To Be a Great Leader, You Must Inspect What You Expect

Inspect Expect
Inspect what you expect and article from @dougthorpe_com

This article was originally published on April 2, 2018 and has been updated.

Inspect what you expect.

This is an old saying that I learned decades ago.

What does it mean, exactly? And what does it have to do with leadership?

Well…

Have you been guilty of spouting a directive then letting it die a natural death? We’ve all done it at one point or another—whether accidentally or intentionally, we’re all guilty.

When a leader sets out a goal or directive, that goal can only be achieved with good monitoring, or, inspection.

Whether you run a big business, a team, or are working on a small project, in order to achieve any sort of success, you have to be mindful of these simple words: inspect what you expect.

Here’s my story.

The Military Way

Great leadership principles you need to know. Leadership powered by common sense

The “inspect what you expect” principle takes many forms.

During my days as a second lieutenant, we conducted regular health and welfare inspections.

While the military inspects a lot of things, this was unique. Those of you who have served in the military know why.

Those of you who don’t: buckle your seatbelts.

To achieve the best results, you must inspect.

One early morning at 3:30 a.m., the entire cadre (all of the managers and supervisors) of our training unit surrounded a barracks where a portion of our troops lived.

We suspected drug activity coming from this barracks.

This “health and welfare inspection” was actually a search and seizure mission.

We burst into the barracks and surprised all of the soldiers sleeping there. They were ousted from their bunks and told to stand at attention beside their footlockers while we searched the premises.

Sure enough, we found a stash of drugs and some paraphernalia tucked inside one of the footlockers.

Our target was achieved.

We could have preached and threatened the law about drugs, but we had to inspect what we expected.

This principle also applies to the success of most businesses.

Why?

Because even the best strategic planning simply won’t matter without proper execution.

A great leader must push forward to make things happen. They cannot stand still; they must be in constant motion, pushing towards a goal to reach success.

They must be focused.

Every plan and strategy associated with a goal must always be monitored and inspected to ensure proper execution and achievement.

Good project management comes from inspecting what you expect.

Have you heard of Six Sigma or DMAIC?

“Six Sigma”

Six Sigma is a specific set of tools and techniques used to to help businesses improve their processes.

Inspecting what you expect is an integral part of Six Sigma. It is also an integral part of overall good project management.

For process improvement, a concept known as DMAIC is applied.

DMAIC

DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control

…or, simply inspecting what you expect.

With DMAIC, you analyze results as they occur, checking them against expected outcomes.

If you find yourself off the mark, adjust and do it all over again. In other words, you are staying alert—at all times—to the things happening around you that affect your process and your progress.

The devil is in the details.

There is so much more to being a great leader than stating your plans and giving directives.

Great leaders walk the floor.

If you’re not walking the floor, you’re not being a good leader. You’re doing it wrong.

Leaders who don’t walk the floor find that things are not happening as they expect. Always remember: the devil is in the details.

You have to constantly be checking in, seeing what’s going on—walking the floor. You have to constantly ensure the appropriate measures are being put in place to achieve the right outcome.

You have to constantly test and review events and circumstances.

For example: if your business enforces things like safety or regulatory compliance, your role as a leader is to inspect and review events and circumstances. You have to check work every single day to ensure proper compliance.

If you don’t, people could get hurt.

Three easy steps to inspect:

1. Expect

Set expectations; specific expectations.

When issuing a directive, always be clear about your expectations. Be as specific as possible.

Volumes, dollars, incidence rates, hours, cost saves, the list goes on. The expectation you give will determine the outcome.

2. Be Consistent

Constantly inspect, and keep your inspections consistent. Keep communication open and be consistent in everything you do. Be open and don’t beat around the bush. Share your results.

3. Stay Visible

People need to know you are engaged and involved in the review process. Don’t get stuck behind your office door. Show your team you are active in the process. Be around them. Answer their questions. Motivate them.

Remember: you are the leader guiding the vision to the final outcome. Be available to talk it through with those who have questions. Walk the floor.

If your team is spread out geographically, remain visible with the right frequency of check-in calls and team meetings.

