Too often, we are placed in a situation that requires us to modify our reaction to a person. We try to be professional, calm, cool, and collected — but sometimes we need to step out of our management comfort zone to react appropriately. Unfortunately, we don’t want to come off like a jerk. I’m here to help you.
Great leaders translate vision into decisive action — a skill that's especially vital in tough times. But what are those skills? Do you have a blind spot? Should you be doing more? First off — great leaders do three things — no more, no less:
- They motivate their people.
- They deliver information when required.
- They help their people with obstacles.
That's it. As a leader, if you find yourself doing anything else, you're doing too much. Now let's look at each one:
They motivate their people.
The most successful leaders are those with the best people skills, especially during the most difficult circumstances. Poor communication and interpersonal relationships routinely thwart leaders who are otherwise technically competent. In order to succeed, leaders must be fully engaged with the individuals who make up their organization. This means an array of capabilities like coaching, mentoring and how to give constructive feedback which reinforces the behavior and motivation of your peak performers. The best tool to learn how to motivate is Dale Carnegie's: How to Win Friends and Influence People.
They deliver information when required.
What does this really mean? Incredibly efficient two-way communication. And the cruel joke is that most leaders had the chops to make their way up the ladder and succeed — now the skills that got them there (getting things done) have no place in leadership. You now have to communicate to your team to get things done. This is where most C- and VP level executives fail - you need to lead with greater impact by applying emotional intelligence to manage your team. The best tool to effectively communicate is Daniel Goleman's: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
They help their people with obstacles.
Here's the mistake all leaders make. When their people come to them with a problem — they spend time helping them brainstorm, choose and sometimes execute a solution. I've seen this happen time and time again. Great leaders ask their people to come to them when they have a problem, but they also require their people to come with a solution too. 80-90% of the time, that solution is usually the best one and the team member is further empowered to make those tough decisions. On the off chance (that 10-20%) that your people might be wrong, you're there to help them investigate other options. For optimal delegation, seek out Michael Abrashoff's: It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.
At the end of the day, you need to build a leadership style that creates trust, sets a clear vision and guides your entire team toward greater performance and profit.
On with one of my oldest clients this morning and came up with a spot-on analogy about a lot of organizational management today: Your company is a ship on the open sea and your mission is to navigate and guide it into port.
Your captain (management) wants you to take it in slow and steady, so they hit their schedule perfectly. They don't want to expend any more fuel, any more people, or take a chance by accelerating the ship to get to the port faster. It's the way they've done things for years and they are not changing.
Unfortunately, you're guiding the ship and you're seeing all of the competing ships (and some speedboats) passing you by in the night because they are going faster and using innovative techniques and strategies to beat you.
But the captain doesn't see this, because they're sleeping. But you do — and you tell them everyday that the ship needs to go faster and to develop innovative techniques and strategies like your competition.
The captain disagrees. "Slow and steady will get us into port on-time and on-schedule" (and the captain will be rewarded by management with a healthy bonus if this happens).
But you know the competing ships (and speedboats) will hit port way before you do, unload their cargo, sell their wares quickly, and be off before you realize it.
In addition, when they pass, they are making bigger waves that affect your ship's progress. But the captain maintains a slow and steady approach.
They are NOT LISTENING.
And you're seeing the future of your industry happen RIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES.
And you're not part of it. You're a spectator. And the competition is EATING YOUR LUNCH.
Sometimes, the captain doesn't notice until it's too late — and then — and only then — they want you to accelerate. But it's too little, too late. And when you tell them, they get mad.
WHAT DO YOU DO? My ADVICE:
Don't open up the throttle — but you should subtly 'click' it forward just enough where management doesn't notice (at first), but where you begin to catch up, pace, and sometimes pass the competition. Add a resource, accelerate the deadline, increase the scope a bit, start a small skunkworks in the basement — but do something.
Also — EVANGELIZE your perspective and strategy all the time. You might be ridiculed at first — but after the competition beats you — you can stand there with a huge 'I told you so' face. They might listen to you next time.
