One of my Twitter followers shared a quote the other day by Napoleon Bonaparte that says, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” It even had a nice picture with it. I thought quite a bit on that quote and I have to respectfully disagree. Leaders are actually not dealers in hope at all.
Hope can be defined as wishful thinking. A feeling or an expectation of a desired outcome. Though the idea sounds good, it can be quite dangerous to give someone hope when there is no data to back it up. It can also be a hinderance when you hope someone gets something done and then they don’t do it.
Hope involves too many what ifs. You wouldn’t lead your team with what ifs, would you? I wouldn’t.
Risk is similar to hope. It’s an uncertainty, but risk can typically be measured. Hope is not measurable.
“Hope is not a sustainable strategy.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine
We can’t create a strategy with hope as our driving fuel. We don’t have the time, resources, or manpower to take chances on such outcomes. Putting your strategy on hope is foolish and a gamble. Leaders do not gamble outcomes nor do they gamble their team’s future. People are too valuable for wishful thinking or planning.
“Make the goal expectations specific, measurable and trackable.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine
Leaders do, however deal with goal expectations that are specific, measurable and trackable for the positive growth of their team, organization and culture. Don’t give your team a false sense of outcomes. We need to give them clear visions(goals). If you gave someone hope and that hope didn’t play out like you expected, what would that do to the trust they have in you? Give people visions(goals) that are reachable and realistic in order to help them be better, do better and know better. At least that way, if things fail, the path is trackable to know where things went wrong.
Failing the mission. Team disfunction. Loss of resources, time, money, and people. These are all outcomes when leading. It’s scary to step into the role of a leader. Once you have decided to care for others the people and the mission become your responsibility. It’s terrifying knowing that the decisions you make could hinder the mission or the people around you. And if everything does go south, all fingers could point to you.
There is risk in leading, but that’s what makes a leader a leader. They understand things may not always work out and that the outcome is never guaranteed. Leaders take on the risk in order to achieve success, but they make decisions using their knowledge and experienced combined with the team’s knowledge and experience to make wise decisions. Leveraging the power of the team is necessary to reduce the risk. Leaders do this constantly and consistently.
Bottom line, it’s going to be scary. It’s going to be challenging and it’s going to be tough. There is no avoiding it. The greatest part about risk is that when it works right everybody wins! Innovation requires risk and without leaders pushing the boundaries of the line between failure and success innovation will not occur.
There is purpose to why we spend so much time developing our leadership abilities. The more prepared we are the higher chance we have at succeeding. The approach to risk always has the same liabilities, but the action to challenge it gets easier every time you take risk. It’ll never feel perfect or guaranteed, but the fear, the uncertainty goes away because you know it has to happen. People need to grow and the mission needs to be accomplished. We can’t halt everything just because we have to face a decision with risk.
Keep in mind risk will come in many forms, but don’t approach it alone. Use your team, the mission and the values that guide the culture to overcome it.
I’m a millennial and all of the stereotypes you hear about us being entitled, selfish, lazy, uninspired is quite well, I guess you could say “doesn’t apply to all.” Maybe it does apply to some millennials. Maybe even most, but could it apply to other generations? Yes, it could.
I believe millennials want to see purpose in what they’re being told to do. They want to remove the “do more with less” mentality. Why is it always more with less? Why can’t it be do what’s possible with what you have?
Do millennials question what they do? I believe so. I certainly do, but it’s not to avoid doing it. It’s to question why it’s done this way when perhaps another way could be better. Easier. More resourceful. I mean, isn’t that what innovation is about? After all, didn’t that mentality birth the technology boom?
My work ethic is found on the same values of many previous generations. I believe in working hard for the things I want and deserve. I believe in contributing. The world doesn’t owe me anything. I owe it. Why? Because we were never born to work individually. We were born to thrive as a team and with that, my attitude, my purpose is to help others be better, do better and know better. Life isn’t about me. It happens because of me and selfishness is not a normal operation of our hearts. It’s created and cultured from people who think of only themselves first. A toxic way to live. My children will learn to put others first even when others’ desire is to take, take, take. When my eulogy is read I will not be known as the dude that only thought about himself above others. What a horrible way to be remembered, but yet, there are those who choose to live that way.
