how to lead for results and stop the zombie apocalypse

How to Lead for Results and Stop the Zombie Apocalypse

Lead for results and keep the zombies at bay…

They’re the phrases that should send a shiver up your spine if you want to lead for results. I’ve heard them from team members in every industry imaginable. You might recognize them:

  • “I’ve just stopped trying.”
  • “Why bother?”
  • “I give up.”
  • “Just go along to get along.”
  • “When someone bothers to tell me what to do, then we’ll worry about it.”
  • “What’s the point?”
  • “It doesn’t matter what you do.”
  • “They don’t care, so why should I?”
  • “Everything they say from the stage don’t mean anything for me and my life.”

Walking Dead

Every time I hear one of these, I shudder.

These are the words whispered by the walking dead – maybe they haven’t left your team or company yet, but there’s no life left in them. They’re just shuffling through the day, going through the motions, like zombies.

If you have people in your team or organization talking this way, one of two things has happened:

1) You have discouraged your team by failing to lead.

2) You have a very negative team member who will be discouraging the rest of the team. (And they’re still there because you’ve failed to lead.)

Either way, it’s time for you to lead. Every person wandering around …

thinking that their effort makes no difference …

feeling that no one cares …

feeling frustrated and refusing to take responsibility …

Has quit.

They’re a walking tragedy of vital human life stunted and withering away. (Not to mention tons of lost productivity for the organization.)

Tough Love

If you want to lead for results, I applaud you. We desperately need good leaders.

But leadership means responsibility. If you have disheartened people on your team who have stopped trying, that’s on you. The reasons are usually straightforward:

  • a lack of encouragement or appreciation
  • outright hostility and abuse
  • no vision
  • absurd systems prevent them from being effective
  • no autonomy or ability to make meaningful decisions
  • they don’t trust you or one another

These are a leader’s responsibilities. And if you’re leading, you’re responsible.

Lead for Results

As every reader of Winning Well knows, you can treat people well and lead for results. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go together.

When people:

  • are empowered to make meaningful decisions …
  • understand the purpose behind what they’re doing …
  • trust their leadership and their team …
  • feel appreciated for what they do …
  • feel they’re making a difference …
  • are held accountable for their contribution …

They own the outcomes, are energized, proactively solve problems, and personally invest in what they’re doing.

Which team member would you rather have?

Where to Begin?

1) If you are leading a team that shows signs of the zombi-fication, honestly assess your motivations.

Are you leading for results and relationships?

If not, I invite you to start small. Pick one area—perhaps encouragement—and honestly show appreciation. Or maybe start by removing a frustrating system that prevents people from doing their best work.

The point is, don’t change everything all at once. You can’t do it and you’ll frustrate yourself. Start small.

If you’re not sure where to start and you have any team members you can trust to give you honest feedback, ask them. Or do a DIY 360 evaluation and pick just one thing—the most frequently occurring item and address it.

People are remarkably graceful. When they see you work on being effective, your credibility soars.

2) If you are in an organization characterized by the zombies, build a cultural oasis.

Start by encouraging the people you see every day. Recognize others for what they’ve done. Begin talking about what your team might accomplish or where it could be. Look for problems you can solve.

We Need You to Lead for Results

Whatever your formal role, we need you to lead. We need people who dare to dream, who show us the way. We need people who will take risks to solve problems that others refuse to recognize even exist.

We need people who ask the right questions, who challenge our thinking. We need people who inspire us, who motivate us, and who encourage us.

We need leaders.

We need you.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from Let's Grow Leaders (lead for results and keep the zombies away)

Motivating your team when you don't set the goal

Motivating Your Team When You Don’t Set the Goal

 

For leaders at every level, there are times when you must implement a decision or pursue a goal that you don’t agree with or where you didn’t get input. These are critical moments in your leadership. Handle it poorly and you lose all credibility. But it’s also an opportunity to grow your influence and energize your team to do work they’re proud of. In this episode, David shares practical help for motivating your team when you don’t set the goals.

6 Surprising Ways to Feel More Freedom at Work

You don’t need to win the lottery or quit your day job to experience a sense of freedom at work. I was recently interviewed about how “being an entrepreneur makes me feel independent

I answered joyfully. But the truth is, I’ve been making a lot of my own freedom in a corporate day job for the last 2 decades. Much freedom comes from getting clear on who you are and taking control over your corner of the world.

