Three Things Great Leaders Know About Their Personal Intentions

  One of the keys to leadership success involves having something to aim for, something that inspires both you and others to reach and achieve your common goals.  We often hear this outcome focus described as being “on purpose,” and another way to express that is t read more

How to Avoid "What-Could-Have-Been" Leadership Remorse

What would happen if you went too far?

I watched my son dodge waves at the beach this chilly winter morning. He’d watch a wave come in, let it get within a metre or so of him, and then he’d run up the sand until he was beyond the reach of the water. Eventually, he would wait until the water was barely inches from his running shoes before commencing his retreat. And with each progressive wave, he got even bolder and cheekier, pushing his luck until inevitably the waves lapped over his shoes and he got a soaker.

He looked down at his wet shoes, socks and pants, laughed, and went right back to dodging waves. read more

What Leaders Who Get Things Done Ask Themselves

 

How often do you call it quits on a great idea before you’ve made it happen?

My two young sons set up a lime-selling stand at the end of our driveway this past weekend.  They did quite well out of it, but not without initial sibling drama.

You see, they almost gave up before making the first sale because neither of the boys wanted to be the one who held up the sign to alert passing cars.  Too embarrassing, apparently.

And then I witnessed my older son, Ben, take the lead in a way that belied his 11 years.  He said to his little brother, “Whoever is holding up the sign when someone stops gets three quarters of that sale, and the other person only gets one quarter.”

Argument over.

My younger son worked the sign like a pro.

Here are three questions that leaders ask themselves before giving up on a project or an idea, thus allowing themselves to get more completed than a significant number of their give-up-too-soon counterparts.

Question 1: Is it worth the effort?

My older son, consciously or unconsciously, asked himself whether the lime stand was worth it.  And to him it was, for a few reasons.  Firstly, he’d never done it before and it was exciting.  Secondly, there was money in it.  And thirdly, he was avoiding doing homework – perhaps the deciding factor in the end.

If a project or idea is worth the effort, then it’s worth weathering the challenges that come with it.  Great leaders don’t change their minds quickly.  If they’ve decided something is worth it, it will take serious convincing for them to renege.

Question 2: How can we make this work?

Once Ben decided to continue with lime stand, he didn’t let something like an argument about holding up a sign get in his way.  Instead, he stopped and thought about possible solutions.  Knowing that his little brother would do almost anything for money, it didn’t take him long.

Leaders have flexibility about the journey.  They know what result they want to get, and a glitch in the process doesn’t mean anything other than it’s time to get creative about the how.

Question 3: What am I willing to give up?

Ben gave up 25% of the takings, and as a result the boys probably made even more than they would have if the split was 50/50.  Why? Because my younger son was incredibly motivated by making more money than his big brother, and persisted well beyond the time his big brother lost interest.  What was lost in margin was made up in volume.

Leaders know that sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back.  Sometimes giving up something now brings even more later.

Your current initiatives

Pick a project you’re working on.  Perhaps one that’s stalling, or not working.   Ask yourself the three questions.

It’s not a lime-stand, I know.

It’s more important than that.

 

 

Are Your Workplace Tears Teaching You this Leadership Lesson? [Video]

When is the last time your emotions got the better of you at work?

I remember being in a meeting with a senior manager who consistently cut me off every time I began to speak.  It would happen in every meeting we were in, and I increasingly dreaded attending meetings with him.  In one particular meeting, after he cut me off again, I spent the rest of the meeting intently looking at the agenda, because if I made eye contact with the rest of the attendees, they would have seen the tears welling up in my eyes, and I didn’t want anyone to know how hurt I felt.

What women often want when I coach them

Very often, when I’m coaching or mentoring women in leadership positions, one of their objectives for our work together is to learn to manage their emotions at work.  But when they say “manage,” what they really mean is “hide.”  Their biggest fear is often that they’ll burst into tears, look “soft” to their bosses and colleagues, and undo all the hard work they’ve put into their leadership careers.  And so they curb their feelings when perhaps what they should be doing is listening to them.

And that was what was happening with me.