What does this have to do with millennials? Perhaps we’ve been trying to contain them into a society that doesn’t want change. A culture content with how things are. Perhaps the millennials have it right and the rest of the world has it wrong. We’ve evolved this far. Why stop here? Millennials are the future leaders. Regardless if you think they feel entitled, you have to lead them. YOU have to be selfless and help develop them to be successful when they do transition into leading. When they question things, educate them. When they have ideas, listen to them. When they challenge the status quo, learn from a viewpoint that isn’t yours. Use their perspective and strengths to mold them into leaders.
So we have some, maybe most, that really do want bean bags in the office and free stuff, but their capability is no different than any other generation. I’m not trying to justify those that really do act selfishly and feel entitled, but there are some us that don’t act in ‘that’ way.
Leadership is universal. It applies to every generation and no matter what a generation is like, leadership could be the answer to moving them forward. So lead well.
Ask any person walking with a cell phone who Steve Jobs is and they’ll tell you. They wait in line for hours to buy the next IPhone. They hear smartphone and IPhone is the image that comes to mind. Steve Jobs left the world with a product that is now a part of every day life.
Most people are aware of his innovative approach to technology, business and how he made people better. I find Steve Jobs to be one of those most influential, inspiring and innovative people in this generation. I have listened to Steve Job’s Crazy Ones speech at least 500 times. It gives me purpose. It inspires me. It opens possibilities that we are all better than we allow ourselves to be.
As a leadership enthusiast, I want to point out some of my favorite quotes from Jobs that have inspired me to be a better leader. We need to understand that Steve wasn’t just a brilliant innovator, but he was also a leader.
“What leadership is is having a vision and being able to articulate that so that the people around you can understand it.” – Steve Jobs
If anyone is going to make that first step into leading, they MUST have vision. Leaders must know where they’re taking their team. Leading people implies we are going somewhere. Leading implies we have a goal/objective to accomplish. Leaders must create a vision to accomplish that goal. Call it a plan, a path, an idea, but communicate it in such a way that your team can see what you see. Communicate that vision clearly, concise and easy enough for their followers/team to understand. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to understand. When we understand things, we get the full spectrum of what it is we’re about to do. Thus, a leader must paint a vision so that their team can see it too.
“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” – Steve Jobs
Leaders invest in people. That’s what they do naturally. They make people better. Steve Jobs nails it. A leader’s job isn’t to be easy on people, it’s to make them better. If we’re going to invest in people, let’s make it count for them. A leader must be honest with their team. If a team member needs a wake up call, hold them accountable to the values and standards that are set in place. It’s a leader’s job to coach, mentor and guide their team members to not only be better, but do better and know better. Don’t forget that a leader focuses on people. They are in a way, our soul purpose for being a leader. We don’t just want to make them better, but also want to make them leaders.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs
Leaders want to know that what they’re doing is working. They want to know that their leadership is effective. They want to know that their vision is being carried out and that progress is being made. There is only one way to check how you and your team is doing and that’s by stopping to assess where the team is and how they have been performing. You can’t look forward to see that, you must look behind you to see how far the team has gone. Looking back provides an opportunity to grow from your experience, the failure, the perseverance, the challenges you’ve faced and so on. It’s important that we look back to connect the dots, but don’t forget that more dots need to be made. Don’t focus too much on the past, but look to the future. Leading is about where we’re going, but we must learn and progress from where we’ve been.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
Think from the follower’s perspective. Followers want amazing leaders leading them. Leaders must be that quality that followers are looking for. I’ll say this in the nicest way, but followers don’t need a half-ass leader. They need someone who is of the utmost quality. The quality of the leaders depends on the follower’s development, progress and effectiveness. Leaders will always have a high standards of excellence for their team and their work environment. A leader cares about how things are done. They expect high quality results. They expect high quality performance. As a follower, be selective on who you follow. Who you follow is not only important for the objectives and goals, but also important for the followers. A leader will raise the bar for the benefit of their followers. They see your potential and will ensure that you are growing to meet it.