6 Ways to Feel Freedom at Work

  1. Butt Out – Not always, but sometimes. It’s easy to get sucked into someone else’s drama. I have a colleague who says, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” There’s huge freedom in that sentiment. Sure, if you’ve got something substantial to offer by all means engage, but just like more spectators to an accident, more is not always helpful. Free up your energy for something more productive.
  2. Establish Personal Boundaries – Knowing how far you’re willing to go will take a lot of stress out of each situation. Having a clearly established values, ethics and boundaries will help you feel more in control of decisions and makes it easier to let go of minor frustrations. It’s liberating to know who you are and to live by that code. You’ll be surprised how much people will respect you taking an occasional solid stand, if most of the time you’re supportive and helpful.
  3. Create Structure and Processes – The more you can establish routines and systems for every day activities, the more time you’ll have for experimentation and creative exploration of new ideas. Plus structure keeps you organized, and nothing will make your boss leave you alone than a well-organized approach.
  4. Speak Up: – Every time I take over a new team, I begin with the following words: “If something feels stupid, it probably is. Say something.” We then proceed to celebrate when someone outs some “stupidity (of course never actually using the “s” word. )“I’m just wondering if this really makes sense in the context of that.” I’m always amazed how many people feel strangely empowered by this basic invitation to speak the truth. If something feels stupid, speak up, and encourage your team to do the same.
  5. Build White Space Into Your Calendar – It’s tempting to jam your calendar to the brim with “productive” activity. When your brain is full, there’s no time for creative signals to get through. Build some deliberate time in to your day to step back and take the long view. If you’re in an hourly structured job where that’s impossible, find a way to carve out a few minutes of your personal time to really reflect on how you are doing your work and how you could be more impactful. It will pay off in the long run. Read more
  6. Create a Cultural Oasis – If you’re feeling frustrated by the culture of your organization, do what you can to create a cultural niche in your neck of the woods. Lead how you would like to be led. Engage your peers in creative ideas. Be the boss you wish you had. Encourage special projects, volunteer for new assignments. Read more here
the most frustrating choice managers make

The Most Frustrating Mistake Managers Make

When managers see their role as a small cog in a bigger system they do whatever they can to fit in. They trade power for conformity.

Their team yearns for bold vision, challenging questions, and scaffolding support. But they look up and see weakness, which makes them feel weaker and diminishes results.

Nothing saddens me more than potential leaders who give away their power. Feeling powerless to change the game, they buckle down and support, but don’t inspire.

Somehow they think this approach will inspire loyalty and translate to results. They’re in no position to empower, because they have not power to share. Great leaders generate power and then share it.

5 Ways to Regain Leadership Power

Teams are empowered by power. Be sure you have enough to share.
  • Connected – Build great relationships up down and sideways. Your team longs for a leader who’s in the game, and teaches them how to play it.
  • Courageous – Stop complaining about the system, or what can’t be done. If you really think you’re powerless, step down and let someone else be the leader.
  • Creative – Help your team find solutions in the areas they feel most helpless
  • Challenging – Encourage your team to do more than they ever thought possible. Expect a lot.  Keep raising the bar. Forget benchmarks and establish higher standards. Celebrate progress and build desire for what’s possible.
  • Calm – Stay above the fray. Buffer the madness, but also teach them how to sail in a storm.

Yes, this is part of our crowd-sourced e-book series on the Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make, so please share your stories.

Super Leaders Open Doors

Great leaders open doors for other leaders. Great leaders also know when to knock. Be a door opener. Learn how to knock.

Who’s opened doors for you? What have you done to open doors for others?

Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Who Open Doors, is collecting stories of leaders who have opened doors, or created opportunities for others. Today, I share my story of Dr. Henry Sims, who opened a door that changed the course of my career.

I invite you to recognize a leader who opened a door for you in the comments. This post will be included in Bill’s Leadership Open Door Fest on August 13th.

A SuperLeadership- Open Doors Story

When I was a young communications graduate student at the University of Maryland, I met the best door opener of my career. I was working on a research project around empowering leadership. I noticed that nearly everyone I was reading was citing the same guy, Dr. Henry Sims.  Since this was before the days you could google-up answers in an instant, I went to the library and found one of his books, SuperLeadership, Leading Others to Lead Themselves.

Dr. Henry SimsI flipped to the back page to read about the authors. I had to laugh. Dr. Sims taught across campus at the business school. I read the book in one sitting, picked up the book and my recent writing, ran across campus and knocked on his door. He stopped what he was doing and we talked for several hours, he practiced everything he had written about.

