5 Top Leadership Articles Week of Sept 11, 2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of September 11, 2017

Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

How to Be Tough When You Prefer Being Kind by Dan Rockwell

Stress increases when leaders can’t bring kind and tough together.

Kind without tough makes you a pushover.

Tough without kind makes you a jerk.

My Comment: Stress increases, yes – and both results and relationships suffer when you don’t combine kind and tough. Without a disciplined focus on results, people lose focus, infighting increases, and your top performers go somewhere where their performance is appreciated. Without healthy relationships, trust suffers, people burnout, they do the least they can to get by, and inefficiency prevails because people don’t come together to solve mutual problems.

Leaders who combine their focus on achieving breakthrough results with a focus on healthy professional relationships with the people they lead give themselves the best chance to achieve transformational results that last.

Employee Engagement: What Story Does the Data Tell Leadership? By Martie Moore

The first time I used the words “resilience” and “engagement” was with my leadership team at the time. I asked, “What can we do to advance engagement and help people to be more resilient?”

Suddenly, everyone around the table had important emails to read on their phone. In essence, this immediate phone reading signaled an uncomfortable discussion — and their avoidance level.

My Comment: While this article was written for leaders in the long-term care industry, the issues it identifies are typical of the reality faced by leaders across industries: constant connectivity, acute margin pressures, increased pace of change, and uncertain futures are challenges you can probably relate to. This article is the beginning of a series that will look at experience, science, and practical action can take for themselves and the people they serve. It looks promising.

Leading in large organizations is tough. It’s easy for people to lose their identity and humanity as decisions are made by spreadsheet. And yet, almost paradoxically, more humanity, more focus on relationships and results, improves that bottom line. It takes courage along with the specific management and leadership skills we share in Winning Well to meet this challenge and succeed.

A Leader’s Job Is Never Done by Jane Perdue

Given that our state was in the path of totality for the August 2017 solar eclipse, people in our neighborhood gathered to watch. The closer we were to the time of totality, the larger the crowd became.

Within five minutes of the awe-inspiring ninety seconds of darkness and coolness, the crowd had largely dispersed.

The lost interest and crowd thinning-out triggered thoughts in my mind of how we tend to think about many things, including leadership, mostly in terms of their headline-making moments.

My Comment: When I was young, a mentor would often share his perspective that you can’t be a hero in the big moments if you’re not a hero in the small ones. Perdue takes a look at many of the ways that leaders build their credibility, influence, and trust in some of the more mundane, less headline-worthy, common moments that you face throughout your day, week, and career. You’re constantly becoming who you will be tomorrow. With each of these moments, you choose who that will be.

How Can You Make Yourself Invincible at Work? by Wendy Marx

Quick question: How valuable are you at work? Hint: It has little to do with your place on an organizational chart.

The new truth is that grabbing a high rung in an organization’s hierarchy isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re indispensable.

What clinches your value at work is what’s known as informal power — the ability to influence people and overcome resistance where you lack authority. It means being able to get someone to do your bidding where you have no formal authority.

Today you can’t lead simply by virtue of your title.

My Comment: While I’m not a fan of the notion of “getting someone to do your bidding” (it smacks of manipulation and a USER approach to leadership) Marx is right on with regard the role of influence. I won’t promote someone to a formal leadership position until they’ve demonstrated that they can get things done without that formal power. Power gives you the ability to deliver an “or else,” but that only gets a person’s minimum effort. Effective leaders cultivate an environment that releases a person’s strengths, talents, and skills toward the mission and the work.

Marx provides a good exercise you can use to assess how much value you are adding to the people around you and how you can address it if it’s out of balance.

Optimized or Maximized? By Seth Godin

I once drove home from college at 100 miles an hour. It saved two hours. My old car barely made it, and I was hardly able to speak once I peeled myself out of the car.

That was maximum speed, but it wasn’t optimum.

Systems have an optimum level of performance. It’s the output that permits the elements (including the humans) to do their best work, to persist at it, to avoid disasters, bad decisions and burnout.

One definition of maximization is: A short-term output level of high stress, where parts degrade but short-term performance is high.

Capitalism sometimes seeks competitive maximization instead. Who cares if you burn out, I’ll just replace the part…

That’s not a good way to treat people we care about, or systems that we rely on.

My Comment: I loved this article. It gets at the heart of why so many managers can turn into jerks, even if they’re not naturally inclined that way. We call it “trickle down intimidation.” In the interest of short term “maximization,” leaders who lack any other tools turn to fear, power, and control to get things done. And it works, at least minimally. As I said in my comments on the second article this week: it takes courage and leadership skills to choose a different path. To, as Godin says, optimize your leadership, your team, and your company for the long run rather than fleeting and costly short-term gain. It takes courage and practice, but you can do it.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite?

