Signs You're Dealing with a Cocky Rooster

My mother loved to read us the story of  The Little Red Hen. In fact, I’m pretty convinced she read it to us in the womb.

If you’re a parent and don’t know this book, stop reading now, run to the store buy it. Pick up your kids early from school and read it. It will transform your life.

If you don’t have time for that, here’s the shortcut.

A little red hen asks and asks her little chicks to help her bake.
They refuse.
She enjoys the bread all to herself.
They are surprised.
She reminds them.
They learn.
Momma hen grows more leaders.
She goes to her yoga class feeling satiated in many ways
(okay I added that part).
The end.

It got to the point that my parents could utter a single cluck and we’d get to work. So I came to leadership fully armed and prepared to deal with work-shirking chickens. No one warned me about the roosters. Leadership roosters are far more noisy and annoyingly powerful.

Signs You’re Dealing with A Rooster

  • They’re no where around when the project is being scoped or the heavy lifting is done
  • They require constant readouts
  • This takes a lot of beautiful powerpoints and careful explaning.
  • His name is on the deck (you’re on standby via text message to answer any questions).
  • The key players names all morph into an occassional “the team” only when something is unclear
  • When real disaster strikes Monday morning quarter-backing comes in
  • And the questions and deep sighs start… “Why didn’t you? You should have.”
  • If the project is a success it’s all about him. If it’s a disaster, it’s all about you.

Never be a leadership rooster. You’ll lose instant credibility and engagement. If you are a leader of leaders, be sure you’re not accidently encouraging such, err, cock-y behavior.

If you’ve got a rooster in your life, take it offline and share the impact. I’ve seen many a rooster turned into helping, supportive chicks after a bit of candid feedback and whats-in-it-for-them persuasion. I’ve even been known to out a rooster or two.

leadership barn animals

Signs You’re Dealing with a Cocky Rooster

My mother loved to read us the story of  The Little Red Hen. In fact, I’m pretty convinced she read it to us in the womb.

If you’re a parent and don’t know this book, stop reading now, run to the store buy it. Pick up your kids early from school and read it. It will transform your life.

If you don’t have time for that, here’s the shortcut.

A little red hen asks and asks her little chicks to help her bake.
They refuse.
She enjoys the bread all to herself.
They are surprised.
She reminds them.
They learn.
Momma hen grows more leaders.
She goes to her yoga class feeling satiated in many ways
(okay I added that part).
The end.

It got to the point that my parents could utter a single cluck and we’d get to work. So I came to leadership fully armed and prepared to deal with work-shirking chickens. No one warned me about the roosters. Leadership roosters are far more noisy and annoyingly powerful.

Signs You’re Dealing with A Rooster

  • They’re no where around when the project is being scoped or the heavy lifting is done
  • They require constant readouts
  • This takes a lot of beautiful powerpoints and careful explaning.
  • His name is on the deck (you’re on standby via text message to answer any questions).
  • The key players names all morph into an occassional “the team” only when something is unclear
  • When real disaster strikes Monday morning quarter-backing comes in
  • And the questions and deep sighs start… “Why didn’t you? You should have.”
  • If the project is a success it’s all about him. If it’s a disaster, it’s all about you.

Never be a leadership rooster. You’ll lose instant credibility and engagement. If you are a leader of leaders, be sure you’re not accidently encouraging such, err, cock-y behavior.

If you’ve got a rooster in your life, take it offline and share the impact. I’ve seen many a rooster turned into helping, supportive chicks after a bit of candid feedback and whats-in-it-for-them persuasion. I’ve even been known to out a rooster or two.

stuck in the middle with you

Stuck in the Middle With You

The other day I got the kind of feedback that kicks you in the gut and makes your brain hurt for days. I’m sure you know the kind, it stings with truth, but you’ve got a gazillion counter points you would never say out loud, for fear of appearing to not be listening. It’s from an amazing leader who worked on my team for several years, and is a regular reader of LGL.

This is a long one, so for those of you who prefer a musical soundtrack with your pondering, click here.

She writes:

One area of frustration for me in business is much like my frustration in the collection and recording of history down through time, and that is the winners make the history, it’s from their perspective and rarely is it all-inclusive of the realities of the time. Many leaders go through their career (certainly once they get to a higher level) believing that their station or title in their company validates that their perspective is somehow best, or more insightful. These leaders don’t leverage the best from their people or their organizations, and the idea that they understand how their employees feel is somewhat silly. To me your book represents a leader saying why and how I should relate to them, excuse them, allow for and understand their human nature.