“Innovation distinguishes between and leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
This may be one of those most recognized quotes from Steve Jobs. Some people have yet to understand the correlation between innovation and leadership, but it’s quite simple. Innovation isn’t just an action, but being innovative is seeing outside the box. Like innovators, leaders also see outside the box. Leadership and innovation are actions of a decision to not accept the normality of how people and products are grown. Leaders see around corners in ways that others don’t see. They are strategic, they are creative, they are risk takers and they certainly don’t fear failure. It’s very important for leaders to see things in ways other people don’t. A leader isn’t a leader because they have all the answers; a leader is a leader because if they don’t know an answer, they find or create their own solution to any challenge or issue.
If you could strategically pick people to create the ultimate team would the people on your team now make the cut? If they would, why would they? If not, why wouldn’t they? If they could do the same, would you be on the team?
Teams are the life blood of organizations. They provide results, growth and function. We often don’t assess the team as if it’s a one person with many different abilities. We identify a team as a group of individuals with many talents. Most people on the team will play to their strengths. It’s natural that we step forward when we are familiar with something that we know. Our weaknesses on the other hand often go unplayed and undeveloped. We’ve all heard the phrase, “A team is strong as its weakest link.” Another way to look at it is one person’s weakness becomes the team’s weakness.
Sometimes people don’t know what their weaknesses are. It takes feedback from others to point them out. How well do you provide feedback as a team? Have you sat collectively as a team and talked about your weaknesses? If not, why not? Every team needs to have a 360 degree view of what they’re capable of being.
The only way to grow as a team is to learn as a team and develop as a team. Sure, it does take individual parts to move and do so, but above all, if you’re going to be a team then develop as a team. Growing together strengthens the team. One of the hardest things to do is take a diverse group of people and work together in one direction. A successful team crosses the finish line together. Win or lose.
As a leader, what are you doing to help develop the team? Are you providing feedback when necessary? Are you not only improving weaknesses, but identifying potential? Leadership is essential to the progression of any team. Without even saying it most people know the leader on their team. Are you that leader? If so, what are you doing to help develop your team? It would be awesome to be able to strategically pick your ultimate team, but you don’t need to in order to have a great team. You can create the ultimate team by investing in your current team’s development!
One of the hardest things to do is assess a person’s performance via paper and determine if they are ready to lead. Having all the right words may seem like the person is fit to lead, but how often is it wrong?
Most organizations require some sort of evaluation report on their employees. This helps determine how well the employee is progressing and to see what they have accomplished. What one person sees as high quality another person may see as mediocre depending on the set standards. It’s subjective. Perspective plays a big part in how we see people even when we define standards on paper.
This is why paper(evaluation) isn’t always best for capturing an individual’s performance. The idea is performance on paper will match the person’s actions. Simple, right? If only. I’d like to think that all organizations want great leaders, but how detailed and accurate does paper capture a person’s ability to lead? Would you rather have a high performer or a leader? It’s safe to say great leaders are high performers. Which ones are organizations really promoting?
The evaluation tells what was done and who it impacted, but doesn’t usually include how well they lead the team. We automatically see the results as the most important factor. A person could have lead a project to the end, but during that may have neglected the team. Sure, the results may have been great, but at the expense of improperly leading the team? Hard to say from a few words, right? Would the team choose to work with that person again? Even though the team may have done an amazing job doesn’t mean the leader led effectively.
What if a person lead a project and failed to meet the suspense, but brought together a team that seemed unlikely to work together? How would you capture that person’s ability to bring a team together when the project yielded negative results? Would the focus be on the inability to complete a project, or the ability to bring together people?
How do we transpose performance quality into leadership capability? Some people are great workers. They clock in and clock out and may have great performance, but can they actually lead? In an ideal world we have an infinite number of effective leaders, but realistically, we have far less.
