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.
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.
Communication is one if not the most important part of being in a team and or being a leader/supervisor. You’ve probably heard dozens of times from your new boss or your supervisor that they have an open door policy. An open door literally and metaphorically. What that means is that their door is open for you to openly communicate about ideas, problems, information, etc. It’s a simple idea and a very important avenue for bringing up issues as well as solutions among other things. Sometimes it may just be to make small talk. That three minute discussion on the weather is more important than you may realize. How often is the phrase I have an open door policy really used to its greatest potential? I am a firm believer in solving issues at the lowest level possible, but there may be certain cases where the leader/supervisor must be in the know on what’s going on. In the specific cases of needing to speak to your leader/supervisor anyone should and must feel safe approaching their leadership to discuss matters. In reality, issues or no issues, everyone should feel comfortable approaching their leadership. Here are a few ways you, as a leader, can remove the hinges from the door and encourage, build and provide a place for open communication.
Small talk – If the door was never opened you will need to create the culture in which your team knows they can come speak with you. In order to build an environment for open communication you must initiate in some way the idea that talking is good for the team. Making small talk builds the comfort level so that everyone is comfortable talking. As a leader, engaging first is important. Topics can be anything. Sports, whether, news, movies, etc. This shows your team that talking with leadership can be quite normal. Often, team members feel as if talking with their leaders is foreign and unnatural. Which is usually a sign of a disconnection between leaders and their teams. If you’re building an open door relationship everyone must feel welcome and it must become a normal feeling. Build that trust and comfort level with small talk.
Put the nerf gun away – Plain and simple. Don’t shoot the messenger. If people are fearful of your reaction to them bringing you information they’ll never want to speak to you when critical issues come up. Allow them to say what they need to say without putting blame on the person bringing you the newspaper. The purpose of an open door is to foster and encourage your team members to come to you. Put the nerf gun away, you won’t need it.
You have two ears and one mouth – I heard this in a church sermon once. You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak. If someone is approaching you with any dilemma, you should first listen. Listen intently and with your utmost attention. Perhaps the occasion doesn’t require a lengthy response. It may just require your blessing with a simple, yes or no. Whatever the case, listen first without distraction. Turn to the person speaking whether you’re standing up or sitting down so that they know they have your attention. Put down the electronic devices, perhaps even turn off your computer screen to avoid looking at it. In any instance, listen.
Everyone’s time is valuable – It is difficult to have an open door open every minute of every day. You certainly want open communication, but at the same time you don’t need to be interrupted a hundred times a day. In this case, leave the door open anyway. Let’s face it, as a supervisor and leader of a team, your time matters just as theirs does. You will be busy and there may be times when you may not have a moment to stop what you’re doing. In this case, if you are busy and you can’t provide your undivided attention set up a time that allows enough time for discussion. Don’t just tell the person no, or you can’t talk, but explain to them why you can’t talk that moment and that it’s not because you don’t want to. Setting specific open hours dedicated to listening to your team may be something you have to do. It’s okay to do that. It will give your team members time to form their thoughts so they can bring it to you in an organized manner.
Empower your team – It’s probable that not ever problem needs immediate elevation to the leader or supervisor. Ensure that your team knows that solving the issues at the lowest level is important. Empower your team members to make decisions that are within their area of responsibility. An effective team works together. Encourage innovation and information sharing including ideas. The solution may rest within another team member and may not need to be elevated. Fostering open communication between team members is just as important as the communication with leaders.
When your door is open you can walk out too – Along the line of the team using each other’s skills in the group to resolve issues, you should do the same. Your team matters. Sometimes you may have an issue that you just can’t solve by yourself. Instead of going to your leadership, if any, go to your team. Your team can help you. That’s what they’re there for. Asking for their help ultimately removes the hinges from the door. Imagine how you feel when someone walks into your office and needs your help. You feel good. You feel valuable. Your team needs to feel that as well. When you open the door, the door is open from both sides. Feel free to walk into their office.
