone who leads by example‘ gets a lot of the votes.

As much as I like that answer, it can often be an easy idea to speak, but the hardest action to take. Where do you start? Many folks start by talking about technical expertise. They want to leverage subject matter expertise. That’s fine if you are sitting in a middle management chair within an organization.

But what does it really mean to lead by example? What things should you do? How do you do it? Who’s paying attention? When should you do it?

A Story

Let me share a story. Recently, I began a coaching engagement with a large publicly-traded company. I have several of their leadership team members assigned to me. Just as I began my weekly round of meetings, I was informed a very senior executive had passed away suddenly, at work, on the job.

Apparently, this man had been with the company for almost 30 years. He had been integral in its growth and success.

All of my individual clients were visibly shaken when speaking of this man. It was easy to see how revered and well respected this gentleman was. Each person shared with me their own personal experience being mentored and inspired by him. No one was without a story about “Bill” (the name has been changed to protect confidentiality).

The leadership examples Bill modeled were clear, distinct, and memorable. Truly the acclaim a leader should create. As people began explaining the things Bill did to endear his tribe, I asked “why don’t you try doing that?” The usual answer was, “Yes, I really should try to be that way.”

We see examples of leadership in small gestures, calm ways, meaningful mentions, and quiet resolve, yet we often struggle to decide how to add a skill or trait to our leadership tool kit. Why?

7 Ways

One of the best ways to build trust with the team is to lead by example. Here are seven ways to lead by example and inspire your team.

Get your hands dirty.

Do the work and know your trade. Stay present with the team where they work. Walk the floor, the shop, and the field. Don’t let yourself get caught behind closed doors in the corner office.

As to the details, you don’t have to be the most advanced technician on the team, but you must have an in-depth understanding of your industry and your business. Learn the subject matter if you have to. Leaders have many responsibilities, but it is important to work alongside your team. This is a great way to build trust and continue to develop your own knowledge and skills.

Watch what you say.

Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. For better or for worse. Be mindful of what you say, to whom, and who is listening. Always show support for all team members.

If someone needs extra guidance, provide it behind closed doors. Keep explanations simple and clear. Remember a confused mind says “NO”. Don’t confuse people with lofty technical speak. Just get to the point.

Respect the chain of command.

One of the fastest ways to cause structural deterioration, foster confusion, and damage morale is to go around your direct reports. All team members need to respect the leadership at every level. If the senior leaders don’t respect the chain of command, why would anyone else? This includes the ranks below you in the organization.

Don’t skip level jump a supervisor to talk with a worker. Sure you can share casual banter in the workplace with anyone, but when you have directives, follow and support the chain.

Listen to the team.

As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directives, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice.

One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don’t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.

Take responsibility.

As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top. Blame roles uphill. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them. It doesn’t matter if one of your team members messed up or you did.

If you are the leader, you need to take responsibility. We hear about the notion that “I’ve got your back.” Prove it by taking flak when it’s aimed at the team. Let the buck stop on your desk. Put the monkey on your back.

Business leader

Let the team do their thing.

Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.

Coach and mentor when you have to or when someone presents a problem, but stop solving all the problems. Teach others how to do that.

Take care of yourself.

Wellness and fitness are essential for good leadership. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. The only way to build a fitness-oriented culture is to lead by example.

Get in shape and lead from the front. This part is not just about physical fitness but also mental toughness. Find time to recharge, especially after long-distance runs in fast-paced, high-pressure situations like big project delivery or special market shifts. You must re-calibrate periodically. Renew your mind as well as your heart for what it is you are doing.

If you are still wondering how to up your leadership game, let’s have a chat. I can schedule a free call to explore your leadership ideas and plans for growth. Click the image above to set your time to talk.

How Do You Do What You Do?

Gaining Experience

From time to time, I have a mentee say “I am interested in doing what you do. Please tell me how to do that.”

Often I struggle with that ask, because if I was honest, I’d say “You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you know what I’ve been through to get here?”

