Leaders: Are You a Pretender or a Contender?

If your desire is to be a better manager at work, at home, or in the community, you may want to develop some actual leadership skills.

However, if you are already following certain leadership principles, there is always room for lifting the lid to expand your reach and influence.

After many years working with clients of all kinds, I see one recurring theme, time and again. The biggest difference between managers and leaders who are pretenders versus contenders is a small six-inch piece of real estate; the distance between your ears.

Yes, I am talking about the space inside your head. The things you allow to happen in your thought life will drive the rate of success. You can be a pretender or you can be a contender. The difference is isolated in this really small space.

In the following diagram, you can see the natural progression of thought, action, reaction and behavior that is derived from our beliefs, expectations, and experiences. It’s all centered in the mind.

BELIEFS

Beliefs are your values, judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and attitudes. When you wake up each day, you have a whole set of these beliefs waiting ready in your head. The sum total of all these makes up your outlook for the day, often before you even begin. The collection of these beliefs set the stage for the way each day might unfold.

If a string of circumstance has tainted your set of beliefs, you will look at new opportunity through a jaded lens. On the other hand, if you have achieved a certain success, you may be more inclined to view new opportunity with a more optimistic mindset.

BEHAVIORS

Your beliefs drive your behaviors. Your “style” openness (or not), your habits, skills, practices, and actions stem from the beliefs you carry.

If you prefer mustard over mayonnaise, you are expressing an eating behavior based on some belief you established a long time ago. And so it goes with many of your daily choices, clothes, cars, hobbies, reading, entertainment, music, etc.

RELATIONSHIPS

Even the people you may choose to call friends will be governed by your beliefs turned into behavior. The kind of tribe you may join at work or in the community will be influenced by your behaviors.

If you align with a certain religious belief system, that will dictate the house of worship you choose to attend. Political affiliations, other social settings, and even workplace choices will be heavily swayed by the relationships you think you want to make; all having root in your mind’s eye.

RESULTS

Finally, the results will reflect the collection of beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. The direct circles of activity you choose will have a specific set of outcomes. These results (outcomes, impact, improvements, and “performance”) will all serve to reinforce your belief system.

When the results align with your original beliefs you say “see, I told you so.” You feel you knew it all along.

On the other hand, if an outcome somehow runs counter to what you expected (as many things will do), you may be inclined to fall deeper into your beliefs saying things like “I will never do THAT again”, or “I wish I had followed my gut.”

The Remedy

The successful leader will learn how to control that delicate real estate between the ears. Negative thoughts will be replaced by ones that provide a more meaningful value. The cycle of belief, behavior, relationship, and result will become a momentum-generating machine for positive action and success.

Whenever limiting thoughts creep in or pop up, the prudent, experienced leader will properly address the thought and prevent it from taking root to undermine the rest of the experience.

Whenever in doubt, the seasoned, learning leader will seek advice from trusted counselors and coaches or mentors and friends, to better evaluate the thought. If the thought has merit, then it can be addressed with a balanced, healthy view, never interrupting forward progress.

When you handle the root belief system, you set the stage for a more positive outcome. More importantly, you set the process by which you can grow, profit, and prosper in all areas of your life.

team building via trust

I’ve coached hundreds of business people helping them develop more effective leadership skills. Whether you own the business or you’re climbing the ladder in a larger corporate setting, you can benefit from finding a close, confidential advisor to help you develop the extra skills that make a difference. Use the contact forms here to reach out. Let me introduce you to my proven programs for leadership growth.

Are You Focused Deep or Wide?

If you start talking about leadership, you may get several different reactions; everything from eye-roll to serious looks. Regardless of the guru you follow or the school where you took leadership training, there is one key question that remains.

Will your leadership ability be deep or wide?

If you’re thinking about big organizations with high headcount and multiple lines of business, you are thinking about wide leadership influence. This includes large communities or tribes where your influence can be experienced.

However, if you think in terms of the immediate circle of your peers and direct reports, then you are thinking deep leadership.

There is not really a right or wrong to either of these two schools of thought.

Wide Leadership Thinking

As the name implies, wide leadership reaches far. The edges are way out there. You might be hoping to influence or impact a large population, whether that’s within your company or inside an industry.

Your idea of a vision has a really big scale to it. You are wanting to leave behind or accomplish making a big difference.

Ironically, a great leader with a wide vision isn’t necessarily thinking about numbers of followers. Instead, they focus on the need. Their heart centers on service.

The best picture is that of the pebble cast on a calm pool of water. The place where the stone hits the water causes ripple effects that have energy enough to reach the far edges of the pond or lake. If the pool was perfectly still, a single stone will create ripples that are seen the whole distance beyond the center of that circle.

Great leadership creates ripples of influence and impact in the hearts and minds of the ones who stand in the outer bands of the circle surrounding the leader.