Leadership Heresy: A #Winningwell Guest Post by David Dye

I’m in trouble now. I’m about to commit heresy.

I want to address what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of your workplace leadership.

In my work with thousands of business leaders across industries, geography, and over many years, I’ve repeatedly seen people lose their influence because they don’t address this one thing.

In many leadership forums, many leadership books, and not a few social media memes, what I’m about to say would be skewered, and yet… your credibility and influence depend on it.

What is this leadership heresy?

Management.

Why Management Is Vital to Your Leadership

Your leadership depends on your credibility. You can’t influence people if they don’t trust you. Where does that trust come from?

In large part, the foundation of that trust is your basic management competence. That’s why Karin and I wrote Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.

I don’t mean that you have to become a certified professional project manager in order to have influence. What I do mean is that if you don’t have the basics in place, you create chaos and lose credibility with your people.

Now, I understand that many leadership texts will tell you, “If you’re not good at management, hire it.”

Hogwash.

If you run the company, by all means, lead and then hire a good operations person to manage. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you’re like the vast majority of people with business leadership roles, the idea that you can hire someone to do your management for you is pure nonsense (and dangerous as well.)

Even if you should become CEO, you are responsible to make sure these things happen. If they don’t happen, that’s on you.

The good news is that the basics of management aren’t difficult.

Four Steps to Manage Well and Build Credibility

At its most basic, management involves a few practices that are relatively simple. As the old saying goes: it’s not hard, it’s just hard work. When we struggle as managers, it is often because we have failed to do one of the following:

  1. Set clear expectations.

I’ve coached managers and team leaders in more than 2000 sessions and in 90% or more of those conversations, the problems we’re discussing happened because expectations were not clear.

It happened to me again recently. I was frustrated with my colleague’s work, but when I stopped to think about it, I hadn’t shared my expectations. I had my own image of what the project looked like and when it would be completed, but we’d never discussed it.

Expectations can come from many sources: the team itself, the manager, the organization. Regardless, if they are not clear, they will not be met, and I can guarantee you will be frustrated.

  1. Train and equip your team to meet the expectations.

After clear expectations, the next pitfall is in assuming that everyone has the knowledge or skills to meet those expectations. Ensure your team members are set up for success!

  1. Reinforce expectations.

This may sound redundant, but think about this for a moment. Every second, your mind is inundated with eleven million pieces of information[1]. Think about how easily you can get distracted. In fact, I’ll bet that you’ll get distracted at least once while you read this article. Don’t worry, I’m not offended – that’s just the way we’re built.

Effective leaders and managers know that they must continually reinforce expectations and keep clear priorities in front of their team. We all need reminders from time to time about where we’re going and why we’re going there.

If your team were a rock and roll band, reinforcing expectations is like the bass line or drum that anchors the song and keeps everyone on track.

  1. Celebrate and practice accountability.

Accountability doesn’t only mean discipline – real accountability celebrates our accomplishments and gives us course corrections as needed. We can easily demotivate our teams by failing to acknowledge success or by failing to hold everyone accountable.

Your Turn

Remember: Your leadership influence is built on a foundation of trust. As you wrestle with management challenges, I invite you to ask these four questions:

  1. Are expectations clear to both parties?
  2. Does your team have the skills and equipment to succeed?
  3. Have you consistently reinforced the expectations?
  4. Do you consistently practice accountability and celebration?

How do you ensure you take care of your management responsibilities (it’s not hard, but can be hard work!)

Be the leader you want your boss to be,

David Dye

[1] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/287907/information-theory/214958/Physiology

 

 

13 Stupid Sentences That Will Derail Your Career

I wish HR would teach a course on the really stupid sentences people say at work. Oh, I’m not talking about he obvious stupidity: “you look hot in that dress” or “hey baby”. There’s training and rules for that. But there’s no code of conduct to protect against the stupid, dis-empowering words I often hear up, down and sideways.

Before writing this post, I decided to do an informal stupid sentence poll through social media. The responses fell into two big categories: Stupid sentences that deny accountability and stupid sentences that prove you are clueless. I’ll start; you add to the lists.

