Posts Tagged leadership development
A Common Leadership Mistake You Must Avoid!!
I see it almost everywhere I work with leadership teams. Let me tell you what it is and what you should be doing differently. And I will cite two great HBR articles that are helpful. (For more about HBR go here http://hbr.org )
Before I name the mistake, let me describe how it pops up.
You want to move ahead so you brainstorm a bit, read the latest books, review all the models, attend a conference or watch some videos. Then draft the new strategy., delegate responsibilities, and launch the new plan.
And in six months you are…
I develop leaders.
I speak at conferences.
I attend conferences.
This week, I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Lot’s of enthusiasm and inspiration, great talks and encouraging moments. I took my family and 5 of my honors students. We found the experience exciting and energizing. Like many others, that is why we go. It is an emotional thrill, and leaders need a leadership lift whenever we can get one.
Many of the speakers acknowledged this kind of event is a REMINDER event. We need to hear what we already know, and be inspired again to plug away, stay the course, and lead well. And often we gain a new insight or have an “aha!” moment. These are truly valuable.
But what happens after the thrill is gone? It is the age-old conference dilemma. In a few days the buzz is gone, the notebook goes on the shelf, the twitter frenzy dies down and people return to the same challenges, problems, lousy bosses, fundraising shortfalls and HR headaches.
Am I being pessimistic? Should we stop going to conferences? NO! Let me be clear. I love conferences! I love speaking at them and going to them! I love hanging with other leaders and getting to know their stories, successes and challenges. This is essential for every leader!
My friends Henry Cloud and I have worked together speaking, writing and training group leaders. To coach small groups – especially newer groups – we created Making Your Small Groups Work, a DVD groups watch a few minutes at each meeting to learn to be an effective community.
Here’s a short sample if you want to take a peek.
Setting ground rules is one of the things we encouraged groups to do, so that everyone is clear about how to create an environment for growth in a group context.
Here are 5 to think incorporate into your group process or team setting.
Care: Being for each other and coming alongside one another on any group or team is essential. We need more encouragement and less criticism; more urging onward than looking backward. To say “I care” means we not on have empathy with others, but we show that in a tangible way with words, ideas, support and compassion.
This may sound a little “soft” for some settings, like working groups or corporate teams. I get that. But it can still be communicated in appropriate ways. When a group really cares about one another they can begin to care for one another.
Safety: Creating a “Come as You are Culture” as friend John Burke likes to say, you make it safe for full participation and risk-taking. It means we can show up angry, tired, strong, weak, excited or cautious – and that is all ok. Sure, you need to monitor how you express those realities depending on the setting and the culture of the group or organization.
But the basic premise remains. You avoid having a “you’d –better-act-and-talk-and-look-like-this-before-we-accept-you” culture that ignores reality and demeans people.
Authenticity: Yes, authenticity is an overworked word… but it remains an underutilized practice. I believe this is because it is often misunderstood. Sometimes it is interpreted as putting all your cards on the table all the time, totally revealing everything about yourself.
Not healthy. We have reality TV to thank for that perspective. Unbridled and unwise communication and action is not authenticity – it is simply overexposure. And, like too much sun without sunblock, it does more damage than most relationships can tolerate.
Or, people fake authenticity with trite phases and clichés. “I totally understand what you mean!” “Wow thanks for putting yourself out there, Susan. It felt so real.” Or what a women said in a group I was in “I hate my husband, he’s a creep!” That was certainly real…but was it wise to share in the second meeting of a small group just learning to become a community and trying to take basic risks?
Growth: We are told to “urge one another toward love and toward good deeds” and groups are a great place for that. We get so selfish, so cynical, so absorbed in personal realities that pushing one another toward growth is neglected. But if I am listening, I am eager to call the best out of you and watch you thrive.
Once a member asked me, “And how do you act with integrity and honor your boss even though now you realize he might never change his abrupt way of communicating?” He wanted me to understand I have a choice – my actions and reactions are under my control, regardless of what he says or does. I can be different. I can love. I can serve.
