How to Be Manager When Your Employees Are Older Than You

Pleased to welcome Scott Huntington with a guest post.

Good news: You have been hired for a leadership or managerial position. Awkward news: You’re younger than the employees you’ll be managing.

Discovering that you’re younger than your new employees is neither good news nor bad news. However, it has been known to make young managers uncomfortable or nervous. You may find yourself worrying about the challenges ahead. Will older employees respect you? How can you effectively manage employees with far greater work and life experience? What if they don’t like the changes you make?

Luckily, managing older employees isn’t as mysterious or unattainable as you may think. Start by incorporating the following tips. They’ll put you on the path to successful leadership.

Be Humble

As stated, your older employees have a lot of professional experience. Acknowledging the value of their experiences, knowledge, skills and insight will help you develop a positive relationship with your employees. People like to feel valued. Older employees will react far better to a younger leader if it’s clear that you won’t dismiss their insight.

Speaking of insight, good leaders makes use of their employees’ strengths. Don’t just give lip service to valuing their experience, show that you trust them to help you make your company or service the best it can be. Listen to your employees, allow constructive criticism and encourage collaboration.

Be Transparent

The question you always want to answer is, “Why?” In fact, you want to answer that question before it is ever asked.

Transparency inspires confidence. If older employees understand why you are making a change and why it will benefit them, they are more likely to give their support. “Because I said so” doesn’t work on children, and it certainly won’t work on older employees.

I got a job right out of college at a small startup. I quickly gained a few years of management experience which helped me land my next job at Bortek Industries. At the startup, everyone was my age, but at Bortek, I was one of the youngest. I knew that my team wasn’t going to trust me unless I explained my reasoning anytime I brought in a new idea. I also took their ideas into consideration so I didn’t seem like a know-it-all. Transparency was key to my success.

Be Attentive

You can’t play one-size-fits-all with your employees, regardless of age range. Every employee will have different needs, fears and desires (although those differences may be heightened by a generational gap).

Find out what benefits are most important to each employee. Know what makes an outside-of-work social time meaningful to them; know what affects or inspires them (home life, professional goals, etc.) Older employees may prefer social activities that promote conversation over loud bars or physical activities. They might prefer more vacation days to spend with grandchildren over small end-of-year bonuses, or they may prefer the exact opposite. You won’t know unless you make the effort to find out.

Be Encouraging

Don’t believe the lie that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The ability to learn a new skill has far more to do with opportunity and willingness than it has to do with age.

Don’t write older employees off as outdated, incapable of change or technologically incompetent. Instead, encourage them to learn new programs, products and skills. Just be aware that it might take them longer than an employee of your own generation. Be patient, be positive and be willing to adapt training to their fears or needs.

Be Assertive

When leading employees who are older than you, the biggest hurdle is often a preoccupation with age. Most of the above traits – humility, transparency, attentiveness and encouragement – are hallmarks of a good leader. They are useful when managing older employees because they are the foundation for managing any employee.

Many leaders shy away from reprimanding, disciplining or disagreeing with employees who are older than they are. They believe that they won’t be respected or worry that they’re too young to chasten older employees. Unfortunately their beliefs and fears become self-fulfilling prophecies that damage their authority and prevent them from leading effectively. If an older employee fails to meet a deadline, publicly disrespects you or otherwise acts out of line, forget their age and focus instead on the problem at hand. Deal with them privately, respectfully and firmly, just as you would any other employee.

Awareness of generational differences will certainly help you manage older employees as a young leader. However, awareness and implementation of fundamental leadership skills will help you far more. A good leader will earn respect regardless of age difference, so strive first and foremost to be a good leader.

Scott Huntington is a career specialist from Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or check out his blog, blogspike.com.

Who’s Influencing Your Leadership?

Pleased to welcome this guest post from Bruce Harpham.

In the world of music, composers and performers are influenced by each other every day. I was recently reminded of this tendency when I enjoyed a performance by pianist Richard Rubin. He showed how Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Broadway composer behind The Phantom of the Opera and other works, liberally borrowed from musical works. In some cases, it is clear who influenced Weber’s work.

Scientists are also heavily influenced by their peers. Ground-breaking scientist Isaac Newton observed, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is a powerful idea for all leaders to consider. However independent minded you are, others influence your leadership approach.

