Why It Is a Big Thing To Take Action On Small Things

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

 

Take Action On The Small Things

Culture is established by both communication and action. People will listen to what you say, but they will closely watch and emulate what you do. Action on large, highly visible initiatives will certainly make priorities and culture clear in a big way. However, it takes time to formulate and communicate large initiatives, plus it often takes time for the results to be achieved and visible. Action on small initiatives while larger actions are in progress can be very effective.

 

“Culture is established by communication and action.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Good leaders interact with the organization at all levels and with cross-functional teams. Many times during these interactions, opportunities to take action on smaller issues will present themselves. These small opportunities are issues, changes, or decisions that can be addressed by a few of those directly involved without much involvement from the leader. They can solve small customer irritations, eliminate frustrations and inefficiencies in a process or a department, drive a decision or make a localized change. I am a big proponent of taking proper action on selected small opportunities. One of my favorite sayings is, “Never underestimate the effect of taking action on small things.”

Here is why:

 

“Never underestimate the effect of taking action on small things.”

 

10 Major Benefits of Taking Action On Small Things

  • Accelerates Empowerment and Learning: Action on small issues will build organizational confidence, get quick results and allow people to learn from mistakes that have smaller consequences and reduced visibility. It helps people cultivate their leadership.
  • Teaches Delegation: When done correctly, implementing action on small changes teaches others how to delegate, how to decide who needs to be involved in developing action and approval, how to form a collaborative team and how to involve and grow others.
  • Improves Accountability and Decisiveness: When a small team is empowered to take action on smaller decisions, they become more comfortable with accountability and find it easier to make decisions. Using smaller initiatives also provides decision-making experience for more people at many levels in the organization.
  • Boosts Career Satisfaction: Since many small actions are localized to specific processes or departments, they can help remove daily irritations that hinder department or operational processes. At the same time, people learn that they can assume more responsibility and make a difference for the organization.
  • Enhances Collaboration and Team Building: With more small actions, a larger number of people are able to participate in collaborative problem solving and work together with a variety of defined roles to implement change. The benefit is that more people in the organization can gain experience, grow and achieve results.

 

“Taking action on small things rapidly creates an empowered workplace.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

  • Improves Communication: When a leader is able to initiate many small actions at different levels of the organization, or with various teams, it helps to “flatten” the organization, cut through bureaucracy and allow a larger population to see the leader in action. People become more comfortable communicating with the leader and each other. Additionally, small initiatives to implement change can get more people communicating who normally would not do so.

How to Improve Your Communication by Leaps and Bounds

No Cape Needed

Do you know the most common communication mistakes leaders make?

What practical steps can you take right now to be a more effective communicator?

What is the most common mistake we make when using email?

 

“True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning.” -David Grossman

 

David Grossman is a communications expert. Both David and the firm he founded in 2000, The Grossman Group, have received numerous awards. Prior to founding the firm, he was director of communications for McDonald’s, and he teaches the only graduate course on internal communications in the U.S. at Columbia University.

What you notice when you pick up David’s latest book, No Cape Needed: The Simplest, Smartest, Fastest Steps to Improve How You Communicate by Leaps and Bounds, is that it’s stunning as a physical book. Full of colorful graphics, gorgeous photography, and digestible information, it is one of the reasons I still enjoy the physical book. Not only is it a gorgeous book, but it is full of immediately actionable, useful information. I recently asked David to share some of the wisdom from his book and his consulting practice.

 

“Communication really is a superpower.” -David Grossman

 

Communication is a Superpower

Question: As a kid, you wanted to have superpowers. As an adult you say, “Communication really is a superpower.” Explain why you elevate communication to that status.

I wholeheartedly believe that effective communication is really a way to make a difference.David Grossman

You can use communication to make others feel good about their jobs, to be engaged and excited, to help someone who’s having a hard time get through a rough patch, or to inspire a team. And in essence, you can use communication to make substantial changes that aren’t just about helping a company or team go from ‘good to great’ but instead create a lasting legacy through a new strategic direction.