Help: Groups and teams flourish when members help one another in tangible ways. “Mike, I can get that report for you online and save you a few minutes of research time.” “Christine, let me take care of the kids for an hour while you get some quiet time – or just go shop!” Little helps make a big difference.
Let me know if I can ever help you or your teams get better at creating greater community and a vibrant group culture.
In the meantime, ask yourself:
Which of these 5 “habits” or Ground Rules can we make a reality in our group or team?
What will it take for us to make this a normal part of the culture?
I am always intrigued by what is said in commencement speeches. Steve Jobs’ famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford is one of the most Googled. His “stay hungry, stay foolish” theme really resonated with listeners. If you never heard it, it is a real gem. You can watch it here.
This June, at my alma mater’s graduation ceremonies, Princeton’s departing President, Shirley Tilghman, referred to Jeff Bezos’ commencement address to graduates in 2010. Though not as memorable or as well-known as Jobs’ talk, Bezos offered a series of questions for leaders or at least what every leader should be asking.
Bezos is Founder and CEO of Amazon.com and is a Princeton Class of 1986 graduate. His remarks challenged graduating seniors to consider 10 key questions. Here they are for your consumption.
1) Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
2) Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
3) Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
4) Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
5) Will you bluff it out when you are wrong, or will you apologize?
6) Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
7) Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
8) When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
9) Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
10) Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
I certainly was challenge by almost all of these. I did not feel a sense of guilt or failure so much as new resolve to grow and risk in these areas. Numbers 1, 6, and 9 have particular meaning for me at this moment in life and leadership.
How about you? I suggest you reflect honestly on the list, and choose your top 2-3 questions for further investigation and focus. Leaders – especially those who share leadership or have collaborative styles – will have to take some risks that will cause discomfort and leave you vulnerable to failure or criticism.
But what other options are there? A life filled with woulda-coulda-shoulda regrets and a leadership legacy what-if’s and what-might-have-beens?
Not for me. And I hope not for you.
Fallon has made a hilarious spoof of saying thanks on his show. If you have not seen the regular segment, here are a few off the net at (http://thankyoujimmyfallon.tumblr.com) – so have a good laugh.
Thank you, salad tongs, or as Shaq calls you, tweezers.
Thank you, dolls, for being one missing eye away from being the creepiest thing ever.
Thanks you, hors d’oeuvres, for being appetizers that moved to France and got all snooty.
I wonder what it would look like for followers to say “thank you” to their leaders. What would they say? Sarcastic ones like Fallon’s might sound like this:
Thank you, leaders, for taking all the credit for our success and still making me feel great about my job.
Thank you, leaders, for caring about my opinion, even though you already made your decision two weeks ago.
Thank you, leaders, for adding 10 hours to my week without adding even 10 dollars to my salary.
Thank you, leaders, for letting me have this little gray cubical in the corner with the flickering white light…I always wanted to know what prison felt like.
It would be much better to hear…
Thank you, leaders, for the sacrifices you make and opportunities you provide, even though it is not part of your job to do so.
Thank you, leaders, for cheering on my success, even when it gets me more attention and recognition than you received.
Thank you, leaders, for listening to my thoughts, ideas and opinions while you are in the decision-making process – especially when you actually use some of them!
Thank you, leaders, for providing an exciting and creative workspace so we can all leverage our creativity and look forward to our time in the office.
Also, I realize as a leader I need to be in the “thank you” business – genuinely. An attitude of gratitude is always inspiring to others. Motivational guru Zig Ziglar built a business around the whole practice of saying thanks. Keep an Attitude of Gratitude
Leaders who really care about followers must recognize they are in the gratitude business – both giving and receiving.
What if your team heard comments like these from you today?
Thanks, Mike, for your provocative and keen insights at yesterday’s team meeting. It challenged me to really think about this from a different perspective. Jenna, I appreciate your willingness to ask hard questions and dig deeper into the problems we have to tackle. Kevin, your reports are timely and accurate – that means a lot to us when we are making such crucial decisions.
What people thank you for is what they remember you for.
For what actions and attitudes might your “followers” say thanks today?
To whom (and for what) can you express thanks today?