Know your people – There may be days when no one needs to talk, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to know if your team members need to talk. Knowing your people will help you see and know if something is up with any of them. If it’s personal most people won’t come forward right away, but an open door policy includes personal issues. You may not be an expert in the problem, but allowing them to vent may be the thing they need. Get to know your team members. Use feedback sessions to talk a bit about them. Use small talk to learn facts about them. The better you know them the better you can lead them.
At the end of the day if your team isn’t coming to you for any reason you need to reassess why. Great leaders are great communicators which means communication should be a fluid action. Ensure that above all, as a leader, you have an open door that fosters an environment for creativity, idea flow, information sharing, trust, and growth.
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.
When the new IPhone comes out all you have to do is have enough money and stand in a line to get it. Once in hand you have adapted to the newest technology. If only leaders could stay ahead of the culture the same way as buying something. Unfortunately, teams evolve and environments change. It’s hard to keep the edge up, but we must adapt. One must continually develop their talent and skills in order to keep up with the culture around them. It’s not a question of if you should, it’s necessary. You must be adaptable as a leader. Over the last few years I’ve found a few key elements that have helped me stay sharp as a leader so that when I do enter a new environment or the team changes I am prepared to adjust as needed to lead those around me.
1. Balance – Stress is nobody’s friend. The more stressed you are the higher chance you have at making mistakes. Stress takes a number on the body as well. Knowing when to take a break can relieve stress. This is why being resilient is so important. Resiliency is the ability to cope, adjust and recover from stresses or adversity. We live in a go, go, go society and the standard for working overtime is well, fairly normal. It may be necessary at times to put in the extra hours, but how many extra hours are we putting in when it’s not necessary?
The human body wasn’t meant to work 12 hours a day. We created that standard. We’re maybe not even meant to work 8 hours a day. Whatever the case, time for yourself and your family is always necessary for staying balanced with work and your personal life. Everyone handles stress differently, but it’s safe to say the best way to relieve stress is to not work. Ensure you prepare time for you. Work will always be there. It can take time to find the balance you need to remain at the top of your game, but there is a balance.
2. Professional Development/Mentor – Every goal I have reached I can rewind back and point out at least one person who helped me get there. Not everyone will be a mentor, but it’s beneficial to have one. I have a few mentors and anytime I need advice about a decision, or another perspective on a situation, I ask them. Think of them like a trusted adviser. Ensure you pick a mentor that knows a little about what you’re going through. They must have experience and knowledge about the path you’re pursuing. Mentors help you grow, they help you progress in your career goals and they can be great coaches. Find a mentor that can be there for you, but don’t forget that a mentor and mentee relationship is reciprocal. It’s a two way street.
Mentors will help develop you into the person you have the potential to be. Having a mentor is one form of professional development, but there are other things you may need to do in order to get the development you need. I spend much of my time reading. I gain a lot of insight from reading books about topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation, and psychology. Hearing other people’s stories and advice can help you understand specific areas of interest. I also attend seminars, participate in book clubs, Twitter chats, and discussion sessions on specific topics. Whatever you can do to further your knowledge and understanding of a topic, or area of interest should be something you do continually and consistently. Never stop learning and never stop growing.
3. Self-Awareness (strengths/weaknesses) – Have you ever handled a situation with your weaknesses? No. Of course not. You take things head on with strengths, but you’ve got to know them in order to know how and when to use them. You must be self-aware of what you’re good at and what you need improvement on. Most of us can’t point out our weaknesses because we don’t operate with them. For me, someone pointed them out to me. I received feedback which is a great way to help learn them. You can also take a personality test or a strength/weakness test to hone in on each. Above all, you’ve got to put the work in. For anyone joining a team, self-awareness is a great place to begin. There will always be strengths and weaknesses and you get better with each with practice, knowledge and understanding. Play your strengths and develop your weaknesses.