That’s where the disconnect was for me, at what point do leaders really need to understand, and act on how their behaviors, their decisions affect the masses below them? In short I want leaders to improve, have better sight, understand and truly grow about those in their care. I want leaders to see more than market share, and stack ranks. I want leaders to see and appreciate intention, effort and of course results. But more over I want leaders to be real with me, and I want them to strive as hard to understand me as I strive to understand them. In doing this leaders improve the lives and careers of their employees.

Karin I think you are a great leader and I will admit I expect a lot from you, to that end the brilliance I’ve seen in your past writing and have referenced and yes even bragged about to others simply was not here for me. Frankly this seemed safe, when what all leaders really need (throughout their careers) is to be grabbed by the shoulders and shaken from time to time and forced to remember from whence they came, to understand the politics of our world are their making, and thusly they have the power to unmake it. Knowing that leaders in business buy and read this type of book, I feel you have the knowledge and credibility to improve them in their view down their chain of command as opposed to another attempt to give line employees better understanding of how and why their bosses do what they do so they can advance.

The gist of the issue: Hey, whose side are you on here? The imperfect bosses or the people?
The short answer is: Yes.

You see, I’ve been running around talking to every podcast, radio station, or media outlet sharing my opinion that your boss is just an imperfect human being doing the best she can, just like you. I’ve been firing people up and empowering them with practical tools and advice for advancing their career, even if their boss is a jerk. I believe strongly that helping people defend themselves against an imperfect system and regaining their power is vital.

And I’ve also seen the other side. I do agree there are leaders who need to be “grabbed by the shoulders and shaken from time to time.” I can’t stand the arrogance and abused power. I hate it when leaders forget about the human beings they’ve been entrusted to support. I worry about a system that over-grooms their leaders and the cycle of intimidation continues. I cringe when leaders are too busy to understand their impact.

The question on the table: Am I cutting the leaders too much slack?
The longer answer is: Yes and no.

We’re All Stuck In The Middle of Something

Sure the system is imperfect. People are imperfect. There are good guys and bad guys at every level. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about getting unstuck on both sides of the equation. I must help, and will do everything in my power to help you, them, and the guys in the middle.

We must work together to create the conversation that will build better organizations through meaningful visions, great cultures, and brilliant execution. Such results come from imperfect, inspired people who care for the big picture – at every level.

I’m not ready to pick a side. The best good I can do is right here, stuck in the middle – with you.

The Power of Always: Making Commitments You Can Keep

I will always brush my teeth before I go to bed.

That’s pretty easy.

I will always exercise at least 5 times a week.

Unless,

I get stuck in the airport, my kid gets sick, there’s a hurricane,

A bit harder.

As leaders we have long lists of intentions. We do our best to keep our commitments.

Unless…

Identifying What’s Always Important

“You are what you do, not what you say you will do”
~C.J. Jung

Have you ever sat down and figured out what are you most important commitments? Ones you are sure you can keep. Simple, measurable not intentions commitments? What are the specific actions you will do “no matter what.”

What commitments can you absolutely make to yourself?

Take a moment here, it’s harder than it seems.

Are you willing to write it down?

What could you commit to always do with your team?

Hold a weekly coaching session?

Always give honest feedback?

??

???

Take another moment this gets even more tricky.

Are you confident enough in your ability to follow-through?

Are you willing to share the list with them tomorrow?

I’ve also done this as a team exercise.

What can we always commit to do on every customer interaction?

  • A warm, energetic greeting?
  • A careful analysis of options?
  • ?
  • ?

It’s a useful exercise at many levels.

What are you most important always commitments?

Why are they important?

Hot Mess Leadership: When Image Becomes Dangerous

The term“hot mess” typically refers to someone disheveled on the outside with some redeeming qualities on the inside. Urban dictionary defines a “hot mess” as

” when one’s thought or appearance are in a state of disarray, but they maintain an undeniable attractiveness or beauty”

Leaders can go a long way by getting clothes that fit, shoes that shine, and well-kept hair and nails.

Work on your magnetism. Refrain from stupid outbursts. You will have another leg up.

It’s important to avoid being a “hot mess”.
Cleaning up the outside matters.

The more dangerous problem is when the “hot” is on the outside and the “mess” is on the inside.

In other words, you look the part,

You have a strong leadership presence.

But, you don’t operate with integrity or care about your team.

It’s tricky, because your connections or image may open doors.

A seat at the table must be used carefully.

A Few Signs You’re a Hot Mess Leader

  • You spend more time planning your outfit than your presentation
  • You make your team cater to your maintenance needs
  • You learn all you can about your boss, but know very little about those who work on your team
  • You never get past the small talk at events
  • The spend more time on networking than leading
  • (what would you add?)