John Maxwell said it much more eloquently. He said “OK. Let me ask you a question. Are you willing to do what I did to get to do the things I do?”

Do the Things I Did

Doing things in the past created the experience required to do today, what I do. Without living through the leadership crucibles I’ve lived, I’d not have any of the material I share with clients today. Starting as a young 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, I took on management roles.

Later, joining a regional bank, I was recruited there because senior leaders inside the bank were former military officers and knew the kind of experiences I had. They could relate to the experiences and had automatic confidence in knowing I could assume a management role there too.

After 20 years in banking with successive growth roles along the way, I took an early retirement from banking and started several businesses. I knew I loved entrepreneurship, so I took the knowledge I gained at the bank (watching and working with many many client companies) and applied it in those start-ups.

It was at times a painful learning experience. Until you lay awake at night sweating the ability to make your next payroll, you have no idea what it takes to run a business on your own.

Experience earned the hard way. Plain and simple.

The same is true in many other professions. Plumbers and electricians have job grades starting with apprentice roles. You watch the masters, observe what they do, learn about the finer points. Then, with time, you test for and achieve the higher grade status in the profession.

Doctors spend years of schooling and rotations to learn about practicing medicine. You wouldn’t want a first year MD doing your heart or brain surgery. Most people I know, when the need arises for surgery, they ask the doc how many of these have you done?

Experience is a Cruel Beast

Gaining experience is the big hurdle for young people entering the job market. There aren’t that many positions available to start at the ground floor and work your way up. Yes, larger companies create starter jobs and recruit the top of the class graduates to fill those roles. They might even have training programs to grow and nurture the less experienced to fill future job needs inside the company.

However, for many, finding those experience learning opportunities is tough. Couple that with a new found impatience about career advancement and you have a frustrating situation.

Yet, there is no denying the need for experience to do the right thing in later roles. ‘Do the things I did to get to do the things I do.’ I love that.

Tips to Achieve the Success You Want

So for those who are in the early years of your careers, here are some thoughts to follow.

Understand Your Purpose

First, work on the need to understand your purpose. You were put on the earth for a reason. It was not some happy accident. You are created, wired, and pre-disposed for a purpose. Identify what that might be, then create a roadmap for fulfilling that purpose.

It won’t happen overnight or in the next 24 months. It’s a life journey. You can learn more about writing your own personal purpose statement here.

Play the Long Game

Next, learn how to play the long game. Stop worrying about tomorrow and the next immediate thing. Try to envision the picture of your future state lloooooonnnngggggg down the road. Not just tonight or tomorrow. Search for opportunities that serve that plan.

As an example, if you really want to be a consultant, get some analysts jobs first. Learn how to run studies and surveys. Compile big reports and findings for customers. Do the heavy lifting on those kinds of jobs so that you build experience in the tools of the trade.

If you think you want to be a coach, get some ‘people’ jobs first. Work your way up to become a shift supervisor at a Burger King. Learn how to deal with all kinds of people, not just your circle of friends from school.

Find Mentors

Then find some mentors. Let them help you along the way. Don’t just ask for a 30-minute session then be done. You’re not done. You have lots to learn. Mentoring is a process that evolves over time.

You’ll notice I said mentors (plural). Find people who will help you in all areas of life, not just work things. If you’re starting out in married life, get a mentor. Need spiritual help? Find a mentor. If you have a hobby you’d like to improve on, get a mentor.

It’s not that hard to find mentors either. All of my friends are willingly helping people in all walks of life. They just need to be asked.

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Perpetual Learning

All of the best coaches and leaders I know are perpetual learners. They read, study, and research to keep their edge sharp. In addition, they attend workshops and participate in mastermind groups. They rely upon peer-to-peer advisory work. Lastly, they hire coaches. Similar to top tier professional athletes, great thinkers and leaders turn to coaches to help up their game.

It’s a layered effect. You achieve one level, then start working on the next level. That is true in experiential growth as well as job promotion.