Now please hear this.  I’m not referring here to crying as a result of depression, burnout, or workplace bullying.   I’m talking about those situations where you tear up, and later chide yourself for crying in front of colleagues because you tell yourself you should have been able to handle it.

What your emotions are telling you

Author Anne Kreamer and her colleague Mark Truss, in a 2009 survey of 701 respondents, found that 41% of the women they polled had cried at work in the preceding year.

So if you’ve cried at work recently, you’re far from alone.

Whether you hide away in a washroom stall and have a cry, or whether it happens in front of other people, it can be embarrassing for you, most definitely but it’s also be a potentially compelling message that you really need to pay attention to.

Is it sadness, or is it something else?

For so many women in leadership positions, tears at work are not an indication of sadness at all.  They’re not a sign of weakness or unfitness for a leadership position either.  They don’t mean you can’t do your job, and they don’t mean you need to turn off your feelings at work to stay in control.

For many women, workplace tears are a sign of frustration and anger.

Think about it.  You don’t want to seem weak so you don’t want to cry, but it would be even WORSE, in the eyes of many women, to get really angry at work and to say what you REALLY think about things.

And that tension between feeling angry and frustrated, but not knowing how to express it, can often end in tears.

Early emotional management

If that’s rings true for you, and it will for many women, then take some time to figure out what it is that you’re angry and frustrated about.  What you’ll likely discover is that there are issues you haven’t dealt with for fear of looking bossy or mean.

For me, I wasn’t standing up for myself in that meeting, and I felt like I had no communication strategies to deal with the senior manager who consistently cut me off.  I felt helpless, and in my mind, each time he cut me off and I didn’t have a way to handle it, I would doubt my own leadership abilities.

Deal with the issue

When I swallowed my pride and met one-on-one with the senior manager to address the problem with him face to face, he was absolutely shocked …. In a good way.  It hadn’t registered with him that he was cutting me off.  He was passionate about his work, and when he had an idea he would speak it.  He apologised profusely and told me he had every respect for my work and it wouldn’t happen again.

And true to his word, future meetings with this senior manager, from that moment, were very different.  He treated me with respect, and even gave everyone in the room permission to let him know if he cut them off as he said it was a bad habit of his and he wanted to fix it.

What do your tears mean?

Consider, if you find the tears welling up at work for you, if there’s an issue that you need to address.  Perhaps, like me, you have an issue with a specific person that needs addressing, whether it’s something you deal with yourself, or if you raise it with your boss.

Perhaps you’re unclear on the outcome for a particular project you’ve been assigned, and your frustration can be managed by meeting with key stakeholders and getting more clarity.

And if the problem is stress related or bullying, escalate it in accordance with the policies of your organisation and seek assistance.

Let your tears not mean weakness.  Let them mean it’s time to take action.

 

Do You Make this Critical Leadership Mistake?

 

What mistake has your team losing trust for you by the second?

I spent a good part of this past weekend helping my 8-year-old memorise his two-to-three minute public speaking assignment for school and speak it with expression.  In order to do that, I created a system.

First, I would read a sentence from his speech to him with expression.  Second, he would read it to himself, silently, with expression.  Third, he would read it out loud, with expression.  And finally he would speak (not read) it out loud, with expression.

The system worked like magic.  My son was remembering his speech.  He spoke with vocal variety, gave me plenty of eye contact and was using appropriate facial expression and gestures.

But once in a while I would skip a step and try to move things along.  My 8-year-old, normally a rule-breaker at home, would pull me up and bring us back to the system.

Because it was no longer my system.

It was our system.

He was invested in it.  He believed in it.  He put his trust into the system.  And by extension, he put his trust in me.

The danger of ignoring the system

How often, with our teams, do we promote a way of doing things and then we don’t live up to that approach ourselves?  All organisations have systems and policies.  Performance reviews, reports, quality assurance processes.  The list is long. (Often too long.)

Promote the system and not follow it, and you may as well not have the system in the first place.  Without consistency, you will not only not get the results that the system was put in place to achieve, but you will have no leg to stand on when your team isn’t following the system either.

But even worse, you lose credibility with your team.

