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
How to Help Your People, Team, and Organization Achieve
In the Seven Disciplines of a Leader, Jeff Wolf explores what leadership looks like when done right. Jeff has coached hundreds of leaders and offers his disciplines in order to benefit leaders at all levels of the organization. I recently talked with Jeff about the leadership disciplines discussed in his book.
“Companies place the wrong leadership in the job 82 percent of the time.” –Forbes
What advice do you give to someone who wants to stand out and get noticed as a leader in a large organization?
Learn what your company looks for in its leaders. See if there’s a competency model that identifies successful leaders’ strengths and characteristics. Study this model and be sure to practice the competencies. If no such model exists, seek out successful company leaders and talk with them to gain a better understanding of how they became successful.
You should also volunteer to lead small projects, which will provide useful leadership experiences and exposure. You’ll gain confidence and enhance the skill sets that are weak.
Always be curious. Seek new opportunities and experiences, and always be open to trying something out of your normal comfort zone.
I would encourage budding and aspiring leaders to create a plan, put it in writing, and then “work it.” Research proves that people who put their goals in writing are usually more successful.
Read as many books and attend as many training courses as possible, both within and outside of the company. Vary courses so you can experience a broad spectrum of leadership skills.
“A leader’s upbeat attitude is contagious and lifts morale.” -Jeff Wolf
There’s another important challenge to overcome: Learn the areas in which you must improve because we all have blind spots. We see some of our weaknesses, but it’s truly impossible to identify all of them.
It’s important for leaders to be positive and have a great attitude because they can either impart or sap energy. A leader’s upbeat attitude becomes contagious, lifting the morale of those around them. You can always teach skills, but you cannot always teach people how to be positive; they either have a great attitude or they don’t.
Be sure you are striving to work well with others and be aware how other people view you. When you stand up to speak in front of a group, do you exude confidence, present articulate, clear messages, and carry yourself well?
Coaching for Success
What is the most common reason someone calls you for coaching?
Coaching used to be thought of as a tool to help correct underperformance or, as I often call it, the “broken wing theory.” Today, coaching is used to support leaders, employees with high potential, and top producers in an effort to enhance individual capabilities.
We work in such a high-speed environment! Organizations are finally beginning to recognize the importance of helping leaders achieve critical business objectives in the shortest possible time, so they’re hiring me to speed personnel development.
I’m often brought into organizations to deal with a number of leadership issues. Providing feedback is one key area. As leaders move into greater levels of responsibility, they receive less—perhaps even no—feedback from others on their performance. The unfortunate consequence is stagnation. Critical leadership and interpersonal skills often reach certain levels, and the leader is given no opportunity to become an even better leader. Working one-on-one with an objective third-party coach offers these leaders a trusted advisor who can focus on behavioral changes that organizations are ill equipped to handle. Coaching develops extraordinary leaders. Extraordinary leaders produce extraordinary business results.
If you are a new manager, what are a few ways to have a quick impact?
Leadership is not rocket science. It comes down to living and leading by the golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
People make companies. As leaders, we often spend most of our time on strategy and improving bottom-line results, but what about our people? It’s our job, as leaders, to guide them, help them develop more skills, and increase productivity.
I think Walt Disney put it perfectly: “You can dream, create and design the most wonderful place in the world….but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
For a quick impact, work to understand what your people want, not just what you want, and act accordingly. Ask your staff for their feedback with questions such as:
What can I do to make you happier here?
What do you find challenging about your work?
What’s energizing about your work?
How can I be a better leader for you to be successful?
What resources do you need that you currently don’t have?
What motivates you to work hard?
Do you feel appreciated and receive the praise and recognition you feel you deserve?
Often times a new leader’s first inclination is to become too friendly with people. After all, everyone wants to be liked. But by trying to become everyone’s friend, leaders run the risk of losing respect and influence. If your staff considers you to be one of the group, they may not respect your judgment on important issues.
Additionally, they may lose their motivation to achieve goals, fail to work hard, and assume deadlines are soft when they believe their “friend” will never reprimand them. That’s why leaders must avoid falling into the trap of becoming too friendly with their staff. The bottom line? You’re the boss—not a best friend! You cannot be objective and unbiased when staff members view you as a work pal.
“It takes people to make the dream a reality.” –Walt Disney
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.
What NOT to do as a New Leader
Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It is recognition that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and more visibility.