Let your team know that part of executing the mission is routine reviews.

So…do you inspect what you expect?

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Some People Are Just Haters

Angry person blowing steam

The life of a manager/business leader certainly has its benefits, but there are downsides to being a leader too. Not long ago, I received an email from someone who had served on a large project with me. Their recall of my leadership role was, let’s say, “less than flattering.”

The project in question was a large one. We started with a team of 457 professionals and grew it to over 700 before the project ended. I was the lead executive running the show.

The effort called for organizing 9 different work teams, handling 9 distinctly different focus topics and work plans. In the middle of it was a just-in-time software development project. That alone would have been a big enough challenge all by itself.

The work was spread coast to coast in 4 large work centers. To say we had occasional personnel problems would be an understatement.

My duty to lead and manage this group was a really big challenge. Thankfully, I had a close, but effective support staff with me. My deputy, second in command, became my traveling problem solver.

Back to the Email Message

This blog is about leadership. I share experience and learning from 30+ years in the trenches, on the front lines. So, yes, I try to be some type of sherpa.

The person who wrote me the email actually said I was a hypocrite for writing about management and leadership becasue he had a very clear recall of my role there.

He went on to call me one of those “stiffs” who sat in the glass offices and didn’t come out much. While some may say I fell short in a few areas during that project, getting out and around to the work teams was not one of the failings. In fact, my support crew saw me early in the morning then seldom saw me until late in the day.

Keeping on the Move

Why? Because I was moving from team to team, meeting to meeting, or training to training, dealing directly with the teams and their unit managers. I was as much cheerleader for the vision of the project as I was operator and executive.

Teamwork graphic

Frankly, I am proud of the project and the team we recruited. I met some amazing professionals who worked tirelessly to accomplish our goals, all under a tight time clock of deadlines and deliverables. The fact that some who were present either didn’t see it this way or have their own different opinions are just reality.

I am a Realist

If I’ve learned much of anything in my years as an executive, I’ve learned you have to be real about people’s expectations. You will never win them all. I am convinced that if you recruit three people to be on the same team, you will find one negative Ned or Nelly. Heck, this can even happen just hiring two people.

The Challenge as a Leader is Threefold

First, you must do the best you can at recruiting and selecting people for your team. For a small business, this can be the most difficult challenge an owner undertakes. It is certainly true in big business too. You will not win them all here either, but you can do things to make better selections through detailed screening, background checks, and by giving practical tests to applicants.

If you have specific skills you need to be performed, you have to test for those skills. The “soft stuff” like customer service can be a bigger challenge. After all, people have learned how to ace interviews and smile pretty. Yet, once they land, you can only wait to see whether they fit correctly into your roles and execute on the duties?

Equip to Win

Next, you must equip them to win. As a leader, you must impart the best information you can provide to help them understand the job, the requirements, and winning factors that work for the specific need you have them fill. That is on you as the leader to provide this understanding.

As soon as an employee demonstrates an unwillingness to embrace the framework and perform against the standards, you need to begin remediation actions. Whether that is retraining, reassignment, relocation, or removal, the manager must move swiftly to eliminate the lingering impact of an underachiever.

Lastly, there will still be those who hate your leadership. Regardless how much you work to win the hearts and minds of your team, you will have some who don’t get it. No leader anywhere should expect of themselves the ability to win everyone over. There are just enough personalities in this world to occasionally find the ones who won’t mesh well.

I like to say it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. When you identify the difference, you have to accept it for what it is.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

On occasion when you get some really negative feedback from a former employee (or current one), take it with a  grain of salt. They pay you the proverbial big bucks to have the thick skin to take it.

Let the haters hate – It’s what they do.

Thoughtful person

If there is substance in the feedback, embrace it. Use the input to improve your leadership skills. However, when you know you gave it your best shot, proven by the feedback from those who mattered at the time (your client, your boss, and the team around you) forget about the Hater. Haters will hate. That’s what they do.

Be bold. Be strong. Don’t let one loud voice drown out your ability to make a difference for everyone else.

Oh, by the way. After over 30 years managing and directing thousands and a current day social media following of over 100,000, I’ve gotten two such letters in five years.