Avoid These 5 Big Leadership Mistakes
Not long ago CEO Ron Johnson was fired from JC Penney. Brad Tuttle, who covers business and personal finance for TIME believes there were 5 main reasons.
1) He misread the customer
2) He failed to test ideas in advance before going to market
3) He alienated core customers
4) He did not understand or honor the JC Penney brand
5) He did not respect the JC Penney leadership or culture
If you want to read the online article, click here.
Let’s learn from these leadership mistakes for our teams, groups and organizations.
1) Know your client. Whether you lead a church, auto repair shop, university or grocery store, you had better know who your customer is. A friend of mine is launching a consulting venture. He’s an experienced and successful businessman. But he has worked hard at understanding who his customer is – not hopes to be or can be. But who it is!
What kind of person are you speaking to? What are their struggles and needs? How do they make decisions? How can you serve them (not how do they serve your agenda)?
2) Test big ideas. Untested “big splash” ideas often fail. In the 1968 P&G put “potato chips” in a can – a great idea. Millions tried them, but never bought more. They tasted awful. It was not a potato chip, as expected. It was a snack chip. A simple taste test in key markets would have changed everything. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pringles
A large church asks the congregation to eat only rice, beans and water for a week to understand life in poverty. But many could not participate and felt guilty. These included diabetics, people with illnesses, smaller children, students in rigorous sports, the elderly, and many who labored hours outdoors.
But what if leaders allowed the congregation to come up with ideas, tested them for a few days, and then shared choices – like getting to know a poor person, serving the needy at a shelter, wearing the same clothes all week, eating a limited diet, not brushing your teeth, etc. Pick a way, do it and then tell stories about the experience. They misunderstood the client, and failed to test their idea.
3) Engage your core customer or audience. This is a classic error. The new team of leaders or mid-level managers does not understand the culture, existing staff, key volunteers (in non profits), and the core customer base. Instead of first seeking to understand, they ignore both the customer and key insiders, and basically impose a new vision and strategy on the organization. And it’s a mess. If you have been on the receiving end of this kind of “change” initiative, you know why it failed and why it hurt.
It takes years to recover sometimes. The Penney turnaround will take some time. But if you invest in customers, it will pay off for you and them. Here’s a good HBR article for more info on that.
4) Honor the brand. Customers are more important than your brand. But the brand is important. There is a reason the organization has come this far. Don’t be eager to toss out the past. Even if you have been hired engineer a turnaround, be cautious before dumping a deeply-established brand. Here is how Customer Growth Partners analyst Craig Johnson described what the CEO had done:
“Penney had been run into a ditch when he took it over. But, rather than getting it back on the road, he’s essentially set it on fire.”
Poor management was replaced with mismanagement. The core values behind the brand must be carefully considered before re-branding or initiating great change. “We make children smile” is a brand promise you want to keep if you are a toy manufacturer. But HOW you keep that promise can change. Be wise.
5) Respect the organization. If you have been on the receiving end of a leadership transition, you understand how valuable this is when driving change. The brand, core culture, committed employees and loyal customers must be honored. It does not mean that you pretend it was all good. But you can respect the past as you lead into the future.
Never let your vision sound like, “Ok, I am finally doing something worthwhile here and will fix everything you’ve messed up for 20 years.” You will place yourself in a bigger hole. Celebrate faithful people, recognize previous successes, and tell the stories that highlight core values you want to preserve. It will help you build the relational and strategic capital you’ll need later to introduce real change.
Leadership mistakes are inevitable – but some of them are avoidable. Learn from the mistakes of others. Doing so will limit your own errors and gain you the respect you need to lead well.
What else would you add to the list?
Personal convictions are the seedbed for forging a compelling vision and shaping core values. These convictions must never be generated out of thin air or influenced simply by the latest leadership fad or trend. Somewhere deep down in the gut you will discover some things you believe in – some things that are non-negotiable about life, work, love, faith, relationships, leadership and the world. That is where you will find your Vision & Values.
So here are a series of questions first for Vision discovery and clarification.