Wrapping it Up

When you ask an older, more experienced person how to do what they do, you have to recognize they did what they did before, so they now can do what they do. You can’t skip the steps in between.

They wouldn’t be who they are, doing what they do today without having done what they did to get here.

I know those are tongue twisters, but you get meaning. Do the work, find the experience, then you can do the big thing you want to do, your life’s purpose.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment. Click a share.

Breaking Through the Invisible Wall

management and leadership

There is an invisible wall in the business world. It’s the wall between management and leadership; being a good manager and becoming a great leader.

People can spend an entire career and never break through that wall. The wall is not about equal opportunity, hiring practices, promotion or selection. Nor is it about gender or age.

No, this wall is about moving from Management to Leadership.

The Entrepreneur’s Conundrum

The easiest way to explain this wall is to start with an entrepreneur. A solo-preneur; the person who thinks he/she has an idea and wants to start a business.

choice vs chance

Let’s say our hero gets some funding and launches the business. In no time, the business starts to make sales and grow.

Pretty soon the owner needs to hire people to help fill all the orders, make more widgets, or whatever they are doing. They need more people.

Now they have a team running. The first experience is to manage the process. The owner has to show everyone how to do or make the things you meant to do in the business.

Your idea as the entrepreneur has to get communicated, trained and shared with others to let the business grow.

As the Manager, you track the numbers, make the deposits and pay for expenses.

Things seem to be going OK. You survived the start-up phase.

New Opportunities

As the business grows, you have to grow with it. More resources, bigger payrolls, larger space, etc.

But the owner seldom thinks about growing their own ability to manage the business. The thinking goes something like this.

“What I did before got us here, I’ll do more of that, and we’ll be fine.”

That works for a little while longer, but the business still keeps growing.

Now it’s become a full-sized enterprise with layers of management, division of teams for specialized skills, and other expanding roles.

The Thirst for Leadership

Somewhere in between that expansion phase and the enterprise phase, the Invisible Wall takes shape. As the company grows, so does the wall.

What used to be decent management starts to have problems. The old ways to push people and materials don’t work anymore.

It’s not the people or the business, it’s the owner’s capacity to lead that is crumbling.

This new entity that is the company is hungry for leadership. Not more management, but bona fide leadership.

Leadership has to step in and take over.

As Monte Pendleton, Silver Fox Advisor, and founding member states “There is no particular time table for these stages. But the ending of Stage 1 usually becomes apparent when the requisite managerial skills begin to change. The very personality, skills, and capabilities that allowed you to succeed as a Stage 1 entrepreneur or start-up owner/operator, now become detrimental to you in the latter stages.”

When the wall becomes apparent, you have some choices to consider.

First, you could decide to quit growing; stay the size you are, and keep doing the same things.

Or, you can choose to modify your management style and press on toward the next phase. Hire a coach or an advisor to guide you through the changes needed to break through the wall.

Lastly, you might choose to replace yourself with someone who has better leadership skills and experience, allowing you to revert to the core talent and gifts/specialties you started with.

If all else fails, sell the business at its then market value and go fishing. (I digress).

Bigger Enterprise

I dedicate my coaching practice to owners and executives who are right at the wall.

There are senior managers everywhere who still need to embrace the reality of the presence of the wall.

Believe it or not, a wall always exists between the stage of the business unit you run and your ability to lead.

a group of young people working in the office

I’ve said it many times before, a good manager can have a long and successful career never being more than a manager. Turn the screws, meet the deadlines, ship those deliverables and do it through strong management skills; these can be a nice career.

However, for the good of the growth of the enterprise, you need to become a leader. If you already know something about leadership, be a better leader.

Monte states “Leadership is the ability to cause others to take action even when the action is outside their comfort zone.”

Dave Guerra in his book “Superperforming” says “Management is about process and leadership is about people.”

I love that explanation. So true.

Think about your situation right now. It doesn’t matter whether you own the business or run a large team/division inside one. Ask yourself, “where is my wall?”

Question: Have you broken through the wall, realizing the need for leadership over management?

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