What qualities make an A Player immediately stand out?
Some qualities that immediately stand out for an A Player are as follows: accountability for results and integrity. Pay attention to the meetings you are in over the next week and notice how many employees and managers make excuses for missing goals, or do not take ownership or accountability for solving a problem. This is why the characteristics of A Players are so important. The A Players are also scrupulous in their integrity. Many people say one thing and then never follow through (or worse yet, tell a lie). A Players, on the other hand, have integrity— they consider someone not following through on their commitment as dishonest behavior.
“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” -John Wooden
I love your “line of choice” image. When a leader sees someone falling into the trap of blaming and making excuses, what does she do to get the player back on track?
In our cultures everyone is trained on The Line of Choice. They’ll politely call out their teammate and ask, “Isn’t that comment below the line?” or “What does an above-the-line response look like?” Or they’ll use the ABC vernacular and ask, “What would an A Player say?” or “That sounds a lot like B Player talk to me.”
Copyright Rick Crossland. Used by permission.
How to Motivate an A Player
What motivates an A Player?
One thing great about A Players is the leader does not have to motivate them. In fact, they are self-motivated. A Players truly work for passion. They find purpose in the process itself. They are not coin operated. They focus on satisfying customers, making better products, and you know what? The money follows! In fact it flows much more freely than if they had focused on the money.
“A Players are self-motivated, work for passion, and find purpose in the process itself.” -Rick Crossland
Throughout the book, you reference ethics, morals, and character. You also talk about leaders with some big personal failings. Why do so many people fall into these traps? How do you guard against it?
So many people fall into poor ethics and moral character for a few reasons. One is that their environment lets them get away with it. I’d recommend you put your antenna up this week and see how many times people in your organization tell and get away with white lies or half-truths. Odds are you will be startled by what you find. Now the question is, are you holding them accountable to clean up their act? The other root cause is that people suffer from hubris. Many folks just don’t think the rules apply to them, or they think they won’t get caught.
The way to guard against weak ethical and moral character is to build a culture where there is transparency to our actions. Societal ethics are becoming more blurred by the day. Make the adage by Aldo Leopold, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal,” part of your culture’s DNA. Build your systems so someone is watching and holding others accountable. Finally, the leader sets the tone for the ethical mores of your organization. Part ways with leaders with shaky ethics.
A heart-led leader serves others. They epitomize servant leadership. They are humble. They are genuine and sincere. They are transparent and vulnerable. They measure success not just on spreadsheets but on the amount of impact they (and their organizations) have on others. They believe love and results are two sides of the same coin.
Why do heart-led leaders produce better results?
For years we looked at servant leadership as a worthy leadership style that is beneficial to organizational culture but not necessarily tied to bottom-line results. Heart-Led Leaders are obsessed with achieving bottom-line results. But they also believe that love and results are two sides of the same coin. They believe that if they love what they do and who they do it for, it is hard not to produce extraordinary results.
Are you born a heart-led leader or are you able to acquire the characteristics over time?
This is a century old argument – are leaders born or are they made? I have always believed that although we may be born with certain characteristics and qualities, true heart-led leadership is a learned trait – just as one would learn how to ride a bike. If one chooses to become a heart-led leader, he or she can become one. But the 18-Inch Journey to become a Heart-Led Leader is a difficult one.
“Heart-led leaders have the self awareness to understand who they are.” -Tommy Spaulding
You make the point that there are 18 inches between the head and the heart, and then provide 18 leadership principles to support the difference. Would you talk about one or two of these that stand out and why they are so important?
The Heart Led Leader
I believe the journey to heart-led leadership is the 18-inches between your head and your heart. In my book, The Heart-Led Leader, I list 18 traits that I believe one must possess to become a heart-led leader—traits such a humility, passion, love, authenticity and vulnerability, etc. I think 21st century leaders must possess these qualities to be truly successful – to create impact, change and bottom-line results.
As an Eagle Scout myself, I was pulled into your personal example about when you wanted to be named Outstanding Scout. Would you share that story and what you learned about character?
Character is one of the 18-inches (traits) of heart-led leadership. I first learned of the importance of character at Boy Scout camp when I was a kid. The scout masters chose one scout at the end of summer camp that was awarded the “Most Outstanding Scout” award. It was the highest honor given to the one scout who demonstrated great leadership qualities. I wanted to win this award more than anything. That week during scout camp I worked harder than any of the other scouts. I got up early. I volunteered for everything. I earned more merit badges, and did whatever the scout masters asked of me.
At the end of the scout camp we had a huge camp fire celebration. And at the end of the evening the scout masters awarded the “Most Outstanding Scout” award. I was certain that I would win the award. I nearly started to stand up before they announced my name.
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