Answer the Call to Exceptional Leadership

answer call

Leading the Unleadable

Taking a management job is not the same as answering the call to exceptional leadership. That’s what Alan Willett’s new book is all about: how to create a culture where people are able to perform in an extraordinary way.

Often new managers think that those following them are unengaged, cynical, or otherwise difficult. And that can be true, but many of these symptoms are a result of the manager not knowing how to lead, how to challenge, how to create team-wide expectations.

Alan Willett offers practical ways for managers to take on these challenges. Alan is the president of Oxseeker, a leadership consultancy with clients ranging from Oracle to NASA. His new book is Leading the Unleadable. I recently asked him about his work on exceptional leadership.

 

“Exceptional leaders have a personal, passionate mission that goes beyond results.” –Alan Willett

 

Set the Right Expectations

There are so many aspects of your book to discuss, but I want to focus on expectations. How important is the leader’s expectations?

It is amazing how even people that seem “defiant” are working to meet the expectations of the leader. When leaders are setting the wrong expectation it will have negative impacts – and the leader can do this without even knowing it.

I have seen many leaders consistently tell their teams that they want the “most aggressive schedule possible.”  Of course the projects with the most aggressive schedule possible are invariably late. Along with being late, there are many negative aspects that can include quality problems and morale issues since team members feel they are failing. Many leaders who set these expectations later ask me, “Why are my teams always late?”

What the leader really wants in these situations is for the team to have the “smartest” plan possible and a commitment that the team can definitively meet or beat that plan. Setting those expectations correctly will get leaders who they really want.

 

“Exceptional leaders are fearless in setting expectations in clear language.” –Alan Willett

 

How a Leader Sets Goals

It seems that you can set the bar too low and not challenge the team or be “so positive” that you demotivate everyone. What’s the best way to set the goal appropriately?

Set clear motivating goals for the team, but also leave out some specifics, leave them a little vague. Then challenge the team to make it more specific and meaningful to them. In doing this the team members almost always grumble about the lack of precision. They then get to work to make the goals better. The team then creates the goals that are that high bar you refer to. Since the team set those specific goals, they are committed to achieving them.

 

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” –Pablo Picasso

 

I have worked this method with leaders over 300 times, and it never fails to inspire the team ownership and commitment. Leaders are often stunned at what the teams can really accomplish.

 

Expect Excellence Every Day

Customer Experience Starts by Ignoring Your Customer

Excellent Customer Experience
This is a guest post by Dr. Tracy Maylett, Ed.D.. Dr. Maylett is the Chief Executive Officer of DecisionWise, an HR management and consulting firm specializing in employee engagement. He offers an intriguing viewpoint on providing great customer experience.

Want a Great Customer Experience?

Is your organization’s success dependent upon creating an extraordinary Customer Experience? Then start by ignoring your customer. No, really.

 

“If you want a successful customer experience, start by ignoring your customer.” -Tracy Maylett

 

Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one. You can redesign stores, roll out cool new products, and engage customers on social media. You can implement every form of customer satisfaction measurement known to man. There’s nothing wrong with those steps. But without employees who care, a beautiful store is just a pretty shell. A sparkly new product is just another new release with a limited lifespan—if it even makes it out of the production room.

Without people engaged in their work, where are those cool innovations coming from? Where are the people who care about the superlative customer experience? Don’t get me started on the dangers of having jaded staffers interacting with customers on social media.

 

“Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one.” -Tracy Maylett

 

It All Begins with Your Employees

Creating a strong customer experience is like gardening: hoping and measuring won’t give you the results you want. Gardening requires tending to the components that create the desired outcome: using soil amendments, watering, and weeding. The gardener can’t do much more than that. But, assuming it’s done well, the odds of a solid harvest are high.

Growing a successful organization works in the same way. Success comes through quality products, stellar customer support, prudent financial decisions, great leadership, and employees who personally care about delivering an extraordinary customer experience. When an organization can create a top-notch Employee Experience, the likelihood of delivering a superior customer experience increases exponentially.

The opposite is also true: When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it. We call this the “Law of Congruent Experience.”

 

“When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it.” -Tracy Maylett

 

THE LAW OF CONGRUENT EXPERIENCE:

Employees will deliver a Customer Experience that matches their own experience in the organization.

7 Leadership Lessons from the Political Arguing

political argument

Finding the Positive or Are You Sick of It, too?

I’m not sure about you, but it’s hard for me to take much more of the political fights happening throughout my social media world. It’s obvious that we are in unchartered territory here in the United States because I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

 

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss

 

Even a simple comment by one person can erupt into a full-blown fight. Naturally, logic is often missing from these so-called conversations.

I’ve seen many people un-friending and un-following people who don’t wholeheartedly agree with their “right” position.

On the other hand, I’ve seen true leaders emerging in the midst of it all. What do leaders do when an unexpected blast of political winds threatens to overwhelm?

 

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” –Stephen Covey

 

Leaders Emerge

I’ve seen leaders ask more questions to understand and clarify. Instead of proving someone wrong and the rightness of a position, I watched someone modify language and communication. Or, try this: Start with the positive before you believe the worst about someone. And especially gratifying was when two people agreed to actually talk. Yes, talk—you know, when you are actually sitting down, face-to-face and having a real conversation instead of a social media onslaught. What an idea! Finally, I was particularly pleased when someone took my counsel. My advice was to see if you could argue the other side passionately and factually. That required research and time, but I was told it was an incredibly enlightening process. He didn’t change his mind, but he did reach a common understanding with his friend.

 

“Leaders start with the positive, always believing the best first.” -Skip Prichard

 

I’m taking these simple lessons beyond these arguments to use in my everyday life:

  1. Ask more questions
  2. Clarify positions
  3. Assume positive intent
  4. Reduce emotions by hearing the stories behind the raw emotion
  5. Modify language from extreme positioning
  6. Increase face-to-face conversations
  7. Learn to articulate the other side with passion and facts

 

I can’t say that I’m not frustrated with it all. I still cringe when I see someone post a question as bait ready to hook someone into an argument. At least now I’m hoping for a more positive resolution.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” -Laurence Sterne

 

The constant negative political talk had me pen a little poem about it all.

Here it is:

21 Inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Leader’s Vision

His voice is unmistakable. When I hear it, I am pulled in to the oratory, to the cadence, and mostly to the powerful message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

His inspiring, peaceful leadership in the face of hatred, racism, and bigotry makes him one of the most influential leaders in world history.

Today we celebrate his life and his achievements.

Here are some of his most famous, inspirational quotes.

 

MLK, Jr. Quotes

 

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“What matters is not how long you live…but how you live.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“The time is always right to do what is right.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Intelligence plus character: that is the goal of a true education.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” –MLK, Jr.

 

“Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.” –MLK, Jr.