Overall, don’t mistake high performance for leadership ability. Not all high performers have what it takes to lead. They just have what it takes to get a job done. Performing a task, or doing your job and leading are two different things. Performing is task focused, or job focused. Leading is getting people from point A to point B as effectively and efficiently as possible while ensuring they have proper resources, development, care and guidance. There are those that want to do their job and go home and there are those that take care of others along the way. Either way, the job will get done, but who would be the most valuable player? The person who cares only about the job or the person who cares about the people doing the job? One of them is a leader, one of them isn’t.
Which one are you?
I started this blog in August 2016 and forgot I was writing it. It was in my draft folder pretty much written, I just never scheduled a post. I don’t pretend to know everything about this topic, but this is my perspective on motivation. I believe we’re putting too much emphasis on the feeling of motivation that we forgot that it’s beyond a feeling.
One thing is certain. No matter if we want to do it or not, the job has to be done. If you’re waiting to feel motivated to do it are you delaying the mission? In that, what’s the point of feeling motivation when tasks need to be complete? Do we need to feel motivated to do our jobs? If you don’t have the desire(the feeling of wanting to do something) to do something that needs to be done that’s not called being unmotivated. It’s called procrastinating.
Most people perceive motivation as a feeling. A desire to do something. There are days you may wake up and “don’t feel like it,” but you get up and do things because they need to be done. If you’re waiting to feel ready, that feeling may never come.
I believe in excellence. It’s an important value to live by. I believe my focus on doing things with the upmost quality is my motivation. Do I need it to provide a high quality result? Yes, I do! Why? Because excellence is a part of my personal values and the thought of feeling motivated just won’t cut it. Motivation is also a reason someone acts. Reasons are tangible. They’re not feelings. I like to think of it as purpose. It is a purpose! When I have purpose, I have a goal. I have a target. Do I feel like waking up every day at 0500? No, but I have a sense of ‘why’ I need to get out of bed and it gets me out of bed every morning. Feelings have nothing to do with it. If people took action based off the feeling of motivation, they may be in bed all day. Our culture is groomed to think motivation is specifically a feeling. It’s not necessarily correct.
There will always be purpose, though. There will always be a reason for the things we do. A mission. A task. A goal. This is the bigger picture. Feelings may never come, but purpose always exists. Purpose is the light in darkness that provides a direction to the finish line. If you don’t know the purpose, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means you have to find it.
For those of you who will remain waiting for that feeling I challenge you to take action anyway because the work still needs to be done regardless of our desire(feeling). Sometimes the mission doesn’t allow a delay. The mission still requires you to do your job regardless if you want to or not. The next time your team needs you, be there for them. Provide your experience and knowledge not because you ‘feel’ like it or not, but because it’s the right thing to do. Forget about feeling motivated. Be motivated because of the role(the purpose) you play on your team. You are important and people need you.
We hear a lot about developing leaders, but how often do you hear about developing followers? I believe a great leader was once a great follower. It’s important for all leaders to understand the perspective of their followers. If we want our teams to be successful not everyone can be a leader. Teams require followers. We all can be great followers. What does being a great follower mean? It means being the best you can, doing the best you can and knowing all you can while pursuing a task or a goal with a team. There are many characteristics, skills and abilities of followers. The list below is not the end all be all to great followership, but it is a great start. If you would like to contribute to this list, please let me know.
Communicate – Talk with your teammates, not at them. Listen to understand and not to debate. Be open to hearing ideas and have courage to give ideas. Provide feedback appropriately and in the right environment. Communicate up, down, left and right. There is a time to absorb information and a time to ask questions. Ensure you execute each of these clear and concise. Keep the lines of communication open. If an issue comes up, talk about it. Inform your leader of any challenges that may be happening. A great follower communicates.
Accountable – If you make a mistake, own it. Don’t pass blame or try to justify a reason why it wasn’t your fault. Integrity isn’t about doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also about telling someone you did something wrong when no one was watching. Hold your teammates accountable too, but don’t do it with the intent to cause tension. Do it educationally for both of you. There is always a proper way to provide feedback, which is why communication is important. A great follower is accountable.