1) What does the future look like when things are working extremely well? Not perfectly…that’s idealism. You need a vision that can be rooted in reality. So describe the future when the vision is now a fact. What has changed? What problem have you solved?
2) What does it feel like to be there? You probably have some sense of what it feels like as you imagine your dream coming true. Yes, what are your emotions? What wells up inside you as you see the vision becoming reality – joy, satisfaction, relief, hope, exhilaration, power, or freedom?
3) Who benefits most from the vision becoming reality? Imagine the people your team is serving or helping or providing a quality service to. Will it be children in poverty, adults without meaningful work, people with disabilities, a company without quality management, a non-profit that lacks solid leadership? What is happening in these people and among them? What new world opens up for them because of the vision becoming reality?
4) What change is taking place inside you? How are YOU different because the vision is a reality? What character changes are happening? How are you approaching your work? Have your priorities changed?
KEY VISION RESOURCE: Chapters 5 & 6 of The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner are worth the price of the book – and more – on the process of creating a shared vision.
Now for questions to help shape your core Values
1) What is true for you? This means, deep down inside you, there are things that do not waver – core beliefs that define how you see the world. These may be the result of experiences, values handed down by parents or mentors, religious convictions, or simply things you just know to be true (treating others with respect is the right thing to do.)
2) What makes you sad? This is a way of discovering values by looking through a different lens. When you view the world or work or you organization, what makes you sad? What do you wish would change? This is probably related to a value or belief you hold dear. For example, in a team meeting you see a weaker person get belittled by another member of the team. The strong personality of the culprit crushes the weak spirit of the team member, who does not respond in the moment but feels shame or intimidation. The anger you feel is tied to something you believe about justice, fairness, or perhaps kindness.
3) What brings you joy? Now we flip the coin and look at those events or activities that make you smile. You see a need met, a new product developed, a person helped, an obstacle overcome, a friendship grow or a goal achieved. You smile because something feels good at your core.
4) What gives you energy? Though similar to “what brings you joy?” above, this is a bit different. Yes, energy can be derived from people or events that bring me joy. But energy comes from other sources – adverse circumstances, a challenge, a loss, a unique opportunity, a new friendship, a family event, a kind of work, a new mission. What gives you a “rush” and makes you productive, excited about your work in the world, and givers purpose to your life?
KEY VALUES RESOURCE: Here is a short Forbes article on values-focused leadership by Jansen Kraemer that highlights four core principles leaders can use to lead from a values standpoint.
Answer these questions and record them in your journal. It will help you identify what’s in your gut, what makes you tick. Your personal Vision & Values will get clearer which will also allow you to sharpen the focus of your work and leadership.
So tell me – what are some of the answers to these questions for you? I’d love to hear what makes you tick and what you are giving yourself to!
I am a proponent of a flatter leadership culture. I believe in teamwork, shared responsibility, very little hierarchy and a more collaborative approach. Not only does it work – it works better. While a number of leadership “gurus” continue to act and teach like the Big Dog Leader model is a given (most then are well over age 50), a rising groundswell of leaders are opting out of the model. They are dropping like flies from organizations that thrive on hierarchy and the Command and Control model espoused at most Leadership Conferences.
So I am thrilled to see the changes that are coming. But here’s the question…
Are we – are YOU — ready for shared leadership?
Here are a few things that shared leadership implies. And you might have a few more so join the conversation.
1) Shared leadership means shared blame. Ok, I know that you intellectually agree, but are you willing to take your share of the heat when things get hot? Or even more than your share? When I coach organizations building a flatter leadership structure, the “underlings” are thrilled to be handed an oar or two, to row with the crew. But I wonder if they are just as willing to grab a bucket when the boat takes on water in the storm? Are you willing to take the criticism, the blame for the loss or the downturn, or be confronted about the misfire?
2) Shared leadership means deeper communication more often. The more people involved in a process the more talking you need to do. That might mean more emails, more updates, more quick “check-in” meetings like Lencioni advocates in Death by Meeting. You ready for that?