The Deep End

Deep leadership is limited in numbers. It is a more personalized experience, dealing with a few.

In business, we think of it as our “direct reports”, those who are assigned directly to us with whom we have a day to day contact.

Mentoring someone is a deep leadership happening. The leader will be pouring wisdom, encouragement, and experience into the individual, one on one.

Deep leadership impact will be life changing for the recipient. Perhaps the influence will be limited to just a few nuggets of truth or learning, but the substance will be powerful. The person receiving the lesson will be forever changed.

The Best Do Both

The best leaders I have ever known or studied do both. I’ve tried being that kind of leader in what I do. I’ve tried teaching it to others.

When you take on a position of responsibility, you have to make the team work first. Your influence should be the deep kind. You must feed and nurture those assigned to you or hired by you. It is up to you to explain the vision and purpose.

You’ll be doing individual development of those around you.

As the team becomes productive, you can shift your focus to the wider perspective.

Your business may have many layers and your team is just a part of the bigger picture. Your influence as a leader can be felt by others outside your team. You do this by supporting other units or departments.

If you own your own business, you have to get it up and running smoothly (deep leadership) before you reach too far outside into the community to make yourself known (wide leadership).

A Pivot

I could go on about this and maybe will in another installment later. But I need to interject something.

I had this article in my writing queue for some time. My calendar was clicking by and my process to go to press was running normally. Then it was time to polish this one off and prep it for release on Sunday, April 12.

It hit me.

That Date is Easter.

Then it hit me again. What better an example of deep and wide influence than the story we know about Jesus’s life.

I intentionally do not force my faith and beliefs on you my reader. Nor will I start now. But please allow me a moment to reflect on this, a very significant holy date for many.

The story of Jesus began with him assembling a small group, twelve to be exact. His intent was to go deep with teaching, mentoring and messaging. He attempted to dispel many teachings of the day and bring better clarity on the subject of God and Heaven.

The disciples as this group later would be called, didn’t always get it at first. It took many tries to explain and demonstrate the principles to them. They eventually did get it.

Then focus turned to a wider audience. A gathering in a town square, a following on a hillside. The pebble was thrown into the lake and ripple it did.

The twelve are gone. Yet, the legacy created 2000 years ago remains.

I don’t judge your beliefs. None of this is an attempt to sway you otherwise. Yet for those who do believe this story and these teachings, the model is perfect.

Leadership delivered deeply to a few had impact far and wide on many. Today, we as leaders can do much the same.

OK most of you will not start a movement or create a global cause. But you can be the leader your team and your community need right now.

I encourage you to reflect in this Easter season.

Where does your leadership stand right now? Deep, wide or both?

Is Your Project a Self-Eating Watermelon?

self-eaten watermelon

What is a self-eating watermelon? Definition : A project that contains enough seeds of success right within its own boundaries.

How many of you work for or in a self-eating watermelon project or organization?

self-eaten watermelon

I doubt many would say yes. You see I hear a lot of excuses why a project fails.

Outside influences get a big part of the blame. Low budgets, poor facilities, bad technology, broken tools, weak ideas… the list goes on and on.

What about bad leadership, or no leadership? Any organization that suffers a leadership gap is destined to miss the self-eating watermelon kind of success.

Great leaders can overcome basic obstacles. OK the tools may be dull, the budget may have gotten cut back, the building is second rate. Many great world changing events have happened with far less in terms of physical resources to do the work.

An Old Story

Leadership made the difference. I’m old enough to have been a student of the great war, WWII. Leaders like Dwight Eisenhower or Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill looked at the mess the world was in and saw a vision. They dug deep into core principles both human and domestic to design the way out.

Leaders like these inspired thousands to stand up and fight. Troops fought with second rate gear sometimes. Warm clothes and rations were scarce. Yet the forces that were mustered heard the call and forged ahead, securing victory for a free world.

If you get a chance, go tour Churchill’s bunker underneath the streets of London. By today’s standards, you just cannot imagine suffering years of isolation running the war effort from there. But his team and the plans they made were a true self-eating watermelon project. The seeds of success were grown right there.

Those who helped the effort saw a clear picture of the need. Churchill had his detractors. He was a classic modern day politician with a large percentage of the country not voting for him, yet his leadership shined brightest when the country needed it the most.

He rallied the support when it was needed. His influence on the situation was undeniable.

The Newer Story

A seldom told tale comes from banking. In the 1980’s, the automated teller machine was blazing its trail into our lives. The hardware was operating before the software. While each bank could purchase their own machines for use by their customers, there was no access sharing between banks.

I worked for a large regional bank called Texas Commerce. We had 71 locations spread across Texas. We were one of the three largest banks of our kind at the time. You have to realize we did not yet have interstate banking laws, so each state had its own banks; leave the state without cash, and you might be stuck for a while.