The truth is, as leaders, sometimes we are “hot” and sometimes we are “messy” on both the inside and the outside.

We need good mirrors for both.

Cheer in the Next Gear: How to Make Your Support Count

Each time a cyclist peddled past our corner at the Ironman triathlon , the woman sitting next to me on the curb would clang her large cowbell. No words. No sign of emotion. This went on for hours. It was almost a Pavlovian response. See bike, ring bell. She was committed. She never missed an athlete. For whom was her bell tolling? Why was this helpful?

In contrast, my husband Marcus is my cheering hero. I have run several marathons by his side, and watched him as he cheers from the inside of the race; looking to encourage anyone running behind, ahead or beside him. His cheers go something like this:

“Hey cheese head!” (quick caveat here, this greeting works best when the guy you are approaching is wearing a large styrofoam 3 cornered cheese hat). How’s it going? I’ve been watching you run and you really seem like you’re feeling strong. Have you run marathons before? What time are you going for? Oh yeah, you’re right on pace. YOU’VE GOT THIS!

He cheers the same way off the asphalt.

As leaders, how we cheer for our teams matters. When cheering is too general or lacks sincerity it can do more harm than good. It’s discounted at best, and can diminish a leader’s credibility.

How to CHEER with Impact

Whether your are cheering with a microphone in a large team context, or are encouraging someone by their side, there are specific ways to ensure your cheering is helpful.

Confidence

Communicate your sincere confidence in the person or team’s ability to achieve the desired goal

Honor

Share why you know they can win. Honor specific accomplishments or characteristics that communicate your confidence and build theirs

Energy

Tap into what is energizing them about this goal, breathe your energy into that place

Emotion

Draw on your own experiences to create an emotional connection

Rejoicing

Celebrate what they’ve accomplished so far and rejoice in their wins

A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don't

Developing real trust takes time. The people we lead come to us with history, memories, and experiences–they recall times of trust inspired and trust betrayed. When we are in a new gig, our teams watch even more closely.

  • “Can I trust you?”
  • “How do you talk to your boss?”
  • “Are you like the last guy?”

When we have been with a team longer, our teams have real perceptions and interpretations of our actions.

  • “Is this a pattern?”
  • “Does she always have my back?”
  • “How does he act under stress?”
  • “How is she treating everyone else?”

After years of leading, being led, coaching leaders, reading employee surveys, and hanging out with leaders here’s my best summary of what inspires or destroys trust.

“Why I Trust You”

Because you

  • let me know where I stand
  • share information
  • back me up
  • help me learn from mistakes
  • share how you make decisions
  • treat other people well
  • do what you say you will
  • understand what makes me tick
  • have my best interests in mind
  • admit when you are wrong
  • encourage dissent

Why I Don’t

Because you

  • let politics trump logic
  • withhold information I need
  • talk about me behind my back
  • break commitments
  • keep changing your mind
  • react without understanding
  • don’t get to know me
  • ignore me

What are you doing to develop trust within your teams?

A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don’t

Developing real trust takes time. The people we lead come to us with history, memories, and experiences–they recall times of trust inspired and trust betrayed. When we are in a new gig, our teams watch even more closely.

  • “Can I trust you?”
  • “How do you talk to your boss?”
  • “Are you like the last guy?”

When we have been with a team longer, our teams have real perceptions and interpretations of our actions.

  • “Is this a pattern?”
  • “Does she always have my back?”
  • “How does he act under stress?”
  • “How is she treating everyone else?”

After years of leading, being led, coaching leaders, reading employee surveys, and hanging out with leaders here’s my best summary of what inspires or destroys trust.

“Why I Trust You”

Because you

  • let me know where I stand
  • share information
  • back me up
  • help me learn from mistakes
  • share how you make decisions
  • treat other people well
  • do what you say you will
  • understand what makes me tick
  • have my best interests in mind
  • admit when you are wrong
  • encourage dissent

Why I Don’t

Because you

  • let politics trump logic
  • withhold information I need
  • talk about me behind my back
  • break commitments
  • keep changing your mind
  • react without understanding
  • don’t get to know me
  • ignore me

What are you doing to develop trust within your teams?

Beginning Better: 9 Tips for Successful Starts

How you begin matters.

Prepare the team. Reinforce the vision. Energize the plans. Refresh the excitement.

Do you begin well?

“Let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.”
~Muriel Rukeyser

A Sweet Story of Beginning Well

This Sunday, I watched our youth choir director warming up the kids by playing a game.