“Continual blaming only disempowers the organization.” -Bruce Rhoades
Whether you are a new executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader; when you are new to the role, people will watch closely to understand your style and how to work with you. Here are just a few of the things people will be evaluating:
However, as you begin to take action and set the desired cultural tone for the organization, it is easy to allow some behaviors to undermine your effectiveness as a leader. Here are a few things NOT to do as a new leader:
1. Do not Lead or Manage “around” other Leaders:
When involved in the various skip-level and other informal meetings, be careful not to usurp the authority of other leaders who may be responsible. If necessary, instead of acting at the time, simply make note of the situation, ask a few questions, then work through the appropriate leader to do what is necessary later.
2. Do Not Kill the Messenger:
Using the techniques I outlined in the previous post to get good information will sometimes surface bad news. Be cautious not to “kill the messenger” of the news, but listen and take the appropriate action in the proper forum. Strong, emotional reaction to a messenger of bad news kills open communication.
3. Do Not Be Totally Problem-Focused:
It is easy as a new leader to focus on solving problems. Be sure to balance problem solving with actions to capitalize on new opportunities and future strategies. Looking forward to possibilities allows the organization to solve current problems with a better context.
4. Do Not Start Too Many Large Initiatives at Once:
It is great to make decisions and take action, but be cautious to balance long-term, larger initiatives with the short-term actions. You will be more effective with organizational focus on a few long-term initiatives that are completed rather than on too many initiatives that drag on forever.
5. Do Not Permit Hidden Agendas:
When people have ulterior motives that are for personal gain or to hide negative consequences for actions and proposals, it undermines clear communication and trust in the organization. Always prompt people to explain their motives if you suspect hidden agendas. Asking questions is a good way to get to the actual agenda.
“Upward delegation undermines accountability and empowerment.” –Bruce Rhoades
A pocket veto is when someone appears to agree but actually does nothing, hoping that the subject will be forgotten. A pocket veto in business is a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. It not only undermines the effectiveness of the organization, but it also undercuts your leadership. Always confront this behavior with follow-up and reprimands. Pocket veto behavior is not like baseball – you do not get three strikes. Taking direct action with someone with this behavior will quickly set the tone for everyone that pocket vetoes are not a good idea.
The ancient Greeks had a saying, “Know thyself.” Carved above the entrance to the main temple at Delphi, ancient philosophers including Socrates and Plato taught the importance of introspection.
If you aspire to make an impact, to lead others, or to create change, these are two words that should be an important part of your personal development. Understanding your own leadership style is critically important.
We all have a default style of leadership. You may be an autocratic leader. That means that you are more of a commander than a persuader. Or you may be more of a delegator, hiring others to handle tasks and trusting them to get it done right.
We can change our style. The combination of self-awareness and self-discipline give us the ability to change our style depending on the situation we face. We may have a default style, but all of us can learn to adjust and take on a different style when needed.
“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” -Winston Churchill
There is no perfect ideal style. But there is an ideal style of leadership for each situation. In other words, you may need motivation in one area of your life. Motivational leadership may provide what you need to get going at the gym. “You can do it!” may motivate you. Find yourself in a crisis and that may not fly. Instead you need someone telling you what to do, in detail, with little room for alternatives.
Knowing someone else’s primary style is as important as knowing your own. I once worked for a woman who was completely hands-off, allowing me a great deal of freedom. Another wanted to provide commands and a checklist for me to report on. If you want to get a high rating at performance time, you need to know your boss’ style. And if someone works for you, it’s even more important. You can increase the odds of success if you choose the leader who best fits a situation.
So what is your leadership style? Take our leadership test and find out. Have people you work with take it. And it matters at home, too, so have your significant other take it. You will increase your self-awareness and begin to “Know thyself.”
All of us have some negative qualities, make mistakes, and mess up. After all, “We’re only human.”
But bad managers seem to collect these traits faster than a hoarder fills a house. If you are working for someone and find yourself nodding vigorously as you read this list, you officially have a bad boss.
What traits would you add to the list?
Everything is about him. Not the organizational goals, but his bonus. Not about the team, but about his individual performance. “How I look” is more important than anything else.
“Leaders enjoy giving credit to others.” -Skip Prichard
You work all night to get it done. Instead of praising you, you find your name removed and her name prominently at the top. She basks in the light of your success and barely acknowledges your contribution.
“Leaders create results by letting others shine.” -Skip Prichard
Threats and intimidation mark the way he manages. You are not asked; you are bullied.
What seems obvious to everyone else, she misses. Her effect on people is something that she completely misses. She never comes back and apologizes or corrects a misunderstanding because she is just not aware of her impact.
Sure, everyone needs to manage up. But, he does it exclusively. His boss loves him. Everyone else sees that he sucks up so much that he has little time for anything else.
You are frequently wrong, but she never is. She can never admit a mistake because it would threaten her self-esteem.
“Freely admitting mistakes is a sign of leadership.” -Skip Prichard