Choose your leadership influences carefully.

The Rule of Five: Understanding Your Influences

If you take pride in your independence, this section may be hard. As a leader, you are constantly influenced by those you lead, fellow executives and others. Influences are inescapable.

In our complex world, it is challenging to imagine all the influences that impact you. The country you live in, your education, your age, and your leisure pursuits are some of the influences that leave lasting traces.

The most important influence on your leadership is the people all around you. Answering the question “Which five people do I spend the most time with?” is the easiest way to understand your influences. Don’t worry if you don’t like the answer! That discontent gives you the fuel to make a change.

Tip: Start small by changing your focus. Use the final section of this article to find one new person to provide positive leadership influence.

Growth Is Not Automatic: Harness Helpful Influences To Grow

John C. Maxwell’s excellent book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth emphasizes the importance of growth. Maxwell points out that growth happens naturally in childhood. In adulthood, growth is not automatic (except around the waistline!)

You may grow occasionally when a new obstacle comes your way. Accidental growth is not reliable. Would you buy a car that only worked “on occasion?” Not if you valued your time. In order to grow your skills to reach new goals, you must grow intentionally.

With the right influences, greater growth will come fast and furious. Mentors, coaches, sponsors and others can bring new perspectives, questions and resources.

With the wrong influences, your leadership will never grow. Even worse, the constant doubts and negativity will undermine whatever leadership qualities you have.

Accessing New Influences

By this point, you’re convinced about the importance of influence. Even more, you understand that the right influence can push you toward your goals. Read on for ideas to cultivate positive influences.

Books (Hint: Go Beyond The Business Section!)

For years, I have accessed new influences, ideas and opportunities through books. I often find myself browsing through the business section at my bookstore. For growing leaders, that is only the beginning. I also strongly encourage you to read widely – consider Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for Moral Biographies for example.

Here are two book suggestions to bring new influences into your leadership thinking.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin

Godin is best known for his expertise in marketing and the Internet. Tribes is Godin’s contribution to leadership. He points out that today’s tool makes it easier to build a tribe of followers behind your ideas. The only barrier is you. Do you have the skills and commitment to lead?

  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

Known to many for his studies in electricity, Franklin has much to teach us. Franklin regularly changed his occupation: from entrepreneur publisher, to diplomat and American statesman. For those interested in personal development, I also encourage you to read Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography – Franklin’s desire to better himself through self-education, study and moral discipline is well worth studying.

Consulting and Coaching

Once upon a time, accessing consulting was out of reach for most people. That is starting to change. Today, you can hire coaches and consultants for reasonable rates. For less than $500 using a website like Clarity FM, you can obtain helpful, customized recommendations to help you reach your goals.
For the best results, prepare and send out a written agenda for your first meeting. Bring several written questions that you can reference. Now is not the time for an unfocused conversation. For the best results, I recommend bringing a paper notebook (I prefer Moleskine notebooks for their durability and easy-to-handle size) and pen rather than an electronic device.

Follow these seven steps to get the most out of your time working with a coach. I recommend having at least two coaching sessions, with an interval of one to four weeks in between.

  1. Decide on a single goal to pursue, preferably with a clear measure (e.g. “to sell 1,000 copies of my book” or “to land my first executive management role in the financial industry”).
  2. Study your coach’s materials before you contact them. (e.g. visit the person’s website and read multiple articles. If they strike you as promising, I suggest buying and reading one of their books next). Take notes as you study their material. If they cannot clearly communicate their abilities, I suggest you move on.  Tip: Search for coaches and consultants on Google by searching for “keyword coach” or “keyword consultant” (e.g. “project management consultant” or “productivity coach”)
  3. Based on steps 1 and 2, decide whether this coach can help you in your current quest. If yes, continue to the next step. Otherwise, return to step two to review another person.
  4. Prepare for your first meeting with the coach. Complete any forms or questionnaires. Make a list of your goals and questions in writing.
  5. Attend the first meeting with your coach. State your goals clearly and ask for specific homework – vague suggestions such as “work harder” need to be refined and made specific (e.g. improve your ability to give feedback to staff).
  6. Work on your homework from the first session. Make notes on what you achieve and what you want to discuss next time.
  7. Attend the second meeting with your coach. Review your first meeting, homework completed and discuss your next challenge.