Not bad. Not bad at all. (President Whitmore –  Independence Day)

Leadership Lessons Learned in the Trenches

team leadership

In my consulting days, I used to manage teams of people who were contractors, assembled for specific projects, then released once the project was over. These talented people were “gig workers” before that was a thing.

The projects were often high intensity with very little cushion on the deadlines. As manager of these teams, I saw a lot of examples of hard work and true grit under pressure. The work required me to be a nimble manager with the ability to think on my feet.

The experiences in the field often served to remind me of business leadership principles I learned a long time ago, but have to revisit frequently if I choose to keep them fresh and effective.

Guiding Principles

Throughout my project assignments, my ‘master list’ of guiding principles was tested on several occasions. I wanted to share with you my thoughts and remind other leaders about the importance of staying centered on these valuable principles. Here they are.

If you claim to be a servant leader, have empathy and sympathy

On one assignment I ran into a team of folks who were new to me, but who had worked together for years before I arrived. They had just been informed that their workplace was undergoing a somewhat hostile takeover; hostile from the circumstances that caused the life-changing events.

Former management had been caught doing very wrong things. My team was to serve as interim managers to ‘right the ship’ so to speak.

I needed the full cooperation and dedication from the staff left behind. I was immediately reminded of the need to empathize by placing myself mentally and emotionally in their shoes.

I needed to sympathize with the things I was hearing. The old phrase came to mind, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Make the tough calls

I had to quickly start assessing the situation around me, digest facts and data, then make some quick decisions. I couldn’t wait on more data. That was not an option.

Knowing what I needed to know was important, but more critical was the willingness to take the intelligence/information I was being given and then make a decision.

business leader

Difficult people need to be corralled and managed

The impact of a ‘difficult’ personality in the workplace can have tremendous ripple effects.

On this project, the client stationed a senior manager with whom I was tasked to work. He proved to be a very difficult personality.

Fortunately, I was able to get a read on him early on in the project, identify the issues, and make plans for managing across the work team to minimize the influence of the more negative things that he occasionally dumped.

On one particularly challenging day, this individual had spewed a lot of venom across the office; foul language, abusive comments. When he went home, I gathered my troops for a sit-down meeting. I told them simply that “I, as their team leader, wanted to apologize to them on his behalf. The things said and done that day were not appropriate among professionals. I told them I hoped they could see that for what it was and not be deterred in their dedication to the mission by having endured this day.”

Rely on your team

Make team projects a true team event by admitting your own shortcomings and use the skills and abilities the team can bring. Do not ever act so big and proud that you have to know it all. People don’t like ‘that guy’.

Accountable

Inspire people by identifying their strong suits early, and then create applicable opportunities where the use of those individual skills can shine.

Also, share among the team who is doing what and how important the outcome can be. Spread the wealth evenly. Consider this as “know your people”. People respond very well when they know their self-worth is being used appropriately for key contributions to the effort.

Have a little fun

Every day does not have to be all starched and polished. Let your own hair down a little and find opportunities for a little innocent fun. Let the people’s personalities shine too.

By creating an environment for a little friendly banter among the crew, you can keep spirits light and fresh. But watch out for off color jokes and comments or anything that starts to sound cutting or personal. Keep it light. Help make people want to come back to work.

place a call

Maintain your own personal integrity

There are many ways to do this, but chief among them is making and keeping promises. Communicating clearly, openly, and fairly whenever possible.

Of course managers sometimes have to hold things close to the vest. But as soon as you can share with your team, do so.

CONCLUSION

Leaders must be clear on a set of guiding principles that fit their style and belief system. I hope my list helps you. Please comment below on these topics and share others you have used.

Feel Like an Entrepreneur?

Two business owners were talking. One was having a pretty good run with his new, and growing business. The other had suffered a series of bad turns and hard luck.

Entrepreneurship

The one with the better business asked, “So now do you feel like an entrepreneur?” 

The other answered “Heck no. I feel like a pile of manure.”