Because you are the champion of the system.  As their leader, you are a representive the organisation.  You are “management.”  If you, leader, support a system in word or by virtue of your leadership position, but you don’t live it, work it or apply it, then your words and your actions don’t match.

The message to your team:  you don’t need to believe what the boss says. You don’t need to follow the policies and procedures of the organisation.    What management says and what we, the team, do, are two different things.

In other words, disregard systems.

Selective system use

Imagine being a new employee at a large organisation and it comes time for your annual performance review. When you were recruited, you were told how this performance review is a cornerstone of the company’s success because the company values its people and their growth.  You get sent on a half day training course on how to fill out the performance review questionnaire and how to have a valuable conversation with your boss.  You spent the previous months diligently capturing your achievements and successes, which you carefully craft and capture succinctly in your review.

On the day of your meeting, as you sit with butterflies in your belly in a meeting room, your boss arrives.  Your boss, who is meant to have read your review and come ready to discuss the review, your performance, and your career at the organisation.  He/shewalks in, sits down, and says, “I haven’t had a chance to look at this yet.  Anything I should pay attention to?”

Demotivating your team

In a complex, varied world, systems give people a sense of structure.  A sense of control.  A feeling that at least they know what’s coming next and they’ve got some influence over it.

Take that away from your team and you pull the rug out from under them, destabilise them, and create an environment where they cannot trust.  They no longer know what to focus on and what not to, because what is said and what is done do not match.  They begin to watch for clues as to how they’re REALLY meant to behave, because the policies and procedures, the systems, are just words on a page.

Follow the system

Your organisation needs systems.  There are mandatory systems which you have no control over, but have to follow.  You might not like it, but to be perfectly blunt, it’s not about you.

It’s about what works.  For the organisation, for management, and for the team.

If you have a problem with a system, take it up with your own “management,” but follow it with your team anyway.

And when you create your own systems for your team, follow them religiously.

Because not everyone is going to be like my 8-year-old son.  In fact very few people will have the courage to raise it with you when you’re not doing the right thing.  They’ll observe in silence and come to a conclusion about which systems need to be upheld and which are voluntary.

And when they do so, you had better hope they get it right.

Because cliché as it is, the buck stops with you.

 

 

Warning: Don’t Get the Right People on the Bus

 

What is it that makes a team?

Author Jim Collins, who wrote the business classic “Good to Great,” told us to make sure we had the right people on the bus.

The analogy has become a bit of a cliché in the business world, and leaders and consultants everywhere are talking about getting the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off the bus.

But here’s the thing.  If you want a great team, what you DON’T want are passengers.  People who get on the bus and are happy to go along while someone else drives.

Who’s putting in?

What you want are participators.  People who each play a role in getting the team or the business where it needs to go.  People whose efforts are integral to the success of the venture, of the project, of the day-to-day.  If they’re not integral, why are they there?

So you don’t want people on your bus.

You want people on your boat.

Everyone pulls together

Imagine a boat with four oars on one side, and four oars on the other.  Eight oars for eight people.  The rowboat is on a river, pushing into the current.  There are rocks behind it.

What will happen if no one pulls on their oars?  The boat will drift downstream, into the rocks.  But when each of the eight member oar-pulling team works together, they keep each other – and the boat – safe, and in the process they move towards their destination.

Do you have enough people manning the oars?  Have they been taught how to row well, and how to row together?

Are they doing it?

Rowing in time

If you’ve ever been in a rowboat, you’ll know that if you only row on one side of the boat, it cannot go straight.

The same happens with a team.  Sometimes a few people aren’t pulling strongly, or at all, and the boat moves off course.  The people who are still rowing will never be able to get the boat in a bee-line towards the destination without everyone rowing in time, and with a similar, balanced amount of effort.

Exhausted rowers

And if you have some people who aren’t rowing, and others rowing way too hard to compensate, and this goes on long enough, then what you end up with is exhaustion.

The hard workers burn out.  The ones who’ve kept the boat moving – your star rowers – just can’t take it anymore.  They either stop rowing and ship their oars out of frustration or because they simply cannot take one more stroke, or else they jump ship, swim to shore, and start looking for another boat.