He led me to lead myself.

He asked provocative questions and made me think. He challenged me to consider my direction. Not just in my research, but in my career.

I left my paper with him for comment.

When I came back the next week, he said, “I think I can help you publish this (which we did)” and the next several hours of in-depth discussion led me to understand that what I really wanted to do was to be working in organizations, not studying them and that what I needed most was not an academic advisor, but a contact.

Then he began opening doors. The next week he took me to lunch with a director doing leadership work in the company I have worked for ever since.

Hank has remained my mentor and my friend. When I get stuck, I knock. He always has questions, ideas, and contacts (mostly other folks for whom he’s opened doors). I knocked just last month.

I asked Hank why he opens doors for students and others (ironically, I never did take a class from him).
In retrospect, the best part of my academic career has been the influence and support I have been able to provide to others. I have tried to act and behave as a “SuperLeader.”

The benefits of knocking is that some SuperLeader may open a door. Knock. Answer. Lead.

Another Favorite Book by Hank Sims: Business Without Bosses: How Self Managed Teams are Building High Performance Companies

*Photo Dr. Henry Sims, Super Leader, Door Opener

What Needy Needs: 8 Ways To Empower Past Dependency

Needy drains energy. Needy distracts. Needy wastes time. Needy surfaces guilt “gosh, maybe they really do need more.” You want to help. Helping too much hurts them, you, and the rest of the team.

Dig deeper to get to the root cause of dependency. Maybe it’s them. Be sure it’s not you.

Causes of Needy

Needy comes from:

  • Upbringing
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear
  • Incompetence
  • Misunderstanding
  • Lack of vision
  • Unclear goals
  • Micro-management
  • Disfunctional teams
  • Bad leadership

From Needy to Needed

Turn your high-maintenance employee into a highly valued contributor. Give enough to help, without encouraging dependent behavior.

  1. Create safety. Build trust. Many needs stem from insecurity. Invest in the relationship and show you really care. Create professional intimacy as appropriate. As questions. Spend time getting to know them personally. Show up real. Share how you work on your leadership. Expose a personal mistake or two. Make failure a friendly topic.
  2. Listen – Get underneath root cause. This may bet messy, and may call for reinforcements, e.g. Employee Assistance Programs, a coach. If there’s work to be done, help them get help.
  3. Reinforce Vision and Goals – Check for understanding. Have them articulate their role in the big picture. Brainstorm together how they can best contribute, and what support they think they need. Also reinforce where you don’t need to be involved. Create clear parameters for decision making.
  4. Assess competence and skills – Make it okay to tell you they don’t know how. This is often the easist one to fix.
  5. Stay consistent – Stay calm through mistakes. Leaders who freak can bring back childhood memories, and childlike behaviors.
  6. Promote teamwork – Create space to talk about diverse team strengths. Encourage the team to rely on one another.
  7. Reasonable Reassurance. Recognize incremental wins. Celebrate success.
  8. Back off – Explain what your doing. Have a conversation. And then stop helping. Extreme, but potentially necessary. I talked to one leader who shared that his team had become so dependent, he just stopped answering their calls and emails. After the shock, I asked “soooo… how did that work?” The team started relying on one another and figured things out. Results skyrocketed.
How do you get the information you need?

How do you get the information you need?

The higher you grow in the organization, the more you work in sound bites. You have so much information coming at you, you need to process it quickly, and draw conclusions. As a manager, you train your team to give you the highlights in bullet points. Swimming in too much information will bog you down.

And yet, sometimes the devil does lurk in the details.

“It’s entirely possible that you can process and file more information than anyone who has come before you. And quite likely that this filing is preventing you from growing and changing and confronting the fear that’s holding you back.”~Seth Godin, “I Get It
How do you learn the important details without micro-managing? How do you ensure you’re encouraging your team to bring you the whole story. How do you ensure you’re not just hearing what you want to hear?

How do you get the information you really need?

It’s so easy to assume you’ve seen this movie before and miss the plot twist.

Be careful not to assume 

  • you know the type (she’s not “high-potential” because you’ve seen others who looked or acted like her  who didn’t do well at the next level)
  • the market won’t react well (“it didn’t last time)
  • customers will hate it (they don’t like change)
  • this project won’t work (because a similar endeavor failed)
  • the union will resist (because they always do)
  • senior management won’t go for it (because it seems too risky)

How do you get the deeper story from your team?