Learm more about Bruce here.

Confident Humility: The Conversation Continues

Today I bring you a guest post from LGL Tribe member, David Tumbarello. I often find his comments could be a post in themselves. His views on confident humility are so rich, I invited him to share more deeply. Thanks to LGL Tribe member, Joy Guthrie for the art.

Confident Humility: The Conversation Continues

My hope in writing this guest blog today is to respond to Karin Hurt’s post about Humility and Leadership.

I sat in the library yesterday, coaching a small herd of children in the art of writing well.  After a shared warm-up activity and a rush of excitement, they returned to their seats with clipboards, paper, pencils, and electric conversation in the air.  During the warm-up, we created a brainstorming tree that was taped to the ground, a play on the “choose your own story adventure” stories that are popular with kids.  I sat on the table and took out my camera phone and snapped a picture of one of the girls on the ground.  She was hard at work and I wanted to capture the moment, with the student, the notes, and the brain-work going on.

I thought about this picture earlier today.  If I share the photo, I thought, would I be boasting about what I can accomplish as a writing coach?  Or is it impossible for me to share the event and not say “Look at me”?

I work on projects during the day.  My digital signature says “Project Manager”.  I think about the work I do and what is required to get ahead.  While I aspire to achieve more in my career, I also aspire to be humble.  Is there a humble way I can take a picture of a project and showcase my work?

The answer is that as a humble leader, I need to point more at the project and less at myself.  Being humble as a leader is similar to the fundamental tenant of project management – put emphasis on the process and the team.  Most of the time, if a product fails to meet specifications, it is not the fault of an individual but of the process.  Similarly, if I want to show off accomplishments to my supervisor, during a review for example, I can say, “Look at the project before & look at the project after.  Here’s how I contributed.”  Hold up the process and the team.

A humble leader can also be assertive in the job interview.  The interview advice books say we should support our stories with statistics. In Thomas Taylor’s recent post on 3 Things You Must Say At Every Job Interview, he reminds his readers to use numbers – but not too many! – to emphasize accomplishments. In the interview, you might say, “I helped increase revenue by 14% and quality by 24%”.  While the numbers may be true, how can you assert yourself with humility?

This is the humility dilemma: if we don’t showcase our accomplishments, someone else will showcase theirs.  They will get the job.  They will get ahead.

To respond to this dilemma, I offer a few keys to humility.

4 Keys to Humility

1.  You are enough. I think that humility is one of the fundamental leadership qualities.  It is a presence.  It is knowing that you are enough.  You are wise enough, smart enough, loved enough, strong enough, quick enough, energetic enough.  You are all these things without outside validation

2.  Be honest. Do not simply practice being honest, be honest in all you do, with everyone you meet, and with yourself. I’ll say it again – be honest. Are you ready for a challenge?  Be honest and be consistent with who you are.  Yes, it might be a challenge to run a 3:10 marathon.  Maybe you can’t do it.  So be honest.  But if you can come within a few minutes and you want to break that barrier, use constructive words, “It will be a challenge, but I can.”  That’s an honest affirmation.

3. Emphasize the process and the team. Instead of “I accomplished” say “We accomplished.”  If you are looking for new work, I expect you to write a convincing resume and to interview with confidence.  I expect you to show you are better than the competition.  Assert yourself by saying, “I led.  I delegated.  I mentored.  I helped reduce waste.  My program increased customer satisfaction.”  Showcase your accomplishments, but continually hold up the process and the team.

4.  Finally, give.  This is the fundamental message of most major religions.  Give.  I don’t like the cliché “Giving is its own reward.”  Remove the cliche & you’re left with “Give.”  Why should you give?  It is about character.  Your career and your life, they are not about you – they are about what you contribute.  Do you see the difference?  Life is not about lifting myself up.  Life is about lifting up others.  Smile.  Open doors.  Share eye contact.  Leave loose change.  When you give, you extend a web of humility.

When we do these things, we are practicing humility.  As I finish writing this, I wonder, “Am I the right person to be writing a guest post on humility?”  If you ask yourself similar questions while excelling in your career, you are practicing humility and probably doing something very, very right.

