One of my least favorite sayings I hear from business owners is that “we throw people into the deep end of the pool and see if they can swim.” What a bunch of nonsense! As a leader it is incumbent upon you to make sure your people have the job clarity, tools, resources and training to be successful. You are supposed to set people up for success not push them towards failure. Darwinian logic misapplied to the work environment is professional malpractice.
Month: January 2012
I’ve been fortunate for many years that I don’t dread Monday mornings or get bummed out on Sunday nights because of work. Sadly, I know alot of people who do feel this way. I can’t imagine starting my week in a bad mood for no other reason than it is the beginning of another work week. Sure, I look forward to the weekends, but I don’t work just for them. I’ve always believed that how you start your week on Monday sets the tone for the entire week.
There is nothing wrong with having strong opinions but always remember this doesn’t mean you are right. There is a difference between a fact based opinion and experiential opinion. In one case you are actually using hard facts and objective data to state you position. In the other case, you are relying more on subjective experience and personal beliefs to make your point. The dangerous thing about experiential opinions is that they are grounded solely on the personal filters of the advocate. They are also based on a singular and usually somewhat stunted view of reality. Being louder and more passionate about something will certainly garner attention, however, once again this doesn’t mean you are right and very often means you are rude, close-minded and/or a poor listener.
Growth and improvement as a leader doesn’t always involve heavy lifting or hard work. Here are 15 relatively easy things you can do right away to improve your performance and results
You need more than talent to succeed as a leader. You will have lead when it’s hard not just when it’s easy. Your mettle will be tested. You will be under a constant spotlight and have no shortage of critics. Sometimes it will feel like the cards are stacked against you and your options are limited. You will get knocked down repeatedly and have to get back up. Others will look to you to solve problems they cannot or will not handle. You will need to be resilient in the face of adversity and give your people direction and hope. You will need to be the calming influence in the midst of a storm. You must learn from your mistakes (there will be many) and use this knowledge to get better. You will be humbled and sometimes lose even when you do your best. You will have to regularly outwork, outthink and outperform your competition.
I can’t think of a more tragic way for the Joe Paterno story to end than it has these past few months. Not having any of the inside facts, it’s hard for me to fathom how he handled the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It goes against everything you would imagine him standing for, but then again he won’t be the first or last person in life to be betrayed by a friend. Sadly, in this case the betrayal and cover-up had devastating consequences for children. The actions by him and those around him in regards to this issue were inexcusable and the anger in response to it more than justified.
However, this stain on Coach Paterno’s record should not blot out all the other good things he did in his life which is considerable.
Very few people are meant to take the full journey with you in life. Sometimes you outgrow people, lose the interpersonal connection and/or leave them behind. Instead of regretting the loss, cherish the time you had together and keep it as a fond memory. I’ve written before how I believe that everyone’s life is a novel and sometimes new chapters require new characters. It is all part of the process of growing, learning and evolving as a human being. Most every transitional point in our life involves bridging a chasm of some sort and other people are usually the means by which we cross over. However, they don’t all make the same crossing with us.
Admitting you don’t know enough about something to make a good decision is a sign of wisdom. Being open to alternative points of view and challenging you own conceits is the pathway to professional maturity. Listening without judgment is a prerequisite for effective leadership. Arguing for the sake of arguing or being unyielding in your positions is sign of emotional immaturity and intellectual bravado. This doesn’t mean that you don’t remain steadfast to core principles or have some non-negotiables, but if everything fits this description, then you are nothing more than a roadblock to success and progress.
Ideally a person would want to use their time well and be highly productive and effective. They wouldn’t get easily distracted or lose focus. Instead of procrastinating on things they need to get done, they’d be disciplined about accomplishing what’s most important when it should get done with minimal stress. The days would flow smoothly rather than bounce around between shifting priorities and putting our fires. Time should be spent doing your own job not making up for the shortcomings of others. We also need to be smart enough to ask for help when we are in over our heads. If we are being honest with ourselves, we’d own up to the fact that most of the stress in our careers is self-created.
Today is a national holiday in the U.S.A.celebrating the life and work of a great man – Martin Luther King (MLK). For many of us that means a three day weekend and this is a good thing. While I hope you spend some time today contemplating the words and importance of MLK, I also encourage you do embrace the time off. Instead of worrying about work or the lost time, allow yourself to enjoy some family time and/or moments of fun, rest, and relaxation. No one should work all the time even if you love your work.
I’ve seen many talented leaders and managers get in their own way when it comes to getting their point across. They almost seem oblivious or worse indifferent to the vibe in the room and how their message is being received. You can be right, but alienate other people if you are not careful. How you communicate can often be as important as what you communicate. Going all the way back to our grade schools days, nobody likes a “know it all.” Arrogance is a very unattractive personality trait. We all pay close attention to how those in positions of authority treat other people.
Being wise and responsible does not mean avoiding risk altogether. In fact, it requires embracing risk, the right risks at the right time with the required investment in resources.
We all get overwhelmed at times. It’s just part of life. Sometimes there is just too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Instead of stressing out when this happens, takes a step back, breathe, and come up with a plan of action. Here are some tactics/ideas that have worked for me:
People are motivated by all types of things and leaders are no different. There are always a few major drivers in an individual’s life that prompt action and focus our activities. Many of these motivators are formed in childhood or young adulthood. They can be good or bad or some degree of both. My personal contention is that living at the far end of any motivational continuum isn’t too healthy. I also believe that what drives you also has a big impact on the formation of your character and your values. We do tend to embody our priorities over time.
In sports and in life, it doesn’t matter how much potential you have or how good you are, if your team/organization consistently loses or doesn’t live up to expectations. I’ve seen many capable and talented leaders stumble when it comes to getting results from others. It’s not always the smartest, most confident, and technically superior person who wins, but rather the leader who is able to get great results from average people. Leaders need to grow and leverage the capabilities of their team, continually develop their own skills sets, and step up in the clutch if they want to leave a legacy of winning and high performance.
Naturally, so much of what we read about leadership and personal development is focused on us and how we can improve as an individual. There is no shortage of resources or ideas that one can adopt and apply to their own lives. I’m happy that for anyone who is interested in living a meaningful life that there is a bevy of material at their disposal. What I sometimes find missing in this quest for self-improvement is a focus on the other people in your life. We can spend so much time looking inward that if we are not careful we will miss opportunities to reach outside of ourselves to make a real difference. It is never just about you.
We’ve all met people who seem to argue for the sake of arguing and we also know how we typically feel about them. Some people just have to have to find flaws in everything and/or disagree to be disagreeable. Just like the parable of “the boy who cried wolf” if you are find fault with everything, then it begins to diminish how seriously people take your opinions as a whole. It’s one thing to have a different point of view. It’s quite another to always default to having a different perspective. There’s a fine line to being objectively critical and becoming a crank.
There is no such thing as passive leadership. Leaders lead – it really is that simple. Instead of shying away from a challenge, leaders embrace it. When others are hesitant to take action, leaders step up and seize the initiative. Instead of folding under pressure, leaders thrive under the spotlight and find the harder parts of their job the most rewarding. Leaders intuitively know that everything important begins and ends with them, but the middle part is a team effort and they allow others to step up and share their individual and collective strengths as needed. The best leaders only say “I” when it involves shouldering the blame, but say “we” when it means sharing the credit.