Manage – Prioritizing is how we determine what needs to be done first and what can be done last. Management also includes time. Time management is a very important factor when working on any task. If you’re the veteran on the team prioritizing may be easy, but if you’re new you may need to ask which tasks are most important. Asking questions will help you be a better manager. A great follower knows how to manage.
Contribute – If you’re going to be on a team be a team player. Sounds easy enough, right? Contribute what you can when you can. In order to contribute effectively you must know your strengths and weaknesses. Play your strengths and improve your weaknesses. If someone needs help do your best to provide it. I believe it was Simon Sinek that said, “If you want to change to world show up to give.” I believe what he meant by this is contribute what you can to making things better and that includes people and teams. Also, don’t just contribute when asked, you should seek to serve. Find opportunities to help others. A great follower contributes.
Solutions – We all can point out problems. They’re usually easy to spot. The hardest part about problems is that they need solutions. Pointing out problems and not providing solutions to them can make it sound like you’re just complaining. If you’re going talk about a problem, provide a solution for it. If you don’t have a solution, seek feedback from others that may have an idea. A great follower provides solutions.
Adaptable – No one really likes changes, but it happens. Be an early adopter to change, not a laggard. Change may stick and it may not, but don’t be the person that is resisting it. Resisting change is going against the grain. It’s not just important to survive in your environment, but it’s important you thrive and the only way to do that is to adapt to the changes around you. Just like in a football game. If one team calls an audible, the other team must adapt to it. Our challenges can sometimes be our audible and we must learn to adapt to accomplish them. A great follower is adaptable.
Enthusiastic – It’s hard to put on a smile 24/7, especially if something personal is going on, but being positive and in good spirits is a great healthy way to work. It keeps the mood positive between teammates and drives motivation upward. With the help of managing the balance of your work and personal life you can create a positive vibe that others can feed off of. Negativity can affect your performance and others. Performance issues can create more issues. Be positive and have a great attitude. A great follower is enthusiastic.
Let’s face it, everyone will need to be led differently. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to leadership. At least, that’s what I believe. I do believe that effective leaders will find ways that help them be more effective for the benefit of the team and their followers. Will it always work? It depends how much care, effort and work you put into it. Some followers may be susceptible to the approach of their leader, some may not. It’s okay, that’s why it’s important for leaders to improve a variety of skills and abilities.
Whatever you can do to make people, your team, do better, know better and be better then that is your job. To inspire, to motivate, to coach, to mentor, whatever it takes. It’s not just about evaluating their performance to progress the team, it’s also about seeking out their potential. You’ve got to challenge them and grow them. Don’t leave them where they are, take them to the next level of where they need to be. Leadership is also a two way street. There will be times when you step back and listen. Receive the feedback. Listen to what your team needs to progress and how they feel. Yes, emotions matter. People have emotions and it’s important you understand them and not just know them. Understanding something and knowing something is two different things. The better you understand their emotions the better you can lead them.
Use your team’s abilities and learn from them. Learning is important for a leader. A leader isn’t a leader because they know every answer. It’s okay to not have the answer. When your team sees that you’re honest about it, they’ll trust you. They’ll see you as approachable. Leaders must be approachable. When you’re approachable, your team will come to you when they need help. This in a way removes fear. This is good. This will assist you in accomplishing the goals of the team. Every team needs a destination. If there is no destination then there is no need to progress and the work you do would seem meaningless. Leadership implies we’re going somewhere. It’s important that leaders know where to take the team.
Lastly, leadership isn’t always focused on what seems to be the good stuff. Leaders have to make the tough decisions. You have to hold people accountable. People will make mistakes and that’s okay, it happens, but don’t let mistakes become the normal. If you don’t hold people accountable, the work culture can be jeopardized and can work backwards from where you’re going. Don’t forget, leadership is about people not processes. Processes need to be managed. People need to be lead. Ret Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “You manage things, you lead people.”
Remember these things and that it won’t be easy. Those who care to put the effort in to help people be better, know better and do better are often the leaders we need. Fill the need…