3) Shared Leadership means longer decision-making. I think this is generally good, but it takes some getting used to. I would advocate that, in the long run, you get better decisions and have less “clean up” to do when the solo leader goes rogue and makes a lousy hire or a bad decision “from the gut” (which is often code for “Let’s do it my way because I’m always right and I am in control). But decisions by a team take longer than solo leadership decisions.
4) Shared Leadership means giving in and sometimes giving up. Of course, “real leaders” NEVER give up. Mandela is a great one to speak to this. In his book “Mandela’s Way” he has a chapter entitled, “Leading from the Back.” You need to read it. It comes after “Leading from the Front” so he is not opposed to being our front at times. But a willingness to step back and let other leaders have their way is an art that requires patience, trust and humility – a quality lacking in many “Big Dog” leaders. Are you ready to play second fiddle…or no fiddle at all?
5) Share Leadership means shared success. Are you ready to share the glory, the rewards, the perks, the status symbols, and the “corner” office(s)? Many are not. If you have worked in a place where many people work longer and harder than the “point leader” but they get the special trips, income, organizational resources, power, freedom, vacation time, public recognition, and “benefit of the doubt” when stuff goes wrong, you know how that feels. It is a real demoralizing situation, especially when they pretend to be “a leader among equals” which again is code for “let’s share the problems but I get the goodies.” So are you willing to share the goodies equally among the leadership team? Even bonuses, and other rewards? We’ll see.
Shared leadership is more than an ideal. It is a commitment to becoming a real community of leaders with mutual accountability, vision, goals, trust, responsibility, blame and rewards.
It takes work, but it is really worth it. The team is stronger, the cause is more compelling, the results last longer and the process of “leadership succession” is virtually seamless, because there is no “mega-leader” to replace with another one. Instead, the team grows, changes, and new leaders are added as others move on. It is driven by much more than a person.
Are you ready for that?
I was talking with my son on the phone about a situation he was facing – a conflict between two members of a group that was affecting the entire group of eight. So, instead of having their regular gathering, the two members plus three from the group gathered to work it out together.
As he described what happened and how they chose to handle it, I realized they were wise about how they approached the situation and resolved it. And it reminded me of some principles of conflict navigation that every team, group and leader should be aware of. I have practiced and taught this for years.
1 – Start Soon: The temptation to avoid conflict often leads to not facing it at all. People put it off so long they figure, “That’s water under the bridge, now. Let’s just move on.” Or they think, “Maybe it will fix itself.” I guarantee that never happens. Don’t let things go on so long that deep-seated feelings and anger start boiling under the lid. The next time there is a disagreement among members this pot is going to blow! You don’t have to act immediately; let emotions calm down, get a clear head, clarify what you want to say, and then in 24-48 hours deal with it.
2- Meet Face to Face: Not email, not texting, not writing a long heart-felt letter. The impersonal approach makes it difficult to have a conversation, read feelings, respond “in the moment” and intercept misperceptions before a long trail of emails or texts gets established. Have a cup of coffee and work it out.
3- Affirm the Relationship: Be genuine and let the other party (or parties) know that you are there for them, you want to restore health to the relationship or team, and that you value them. Name some positive contributions or attitudes you see, and remind them that “You matter to us/me and that is why we need to meet and remove this barrier to our friendship/work.” This let’s them know you really want to work this out and move on. You are not finger-pointing just to “win” or be “right” – rather, you want restoration.
4- Make Observations not Accusations: Avoid “you” language and use “I” language. “You are a liar” is just going to add fuel to the fire. Better to say, “Twice I heard you say that you would make that phone call Tuesday, and now it is Thursday and the client is frustrated. I am concerned about that relationship.” OR, “Yesterday when you and I were arguing I felt attacked for my opinion. I heard you say some very harsh words and it hurt me. We need to talk this through.” Stick with, “I saw, I heard, I felt” language and then let them respond.
5- Get the Facts and Listen: Once you have taken a minute or two to make your comments, listen and ask, “Do you understand what I saw/felt/heard and why that is causing a problem?” Make sure you hear their words as well as their emotions. Clarify, repeat what they are saying to show you are listening, and make an effort to show you understand their side. (Same thing if you are the third party – make sure to two people in conflict have heard each other by making them say what they heard. DO NOT assume they listened, and do not simply ask for a yes-or-no response to the question, “Did you hear what Susan was saying?”