The Biggest Mistake NEW Leaders Make

As a follow-up to our discussion about the Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders make,Bruce Harpham, a project management education expert, offers his insights on the biggest mistakes NEW leaders make. Mark Twain said, “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” When we made errors in judgement, it’s important to learn from that experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to experience every leadership mistake personally in order to grow your skills. New leaders face special challenges as they adapt to new responsibilities. There are two kinds of new leaders: experienced leaders who join a new organization and rookie leaders. Experienced leaders changing roles, consider the outsider CEO trend. For example, IBM hired Lou Gerstner as CEO in 1990s rather than promoting from within. A few years ago, Ed Whitacre took over as CEO at General Motors even though he had limited experience in the automotive industry. Rookie leaders face a different challenge. Switching from individual contributor role to a leadership role is stressful. There are plenty of new habits to build and new skills to learn. Both types of new leaders are vulnerable to four failures outlined in this article. With the right planning and attitude, you can avoid all of these leadership failures.

1 – Failure to build relationships

Relationships are what make the world go round. It’s true that a new leader has some credibility by virtue of their role. If a leader assumes their formal authority and position are sufficient to lead, they will quickly run into resistance. Relationship building is important for everyone. If you are an executive appointed to lead an organization of several hundred people, then you need to go out and visit people. There’s nothing worse than a new and unknown executive issuing orders from their office by email. Take the time to introduce yourself and learn what your people are working on. Action: for the first week (longer for larger organizations) as a new leader, focus on meeting people over coffee and lunch. Those relationship building efforts will pay dividends in the future.

2- Failure to focus on strategy

Ian McAllister, General Manager at Amazon, reports that one of his greatest challenges as a new manager was thinking too small. I have seen this failure happen with highly skilled technical professionals. When you draw your confidence from technical skills and accomplishments, it is tempting to jump in and work alongside your team. Unfortunately, diving deep into operational details carries a heavy opportunity cost. You have less energy to think about strategy. That means less time to think about developing your people. It also means less energy to consider the big picture threats facing your organization. Action: when a team member asks for your direct involvement on a work task, search for solutions that do not involve your involvement. Often, that will mean suggesting they seek help from a more experienced team member.

3- Failure to balance personal and organizational ambition

Ambition is one of the defining qualities of successful leaders. Like any strength, it can be overused or used ineffectively. How can you tell if your self-confidence and ambition are hurting more than helping you? You simply need to consider a few key questions:

  • How do you communicate your accomplishments as a leader? Do you give credit to your team?
  • Do you write thank you notes regularly?
  • Privately, how often do you think about your annual bonus versus the organization’s growth goals?

According to Jim Collins, author of “Good To Great,” truly great leaders are ambitious for their organizations, rather than seeking personal celebrity. Action: review your organization’s goals weekly to ensure your actions are contributing to the organization rather than building an empire.

4 – Failure to recover from mistakes professionally

Nobody likes to make mistakes. Leadership errors and misjudgments are especially painful. Failure to acknowledge your mistakes and move on ultimately hurts your credibility. Few people expect perfection in leaders – don’t mistake that realism for thinking you can get away with mistakes. Consider the example of Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. The war went badly for years and McNamara refused to communicate the extent of the administration’s errors. As a result, American trust in government declined for decades afterwards. Action: Review your past leadership mistakes and explore how (or whether) you fully recovered from these mistakes.

Learm more about Bruce here.

Saying It With Soul #meanit

As part of our Mean It Madness Month I invited Kathryn Cramer to share her approach to speaking with authenticity. Say it with soul.

A Guest Post from Dr. Kathy Cramer

Saying it with soul is about meaning what you say—and saying something meaningful. It’s about putting yourself and your message on the line. It is about showing your skin in the game.

This can be a tall order for leaders, even when the core of their message is something positive. But why?

It Exposes Your Vulnerability – Whenever you communicate what something means to you, you are revealing something important about yourself. You, not your words, are the message. Soul is something you already have—it is your values and beliefs, your character, your mighty cause, your unique, authentic leadership presence in the world. Communicating with soul is a matter of revealing and demonstrating what you already have.

