Recently I sat in a meeting with the CEO of a $1B+ company, together with all of his senior leaders, a team of around 12 people. The CEO, Kevin (I’ve changed his name for the sake of confidentiality), was frustrated beyond belief with his team because he wasn’t seeing the behaviors he wanted from them, especially when it came to reporting on their respective businesses.
Kevin sat at the head of the table and gave very specific and detailed instructions about what he wanted to see every month. Then he looked around the table and asked, “Have I made myself perfectly clear?”
Heads nodded slowly in agreement. Yes, he had made himself perfectly clear. It was also perfectly clear to me, based on the body language I was seeing around the room, that while he had been understood, that’s as far as it went. He had not achieved anyone’s agreement that the requirements were something they were willing to do, alignment from the team members that they would shift their behaviors to meet those requirements, or a belief that his demand was something that would be useful or meaningful to them. Clear as he was, he was not going to see the results he wanted.
If you feel like you are being clear, but you aren’t seeing results from your team, there are four areas to consider as continuums:
Clarity is useful and important: You need to set clear expectations to successfully lead people. But keep in mind that it’s not enough. Stopping at clarity can prevent you from seeing better ways of doing things, especially if you don’t actively create conversation about the outcomes you want. In my follow-up conversation with Kevin, his first reaction was essentially, “I’m the CEO, so I get to set the standards, and they need to meet them.” That approach was working horribly for Kevin — which he was brave enough to acknowledge. By stopping at clarity, Kevin had set up a situation where his people were spending time and energy on tasks that they felt distracted them from growing the business, and which they only did half-heartedly if at all. They were doing their worst work on the things Kevin felt were most important to run the business.
“Clarity comes from action, not thought.” –Marie Forleo
Agreement is equally important, but perhaps not in the way you would expect. People don’t actually need to agree with you to get on board, as Jeff Bezos from Amazon has famously demonstrated with his ‘disagree and commit’ value (see his 2017 letter to shareholders). What’s important is that people are intentional about whether they agree or disagree — and make a choice to then align or not align their behaviors.
Dr. Ivan Joseph is the Athletic Director and head soccer coach at Ryerson University. When parents approach him, they often share attributes about their child to impress him. Dr. Joseph is looking for a specific skill above all others. That skill is self-confidence. Most of us think this is a trait, something you’re born with. This coach believes it is a skill and can be developed.
“No one will believe in you, unless you do.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph
Write a self-confidence letter to yourself about your accomplishments.
Repeat positive affirmations throughout the day.
He notes that self-confident people interpret feedback the way they want to because, “No one will believe in you unless you do.”
So many of us think that, when we hit a certain age, we can ignore the skill of self-confidence. What I have seen is that it’s a vitally important skill that can be developed at any stage of your career. No one wants arrogance, but we are all attracted to confidence.
“Get away from the people who tear you down.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph
Publicly or privately, when you praise someone, watch what happens. I’m talking genuine praise at just the right level and delivered at just the right time. Too much and it loses its power, but it’s next to impossible to hit a “too much” level.
“A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward.” -Ovid
When you teach concepts and share examples, it makes a difference in your organization and in your people. The best leaders are teachers. Not always obviously or in your face, but everyone is learning because the leader is teaching.
When you model the way, it inspires everyone around you. You simply cannot say one thing and do another. Do what you say you will do. Don’t ask your followers to do one thing while you are doing another.
“Consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of integrity.” -Skip Prichard
When you promote and advocate on someone’s behalf, it creates loyalty. That person knows you have her back and that you are advocating on her behalf. Publicly sharing successes and attributing someone’s good work makes a difference.
This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen, author of A Story Worth Telling just released from Abingdon Press. A writer, speaker, and content strategist, he blogs at Patheos and Faithwalkers where he helps people live an authentic life. Follow him on Twitter.
Belief is the Key Ingredient
Every day you lead, you are writing a story. You don’t have to be a writer or even put pen to paper to make it a good one. But you do need one key ingredient: belief.
Regardless of your beliefs about spiritual matters, your leadership legacy will be determined by your faith. By faith I don’t mean going to church or engaging in religious rituals, as important as those practices may or may not be to us. I simply mean doing what we believe to be true, often in spite of what we see, sense, or feel.
What we believe to be true determines what we do. And what we do is what gets results. Our motion reveals our devotion to what we believe to be true.
The entrepreneur who launches a new business believes in the product or service the new venture will provide. The CEO who initiates change believes she knows where the market is headed and how the company can best prepare to capitalize on it. The individual who steps away from a comfortable career to tackle a new challenge does so because he believes a better story is possible.
If we want lasting results from our leadership — results that get talked about long after we’re gone — we must start with understanding how what we believe to be true writes our leadership story.
“Your leadership legacy will be determined by your faith.” -Bill Blankschaen
My new book, A Story Worth Telling: Your Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life, shares several stories of ordinary people who stepped out to fulfill their dreams because they believed it was the right thing to do. They believed their story could have value, so they began a quest to achieve a specific end. When we know what we value, we find our way toward it. Roy Disney, a man who knew a thing or two about making tough decisions, said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” -Roy Disney
The direction derived from belief doesn’t only help us as individuals, it also guides everyone we influence. As Jack Trout said, “At the end of the day, people follow those who know where they’re going.” If you don’t know what you believe to be true, you’ll tend to drift wherever other forces take you. Drifting never inspired anyone to do anything but walk away. However, what you believe to be true will have consequences for your team — so choose wisely.
“At the end of the day, people follow those who know where they’re going.” -Jack Trout