I was sitting at the table when our Chairman, a banking legend named Ben Love, was presented a plan to operate these ATM machines. Again, understand this was the very early days of the idea. Ben heard all of the pros and cons, saw the numbers, but decided to pass on the opportunity. In his mind, there were far too many variables, yet unknown.

In the case of the self-eating watermelon, no one knew what the seeds of success needed to include. Ben took a pass, but specifically told the team to stay vigilant, watch the other guys try, then, when the time was right, we’d jump in.

It was almost two years later that we took our dive. And dive we did. Not only did we enter the market, but we crushed it, becoming the founding members of the PULSE Switch. You see the network required to connect all of these machines needed to be built. We needed a technological super highway to carry the transaction data from one machine to the next, regardless of which bank sponsored the machine. PULSE solved that.

As a founding member of PULSE, we also captured a large share of the transaction fees that went with each swipe of a card. It was a huge play for the bank and banking in general. Yes, I know ATM’s are a given these days. No one thinks about this card or that, which network it runs on, or who gets what, when. The old model blazed the trail to create a new normal.

Ben Love had other historical accolades too. He championed branch banking and interstate banking, exerting a strong influence in the Texas legislature to pass the laws needed to open the borders for eventual e-commerce. His ties to New York banking led to the eventual merger of our bank with what is now JP Morgan Chase.

Ben Love

The seeds of this monumental success were sown into the very fabric of who and what we were as a bank. That, my friends, is leadership. Now, let it be said, Ben Love had his detractors too, just like Churchill. Not everyone who ever worked for Ben left with a positive appreciation for Ben’s ways. But you cannot deny the influence he had at so many levels.

Leadership Is the Key

In summary, there are no self-eating watermelon projects or organizations that exists without strong, capable leadership. It is the presence of leadership that steers the course, musters the resources, and wins the day.

You can be a manager, flipping switches, making a few things happen. But leadership takes the venture much further than mere management can.

If your project needs a few self-eating seeds implanted, call me for some ideas on ways to grow your team into this self-actualizing champion of your industry. You can grow your leadership ability, let me show you how.

Footnote: I was introduced to the “self-eating watermelon” terminology by Kent Cummins of Magic Hotline. Kent is a renown speaker and author.

Leading Change: An Old Model Reveals New Ideas

Overcoming change

Business leaders know the challenge it can be to lead change. When there is a new announcement about something changing, you can often hear the groans that arise.

Overcoming change

Work teams of all kinds resist change. Understanding ways to overcome the resistance can be a leader’ s best answer in times of change.

As I’ve mentioned before, managing change can be very darn difficult. Within the body of change management that is so readily available, much has been written about overcoming resistance to change. I have found one particular explanation for ways to overcome the resistance, that makes things crystal clear.

In the 1960’s David Gleicher put forth a comprehensive explanation of the theory of change. Others after him altered his work slightly but gave credit to him as the creator of this view. Here’s what Gleicher said.

Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. A formula for overcoming resistance to change looks like this:

D x V x F > R

These factors are:

D= Dissatisfaction with how things are now;

V= Vision of what is possible

F= The First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;

By multiplying these three factors, if the product is greater than Resistance, then change is possible.

Because D, V, and F are multiplied, if any one of the factors is absent (zero) or low, then the product will be zero or low and therefore not capable of overcoming the resistance.

To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create a vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.

Let’s Unpack the Factors

Dissatisfaction –  When dissatisfaction with the current state is present, change can be easier. We deal with these kinds of change every day. If the temperature is too cold, we turn on the heat. If it’s too hot, we turn on a fan or an air conditioner to cool us. In these simple examples, resistance to change is practically zero because the dissatisfaction is so high.

In a job setting the dissatisfaction is harder to identify and measure. If your team’s computers are getting old and outdated, they perform poorly. Sometimes they freeze. The need for change can be obvious. So you offer a chance to upgrade technology. Resistance might be low.

However, when you change a computer system seeking some other goal, the work team may resist that change. When the perception is things are working well, a change can see a greater resistance because dissatisfaction is low.

Vision –  The leader’s ability to paint the best vision picture can be one of the greatest strengths. People can and do rally around a good vision for the future; a look at what could be. You can be operating with very little dissatisfaction, but have a vision for something greater and still overcome resistance to the change.

Mergers and reorganizations come to mind. The leadership sees an opportunity for something much greater so an announcement is made about reorganizing or merging entities. The natural response from the staff is resistance. Yet when the vision is presented well, with great conviction and quantifiable gains for everyone, the resistance can be overcome.

Forgetting to add the proper vision when driving change can create the zero value in this DVF>R equation, thus making resistance too great to overcome.