You might get into trouble if management ultimately uncovers what you're doing — but no one was ever fired for doing the right thing and taking a small chance to advance the company forward.
And if you are reprimanded or fired, it makes a great story to tell when interviewing with the competition!
P.S. This happens ALL THE TIME. Think of Kodak, Blockbuster, and Nokia to name a few. What others can you think of?
This isn't scientific. Let me state that right from the start. But . . . This test has worked for me during my 20 years of managing large teams in corporate settings.
First, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Relax. Have fun. Spend it with people you love.
When you get to work on Tuesday, get there early and observe your team members as they arrive. See how they act the first 30 minutes at work.
Are they grumpy? Are they not happy to be at work? Do they miss their long weekend? Are they complaining? Or . . .
Are they energized? Ready to hit the ground running with a smile? Did they have fun on the weekend, but now they are ready to make some money?
Short holidays are great opportunities to better understand your team's appreciation of their job.
If they come in grumpy —
- They might not like their job.
- They might not like what they do.
- They might be hitting obstacles.
- They might be checking out.
If they come in energized —
- They probably like what they do.
- They probably enjoy your role as their manager.
- They are probably crushing it with their responsibilities.
- They will probably stick around.
Again — this isn't scientific. But I've found if you gracefully approach the grumpy team members individually and find out what is missing in their work life, you might turn them around and energize them.
If people don't realize work is a part of life and you have to make the best of it, it's high time to find out if they've bought into this concept. Because if they're not consistently bringing their A-game to the office, you're going to receive sub-standard work and deal with stinky personalities.
And life's too short to deal with stinky personalities.
POST YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS BELOW
I'm feeling guilty today. The funny thing is . . . I shouldn't. Every Tuesday, like clockwork, I attend my networking/sales team meeting with approximately 50 people.
It's called BNI (Business Networking International), a worldwide organization where businesspeople meet to learn about their services and deliver hot referrals (CLIENTS) each week. I find it powerful for my business (it delivers 40-45% of my clients each year) and wouldn't miss it for the world. In fact, if you have a business or a product to sell, BNI is THE place to go to increase your bottom line.
Today, I'm missing my weekly meeting. I had to double-book a client over my meeting and could not schedule it for any other time this week. They HAD to meet at this time. And I did ALL the right things a BNI member should do:
I notified the leadership team of my absence.
I replace my open spot for the week with a great substitute who will do my commercial.
I let the visitor host team know of my sub so they could list them on our weekly roster.
And I did it all on-time, prior to our meeting.
I still feel guilty. I feel that I'm letting my colleagues down even though I've taken all the steps to ensure my absence is covered this week. Why do I feel guilty?
I feel like I'm letting my BNI colleagues down.
I feel that I'm missing out on something good.
That regular burst of enthusiasm I receive from attending will not be there this week.
Honestly, I shouldn't feel guilty. NOT ONE BIT. Why? Guilt is all about the PAST. And guess what? There's nothing I can do about it. NOTHING. It's in the past.
I've made a decision, I've prepared my absence — I've taken all the steps to ensure I shouldn't feel guilt about missing my meeting. So it's time to confront my guilt and realize I have to live in the present and move on from this 'fake' feeling. Why?
It's holding me back — I'm focusing on something that really doesn't matter.
I'm expending mental and physical energy towards a belief that is not true.
I'm not focusing on the present or planning for the future. This is where I can make serious progress towards my goals.
So the next time you feel GUILTY, remember it's all in the past and there's nothing you can really do about it. Take that guilt and repurpose its energy into the present and future. You will find yourself working faster, better, and with more enthusiasm.
Guilt is a mechanism for us to remember past mistakes so we don't repeat them — don't let it paralyze you.
I'D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR GUILT AT WORK. LET ME KNOW BELOW.
The secret prescription to success is no longer a secret.
Don't waste people's time.
If you've ever been to college, this is THE small piece of advice that my brother gave me when I went off to school: "If you want to fit in and make a LOT of friends at college, leave your door open whenever possible." Why?