A Sense Of False Modesty – We are socialized not to brag and to view ego as a turn-off. But authentic humility is also about having the confidence to own and express the best of who we are.

You Think That Nobody Cares – Often leaders think their teams are not concerned with what the leaders think is important; people only care about their own well-being. That statement is true. People do care most about their own well-being, but that is why they need to know that their leaders have personal skin in the game. If you are genuinely committed and personally invested in a cause, then it lowers the bar for your team to get on board. People have a built-in Geiger counter as to whether leaders are being true to what they value, and showing your skin in the game creates authenticity over time.

An Exercise

The more aware you are of when you are perceived by others as sincere and authentic, the more intentional you can be about demonstrating those qualities. The following feedback exercise from Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do helps increase your awareness of these occasions by seeking feedback from trusted members of your circle.

Identify five people who have regular contact with you. Ask each person to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you remember a time when you felt like I was speaking sincerely and authentically?
  2. What was I talking about?
  3. How could you tell I was being sincere?

The patterns from this sincerity feedback process may surprise you. For instance, one sales executive who prided himself on his self-confidence found out, to his surprise, that it was when he opened up about his struggles that people saw him as most sincere and authentic. His respondents recommended that he reveal his critical thinking process when trying to sell to a potential customer.

For this sales leader, all he needed was the feedback about letting people into his thought process. There was no new skill he needed to develop; it was simply a matter of being more open and transparent. That is precisely what saying it with soul is all about.

Start A More Meaningful Conversation #meanit

As the “Mean It” Madness continues, I’m delighted to share insights from sincere people around the world who have reached out to share their stories.

Today’s post is inspired by Cat Willliams a relationship counsellor and author of Stay Calm and Content. She shares how meaningful conversations start by telling yourself the truth.

If you have a story of where saying what you mean made all the difference, click here to share.

Start a More Meaningful Conversation

“He that undervalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them.”
~Samuel Johnson

Many conversations break down because the issue being discussed is not the real issue at hand. Even when people are communicating “well” with “I statements” and the like, if the real issue isn’t surfaced, it can’t be addressed. Much energy is spent in such false dialogue. Truths remain unspoken and the undercurrent of resentment continues.

Cat shared that some of the hardest conversations are those in which we must apologize. It’s tough to admit to ourselves that we’ve done something wrong. It’s even more scary to face potential rejection if the apology is not accepted.

It’s far easier to convince ourselves someone else is to blame, and we start with a solid argument to ourselves. We soothe our egos, and our important apologies remain un-offered. As I heard Cat’s story, my heart tugged with a few folks in need of a call.

Leaders who are insecure are more likely to cover up their fears by limiting feedback and placing blame. What appears tough on the outside, may actually a false barricade to protect a fragile ego.

Cat shares a useful metaphor, if we think of ourselves as a car, our engine is our self-esteem. Many people don’t do the necessary maintenance and upkeep that needs to be done on that engine, and instead choose to focus on the engine’s exhaust, or the symptoms that surface in the form of emotions.

To ensure we’re dealing with the true issues, Cat encourages us to take time, and not rush to communicate. Here are several questions that can help you slow down and start a more meaningful conversation.

  1. What am I really upset about here. Is the issue I’m reacting to the real problem, or is something deeper?
  2. How is my confidence involved in this? Is there something I’m unsure or afraid of that’s making me feel insecure. In other words, am I dealing with the “engine” or the exhaust?
  3. How have my interpretations played into the meaning here?,/li>
  4. Are there other possible interpretations or explanations for what’s happening?
  5. What do I really want from this conversation? What is the best possible outcome?
  6. What is the most effective way to communicate my feelings?
  7. How can I listen so I can really hear what the other person is looking to convey? How can I encourage them to say what they really mean?

To hear my interview with Cat Williams:

She also shares additional insights in this video or visit her blog.

Transitions: An Inspiring Story Of Meaningful Work

Today’s post is from Bill Holston, Executive Director at Human Rights Initiative of Northern Texas. Bill is a regular comm-enter in our LGL community. As I’ve gotten to know Bill, I’ve been inspired by his amazing career transition. The work his team is doing changes and saves lives. I invited him to share his story. He offers insights about moving toward your calling, transitioning to an executive role, and leading in a mostly volunteer environment.

