There are a lot of excuses being bandied about regarding the words of Donald Trump and that once he gets elected, he will modify his rhetoric and become more presidential. Sadly, this energy is only growing. I hear many apologists state that it was just the rigors of the political campaign season and he’s doing […]
Anyone can manipulate words and stretch the facts to suit their short term objective. However, it is difficult long-term to fake behavior and eventually your words will catch up with you.
Mistakes are a part of life. As the saying goes, “sometimes we are our own worst enemy.” I’ve seen many good leaders travel down a “rat trap” of their own making. Often this is done with the best of intentions, but the results usually have nothing to do with the original intention behind them. The […]
Leadership is an interesting topic. We all seem to think we know what it is and can identify when it’s lacking, but often have different definitions of what it means. It gets even more challenging when you have different sides with competing agendas/world views clashing with one another. Recent events in Baltimore have put a […]
Too many people really aren’t fully listening. As part of my work, I am in a lot of meetings and conference calls. It’s amazing and disheartening at times to see how the quality of these interactions can vary. There are moments where it feels like everyone is “dialed-in” and paying rapt attention, but these are […]
Leadership is about embracing personal responsibility and putting in the effort needed to be successful. Recently I have been having a lot of conversations with my clients about work-life balance and the need for boundaries. I am always sympathetic to their need to live a fuller life. I also try to remind them that they […]
About every week I meet with a client who bemoans the lack of accountability in their work environment. My first response is always, “we are what we tolerate.” However, I then walk them through the four reasons (in my experience) why things don’t get done: There is a lack of clarity about what needs to […]
Without a plan your business is a like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. You don’t know where it will end up and the course it takes to get there is subject to the whims of other forces. Unfocused effort only ever leads to frustration, miscommunication, wasted effort, poor financial decision making, unnecessary stress and less than optimal results.
In our society that rewards constant action, it is often hard to step back and reflect about where you have been, what you have learned, and where you should be going. However, leadership requires thinking and reflection as much as it is supposed to stimulate action. Many people I know are busy at doing the wrong things. They are working hard but not smart. Every day is just one more attempt to push the boulder up the hill and hope that at some point positive sustained momentum will push them over the top. Unfortunately as the slope of their climb increases the weight of their responsibilities also increases and the path they are treading becomes less predictable and stable. You can’t push forward into unchartered territory and not expect to learn some tough lessons along the way. If you are not careful, you may slip or fall and the boulder will roll right back over you.
The leader of an organization always sets the tone. Never forget this fact. I am often slightly bemused when I hear a leader complain about the state of things in their organization. It’s almost as if they remove themselves from the equation. They wonder how things have devolved to this point as if it is some deep mystery when all they have to do is look in the mirror. Your people are a reflection of your hiring decisions; the quality of your meetings is directly related to how you lead them and model this behavior for others; missing deadlines is a reflection of what you are willing to tolerate in others and yourself; a lack of focus almost always starts at the top; teamwork only ever happens when the coach sets the expectations and creates the conditions for this to happen; optimistic or pessimistic cultures are usually a reflection of leader’s point of view; etc.
I find that one of the most recognizable traits of an effective leader is that they bring positive energy to a room. You can feel it the moment they walk through the door. I have been in banquet halls far from the entrance and felt the presence of certain people as they arrived. It’s almost as if a small electrical jolt works its way through the crowd. While most of us aren’t blessed with this type of “rock star” aura, we can certainly notice and work on the effect we have on others. You are either adding energy to the group dynamic or diminishing it. It really is this simple. Leaders must be a source of consistent positive energy if they want to get the most of out of their people.
One of the most frustrating and disheartening things that someone in my position has to deal with are leaders who have a tendency to ignore reality and follow a flawed strategy or other key decision off a cliff. Pride almost always gets in the way as he/she thinks that changing course would represent failure or unnecessary pain. Usually there is a difficult decision that has to be made about people, finances or the current business model (sometimes all three). The inability to make these types of decisions tends to lead to one outcome – failure. A reasonably competent leader may delay the timing but the end result is inevitable.