Try to imagine working for a company with no management. How do they resolve conflicts, set priorities, measure performance, fire laggards, and all the rest? I couldn't picture it working. What could management do?
Time is the one thing you can never get back. So you need to be careful with it, don't waste it, don't hurry through it, and use it effectively. You need to CONTROL your time.
How do you do that? It's easy and it's hard — here are some tips:
Clear Your Desk.
I know . . . it's hard. But once it's done, it is so easy to focus without any distractions to instantly pull you away from the task at hand. Also there is the visual aspect of a clean desk. You FEEL better about yourself and your surroundings. It's easier to find things and important papers don't get lost.
So here's my strategy — Pile, View, Attack/File/Toss/LCB:
- Pile - Take everything off your desk and make a single pile of paper.
- View - Pick up and look at each piece of paper. You must make four piles:
- Attack - work on it immediately - something you can complete within a short amount of time.
- File - File it away for future access.
- Toss - Throw it away. I know it's hard - but most of your pile can go this route.
- LCB: Last Chance Bin - get a box and place it under your desk. If you are unsure of tossing something, put it into this bin. If you need it later, it's there. If not (after 3-6 months), toss it out. This bin works wonders.
Plan Your Day.
This is the hardest and surprisingly the easiest way to get a better handle on your time. Why?
If you go somewhere or if you're on a trip, you have a destination and a route to get there. That's called a plan.
Why is it when you get to work you don't architect the same thinking for your activities, meetings, and tasks? What needs to be done — what is it's priority — and when will you complete it?
Randy Pausch developed a very simple, yet effective template to help anyone plan their day. It's made up of four quadrants:
- Due Soon and Not Due Soon
- Important and Not Important
When you look at your "Attack" pile of work for the day, you usually work through it based on time in and time out. But importance flies out the window — most people aren't working on the most important and critical tasks. This tool helps them do it.
Which ones to work on first? Upper left! Which ones to work on last? Lower right! Here's a PDF template you can use.
Work On One Thing At A Time.
This is where we all fall down. We think we can 'multi-task' our work and guess what? We never get anything done or even worse, we do things in a haphazard fashion.
Take your Attack pile and your Activity List and make your way down each item. Once it's complete, check it off. Set aside time to work on your attack pile — don't answer the phone — don't let anyone bother you — don't let anything take your focus away from the task at hand until you are DONE. You can always return that phone call 15-30 minutes later or go see the person who wanted to see you.
Also — turn your email reminders OFF. You can get back to checking email when you're DONE.
At first it will be difficult. But when you start to see a clean desk, a planned out day, and REAL progress on your work. These basic behaviors will begin to kick in. Try it!
Okay — the title might be a little misleading. If you just robbed a bank and are evading the authorities, this post will probably not work for you (Sorry). But for most business and career problems — this will do just fine.
It happened to you again. It's happened to me. It's happened to all of us at one time or another. We blame other people, circumstances, luck, your parents, your family, and ultimately the finger always points back at YOU.
Only you can change your situation. But we sometimes are afraid of what might happen. We start making up elaborate stories about what 'will' happen. We get caught up with a lack of inspiration, confidence, focus, energy, and my favorite persistence. How don't you get derailed?
What would you do if you weren't afraid?
I get a lot of business cues from watching Mad Men, a tv series based in an ad agency in the 1960's. During the last episode, the main character, Don Draper is frustrated at the firm's new win — Jaguar and Dunlop Tires. He states, " These are piddly-little companies — I want Chevy and Firestone. Forget Lucky Strike, I want Dow Chemical." His partner instantly retorts back, "This is the old Don Draper, I've missed him." And subsequently makes the Dow Chemical meeting happen.
What would you do if you weren't afraid?
Right now — what's the one thing you would do to make your career, your job, your business BETTER?
Who would you call? What would you do? What can you affect?
Here's the secret: Just Do It. Make It Happen.
Wonder why you don't get certain things accomplished? Why you hit the same obstacles every time?
Face it, you're a PUSHOVER.
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