Running your own business is not for the faint of heart 

It takes a whole lot more than a smart new idea to make a business tick. If yours is a wild and disruptive idea (think Uber and AirBnB) you may truly have some potential, but you will quickly find that the details of finding money to make money and managing everything can really be a bigger challenge than you ever expected.

It takes much more than an idea to become an entrepreneur. Click To Tweet

Several times a year I speak to audiences on college campuses. After my talks, I get the usual line of attendees who want to ask questions, make comments, and otherwise share things. 

It never fails that I get a student or two who is convinced they will conquer the business world as we know it with their new idea. I ask them to explain. So far I have never heard anything earth shattering. 

I am not  sure if that is because we don’t teach enough creative thinking or whether we are truly failing to impart the full truth about what it takes to make a business go.

Sidebar: As I write this, it occurs to me that many of the more famous entrepreneurs of our modern era never went to college or never finished (think Gates and Zuckerberg). I digress.

Getting the Entrepreneurial Bug

There are those among us who are natural entrepreneurs. Others get the idea after spending too many years working for others. For me I caught the bug early in life. I watched my single Mom quite a stable, secure job to live her dream. 

Mom was a gifted interior designer. She did that work for other companies before setting out on her own. Slowly but steadily she built a well-respected and thriving business. Solopreneur she was long before that was  a thing. 

I wrote about the 10 things she taught me. See that article here.

I’ve had the opportunity to start three businesses and three non-profits. Each one was a labor of love. Believe me when I say I didn’t do it alone.

Somewhere along the way mentors had taught me one key principle. Ideas are great, but before you commit big resources (and energy) test it with several faithful advisors.

If you can get them interested, then you might have something. Otherwise, it’s just a dream.

To All the Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Here are my simple rules of entrepreneurship.

  1. DO – live your dreams, but be smart about it. Test your ideas with a few trusted advisers. Be open to their honest feedback. Tweak your plan if it looks like you must.
  2. BUT – don’t get totally discouraged. Dogged determination does create some very exciting possibilities. (I still don’t understand how Jeff Bezos survived the first 10 years of Amazon).
  3. EGO – Your ego is good when used the right way. Watch who you alienate as you grow your idea. You will need friends sooner than you think. NEVER take yourself too seriously.
  4. FUN – have fun doing what you decide to do.

Making the Most from Working at Home

Work at Home

The gig economy has produced a large population of people working from home. The lure and excitement of being able to shorten the commute from hours and miles down to feet and inches (as in the length of the walk from your kitchen to your home office) often fade fast.

It turns out not everyone is equipped to work at home. I frequently get asked for tips and tricks on how to make the stay-at-home gig work well.

Work at Home

I’ve been working from a home office for almost 20 years. Yes, I frequently get called to client offices or travel on-site to assist with business deals. Yet the bulk of my time is spent right outside my kitchen door, a few feet down the hallway.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your work-at-home experience.

Make Space

First, make a dedicated space. The more walls and doors the better. You need seclusion from the rest of the activity in the house.

My life now includes 7 grandkids. They are here a lot and not just on weekends.

My wife and I love that part of life, but I still work full time so need the separation when I have work to be done.

The built-in desk just off the breakfast nook won’t work. You need an office area that can give you separation and handle your work tools; likely a computer, telephone, and even video hookups.

Don’t Skimp on Equipment

If your company or client doesn’t provide the right equipment for you to do your work, invest in some of your own. The right desktop or laptop is essential. This includes printers, phones, and whatever video set-up may make sense.

Pay for the bandwidth too. Get a service that provides the best possible data connectivity you can afford in your area. Reliability is also critical here.

If you will be doing work with video conferencing, webinar production or other camera work, check your lighting. Invest in a few moderately priced light sets to help brighten the area where the camera work is happening.

At the end of this article I’ll provide my own list of office equipment I like and the services I use.

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Test your career satisfaction – take this personal survey

Consider Your Emotions

The psycho-emotional aspects of working at home are not a good fit for everyone. Face it, you’ll be alone. If you live off the chatter at the water-cooler, you won’t get that here.

If you think you need to feed off others at work, then working at home won’t be a happy time for you.