We are in the midst of a fairly active and important election season in my local area. Many critical positions are up for grabs which is clearly illustrated by the large number of individuals who have thrown their hat in the ring. I am sure there are varying motivations by the candidates as to why they are running. Personally, I try to give them all the benefit of the doubt that their primary motivation is to make a positive difference. I don’t expect to agree with every candidate, but I do expect them to have the courage of their convictions. Having studied leadership and politics for quite a long time now, the following characteristics emerge as indicative of whether or not someone will be effective once they assume office:
As my kids begin another school year school this morning, it is always interesting to watch how both the children and parents are transitioning. In some cases either the kids and/or parents will be a bit anxious or nervous, unsure of what is to come. In other cases, there is an almost a giddy excitement about the new challenges. Old friends will greet each other joyfully, while the new children and parents will be feeling their way on how to best fit in. Some children will walk to school alone, while others will have both parents with them and be accompanied all the way to their new classroom. Many of the teachers will carry themselves with an air of confidence and enthusiasm, while others will be a bit more reticent and laid back.
There is a fine line between being good at what you do for a period of time and achieving sustained success. If you are not careful short-term success can lead to long-term complacency. Once you scale the mountain, start looking for the next peak/challenge. Don’t spend too long enjoying the view from the top. I see it all the time: leaders who once had really high standards and big dreams start lowering their expectations and/or getting distracted by other things. They start to spend more time enjoying the fruits of their success than planting the next crop to harvest. Of course, you should bask in the glow of your accomplishments and take some time to appreciate what winning feels like. However, never forget what it took to get you there.
Life rewards persistence. Too many people give up too soon and never get to fully realize their potential or dreams. Success isn’t just about luck or good fortune. It is more about focus, hard work, determination and resolve. Everyone’s life journey has bumps along the way. Keep pressing forward even when it’s hard. Obstacles strewn along our path are just opportunities to further build our character. They also test how much we truly want something. If success always came easily then it really wouldn’t mean anything.
Avoid being put on a pedestal by yourself or by others. I’ve seen good people get too full of themselves when they begin to view themselves as extra special and different from everyone else. In happens in all industries and in all sectors. Nonprofit leaders certainly aren’t excluded. It is never good for any of us to be surrounded by people who are too deferential. Success without humility typically leads to ego issues. I’m not saying we shouldn’t value or respect accomplishment, but we shouldn’t put a disproportionate emphasis on the attributes of the person. Superlative outcomes are usually the result of good timing, hard work and specialized focus not generic ability. In addition, doing good work that taps into your unique talents makes a positive difference in the lives of others should be enough of a reward. Don’t get too caught up with celebrating YOU.
At what point did it stop becoming okay to have a different opinion in our country? I just finished reading the newspaper and yet again, having a different point of view quickly degraded into personal attacks by both parties. We have become the hyper-sensitive generation who can’t seem to tolerate a perspective that is different from our own. A democratic culture is supposed to foster an environment of healthy debate which hopefully leads to the best possible outcomes for the majority of people. It is through exchanging wide-ranging ideas, striving to uncover the facts and challenging status quo thinking that we move forward as a nation. Debate is a good thing! And guess what, no one party or individual has the market cornered on good ideas. Your side won’t always win the argument or election and that is how it should be. And, if you always tow the party line you are an ideologue not a free thinker.
When you own your business it is your sandbox. You get to decide who plays in it and what happens inside. Just remember that these decisions also have consequences. As an advisor to my clients, my role is to get them to appreciate this fact. I’ve often watched people make decisions that I don’t agree with. Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong about what happens next. My track record is usually pretty good but far from perfect. I just want to make sure that these decisions are somewhat informed and well thought out. I am fine with being pleasantly surprised by good results that I didn’t foresee or anticipate. I learn from these situations as well – never underestimate the resolve and creativity of a committed leader. Most importantly, I strive to ensure that these decisions are aligned with the outcomes the client is aspiring to achieve. Success can be defined in many different ways and unless there is a moral or ethical component, it is not my role to judge.
What do you stand for? This is a question all leaders should able to answer fairly easily but most struggle with addressing. I’ve been in many organizations where if you asked the question, “What does this business stand for,” you would get blank stares. Values are the building blocks of any organization. Without a common set of beliefs and principles, a company is like a ship without a rudder – adrift in a sea of individual interpretation and situational experience. It has never been just about making money but how you make your money that matters the most. And, the how involves many issues such as the way you treat your customers, employees, vendors, the environment, etc.
I am a firm believer in persistence and determination. Many people give up just before things are about to break their way. However, it never makes sense to go off a cliff simply because it is there. Not every strategy is wise and not every course of action is worth continuing. You need to pay attention to the signals the universe is sending you. Trends either move up or down. They rarely remain flat. Sometimes the objective evidence indicates you should try something different.