Stupid Sentences That Deny Accountability

  1. That’s Not My Job (#1 by a landslide) – Although we all know this, someone is still out there saying it. Stop it, it’s stupid. Instead, help all you can.
  2. That Decision’s Above My Pay Grade – The really wacky part of this one, is that I hear it most often at the higher levels of the business. Please, please don’t say this. And whatever you do, don’t say it to someone at a lower pay grade than you. They count on you to advocate for what’s right, not shrug your shoulders and roll over.
  3. I Wasn’t Aware – This one is commonly used to throw someone else under the bus. Trust me, you look like an idiot. “Let me find out more”, “I’m digging in”, and “I’m here to help” are all acceptable replacement statements.
  4. My Team really Screwed This Up – No one really says this do they? From my experience and the poll, yes. Sometimes out loud; sometimes by just being silent. Own your team’s mistakes and help them fix them and learn. There’s no better way to gain credibility up and down the chain.
  5. I Can Always Get Another Job At Twice The Pay Some Place Else – Okay, if that’s really true, and you’re disgruntled with the rest of the scene to say that out loud. Just saying. Be careful.
  6. I Just Don’t Have Enough Time To Do That – If it’s not a priority say that. If it’s important discuss what else could move.
  7. It’s Not My Fault, It’s The Other Department’s Mistake – Let’s assume that’s true. Taking the high-road would look like ________________? Who and how would that help?
  8. Stupid Sentences That Prove You’re Clueless

  9. That’s A Stupid Question – As much as I want to throw up every time someone says there are no stupid questions, the truth is leaders keep saying that because other leaders are out there making people feel stupid. Stop it.
  10. What’s Wrong With Them – If your team’s not performing, the problem starts with you, not them. Could be selection, systems, rules, leadership. Figure it out, reverse the direction of your finger-pointing.
  11. That’ll Never Work – If I had a nickel for every time my team proved me wrong or I proved someone wrong, the truth is that just because it didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Put away old biases and really listen. Consider a pilot or some other form of toe-dipping. Most importantly, be a receptive and encouraging leader.
  12. That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It – We get that. Now be a leader.
  13. The Employees Need To Realize They Are Lucky To Have Jobs In This Economy – Okay, so grateful (and without choices) that they _____________. I know you’re not saying these things, but research has shown many someones are.

Thanks to the folks at Lead Change and Twitter for weighing in.

In Other News…

bookcoverI was delighted to have been interviewed about my new book, Overcoming An Imperfect Boss on the powerful podcast: The Business of People In Leadership. Amazed at the stories he got out of me including my most embarrassing leadership moment. Click here to hear the podcast.

Want to know more about the book? Click here to download a sample chapter.

Already read it? I would love to see your review on Amazon.

How To Reset Your Team's Expectations

In Friday’s post, How To Transform Mid-Team, we talked about you how prepare your team for your evolving leadership style. But what if you also have new expectations for your team? Not only are you evolving, but you need them to as well. That’s even more difficult.

Perhaps you will be…

  • asking them to make more decisions
  • holding the team accountable
  • stopping the sidebars in meetings
  • surfacing the conflict
  • ?

Resetting Expectations is a Process

The most important part is communication and consistency. Go slow enough to preserve the trust. Following these steps will help.

  1. Explain why you are changing expectations how did you reach this conclusion?
  2. Share your new expectations for you own behavior–what is changing?
  3. Be specific-what exactly are you asking them to do differently?
  4. Be consistent be careful to stay true to the new standards
  5. Ease into it– be clear on expectations, soft on people give them time to grow into it
  6. Ask for feedback– listen and be willing to adjust the approach
  7. ?

This won’t happen overnight, and it will be messy. Keep the conversation open and learn along the way.

How do you work to reset expectations with your team?

How To Reset Your Team’s Expectations

In Friday’s post, How To Transform Mid-Team, we talked about you how prepare your team for your evolving leadership style. But what if you also have new expectations for your team? Not only are you evolving, but you need them to as well. That’s even more difficult.

Perhaps you will be…

  • asking them to make more decisions
  • holding the team accountable
  • stopping the sidebars in meetings
  • surfacing the conflict
  • ?

Resetting Expectations is a Process

The most important part is communication and consistency. Go slow enough to preserve the trust. Following these steps will help.

  1. Explain why you are changing expectations how did you reach this conclusion?
  2. Share your new expectations for you own behavior–what is changing?
  3. Be specific-what exactly are you asking them to do differently?
  4. Be consistent be careful to stay true to the new standards
  5. Ease into it– be clear on expectations, soft on people give them time to grow into it
  6. Ask for feedback– listen and be willing to adjust the approach
  7. ?

This won’t happen overnight, and it will be messy. Keep the conversation open and learn along the way.

How do you work to reset expectations with your team?