First Steps – Being able to reduce resistance can actually be easier than we think. Taking solid, specific first steps toward the change can create the momentum you need to break through the resistance and effect change.

The first steps are often forgotten as critical to successful change. The big transformation project gets mapped out, but the first steps are merely buried in the details with little if any focus and intention.

Successfully managing change requires focused effort to get the first steps right. Again, having zero impact with first steps could negate the whole equation, keeping resistance high, keeping change from happening.

Conclusion

When you are faced with a leadership challenge for change, think about this simple formula. Review the three elements present in your own situation. Do what you can to enhance and control the factors so that your ability to eliminate resistance is effective.

Once the resistance goes way or at least gets minimized, you have a much greater chance of making change happen.

Think about your own experience managing change. Test this theory and review where the gaps occurred. I think you will find the model holds true. Focus on the three components described here and you will greatly increase your own effectiveness leading change.

What do you do to overcome any resistance to change? Share, leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Here’s the View from My Seat on the Bus

My seat on the bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You might be the One

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

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

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

Manager Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

overwhelmed

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

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

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

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

Perfect is the enemy of good.

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

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

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

Owners and Leaders: Why Live a Groundhog’s Day?

groundhog day

In his classic dramedy “Groundhog’s Day”, actor and funnyman Bill Murray plays a hapless TV anchor/weatherman named Phil Connors who gets stuck covering the annual appearance of Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary weather predicting groundhog.

If you aren’t familiar with the legend of the groundhog day tradition, the critter predicts whether there will more Winter or a warming Spring.

groundhog dayAs the story unfolds, we discover it is Murray’s character who must relive each and every day. He starts out being a very self-absorbed, full of himself person.

As the one 24 hour period starts replaying event by event, he begins to see the possibilities of becoming a better person. The inspiration is the “girl” played by Andie MacDowell aka “Rita”.

Phil realizes he must be a much better person in order to win Rita’s affection.

It’s a great story, worthy of adding to your leadership toolkit. Here’s why.

You Too Can Be Stuck

Face it, we all find ourselves occasionally reliving events and circumstances from our work and home lives. The same negative events repeat themselves without positive change.

Our occasional efforts to attempt change work sometimes, but not all the time. That is if your heart is not in the intentional change.

Yet when you commit to making permanent changes, you start making progress toward a better outcome. You might have to let cycles repeat a few more times, but the intentional change can take hold and turn things around.

Experience Drives Future Behavior

It is human nature to let prior experience become a heavy influence on future behavior. This is why behavior-based interviewing is so effective.

When I’m interviewing someone for a new job, I ask them to “tell me about a time when ‘blank’” and then I fill in the blank with an experience that is a key factor in my team’s success.

Examples might be:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to meet a large deadline.
  • Tell me about a time when your payroll system crashed 24 hours before your payroll.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to recover from a data breach.

Prior behavior is a big indicator of future performance. It is not the only indicator but can be a reliable one. For managers and leaders, your own record of achievement can work for you but can work against you too.

However, old solutions might not be suitable for new problems. If you approach things with a groundhog mentality, you might be surprised at how far off you can be.

That is, using the same old approach for a new problem may never make a difference.

Bad Habits Become Big Hurdles

In the case of Bill Murray’s character, his poor interpersonal skills became huge obstacles for winning Rita. She watched him belittle people and is very put off by his horrible demeanor.

It took several repetitions of the same circumstances for Phil (the character) to get it right.

As leaders, your own habits may be big obstacles too. Remember, people don’t really care what you say.

They focus on what you do. Take time to reconsider your approach. If the same old situations keep popping up, maybe it is your approach hindering the change.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Living in a comfort zone, whether good or bad, makes for boring results. Repeating the same routine day after day, week after week, and year after year will seldom realize any growth or change.

Making progress toward new goals often involves some element of risk. A little risk might help move the needle.

Plus, we naturally hate change. So keep that in mind. As the leader, you are the catalyst for change. Being an ‘executive’ anything means you execute on the work. Making things happen is change, so learn to embrace it.

The Big ‘So What’

We’ve explored reasons we get stuck on groundhog’s day. What may be your next move?

Do you even know you’re there, stuck in some spin cycle? Why not make an intentional change for new outcomes?

You can make a difference right where you are. The difference can help you, your team, and your home or community. Let Punxsutawney Phil and Phil Connors have their Groundhog Day.

Stop living yours! 


Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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Great Leaders Don’t Set Out to Be a Leader

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

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

Leader-role

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

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

The Servant Leader

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

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

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

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

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

Servant leaders manage by asking questions like:

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

Opportunity

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

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

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

New Managers

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

New leader

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

Leadership will emerge.

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

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

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

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

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

Find a Coach or Mentor

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

mentoring

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

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

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

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

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

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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