You’ll need to find other ways to get that energy. I set at least three breakfast, lunch or coffee meetings per week if I am not directly handling clients. I use those encounters to fuel my inner beast’s hunger for human interaction.

For me, I keep my trusty rescue pooch, Teddy by my side. He loves it with me at home.

Get on a Schedule

Nothing is harder to do when you work at home than to keep on a schedule. Look at your workload and set a calendar. Stick to it.

Block out appointments for yourself to handle critical pieces of your work, setting your own deadlines if others haven’t already set them for you.

I like what a friend does. Now mind you he’s in his 80’s but he still works full time. He sets 10 boxes on his calendar. Morning and afternoon each day get a separate box. Two boxes per day and five days a week, you get 10 boxes. His primary goal is to fill every box. He intentionally blocks out time to get things done.

If it’s not on your calendar, it will either get neglected or forgotten. Make time and plan time.

This includes being able to make time for your spouse and family needs.

Set Boundaries

I just talked about making a calendar that includes time for spouse and family. However, you need to set some honest expectations with them too. They need to help make you successful by respecting times that you deem as work hours. Unplanned interruptions can throw your calendar off schedule.

Handle Big Rocks First

There’s a fabulous teaching experience that demonstrates the value of handling big rocks first. Here’s a video of the principle.

My Resource List

Here’s a list of some of the tools I have that I love.

  1. My Desktop – I’m still a PC guy. I run an Intel-based desktop, small form factor Lenovo. It’s served me very well. I made one upgrade to install a solid state drive versus the old school hard drives. The SSD cost about $129 for 500GB of storage. That’s not huge by today’s standards, but keep in mind I store my archives in the cloud.
  2. Cloud Storage – With Google Drive. For me, it was tricky to sync it up properly, but now that it is running, it works flawlessly.
  3. Video – Camera is a simple Logitech HD 1080p Webcam 920. It has built-in sound/mic configuration. The quality is great. Set-up was straight forward.
  4. Video Conferencing – I switched to Zoom.us a few years ago. I like their service so much more than all the others. The recording features are super and fit well into my video interviews. Webinar production is easy too with Zoom.
  5. Web HostingSiteground has served me very well for several years now. The service is very cost effective. I find their support 24×7 is superior to all the others I’ve tried.
  6. Blogging Platform – WordPress is my go-to source. I’ll need another dedicated article to tell you about this if you don’t already know something about WP.

I hope this helps you get a better grip on working from home. Call or write with any questions.

Disclaimer: Some of the tools and services mentioned above do involve affiliate relationships with me and my company HeadwayExec, LLC. But I assure you, I don’t promote anything I haven’t used myself.

Being an Authentic Leader Does Not Always Come Naturally

Authentic leadership

One of the highest valued attributes of great leaders is their authenticity. Being authentic does not always come naturally. The good news is, you can develop a more authentic leadership style.

On one hand, being authentic requires having a sense of “true north.”

True North

Ask a room full of people to close their eyes and point North. When everyone opens their eyes, fingers are pointing all over the place. (Try this some time; it’s a great ice breaker).

The message is that “north”, can conjure various meanings depending on one’s perception. Yet, true north is available for specific identification and location using the right equipment. It doesn’t change.

Your leadership should have this same kind certainty about it. You have to decide on your definition of true north, then stick to it.

When issues swirl around you and your team, you should have a reputation for responding to certain things in certain ways. If your people know this about you, then there will be a confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Accepting Feedback

Being truly open to feedback helps build the sense of leadership authenticity. By accepting input from others, you demonstrate a desire to learn and grow.

We all have tendencies to fall into a kind of rut. We find a rhythm to our life and we put things on cruise control. However, if that path takes you away from the authenticity you seek, you need a nudge to get back on the better path.

Here’s what to do. Say to those around you “Here’s my vision and my plan for how I intend to operate. If you see me doing something to the contrary, I invite you to say so.”

The other benefit of soliciting feedback is that you come across as genuinely engaged with the people you count on. Rather than constantly demanding something from them in terms of performance and accomplishment, you give them a chance to “shoot back”.