The Transition from Attorney to NGO Leader

For more than 30 years I practiced business law. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge. But over time, I realized my passions lay elsewhere, inspired by the volunteer work I had done over the years.

The journey began 25 years ago when I said yes to a pro bono political asylum case representing Martha, a young mother. Her husband was a truckers’ union leader in Guatemala, killed by a death squad. When Marta received death threats, she fled her country. I helped her win asylum and was totally hooked. Since that first case, I’ve represented people from twenty different countries. I took the cases as a volunteer with the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, a local non-profit. Two years ago, the position of executive director opened. My wife and I talked it over and I decided to apply. I was 55 and ready for new challenges.

The beauty of the organization I lead is the pro bono model. We recruit and train volunteers to do the work. This permitted us last year to do almost four million dollars of free legal work, with a staff of only ten. The cases are extremely time-consuming. Many of our volunteers are from big law firms, and all have very busy practices. We clearly communicate the level of commitment. They do the work, because it is extremely rewarding. They get to do for once, what they imagined doing as a lawyer, changing, even saving lives. Another key to our success is recruiting a talented staff, who make sure that we are accepting cases worthy of our volunteers time and providing first class training and supervision of the casework. We do not hand over a file and wish them good luck.

The transition from lawyer to executive has been difficult. Of course I had passion for the mission, but there are many tasks I had to learn. As a small shop, I pay the bills, do the HR, and do development work. My primary role, however is to provide leadership to our team. It’s my responsibility to guide our extremely dedicated staff to do emotionally difficult work, with limited resources, with a commitment to excellence.

The most difficult part of the transition has been learning how to set priorities. It’s challenging to determine exactly what the best use of my time is. Thankfully, I’ve found the thing I enjoy the most is the best use, that is relationship building with our staff, volunteers, Board, and media.

Considering a Transition?

Maybe some of you are considering a transition. First, let’s talk money. I was able to pursue this passion at this stage of life primarily because of my lifestyle choices. My wife and I have avoided debt and live in the same modest house we purchased in 1986. Because our values coincide, we can afford to live on a non-profit paycheck. Next, you should be working as a volunteer in order to know first of all what mission interests you and second learning the work from the ground up. Pay attention to building good relationships in your community. These will prove invaluable.

Meaningful Work

So, what has our team accomplished? Among many others, we helped a young aid worker from Zimbabwe, tortured for whom he chose to deliver food to. We helped a young woman avoid the brutal practice of female genital mutilation.

We assisted a young man from El Salvador, who refused to join a violent street gang. They took him, slit his throat and left him for dead. These are sobering stories, but because of our volunteers, all these people are obtaining legal status and live free and safe lives in America. I’ve never looked back.

Hear Bill share his story in his Ignite speech.

3 Listening Lessons We Can All Use From Political Leadership

A Guest Post from Rose Fass, CEO at Fass Forward.

Many leaders talk a good game. Some have even managed to talk their way to the top. But ironically, there’s one leadership quality that often gets the silent treatment. It’s listening to how the message was received.

Politicians are masters of message discipline. They speak in sound bites, which gives repeatable expression to their ideas. Next, they listen to focus groups, surveys, polls, and constituents to see how their message landed with their audience.

Did it create a buzz? Did it move people to action? Did it win them votes? Conveying a message isn’t enough. Leaders need to know how it was perceived and if it was effective in winning over their people. Say what you will about the world of politics, there are at least a few things leadership communicators could learn from political leadership.

The power of real leadership starts with the conversation. You have them every day…and those conversations have a powerful impact on your people and how your company does business…every day. If listening isn’t treated as a critical piece of message discipline, it certainly adds additional meaning to the expression, “He’s all talk.”

Listening Polls

Let’s assume that you lead by carefully crafting concise messages and conveying them with clarity. Then, you move on to the next piece of business. On the other hand, if you take the time to really listen, you’ll get two earfuls of terrific, actionable information. Suddenly, you can hear what your people have been trying to tell you all along. You’ll also have a better grasp of everything from what customers are saying to what’s frustrating your followers.

Listening more carefully to employees and customers can help close those gaps that open up unexpectedly at the intersection of strategy and execution.