A lot of people don’t think they can communicate well or don’t think they can develop the skill. But the truth is that it just takes practice. If leaders at all levels of their organizations come to realize that, then great things can happen for their companies. And they can become heroes of their own.

 

Cut-Through-Clutter-No-Cape-Needed-David-Grossman

3 Steps to Improve Your Communication

In your new book, No Cape Needed, what are the top three steps you recommend for improving communication?  

1. Understand your audience.

To truly move employees to action, we have to know what they care about and get into their mindset. As leaders we spend much of our time and effort setting business goals and developing plans to achieve them. Yet the most important element behind everything is your team. If they don’t understand where they fit in, all of our lofty goals will go nowhere.

2. Plan, and then communicate regularly.

Leaders often mistakenly assume that as long as they have ideas, a vision, and a sense of purpose, that will be enough to lead the way forward. If only it were that easy. In truth, good leaders know the importance of planning and clearly spelling out the path ahead. You can wing your communications and take a chance on the results or be planful and purposeful to increase your chances of success ten-fold.

3. Listen and create dialogue.

True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning. Ask open-ended questions. Listen. Listen some more. Check for understanding.

 

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” -John Maxwell

 

3 Common Communication Mistakes

What are some of the common mistakes leaders make when they communicate?

1. They don’t set the context. 

20 Ways to Detect a Deceitful Leader

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Detecting Deceitful Leaders

Have you ever had an uneasy feeling that a leader is not as genuine or sincere as you would expect? There are numerous signals and behaviors that distinguish a genuine leader from someone who is simply trying to achieve a personal—perhaps deceitful—agenda. If you observe carefully, you can find what is causing the uneasy feeling.

Listed in the following comparison are ways to distinguish between genuine leadership and a person in a leadership position who has hidden motives. Some behaviors are stated in the extreme— just to emphasize the point. Deceitful leaders are also very good at what they do, so observe them closely.

 

“Behaviors can distinguish a deceitful leader from a genuine leader.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

 

Comparison: True Leaders and Deceitful Leaders

 

  1. Leaders bring people together for common goals. Deceitful Leaders divide people and focus on narrow issues that may be part of an unstated, deceitful goal.

“Leaders bring people together for common goals.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders encourage open, direct communication. Deceitful Leaders display a low tolerance for open communication. They control information.

“Leaders encourage open, direct communication.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders solicit and consider opposing views and positions. Deceitful Leaders exhibit little tolerance for opposing views. They may reject opposing views or ideas without consideration and limit debate.

“Leaders solicit and consider opposing views.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders use larger goals to energize and unite people. Deceitful Leaders use divisive, negative characterization of issues and groups to energize followers.


“Leaders use larger goals to energize and unite people.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders are transparent, have an open agenda and stated purposes. Deceitful Leaders carefully manage issues and what people hear. They often have a hidden agenda.


“Deceitful leaders carefully manage issues and what people hear.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders stick to values, principles and ethical guidelines. Deceitful Leaders will use the “end justifies the means” to achieve objectives.


“Leaders stick to values, principles and ethical guidelines.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders listen attentively. Deceitful Leaders talk more than listen. They occasionally shout or “preach.”


“Leaders listen attentively.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders show respect for each individual. Deceitful Leaders respect only those who are like-minded and disenfranchise those who are not like-minded.


“Deceitful leaders respect only those who are like-minded.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders want individuals to thrive and work from principles and values. They encourage individual initiative. Deceitful Leaders want control and dutiful obedience; “punishing” those who are “out of line.”   Individual initiative is rarely appreciated.


“Leaders want individuals to thrive and work from principles and values.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders use facts and logic. Deceitful Leaders use emotions (with bias toward negative ones).


“Leaders use facts and logic.” -Bruce Rhoades


 

  1. Leaders share data and influence with clearly stated facts, options and conclusions. Deceitful Leaders state conclusions and positions with limited substance and fact. They may use charged rhetoric or misleading data.


“Deceitful leaders use charged rhetoric and misleading data.” -Bruce Rhoades

Four Letter Words Banned by Leaders

Banned Words in My House

 

When my daughter first learned to speak, I started telling her that there are some words that we don’t use in our house.