When she said “Ready” the kids all perfected their posture and looked at her with attentive eyes and big grins.

Then, “Not Ready” they got to be as silly as they wanted (they loved that).

Until she again said, “Ready” and they immediately assumed their sweet singing stance.

Brilliant.

She had them visualizing and embodying exactly she needed from them without telling, they were showing.

I asked one of the kids why this works, “Ms. Allison is great because she teaches us and we don’t even know it.”

Yes, she is a great teacher and leader who knows the importance of great beginnings.

Beginning for Grown-ups

Since church came next, I had lots of time to think about beginnings and the leaders I have known who have mastered the art of beginning well.

  • Call centers where every leader is visible on the floor for the first hour of each shift, greeting and inspiring and checking the temperature
  • Retail stores with pre-opening huddles to create energized focus and fantastic service
  • Leaders with remote teams calling and checking in with each team member at the beginning of the day
  • “You’ve got this” calls to team members headed into a big event, presentation or interview
  • Use of technology for virtual connection and early morning inspiration
  • Caffeine distribution yup, I have been known to drive from location to location with a trunk of Red Bull on important days
  • …???

Tips for Beginning Well

The art to beginning well can be learned. It requires a deliberate approach and focused energy. Here’s some tried and true techniques.

  • Start with big energy differentiate important days by making them feel like holidays
  • Reinforce the vision and goals
  • Explain why this day or project is vital to the bigger picture
  • Help the team visualize success “how will we know this day was amazing what will have happened?”
  • Set specific, individual goals
  • Establish celebration milestones throughout the day or project
  • Be visible and interact either face to face or virtually
  • Role model “ready”
  • Have them role model “ready”
  • ____what tips do you have?

Please share: What works best for you when beginning something new?

Feedback: Getting Great Insights From People Who Matter

As leaders, getting enough feedback on your leadership can sometimes be a challenge. Of course, it’s important to know what your boss thinks. What is equally important are the broader impressions your leadership is making up down and sideways. Today I share some formal and informal tools to get the conversation started.

Who Are You Asking for Feedback?

One of the most frequent questions folks ask me when starting a new mentoring relationship is, “what impressions do you have of me?”

In other words,

“What’s my brand?”

“What have you heard about me?”

“What have you observed?”

“How do you talk about me to others?”

Great questions. I believe in transparency and I always shoot straight. But the truth is, what I think may matter, but I am just one opinion.

After I answer their question, I ask a few of my own

  • Who else have you asked?
  • What are your peers saying?
  • What would your team say?
  • If you took a new job, what would the folks working for you today be texting to the new team?

The answer is frequently, “um…I haven’t really done much asking.”

The answers to “why not” vary

  • I hadn’t thought about it
  • I’ve been so busy
  •  I didn’t want to bother everyone
  •  … ?

Or if they are really honest.

  • I am scared of what I might hear
  • Then I might have to do something about it
  • …?

The thing is, people are talking about your strengths and opportunities in all kinds of contexts. Why not find out what they are saying?

Some Feedback Tools

There are many formal and informal ways of soliciting feedback. Using a deliberate approach to getting feedback is particularly valuable in helping to identify blind spots. It can also help you sort through the tricky landscape of overused strengths becoming weaknesses.

360 Feedback Tools

360 degree feedback tools can be invaluable for getting a comprehensive view. These tools enable your boss, your peers and your team to all rate you on various leadership dimensions and competencies. I find these tools work best when people take the time to offer comments and examples. I also highly recommend working with a coach to help you digest and take action on the feedback.

I have also seen many great examples of people doing this in a more informal way. Setting up time to get feedback from others, or using informal questionnaires to get feedback.

Informal Approaches

Even without formal tools, there are easy ways to open up the feedback conversation.

A simple, free online tool based on the Johari window, enables you to compare your perceived strengths to others you invite for feedback, click on this Johari Interactive tool to complete the assessment.

One reader, Sarah Parrish, recently sent me the questions she was using in her informal 360 poll. She has found the process and feedback valuable and so I share her questions.

· What are 3 words that you think of when thinking of my strengths?
· What are 3 words that you think of when thinking of my areas of improvement?
· Have you been able to benefit from working with me in the past? If so, how?
· Where could I have improved in our past interactions to help make your job easier?
· What makes me stand out from others either personally or professionally?
· What could I do differently to come off as more approachable?

I have also used a group approach with teams I lead. I have them work together on a list of feedback on what I am doing that is helpful, what they need more of, what they need less of, and how I am getting in their way. Then I come back in the room and we work together on solutions. This one can be risky and the team and relationships need to be in a mature place, but each time I have done it I have learned so much.