Listen to yourself, too. Many leaders talk to themselves. Surprisingly, not enough listen to themselves. Successful leaders need for their ideas, visions, strategies and messages to come across clearly. Listen to what you’re saying. Is it being interpreted as intended? Is everyone on the same page? Are there breakdowns in execution? It all comes down to how your message lands. So be sure to spend more time in the land of listening.

What Gets Heard Equals What Gets Done

Listening is a two-way street. They want you to listen to them. You want them to listen to you. So listen up to these message discipline leadership tactics to ensure that what you say is what gets heard so what you envision is what gets done.

Listen To What You Say

Start with your message. Craft it carefully. Simplify it. Edit it until only the essence has been captured. Distill it down so it only delivers details that frame a solid main idea.

Next, Ask Yourself:

  • Are my expectations presented clearly or have I opened the door to confusion?
  • Will my people know how to pick up where my message left off?
  • Can our cast of corporate characters all see the roles they’re playing in the overall picture?

Listen To What Gets Heard

Hear your people. Ask for feedback. Now, get ready to:

  • Absorb the feedback and take decisive action.
  • Listen to what people are telling you with sensitivity.
  • Address all critical concerns and unmet needs.

Listen to What Gets Done

You delivered your message. You know it was heard. You now want action. Keep listening and continue to:

  • Hold yourself and your people accountable.
  • Monitor results and look for marks that have been missed.
  • Analyze whether your message is aligned with your strategy, company direction and what people are doing.

Three Points to Remember

  1. Message discipline drives operational discipline.
  2. Strategy is validated by execution of the message.
  3. Leaders who don’t listen are missing a lot.

Transferable Skills: Yes,You're Qualified

You want to try something new, but it’s scary. Transferable skills sound great in theory, but when it’s a major career change, it’s hard to know.

A Story of Transferable Skills

Joseph Henley was a rock star customer service consultant on my team. As we met to talk career, his passion for International relations was palpable. As I listened to his story, I knew there was only one thing to say:

“Joseph, I’m hearing your heart calling you elsewhere. I will help you broaden your experience and build your skills. But as much as I would hate to lose you, what I’d hate more is for you to not follow your dreams.”

He followed his heart, sold his belongings, and moved overseas. Yesterday, he wrote me a follow-up note. He noticed what mattered to him and found a way to leverage his transferable skills. Here’s his story.

Transferable Skills & Transformation: A Guest Post From Joseph Henley

I was eating lunch at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). My friends from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand and I were discussing the protests in the streets outside the compound. The anti-government anger is seething and there is talk of a coup. The conversation tilts toward a discussion of whether the dictators throughout the world are good or evil? Though oft decried as evil, they can also bring stability to economies, order, civil services, and education.

It seems impossible that just a few months earlier I was at my desk drafting proposals for team meetings and rushing to conference calls. The world of business seems so far away from the new realities of International relations.

But was it really?

While building my career in the domestic business arena I heard many people discuss the benefit of transferable skills. Find them, nurture them and respect them. Though I have left the world of business, I now see clearly the vital importance of such inconspicuous, transferable skills.

I am grateful to have had leaders who helped me discover and build on these strengths: Notice your gifts, they’ll play well in unlikely contexts.

Soft Power/Influence – As I spend more time immersing myself in this new arena of International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, I am reminded ever more of what the power of influence really is. Often times in a bilateral or multilateral relationship one has to tread lightly to not offend or potentially eliminate valuable global relationships, and find just the right words when there is no dotted line of direct authority.

This related so clearly to my interoffice experiences. Many times I found myself in informal arenas of influence over water cooler conversations, asides in meetings, or elevator speeches with the powers that be. This skill is uniquely relevant to my new future pursuits.

Embracing Change – Every day in business I heard about “embracing change.” We were constantly changing our approach to ensure great customer satisfaction coupled with other business results.  In my studies, I’m on the move, traveling to a new location every two months. This provides a constant refresh on my professors available for assistance and advice and new libraries or school policies to learn. For example in Vienna, Austria I had full writing center staff, library assistants, computer lab assistants plus admins for each professor giving me pretty liberal access to the help when I needed it, but here in Bangkok Thailand, my campus consists of three rooms. The ‘library’ is a bookshelf, and the ‘computer lab’ is two desktops.

