Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success
Leadership is not a position. It’s not a title. It’s not a job. Leaders are people who make an impact, influencing others to action.
That’s why I was intrigued to read a new book by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch. Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success recognizes that leaders are found almost anywhere in the organization. I recently spoke to Sean about their new book. He is a senior consultant at Lead Star and specializes in designing and delivering leadership programming. He holds a BA from Yale University and served as a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force.
Create Your Own Opportunities
What’s the definition of a Spark?
A Spark is someone who doesn’t just accept what is given to them. Sparks realize that they can do things differently to create the change they’d like to see. Sparks understand that they have both the ability to influence and inspire, and they look to influence and inspire those around them. Sparks create their own opportunities and are identified by their actions, commitment, and will, not by a job title. Sparks choose to lead.
Why and How to Increase Trust
Why is trust so vitally important?
At times, we place leaders on a pedestal. We think they are larger than life or different from us. But leaders are people. We have relationships with people, and trust is a foundational component of all relationships.
We can all be better leaders in the various roles we fill. Leaders influence and inspire others to work together toward a common goal. In order to be influenced and inspired, we must trust the leader’s competency, character, and intentions.
“Leaders influence and inspire others to work together toward a common goal.” -Sean Lynch
How does a leader increase trust?
Character and credibility are two keys to creating trust.
Character is important because, before we can lead others, we must lead ourselves. We must get in touch with our most deeply held values and intentionally act in accordance with those values. If we talk about work-life balance, and then regularly call co-workers after hours and email them on weekends, others will see that our actions are at odds with what we say we value. People will question who we are, how we might act in the future, or how we might act under pressure. They will lose trust in us.
Determine your most closely held values and what matters most. Honestly assess where you have compromised your values, and identify ways to lead more consistently with your values.
“Character and credibility are two keys to creating trust.” -Sean Lynch
What’s the link between trust and credibility?
You can’t force people to trust you. You have to earn trust in ways that are meaningful to others. Credible performance builds trust. Here are some examples.
Start by understanding and meeting the standards of others. We usually strive to meet standards that we think are important. Yet, every time we interact with others, we are being judged. And the standards others judge us against may be very different from our own standards. If timeliness is important in your organization and you are constantly late for meetings, you are not meeting the standards of others and demonstrating credible performance.
Maintain a narrow “Say-Do” gap. Keep the difference between what you say you’re going to do (or what you are supposed to do) and what you actually do as narrow as possible. Be consistent. When you promise the report by Thursday, do you follow through? Or do you let it slide and hope no one will notice?
Clearly communicate intent and expectations and ensure people understand. Often we assume that people know what they are supposed to do. Don’t assume. Communicate what to do along with expectations and intentions. Bring clarity and focus by constantly, continuously communicating expectations and intent. Ensure everyone is on the same page so that people can act in ways that are consistent with intent even when you’re not around.
Finally, hold people accountable to those clearly communicated and well understood standards, intent, and expectations. Holding others accountable isn’t personal. With clear, well-communicated standards, intent, and expectations, holding people accountable is merely comparing their performance to the standard, intent, or expectation.
If an organization lacks accountability, what results?
We are human. We’re going to make mistakes, and we need productive ways to move forward in the wake of mistakes.
Blaming others, or screaming and yelling, are typical reactions after problems arise. It’s hard to admit mistakes or that you didn’t meet expectations. We instinctively want to put the blame elsewhere to protect our reputation, our ego, or ourselves. Reactions, like blaming or screaming, don’t encourage people to productively address challenges, find solutions, and move forward.
In cultures full of unproductive reactions, people definitely try not to make mistakes. However, they are not trying to avoid mistakes in the pursuit of excellence. They are keeping their heads down and trying to avoid getting blamed, avoid the supervisor’s wrath, etc. They also avoid other behaviors. They avoid initiative and asking questions. They avoid collaboration and learning. They just try to survive. Cultures where people are avoiding those kinds of behaviors don’t foster high performing teams.
Lead with Accountability
Lead with accountability. It takes courage to face the consequences. Leading with accountability shows others who you are, what you are made of, and sets the example so others can be accountable.
Creating an accountable culture starts by not making excuses, not pointing fingers, and not blaming others. When you or your team misses quarterly sales goals, accept responsibility. Take ownership of the problem. Blaming doesn’t solve problems. Determining why you missed the goal, what you can do to get back on track, and preventing it from happening again are much more important than figuring out who to blame. Problems, missed performance expectations, and challenges are opportunities to train, coach, and mentor. How you respond to your mistakes and failures, and those of others, makes or breaks your ability to influence outcomes and inspire others.
“Creating an accountable culture starts by not making excuses.” -Sean Lynch
4 Ways to Build Your Confidence
What are some Spark actions that build confidence?
Confidence is an emotion, which explains why it wavers. Confidence is your belief in your abilities and can be built and managed.
To build confidence:
1. Experience your success. Don’t breeze past your successes. After giving a great presentation or creating an award-winning marketing campaign, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Attribute your success to you, and not to luck or a random event.
2. Develop positive self-appraisals. Pay attention to your thoughts and the words you tell yourself. Are you your biggest advocate, or are you your worst critic? When you start doubting yourself, stop and rewrite your script. Refresh your memory about your accomplishments, and build yourself up to face challenges.
3. Surround yourself with positive role models. Only those who care about us and have our best interests at heart should influence our confidence. We cannot give everyone access to our precious beliefs about ourselves. Positive role models may tell us things we do not want to hear, but they always have our best interests at heart.
4. Manage confidence-killing emotions. No one is immune to fear, worry, and insecurity. Pay attention to your emotions; don’t ignore them. When you experience confidence-killing emotions, ask yourself, “What can I do about this right now?” Determine whether your concerns are real or manufactured. Move yourself to action on things you can influence, and maintain perspective on things you can’t change.
What’s the best way for managers to find and cultivate Sparks in their company?
The best way to cultivate Sparks in an organization is to democratize leadership. Leadership isn’t just for senior managers. It’s for everyone. Leadership development should happen at every employment level, from front-line workers to the C-suite, beginning at onboarding. When every employee feels empowered to lead – whether that’s lead themselves, lead their team, or lead the enterprise – Sparks emerge and results happen faster.
A great way to initiate the development is to start a SPARK book study. Six leaders, six weeks, and six books is all it takes to get started. You can find everything you need at www.sparkslead.us.
Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success