A healthy exchange of ideas can add great value to your relationships at work and everywhere else. You’ll become a more authentic leader.

One Caution

One word of caution though. Don’t “over-share”. Your people don’t need your burdens, but they will appreciate knowing you too have life outside the office.

As an example, you can casually say something about your daughter’s birthday party coming up, but you don’t need to share all the details and drama that might be going with the event.

Take Inventory

If you aren’t sure how authentic you might be, ask. Get some feedback.

Huddle with a circle of trusted advisors and ask them to provide you with a description of how they grade your authenticity. You might also ask them about ways they could see you improving.

If all of this is still a puzzle to you, I’d be happy to book a short call to help you learn more. Click the link below to schedule a call.

Click box to schedule a call with Doug Thorpe

Establishing a Personal Reflection

Taking time for personal reflection

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.” ~ Socrates (470-399 BC)

Socrates had it right. The more we are involved in and with something, the more we understand the topic.

While most of us can easily agree with diving into our work using all the technical knowledge and subject matter expertise, seldom do we pause to reflect on the most powerful source in our reach. Oursleves.

Do you have a regular habit of being reflective?

A colleague of mine, John N. Younker, Ph.D. writes on this subject:

“Reflective Practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning.  

It involves paying critical attention to your values and principles as you apply them in your everyday actions (decisions and choices). 

By practicing reflection, as a part of your ongoing learning, it can result in developmental insights. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is key and essential for learning from your life experiences.

Further, it has been written, that reflection … or having a reflective practice … can be an important tool in practice-based professional learning settings where people learn from their own professional experiences, rather than from formal learning or knowledge transfer. It may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement. 

A person who reflects throughout his or her practice is not just looking back on past actions and events but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding.”

For these reasons I have learned to enhance my own New Year’s resolution and goal setting habits to include a deep dive into reflective learning; learning from the past year’s experiences.

Besides merely defining some BHAGs for the new year (Big Hairy &#^#% Goals), you should be deciding on life changes that keep you in sync with who and what you truly want to be about.

Living a Purposeful Life

Living life with intentional direction is far more rewarding than one day arriving at some destination and wondering why or how you got there.

personal reflection

This is why having a different process for setting your new year vision should include an outlook/forecast as well a your own annual planning.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″] Therefore, your Outlook & Annual Planning is the ability and the discipline required to live and experience a “Purposeful Life.” Personal strategic planning is a disciplined thought process, that actively engages and involves you. It leads you to make important decisions and take actions that shape what is truly important to you. You do it because of who you are and what you uniquely do; guiding how, when and why you do it. ~John Younker[/perfectpullquote]

The purpose of the Annual Personal Outlook process … Personal Strategic Planning process is to help you to:

  1. Decide on a direction for your life … your future.
  2. Make purposeful and meaningful contributions throughout your life.
  3. Gain clarity of your core values, beliefs and aspirations.
  4. Make decisions that will positively affect and impact your future.
  5. Focus your energies on what is most important to you.
  6. Achieve the greatest results in a defined period of time.
  7. Focus on increasing your level of performance, in all aspects of your life.
  8. Live and enjoy a more fulfilling life.
  9. Create balance and freedom to more effectively choose from your opportunities.
  10. Reduce uncertainty, anxiety, doubt and fear.
  11. Leverage your unique Knowledge, Skills and Abilities to more effectively Perform (KSAPs).
  12. Enhance your confidence and overall peace of mind.
  13. Be more by doing more that ultimately enables you to gain more from your life choices.

Finding a Plan

If you are into looking for good tools to help you map your intentions and reflections, look at STRYV.

STRYV Dashboard

The STRYV (strive) dashboard gives you a simple but powerful way to plot the areas of your life that mean the most to you. If you are lagging in your impact in one or more areas, STRYV gives you the planning tools to get on track and stay there.

Disclaimer: STRYV is an independent offering not affiliated with DougThorpe.com or HeadwayExec, LLC. There is no financial consideration for STRYV being mentioned here.

It’s Hard to Write About Christmas

Merry Christmas! This year, Christmas Day falls on my usual blog post publishing day.