Asking questions about your leadership can be a fantastic way to grow. It’s vital that you are open and ready to receive it.

Please comment and share:

What ways do you collect feedback to improve your leadership?

A Question of Intimidation: Questions that Shut People Down

Questions are powerful. They can motivate, and inspire deeper thinking.

Great questions empower.

Questions can also intimidate, frustrate and shut down people down.

The most dangerous are those where the leader already “knows” the answer and is looking to see if the person will “get it right.” Closed ended questions can have a similar impact, if the leader only wants to hear “yes” or “no.”

Such “tests” may have their occasional place in ops reviews and interviews, but the side effects can be deadly as a general leadership practice.

Questions that Intimidate and Disengage:

These questions seem to rear their ugly heads most frequently under times of stress and urgency precisely when more calm and creative thinking would be most beneficial.

  • What do I have to do to get you to.
  • Why did you do that?
  • Did I ask you to do that?
  • Is that really working?
  • What is your experience in this area?
  • Who gave you the authority to make that decision?
  • Is that your final decision?
  • Are you sure about that?
  • What makes you think that will work?
  • ???

In Dan Rockwell’s post, Too Many Questions, he shares that teams asking “too many questions” can be a symptom of a micromanaging leader. He shares too many questions can come from “delegating tasks versus results, vision and resources.”

If employees are intimidated or fearful, they may ask questions in order to keep from “getting it wrong.” In that environment, the leader is limiting herself to her own thinking. Such leadership diminishes the current scene and future team functioning.

It’s a cycle. If a leader asks too many closed-ended or intimidating questions, the team gets scared and starts asking more questions to ensure they get it “right.” The sad truth is that this cycle limits creativity and diminishes productivity. In this case, only one brain is really doing the thinking.

What questions do you find most intimidating?

Snap, Crackle, STOP– What's Your Brand?

Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand?

Most people associate brands with companies, services or products– but don’t always stop to think about their personal brand let alone how to build it.

This is a guest post from Jonathan Green.

“Jonathan is a culture evangelist who focuses on leadership development behaviors and communications strategies. His expertise is service models that provide world-class experience. He has worked in a variety of verticals including Finance, Utilities, Tech, and Telecom. Green has spent the last seven years working for a large Telecom provider and thoroughly enjoys the fast paced and ever-changing environment. Check out his blog at monsterleaders.com

As individuals, we actually have much more at stake as our brand is being observed, assessed and judged on a regular basis. In my work with young leaders, I carve out time out to help them consider their brand and to be deliberate about enhancing promoting it. The key is simplicity. Break it down into manageable parts.

1 – Image

2 – Behaviors

3 – Attitude

I usually start by relating the personal branding process to one of two topics that most of us have dealt with at one time or another: dating and cereal.

Dating

Consider the following:

When you go on a first date, what are you looking to teach your date about you?

… that your baggage is not as severe as that of her last boyfriend/girlfriend?

… that your brain functions at a normal capacity?

… that your hygiene practices are in line with conventional societal norms?

… that you are the kind of person they would want to live with until the end of time?

Your BRAND is on the line, and you are selling it. Your image is a mix of who you actually are and who you want the other person to believe you are. You don’t start a conversation with the worst decisions you have made in your life as you do not want to be defined by those. However, those are part of who you are, they are the scars and stripes that you carry with you all the time. So is your image true to yourself? Do your behaviors match your desired outcome? And most important, you have a choice in what attitudes you bring to the table is your attitude one that others want to subject themselves to?

Now, Mix in Cereal

Another way to look at it is to think of yourself as a brand of cereal.

Is it good for you? (do others want to be around you?)

Do you like the taste (do others enjoy talking to you, learning from you, sharing experiences with you?)

Is it made by a company that is safe and reputable (can you be trusted, do your behaviors build relationships?)

Some Easy Steps to get started

1. Ask yourself some questions
– How do I want to be viewed?
– What words do I want others to use to describe me?
– What words best describe the ideal me: reliable? intelligent? upbeat?…?

2. Reverse engineer your brand
– what behaviors must I exhibit to be viewed in this way?
– with whom should I be involved?
– where should I hang out?

3. Check it
– Do my behaviors reinforce my desired brand?
– What words are being used to describe me?

4. Who is promoting your brand?
– who is selling your brand, to whom and where?
– recruit some “sales people”

Encouraging young leaders to consider these questions can help set the stage for important inner dialogue and external changes. I have found that this work leads to amazing development, growth and a future driven by behaviors that matter.