This pattern of change would be difficult to adjust to but I feel my time in the world of business ’embracing change’ on a daily helps me face this with vigor.

Goals & Results – While I thought I might be leaving the roles of numbers and results behind me I soon found that more than anything this key critical element of business is needed constantly. The goals I have set upon completion of this program, but will be tangibly affected by the amount of effort I put into positive networking, experience gathering and knowledge building.

My ROI is the impact on my future.

The tour is over, and though the dictator debate is quieted for now, I know there will be many more to come. I move with my group, turning in our visitor badges, relinquishing our rights to be on International property. The world of business does not seem so far behind me in my new world of international relations and preparation for diplomacy. In fact, I smile as I note that there will be many more transferable skills to discover in the days to come.

Transferable Skills: Yes,You’re Qualified

You want to try something new, but it’s scary. Transferable skills sound great in theory, but when it’s a major career change, it’s hard to know.

A Story of Transferable Skills

Joseph Henley was a rock star customer service consultant on my team. As we met to talk career, his passion for International relations was palpable. As I listened to his story, I knew there was only one thing to say:

“Joseph, I’m hearing your heart calling you elsewhere. I will help you broaden your experience and build your skills. But as much as I would hate to lose you, what I’d hate more is for you to not follow your dreams.”

He followed his heart, sold his belongings, and moved overseas. Yesterday, he wrote me a follow-up note. He noticed what mattered to him and found a way to leverage his transferable skills. Here’s his story.

Transferable Skills & Transformation: A Guest Post From Joseph Henley

I was eating lunch at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). My friends from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand and I were discussing the protests in the streets outside the compound. The anti-government anger is seething and there is talk of a coup. The conversation tilts toward a discussion of whether the dictators throughout the world are good or evil? Though oft decried as evil, they can also bring stability to economies, order, civil services, and education.

It seems impossible that just a few months earlier I was at my desk drafting proposals for team meetings and rushing to conference calls. The world of business seems so far away from the new realities of International relations.

But was it really?

While building my career in the domestic business arena I heard many people discuss the benefit of transferable skills. Find them, nurture them and respect them. Though I have left the world of business, I now see clearly the vital importance of such inconspicuous, transferable skills.

I am grateful to have had leaders who helped me discover and build on these strengths: Notice your gifts, they’ll play well in unlikely contexts.

Soft Power/Influence – As I spend more time immersing myself in this new arena of International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, I am reminded ever more of what the power of influence really is. Often times in a bilateral or multilateral relationship one has to tread lightly to not offend or potentially eliminate valuable global relationships, and find just the right words when there is no dotted line of direct authority.

This related so clearly to my interoffice experiences. Many times I found myself in informal arenas of influence over water cooler conversations, asides in meetings, or elevator speeches with the powers that be. This skill is uniquely relevant to my new future pursuits.

Embracing Change – Every day in business I heard about “embracing change.” We were constantly changing our approach to ensure great customer satisfaction coupled with other business results.  In my studies, I’m on the move, traveling to a new location every two months. This provides a constant refresh on my professors available for assistance and advice and new libraries or school policies to learn. For example in Vienna, Austria I had full writing center staff, library assistants, computer lab assistants plus admins for each professor giving me pretty liberal access to the help when I needed it, but here in Bangkok Thailand, my campus consists of three rooms. The ‘library’ is a bookshelf, and the ‘computer lab’ is two desktops.

This pattern of change would be difficult to adjust to but I feel my time in the world of business ’embracing change’ on a daily helps me face this with vigor.

Goals & Results – While I thought I might be leaving the roles of numbers and results behind me I soon found that more than anything this key critical element of business is needed constantly. The goals I have set upon completion of this program, but will be tangibly affected by the amount of effort I put into positive networking, experience gathering and knowledge building.

My ROI is the impact on my future.

The tour is over, and though the dictator debate is quieted for now, I know there will be many more to come. I move with my group, turning in our visitor badges, relinquishing our rights to be on International property. The world of business does not seem so far behind me in my new world of international relations and preparation for diplomacy. In fact, I smile as I note that there will be many more transferable skills to discover in the days to come.