And they are not the words you would think, though those are also banned.

They are words that limit.  Words that destroy dreams.

 

Can’t.

There is very little that you “can’t” do.  There are things you won’t do.  There are also things you choose not to do.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

 

Hate.

Be someone full of love and compassion.  Most “hate” is due to lack of understanding or perspective.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” -Abraham Lincoln

 

Suck.

Not too long ago, I was watching a high school tennis match. “I suck!” exclaimed this tennis player after each miss.  How does that help?  Instead, it reinforced negative thoughts.  Guess what?  What you say defines your future.

“What you say defines your future.” -Skip Prichard

 

Lose.

You don’t lose.  You’re not a loser.  Focus on the good plays and what you did well.  It will empower you and ready you for future competitions.

“A loss is a temporary setback on the way to a permanent victory.” -Skip Prichard

6 Leadership Lessons from a Banker, Pope and CEO

This is a guest post by Rowena Heal, writer at RocketMill. She spends a lot of time with her head in a book or watching too much Sci-Fi. For more information, please check out the Cryoserver blog.

Heading up a team is tough and, unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership doesn’t exist.

From menial tasks, like enforcing a tidy desk policy and coaching best practice for a tidy inbox, to motivating a team to double revenue year-on-year, it’s difficult picking appropriate techniques without falling into the trap of micro-management.

Thankfully, there’s a lot to be learnt from Mario Draghi, Pope Francis and Tim Cook; all of whom have appeared within the top four of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List.

Mario Draghi

As President of the European Central Bank, and second on Fortune Magazine’s list, Draghi has a tough job on his hands. Despite this, his abilities to motivate and remain calm are great examples of skills that should be emulated by managers in all fields.

1). Keep your team motivated:

We wouldn’t blame Mario for succumbing to the stress of maintaining financial unity across 18 countries, although he’s yet to do so.

Despite having one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world, his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to preserve the euro – as well as boasting the nickname Super Mario – highlights his motivational skills.

Managers should take heed of this approach, remembering staff morale often rests heavily on your own emotions; if you’re stressed, rest assure they will be too. If things are getting a little shaky within the business, keep the team motivated – chances are the positivity will help pull you all back out of a slump.

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca

 

2). Stay grounded:

Mario’s often praised for his down-to-earth approach to his job; something arguably unexpected when under so much pressure. Draghi’s less than lavish lifestyle outside the office – his family celebrated his son’s graduation in a pizzeria in Milan – keep him grounded in work, too.

We’re not suggesting you remove all luxuries from your life, just don’t spend hours bragging about big expenses to staff that cannot afford the same – it’ll only create barriers. Remaining down to earth is a great way to ensure team members can speak to you openly and avoids issues with secrecy or intimidation.

Pope Francis

Now a few months into his second year as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is responsible for economic reforms at the Vatican and has driven a spiralling discussion on divorce and homosexuality throughout the Church.

Author Jeffrey A. Krames believes there are at least 12 leadership lessons we can learn from Pope Francis, but we’ve picked two we deem important and applicable.

 

3). Listen to advice:

Unfortunately, a manager isn’t always right, so it’s important to accept that decision making isn’t a lone task.

Francis demonstrates enthusiasm for learning from the people around him, creating a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprised of eight members from across the world with ideologically varied views. This group advises him on all major actions and has been deemed the ‘most important decision-making force in the Vatican,’ by John L. Allen, author of The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

When heading a team, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from staff. Weigh up opinions and come to a conclusion based on this. Even if you still opt for your original decision, it’ll feel reassuring to know others are backing your verdict.

 

4). Lead with humility:

Asserting authority doesn’t have to go hand in hand with bossiness, and it’s important to remember how important your staff are – you wouldn’t be able to do your job without them.

Be more approachable by immersing yourself into the business – as well as the office. Francis is a clear advocate for leading with humility, and you can imitate this quality, starting with simple steps, like abandoning your office for a desk space next to your colleagues, or spending less on lavish business lunches.

Tim Cook