 Who is at the helm?

At the helm of the boat, guiding it towards the destination is the captain, the leader of the team.  The captain’s role isn’t to row.  The captain’s role is to know what the destination is, share that with the team, and keep his or her eyes on where the team is in relation to that destination.  The leader need to notice who’s rowing and who’s not.  Whose technique needs some help.  Who needs a bit of encouragement, a bit of a nudge, or a rest.

Everyone is important

Leaders, get your team off the bus, and into the boat.  Put an oar in their hands.

And let them row.

 

 

How Knowing My Style Made Me a Better People Leader [Video]

 

Have you ever noticed that it’s easy to figure out what other people need to do differently, but it’s really hard to work out what you need to do differently for yourself?

Last week I presented to a business group on the four main behavioural styles.

The presentation was videoed, and my 11 year old son Ben watched the playback with me.

As soon as we’d finished watching the presentation Ben picked out with absolute accuracy what style his little brother was, and what style his dad was.

But then he said to me, “Mum, how come I can pick out Dad’s style and Daniel’s style, but I’ve got no idea what mine is?”

I know who you are, but who am I?

The reason he couldn’t figure out his own style isn’t because he’s 11 years old.

Over and over again, in workplaces everywhere, I see people who can learn the basics of a behavioural style model and apply it to their colleagues, even to their clients.

But they can’t, for the life of them, apply it to themselves.

It’s so prevalent, in fact, that I gave it a name – Own-Style Blindness, or OSB for short.

The benefit of knowing your style

It’s a real gift to know your own style.  It’s a real gift to be clear on who you are and why you do what you do.

When I realised that my style fit well with focusing on people development rather than becoming a technical expert, it freed me up from needing to know all the detailed, technical aspects of my work and allowed me to focus on what I did best.

It also, though, helped me identify where people who had different styles then mine were exactly who I needed around me so that all aspects of the work that needed to get done would get done.  Not just the bits that I liked or was good at.

Even my team felt the impact

The unexpected benefit was it made my whole team stronger.

Because once I could recognise my style, it made it so much easier to recognise other people’s styles and I was able to adjust their roles to leverage their strengths, which made them happier employees.

Their productivity skyrocketed and they were putting in huge amounts of discretionary effort without me ever asking them to.

So how do you discover your style and overcome Own-Style Blindness?

The quickest, most valuable and reliable way to identify your style is to get profiled through an assessment like Extended DISC®, which is what I do with my clients.

When you work with someone who’s trained to give you the assessment and then take you through the assessment results specifically for your benefit, you get incredibly deep insights into your style, and how it’s impacting your work right now, and how it’s impacting the people around you.

But if you want a quick taster right away, you’ll see a link at the bottom of this article for a one page overview of the four behavioural styles that you can download.

What next?

So here’s what you need to do.

  1. Download the behavioural style overview sheet.
  2. Have a best guess at what style you think you are – remember, though, you probably have OSB – Own Style Blindness – so it might not be obvious to you.
  3. Give the cheat sheet to 5 people who know you well – people who see you at work, and outside of work – and find out what style they think you are.

Now that you know your own style, you’ll start to notice how much easier it is to see where other people’s styles differ to yours.

You’ll also be able to recognise people whose styles complement yours specifically because their style is one you’re not strong at.

And when you can leverage that, you’ve found one of the key ingredients of an outstanding team.

 

 

 

How to be Convincing as a Leader

Have you ever been frustrated when you need someone to make a decision, or take an action, and it just takes way too long?

Some people are easy to influence.

Back in my corporate days, there were some people I could have one conversation and the job was done.  For example, if it was a boss of mine, they’d make the decision I needed them to so I could move forward with a project.  Or if it was one of my staff members, they’d agree to take on a task I needed them to complete.

But there were a large number of people who I needed to practically hound – or at least that’s what it felt like – in order to get any sort of agreement from them, on just about anything!

And then I learned that people are convinced in different ways, and that most people are never going to make snap decisions.  And it was such a relief to know that it wasn’t necessarily me that was the problem.  Well actually, it was.  I wasn’t factoring in the different ways people make decisions into my communications.