I have to tell you as a writer, I always struggle to craft a Christmas message.

First, I think I know my audience. I am keenly aware that many of you do not acknowledge Christmas nor celebrate it because of its “Christian” basis.

I respect that. Yet, as someone who was raised in a so-called Christian household, the wonder and blessing of Christmas are deeply entwined in my DNA.

What I think may be valuable during this holiday season is a reflection on the mystery and wonder that a young person finds in Christmas. More importantly, I am reflecting on the impact such an experience has many years later in life. At least it does in my life.

A Magical Time

At my house, Christmas was magical. The promise of surprises from Santa, mixed with the amazing foods, and special celebrations that might just pop up with no notice mad being a kid at Christmas a joy that was worth thinking about the other 364 days.

As I look back on those moments I’ve tried to analyze and dissect the makings of the wonder. The best I can conclude is that there was a special hope that flowed as the undercurrent of the whole experience.

Hope was seldom denied. Oh sure, some of the packages didn’t contain the toy I was certain was wrapped there, but what was found in the wrapping was often much more than even my imagination could muster.

It is that childlike hope I have held on to. Even at my age, Christmas can still bring that out again.

Business Leaders Take Notice

If you are a business leader, don’t take away anyone’s hope. Sometime you might not be able to fulfill every wish of every employee, but you don’t have to crush their spirits in announcing changes or turning down requests.

Remember, your best people still have their own dreams. Use the excitement and energy that might come with those dreams to harness greater commitment and help improve productivity.

Heck, you might even make a New Year’s resolution to celebrate small wins more often with your folks. You’ll be amazed at the goodwill just that act of empathy can create.

Merry Christmas!

So there I said it again. However, please hear my plea. Be a leader who supports hope and encourages those who work  for you to celebrate their victories.

Find ways to make working with you something to be excited about. Sure you can’t produce surprises every day of every week, but you can promote the individual joy that comes with knowing when you’ve worked hard and made something happen. Let your people have that and know that. They will celebrate with you.

Created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com

5 Reasons Why Bad Bosses Suck So Bad

Bad bosses suck!

Face it, we all know or have had bad bosses. It seems to be a given in the business world. It’s been true for decades.

Bad bosses suck!

With all the intelligence, studies, coaching, schools, and programs, why do some bosses still suck? I’m going to offer 5 reasons.

Promotion –  Sadly, getting promoted can be the worst reason to make someone a boss. They might be the brightest bulb and the sharpest employee, but they likely will make a lousy boss. Why? No proven skill or capacity to manage. Without any preparation, businesses of all kinds throw good employees into the gap of management and disaster happens. The company doesn’t train or prepare the new guy/gal. The person is just tossed over the fence into the role.

Without knowing, they try to emulate some leadership practices they saw somewhere or heard on a podcast. Execution fails. The team suffers. This over-achiever dies on the vine in the management role.

place a call

Money –  Entrepreneurs are the worst at this. Get a little funding and your idea can be born, right? But can you build and manage a team? Perhaps not. The arrogance that comes with pride of ownership clouds any skill at leading a team. Your commitment to your dream product, app, or service stands in the way of learning how to lead your team. And yes, you need a team to prosper. Very few solopreneurs go very far totally alone; there just aren’t enough hours in the day to scale and grow a business.

Absolute control of the purse strings/bank accounts sets this person up for bad decision making. While budget responsibility is important, if every thought this boss has is about the next dime, then the company and its people suffer. “Penny wise, pound foolish” is the old saying.

Fear –  It’s amazing to me how many managers operate from a position of fear. It might be tied to #1 above, or being promoted beyond their known capacity to lead. BTW there is a leadership lid concept as eloquently explained by John Maxwell in his “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.

If you are elevated in your job beyond your natural, God-given capacity to lead, you will revert to a fight or flight mode. Every moment of decision gets rooted in fear. You lash out at those around you, even the loyal ones trying to support and defend your role.

Ego –  Pompous idiots get placed into significant roles all the time. I still can’t explain exactly how that works; there are so many reasons. These guys get consumed by the power of the position. Knowing there is a predefined set of rules and authority bestowed in each position on the org chart, these guys use it first and foremost with no other effort to lead from other principles.