6- Promote Resolution: “Ok, so where do we go from here? Let’s find a way we can move forward. What do you need to take place? Here is what I need.” It may take some time to fully restore a relationship, especially if the conflict was bad and harsh things were don or said. But at least you can get the “issue” resolved, agree to move ahead, and determine a plan for continuing to process the damage, as needed. Avoid the extremes of dragging it out or trying to “clean it all up” in a hurry just because it is painful. You will regret wither approach. Stay in the process and move toward resolution.
Some good resources to use are:
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott – http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_10?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=fierce+conversations&sprefix=fierce+con%2Caps%2C189
Caring Enough to Confront, by David Augsburger
The Story-telling Leader – Transcribed
Hey I was driving in Dallas, Texas consulting with a team there and I was coming to an intersection and it was absolutely one hundred-percent obvious as I went into the intersection that I was going to have a collision, a t-bone kind of collision, and in order to prepare myself for the impact there were some psychological prep that took place but also just a sense of terror as this happened because the car the oncoming lane decided to make a left turn in front of me. So as it did it did it very slowly, that’s what surprised me it wasn’t trying to cut through quickly as I was coming through the intersection of just kind of crept slowly in their SUV through the intersection. It became obvious that I was going to hit them and the person in the car looking out the passenger window knew it was obvious as well, that they were going to be impacted. And then at the last moment something happened it counter intuitive thought that for a moment, and all this happens in a split second, for a moment I basically wanted to dismiss.
But I did pay attention to it and that counter-intuitive thought said, “Don’t break accelerate.” Uh… excuse me because this was probably thirty to forty feet from collision time, I’m doing about thirty or so miles an hour, they’ve just pulled slowly in front of me and frankly that the pavement’s wet from a light rain that had been falling. But that was what ultimately saved me because had hit the brakes I would have slid and had the collision, instead slightly acceleration in a quick turn allowed me to bypass the person and go around them. It was a terrifying moment, the last thing I wanted was an accident or to hurt anyone. But that counter-intuitive thought, that insight, that maybe god moment, whatever it was allow me to makes some change in that particular circumstance.
See I just told you a story it’s a very revealing and compelling story to me. But it’s a story I can use in a number of ways and leaders should use their stories and the stories of their organization to lead. So I’m going to give you 3 or 4 types real quickly of stories that are powerful.
Campfire stories, that’s when you look to the past, the people who’ve been around for awhile say here’s what it was like when I got here, here’s how the organization started, and do you remember when we put this team together two years ago? We were scared; we never thought we could pull this off. Campfire stories go back into the past and remind people of the journey and how you got where you are today.
A second kind of stories is what I call an iconic story. It captures what it is you’re trying to do as a group, a team or an organization. Remember when Mike came into the ER room? He was on the brink of death but because of Sandy doing her job with triage work and because we were able to bring the right technology into the room and because you Stevie anesthesiologist did your work, and Rebecca you brought your surgical experienced to this; you go around the room and you say look because of all that we did he’s alive today or this person’s alive today.
That allows you to see that this is what we exist for and you can take an iconic story in turn it into kind of a third kind of story which is a vision story, though often vision stories come from outside the organization. We tell the story from another group, another team, a book we’ve read, something that says do you see this happening we can be like that so if you see something in another group or organization that you can leverage to inspire your people that’s a vision story those are very powerful.
And the fourth kind is simply what I told earlier, which was a personal story. Personal stories help the leader connect emotionally with their team, can be used for teachable moments like I did in the sense of the encouraging you to pay attention to those counter-intuitive thoughts sometimes. And sometimes they can just simply be humorous, it could be a fun self-effacing story that says hey I’m just like you, I have the same problems and issues and life and you get the connect a little bit more with your people and you lighten the room up a little bit with a humorous story.
A Story-telling Leader can leverage the power of story for their leadership and for the benefit of their group or team organization. Don’t underestimate the power of a story.
We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.