So let’s go through four ways people are convinced.

The first type of person is what’s called an automatic convincer.  These are people who are easily persuaded of just about anything.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a pushover, though.  It means that they don’t need loads and loads of information in order to make their mind up about something.  If it makes sense to them, they’re in and they’ll say so.  You know where you stand with them right away.  These are the people who you can resolve things with in one conversation, often.

The second type of person is a number of times convincer.  And that means they need to hear what you have to say a certain number of times before they’ll be persuaded or before they’ll make a decision.  They want to see things from a number of different perspectives in order to feel comfortable with making a decision.  So you might need to have two, three, or four touch-points with them before they’ll make any sort of decision.

The third type of person is what’s called a period of time convincer.  That means, really they need some water to pass under the bridge before they’ll commit to anything.  They’re not going to spontaneously say yes, but they haven’t said no either.  Period of time convincers need to sit with things, they need some time to soak things in.   Not even necessarily to do serious analysis.  They just make decisions after a period of time.

There’s a fourth type of convincer, and frankly, this fourth type’s hard to work with.  They’re what’s called a constant convincer.  These are the folks who want you to “prove” yourself over and over and over again, and they’re almost never convinced of anything.

By the way, this isn’t just true of leadership in the sense of getting your team members to do what you need them to.  The same thing happens in sales.

Think of going to buy a car.  If you were at the car dealership, would you be driving away from the lot as the owner of a new car on the day you first went to the dealership?  Some people do – automatic convincers.  But if you need to go for two or three test drives before you take the plunge, you might be a number of time convincer.  Or if you need to go away and think about it for a week, but you don’t need to take another test drive – you just need some time to pass – you’re probably a period of time convincer.  Constant convincers probably need someone else to come to the car yard with them and make the decision, because they’re rarely satisfied on their own and struggle to make a decision.

Not everyone is automatically convinced.

I see a lot of people who are disillusioned when after one conversation with someone, they haven’t got an outcome.  They want everyone to be automatic convincers.  But the reality is, most people aren’t automatic convincers and getting them on board takes a bit more work.

Your challenge

Once you know that there are a variety of ways people make decisions – and you take a moment to consider people in your team, or clients you’ve had – you’ll recognise that people you work with tend to fall into one of the four categories.

Your challenge is to structure how you communicate with them to fit how they make decisions – and as a result, reduce your frustration when it doesn’t all happen right away.

 

 

The Three Unconscious Questions Everyone's Asking About You [Video]

 

There are three unconscious questions that the people you’re leading are asking themselves about you all the time.

You’re being evaluated

It’s important for you as a leader to realise that – whether you’re leading a team, or a project, or a client – you’re being evaluated constantly by others.

What’s important for you to work out is how you’re rating on these three questions with the people you’re leading.

So what are the three unconscious questions that people are asking themselves about you, whether you like it or not?

Continue reading The Three Unconscious Questions Everyone's Asking About You [Video]

5 Leadership Lessons from Stephen King

What?  Leadership lessons from Stephen King?  He’s not a leader ….

I grew up playing softball – a lot.  I remember, as a young girl, sleeping with my new glove under my pillow to soften it up.  Night after night you could find me throwing the ball around with my older brother, focusing on getting both accuracy and power into my game.

Last week, as I played backyard cricket with my two sons, I noticed exactly why my elder son’s accuracy and power were lacking as he threw the ball to the keeper (the catcher in softball.)

But when I made a gentle suggestion about moving his elbow further back before the throw, he immediately dismissed me as a non-expert.

Because I had never played cricket.

The value of cross-contextual learning

Stephen King is a mega-huge, mega-successful, mega-prolific author.  He’s a master of communication and a devotee of persistence.  I don’t know about you, but I, for one, think that if the guy’s going to share how he succeeded, as he did in his book “On Writing,” there might be some valuable lessons for those of us who aim to be successful in other realms, such as in leading people.

So here are 5 nuggets of gold from Stephen King that wise leaders would do well to consider.

Continue reading 5 Leadership Lessons from Stephen King