Asking well encourages truth. Asking well empowers.

Empowering others doesn’t mean working in the dark.

Your team has

  • details
  • opinions
  • concerns
  • weird data they can’t explain
  • conclusions
  • possibilities
  • wacky next steps

They’ve likely been coached somewhere along the line to “not go there.” To give you just the information you need. But sometimes, “there” is exactly where you need to go to get the deeper story. Make it safe to hear what you must. Build an environment where you hear what would otherwise be left on the editing room floor.

Some Ways

  • Show up everywhere (kindly)
  • Ask questions that don’t feel like tests
  • Smile and laugh as needed
  • Express your genuine thirst to learn the truth
  • Do something with what you hear (without getting anyone in trouble)
  • Recognize the great work you see
  • Invite yourself in advance to working meetings and then listen

Empowerment happens in the daylight. Shine bright lights, and be deliberate in your reactions. Question, encourage, invite, excite, grow, develop.

Orchestra Without a Conductor

This was a farewell. The last concert of the year for the high-school orchestra. The seniors wore roses and beamed with personality.

The conductor held up his baton, and the music began. Powerful. Brilliant. Exciting. A send-off to the next phase of their lives.

Then he looked at the orchestra and grinned. He stepped off the podium stage right, folded his arms, and watched from the sidelines. 5 measures later, he looked at the audience. Smiled with confidence, and walked off the stage. He never came back.
The orchestra continued. Powerful. Brilliant. More exciting. I sat mesmerized by the leadership moment. They didn’t miss a beat. They were performing– without their leader. Or were they?

He left confident that…

  • the vision was understood
  • they had a game plan
  • they were accomplished players
  • who had practiced
  • and would listen to one another

His confidence said…

  • I believe in you
  • You’re ready for the next phase
  • It was never about me
  • Go be brilliant

No conductor. Powerful leader.

Why Smart People Do Stupid Work

Despite my best efforts to encourage employees to think, question, and recommend change, on any given day, I know there are people on my team doing tasks they know are stupid.

Stupid work includes…

  • reinforcing policies without thinking
  • making decisions that lose customers
  • generating reports no one uses
  • focusing on trivial matters when the sky is falling around them
  • _______ I’ll stop here to let you fill in the blank.
  •  If you find that cathartic here’s a few more blanks___________, ___________.

Bottom line, If it feels stupid it probably is.

Forest Gump said “stupid is as stupid does.” But I know the truth. Stupid is as stupid leads.

Why Do People Do Stupid Work?

  • fear
  • politics
  • uncertainty
  • overload
  • indecision
  • it’s not their job
  • they don’t want to step on anyone’s toes
  • it’s always been done that way
  • they think I want it done that way
  • their boss thinks I want it done that way
  • their boss’s boss’s boss, thinks my boss wants it done that way.

And so the stupidity continues.

Lead for S.M.A.R.T.

Encourage your team to think beyond their silos, understand the big picture, and question the status quo. Help them to make S.M.A.R.T. choices.

Speak up

If something feels stupid, it probably is. Say something.

get More information

Ask questions. Understand the context. Reach across silos.

accept Accountability

Own the problem. Work to find a solution.

Reprioritize

Determine what’s important. Do that first.

and Try another approach.

Consider alternatives, ask for ideas, try something new.

The Scary Secret to Great Meetings

The first time it happened, I was devastated.

After all the hard work on building relationships.

All that investment in the team.

All that transparency.

All that work to create a level-less organization.

Why had my direct report team started holding “secret” meetings without me?

Why was that necessary?

What was I doing wrong?

Was this an indication that I had become the proverbial “boss” an image I had tried so hard to avoid?

It’s About Us

I shared my concerns with a member of the team.

Karin, this is not about you. This is about us. We need this. Relax.

I still don’t know exactly what happened in those “secret” meetings. Perhaps they talked about the work. Perhaps they settled some of their own conflict. Perhaps they complained about me. I am not sure it matters.

What I do know is those meetings transformed our organization.

Each leader began stepping up in new ways. They helped one another solve problems. They worked on each other’s projects. They mentored one another’s employees. They brought well-vetted options and solutions to our staff meetings.

My questions became more strategic. So did their answers.

Results kept climbing.

