When Agreement is Disagreeable: 4 Keys to Leading Your Team

This is a guest post by Julie Williamson, PhDChief Growth Enabler with Karrikins Group where she leads strategy and research. She is the coauthor of Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice.

 

4 Keys to Leading Your Team

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.

Be A Spark: Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success

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.

 

“A leader is someone who influences outcomes and inspires others.”

 

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.

 

“Credibility is the foundation of your leadership style.”

 

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.

Spark: Lead Yourself and OthersStart 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.

 

“Credible performance builds trust.” -Sean Lynch

 

If an organization lacks accountability, what results?

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

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.

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

Confucius said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” Yet, many times when a mistake is made, people try to pretend that it did not happen. They attempt to justify the wrong position or try to cover it up, which leads to additional mistakes. This situation reminds me of another quote — “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

 

“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” -Confucius

 

Quite often, more damage is done to credibility, relationships, trust and integrity by the actions taken after the original mistake. This is true in personal relationships and especially true when a leader makes a mistake. How many times have we seen high-profile people get prosecuted, not for the original crime, but for the attempt to cover it up by lying?

Of course there is another choice when a mistake is made—admit it, learn from it, correct it and apologize to those that were adversely affected. There is power in properly admitting a mistake.

 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

 

Why Admit a Mistake?

Rather than try to ignore or cover up a mistake, there can be many personal and organizational advantages to properly admitting a mistake.

 

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”


Personal Advantages:

  • Averts the need to continue to defend a difficult or incorrect position.
  • Increases leadership credibility.
  • Avoids additional mistakes trying to cover up or “adjust” for the original mistake.
  • Reduces personal stress and tension.
  • Provides a “reset” from others in both personal and professional relationships.
  • If you take responsibility for a mistake on-behalf of others who participated, it builds loyalty.

 

“Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Organizational Advantages:

  • Provides a learning situation for you and others.
  • Builds trust—others see that you are human, honest and truthful.
  • Allows quick correction, which saves time and resources.
  • Gives others a chance to express views and provide new information.
  • Shows others that they are valued and that their input counts, which builds collaboration.
  • Increases the organization’s ability to try new things then quickly stop those that do not work, which helps establish an innovative culture.
  • Sets the tone for risk-taking, open communication and makes you more approachable.
  • Provides concrete examples to reinforce critical aspects of culture: decisiveness, truthfulness, openness, integrity and quick correction.
  • Removes the “elephant-in-the-room” situation where everyone knows about the mistake, but no one talks about it.
  • Helps offset the bad feelings for those that may have wasted their time.
  • Decreases “pocket-vetoes” when others see the mistake, do not confront it, but simply do not implement.

 

“As a leader it is a mistake to think that you need to have all the right answers all the time.” – Bruce Rhoades

 

When Admitting Mistakes Does Not Have Power

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.

The Power of Positive Social Proof

Why Is Positive Social Proof Important?

You’re walking down a busy city street and turn the corner only to see a small crowd of people all looking up in the air, at a point across and above the street. What are the odds you’ll be able to stop yourself before looking up to see what they’re all staring it? I know for me, it’s almost impossible…and I’ve tried!

Similarly, in movies and TV shows, it’s easier to laugh along when we hear the show’s laugh-track. I once watched a funny old movie with no laugh-track, and the child I was watching with didn’t know what was funny. We take our cues from others.

It’s the same online. One of the main reasons that people make a choice is because they have “social proof” that others have done so before. It’s a strong motivator.

 

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard

 

Whether you are a business, a blogger, or an individual with career aspirations, you should be harnessing the power of positive social proof. The concept is not a new one, but its importance continues to grow both for businesses and individuals.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s famous work on persuasion called this phenomenon out as a particularly effective marketing tactic. His book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must-read classic.

We tend to adopt as correct the behavior of others around us.

 

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” –Donald McGannon

 

Positive social proof:

 

Helps you stand out. Competition isn’t slowing down, isn’t letting up, and isn’t taking a break. If you want your business to get noticed, then social proof is one way to do it. With more sources competing for our attention every day, it’s vital to differentiate your offering from everything else.

Improves your success metrics. Studies show that we are more likely to share something that others are also sharing. We watch what we see others are watching. Visit a new town and you see two restaurants side-by-side. One has an empty lot and the other has a line wrapped around the block. Which one appeals to you?

Builds credibility. Unless you are already an established expert, a bestselling author, or a of host a worldwide talk show, it helps to build credibility. In Nashville, I see many up and coming music artists using quotes from famous musicians. Authors routinely ask for endorsements for book jacket quotes. Businesses include testimonials from others. All of these are ways to differentiate and add credibility.

 

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” –Vince Lombardi

 

YOU Need Social Proof

Some of you may say, “Sure, I can see that building social proof matters for a business. But it’s not something I need to think about.”

Think again.

If you want to increase your chances of promotion, see higher raises, or reduce your chances of getting let go from your organization, you should use some elements of social proof. Do you have a marketing plan for YOU? Today, you must promote yourself.

You don’t need to blatantly self-promote. No one likes an egotistical, self-centered know-it-all. But, if I want the boss to choose me for a new project, how do I keep my name out there? How do I stand out? It may not be a blog, but it may be that you wrote an article in your company newsletter or an industry publication. It may be that you are speaking at a customer event. And there is nothing better than the word of mouth social proof because you delivered a key project or pitched in to help when it wasn’t even your responsibility. When your colleagues are buzzing about your performance, that is the best social proof possible. There are many ways to build your social proof as an individual.

 

“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” –Mother Teresa

 

Your Website Benefits From Social Proof

Recently, one marketer sent me a list of the ways I have used positive social proof on this blog. Here is what she shared (with my explanation).

Shares. On the top of each post, you can see the number of shares. Here’s where I ran into a problem last week. Because I have preferred Twitter to other social media, my Twitter shares are higher than others like LinkedIn or Facebook. Recently, Twitter made a strange, surprising, and I think wrong move by removing counts from everyone’s websites. That turns some posts that were shared by the thousands to showing nothing overnight. Why they did this is answered in a strange post, but I still don’t quite understand it. And, for the record, it alienated a large community of content creators who are now rethinking strategies for Facebook and LinkedIn over Twitter.

 

Does it matter? Adele recently smashed records with the release of 25, becoming the best-selling album in the US of any single week. Large numbers create even more numbers. What would have happened if just as her sales took off Nielsen made a decision like Twitter and just zeroed out the sales?

 

“A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.” –Cullen Hightower

 

Awards. These are listed on the right side. I haven’t included all of the kind awards, but I did include many of them. They are a form of social proof.