“My way or the highway” is their mantra. No amount of training seems to help.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]“You can lead a horse to water, but some really are jackasses.”[/perfectpullquote]

Morally corrupt – Bosses with no moral compass may be the worst kind. The news is littered with reports of sexual abuse, sexist hiring and promotion practices, anger management, bribes, and other bad acts by business managers and owners. Sadly, the boss with a dark heart may be like dancing with the devil. Every day you work for this clown is a living hell.

What to Do

When you find yourself working for any of these guys, you have two basic and simple choices. First, you can choose to endure, take the money you’re being paid, build whatever reserve you want (assuming the money IS good). Then wait it out a while before leaving.

Or, you can get started on making a move now, no, run fast!

Unfortunately, my experience and history tell me that bosses operating from one of these five angles will never really change. Companies spend millions of dollars on coaching to turn this around. Sometimes it works, often for only a little while. As soon as the goose of a boss decides the company spotlight on them has been turned off, they likely revert back to their bad practices (leopards and spots if you please).

In the end, I believe that effective management requires the application of leadership principles. YES, the two are different, but so few understand that. A leader will have the heart to inspire and influence their people (in a good way). The five sources of a bad boss won’t be a factor for the person who genuinely wants to be a better leader.

The young manager who gets promoted into the role will seek coaching and mentoring to fix their weaknesses and highlight their strengths.

The entrepreneur will be objective while looking in the mirror and know they need others to fill in their gaps. They will seek counsel for key decisions, surrounding themselves with people of stronger skill sets for the areas needed to make the company grow.

The person prone to ego attacks will figure out ways to keep that in check, whether through the use of accountability partners, friends, and a personal board of directors (different from the corporate board).

One Last Thought

If you’ve stayed with me to the end here, you likely are NOT one of the bad bosses. The bad guys left this piece in the delete file a long time ago. That’s another attribute of bad bosses; they cannot hear the truth.

In the unlikely possibility that you are a bad boss and read this through, thank you. You might have just taken the first step to make a difference. I didn’t write this to be mean to you guys. I did it for your team who has suffered long enough. Wake up, fix it. You can do that if you want to.

Managers Being a Friend at Work or Just Friendly?

Friends at work

Anyone who has ever become a supervisor or manager knows the strain of drawing fine lines around relationships at work. Some companies have very explicit fraternization policies. Others are far more relaxed.

Friends at work

The size of the company can also dictate the level of relationships people are permitted to have. On one hand, smaller, more entrepreneurial start-up or emerging businesses rely upon close internal relationships to grow and thrive. Bigger, perhaps publicly traded, companies often get far more formal in their administration of HR policy because they need consistency to protect themselves from higher risks and defend themselves from an employee complaint.

The Manager’s Seat

Sitting in the manager’s seat is where all of this comes to a very personal focal point. Can you or should you become friends with any of your employees?

In a recent post, I presented a six-step framework for building high performing teams by elevating the level of trust within the team. To build trust, business leaders must provide special empathy towards their employees. The right kind of empathetic conduct may easily slip into the friend zone.

Friends

First, let’s deal with the exact context of the word “friend”. In my experience, it represents a genuine bond; some extra level of trust you don’t share with just anyone. Yet there are consequences for a manager who creates a true friendship with an employee.  Here are just a few of the possible risks:

  • Your judgment toward the individual can become biased
  • Evaluation and compensation can be compromised
  • Resentment from other employees

Genuine friendships that may have developed at work while you were in other roles may now need to be adjusted if that friend becomes a direct report.

Showing Empathy

As a leader, keeping your friend list in check doesn’t mean you need to stop being friendly. The traits that make someone friendly usually center around the whole ability to show empathy. 

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner. Although there may be a genetic basis to empathy, research suggests it is possible to boost your capacity for empathic understanding. [from Psychology Today]

empathy at work

Managers and leaders who increase their empathetic listening skills will rapidly improve their connection to their employees.

Question: How do you handle friendships at work? Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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