When you strive to be a servant leader, it can be tough to feel your team doesn’t need “serving.” You want to roll up your sleeves and support them. Sometimes the best support you can offer is to step away and give them the space to create, argue, and perform.

Now I welcome and encourage secret meetings.

Could your team use a “secret meeting?”

Empowerment Run Amok: How One Bad Decision Leads To Another

You believe in servant leadership.

Empowerment is your middle name.

Results are strong.

The team is happy.

And then.

Someone makes a really bad decision.

The consequences are big.

Your boss is not happy.

How could YOU let that happen?

Why weren’t YOU more involved?
And you begin to wonder about the person who made the poor choice.

  • Why did he make such a bad decision?
  • Didn’t he understand the potential consequences?
  • Why didn’t he ask for help?
  • Why was I not informed sooner

It might be hard but stop, and think well before reacting.

If you are not careful, the next bad decision may be your own.

How you react now, matters. Everyone is watching your next move. Do you really believe in empowerment?

The decision you make next will have long-term implications on trust and the relationship with your entire team. People are talking, texting and instant messaging count on it.

3 Steps to Responding Well to a Bad Decision

1. Temper and Reflect

  • Have I carefully considered my approach to empowerment– Who to empower with what decisions and why?
  • Have I clearly communicated the big picture and long-term goals?
  • Have I taught effective decision-making?
  • Have I explained the importance of my involvement in certain kinds of decisions?
  • Am I approachable and available to support?
  • Have I been teaching enough about the political landscape and how to include and inform stakeholders?
  • … what would you add?

2. Take Accountability

  • Own the mistake, never blame
  • Roll up your sleeves and be involved in the fix
  • Involve the employee in the solution
  • Coach in private
  • Carefully consider the answers to the questions above, what do you need to adjust?
  • Communicate any changes without linking back to a specific employee’s mistake
  • … what would you add?

3. Teach

  • Ask questions for self-discovery
  • Share a story of when you screwed up and what you learned
  • Reassure the employee that this can be fixed most things can, even when they look grim
  • … what would you add?

 

Trusted and Empowered? 6 Ways to Get Your Boss To Trust You

Last week’s post, A Matter of Trust, generated some great conversation on the Center For Creative Leadership LinkedIn group. One interesting addition was a paradoxical question from Carol Ann Hamilton, “which comes first, trust or trust?” Indeed, trust is a complex two-way street.

In a follow-up conversation she shared:

Let’s make three lists:

1.) Someday
2.) The Bigger Story
3.) Now

Onto “Someday,” place everything you haven’t touched and that really doesn’t relate to anything in the short-term (because if it did, you’d have completed it already).
I ask this paradoxical question to get my facilitation and coaching clients to think about which type of person they generally are: 1) Do you accord trust naturally and only re-evaluate your interactions with someone if it is violated? or 2) Does trust have to be earned with you, so that you dole out your trust and respect when the other proves themselves worthy in your books?

The truth is most leaders (including me), don’t treat everyone on their team with the same level of trust. Whether we “accord trust naturally” or if “it has to be earned,” trust is impacted by behaviors. We learn who we can trust with the most important work. Those we trust, we empower with less oversight. When someone has given us cause to question their competence or follow-through, we are more likely to double-check and provide more hands-on support.

Carol’s question got me thinking: what are the behaviors that lead me to fully trust someone on my team? What behaviors cause me to back off and let them do their thing? Here are my top 6. I hope you will add more to the list in your comments.

Your Boss Will Trust You When You

1. Do what you say you will

Every time. Integrity and consistency are vital to trust. When stuff happens that changes your commitment, communicate quickly and explain why.

2. Follow through

This one is slightly different from #1. Follow-through involves looking at the outcomes of your actions and ensuring they achieved the desired result. “Doing what you say” is not enough if it did not produce the right outcome. There is more work to do. Do it, or ask for help.

3. Develop great peer relationships

You boss cares what other people are saying about you. She wants to know you work well with others, offering and asking for help when needed.

4. Follow the “no blind side” rule

This is the one I see breakdown the most. Always be the first to share your own bad news and what you are doing about it. Don’t let your boss get wind of a breakdown through the grapevine (or worse, from their boss).

5. Know the details

You boss will trust you when you know what you are doing. She will be less likely to want to know every detail if she is sure that you do.

6. Ask what else you can do to help

No boss wants to wonder if their people have enough to do. If you have extra bandwidth offer to do more. Your boss will then trust that you have plenty to do when you are not asking.