5 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization

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. 

Develop your Team

Leadership

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!

Performer or Leader?

Leadership

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?

Don’t Wait to feel Motivated

Leadership

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. 

7 Ways to Foster an Open Door Policy

Leadership, Organization, Tips, Tricks

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.  

There are many other benefits to having an open door.  If you have any others to add, which I know there are plenty, please feel free to contact me or visit my GearedUp Leadership Facebook page to keep the conversation going. 

7 Ways to be a Great Follower

Leadership

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. 

CommunicateTalk 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.   

AccountableIf 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. 

ManagePrioritizing 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. 

 

 

3 Ways to Stay Sharp as a Leader

Leadership

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.  

 

5 Ways to Help You Lead in a New Environment

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization, Social, Tips, Tricks

It would be naive to think that one leadership or management strategy is going to work exactly the same from environment to environment.  It’s just not that easy.  Every organization, work center, company, and or course, the military will have different ways of operating.  After all, they all have different missions.

I am now working in my fifth work center in the last six years. I didn’t have a full spectrum of the mission or what I’d be doing.  I did have to put my learning cap on and embrace the change. A question that has come to mind lately is how do I lead in an environment that I am unfamiliar with?  After brainstorming with my mentor and close friend I have narrowed down some ways. Here are 5 ways to get your foot in the door into leading in a new environment.

Learn the mission!  You have to know what the overall mission is and you have to know your role in the mission.  Know your limits of responsibility and know your strengths and weaknesses given the new mission.  Everyone has a specific amount of responsibility over their area. Know where your role begins and ends. Ask yourself what you bring to the table? What are you good at and what do you need work at? You will need to self assess your strengths/weaknesses in this new environment. Play your strengths when you are able and learn when you are unfamiliar with the process or directions. Ask questions when you don’t know an answer or a process. It’s okay to ask other agencies how they fit in the mission. You need to see the big picture and not just the area around you. Knowing the mission and knowing your role will ultimately help move the mission forward.

Introductions! Aside from knowing the mission, you have to know the team you’re a part of. In order to work on a team you’ve got to know the team and the team has to know you. First impressions are very important, but we can never truly know someone by a simple greeting.  After personal introductions have been made, lay the foundation of your work ethic. Begin to show your work ethic. This is where people will truly get a sense of who you are. Lead with values, not authority.  Values provide a standard of positive behavior. Use them and add other values that instill a strong work ethic. Get to know how your team members operate. Seek what drives their performance.  Ask them questions about their passions, their family, their background.  Leading is ultimately about taking care of people.  One must know their teammates on a professional and personal level in order to be effective at taking care of them. After all, leadership is about taking care of people. Know your team!

Be proactive, not reactive!  Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do something.  Take initiative in your area.  Seek out and find what needs to be done or what could be done.  There is always someone who needs help.  Go ask them if you can help or if there is anything you can do to help.  If you know what needs to be done, do it.  If you don’t, then ask someone what you can do to contribute. This is why knowing the mission is important.  It will give you an idea on what needs to be done.  When you’re proactive you stay ahead of the game.  Doing so can often help save you and others time in the future. Being proactive means you’re prepared.  No one likes the feeling of being unprepared. Take initiative every chance you get!  It may lead to some great opportunities! Nothing is more satisfying to a supervisor than seeing a subordinate take charge.  This not only tells them you have a great work ethic, but that you are capable of leading. Be proactive!

Communicating clearly.  Communication is a very hard skill to master.  For someone to put thoughts or an idea into words, or better yet, action, it can be quite difficult if you don’t understand how each member of your team listens or learns.  To clearly get your objectives across to your team can be very delicate.   Make sure you take time to get the correct words down before you speak your objectives/tasks/ideas, etc. The precision of your communication can make or break the success of your team.  And always make sure that your team members know to ask questions if they don’t clearly understand the objective.  That is also another part of communication.  It’s a two way street.  Ensure you communicate clearly and ensure your team knows how to seek answers from you by asking. Listening and hearing are two different things.  Listening is an audible action, hearing what’s said is the process of information into a structured concept.  Communicate clearly so that your point is heard.

Be willing to learn!  A leader’s job isn’t to know all of the answers.  Leaders must show they are willing to learn from their team members.  Listening and learning from the members on the team builds trust.  When teams learn from each other it strengthens their ability to adapt to overcome challenges. It creates a teamwork environment.  When leaders and members of the team are open to learning from each other it also creates a culture of learning.  Learning is how we grow.  Show them that if you can, they can.  Learn together!

12 Things to Remember as a Leader

Leadership

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…

My First Deployment: A Joint Environment – 4 Leadership Lessons

Leadership

I was on vacation in Texas with my wife and daughter.  We were vising family, enjoying being away from our normal routine in Colorado.  My Superintendent calls and says, well, I have some bad news.  You’ve been hit with a deployment.

Nothing really bad about it, just wasn’t expecting to get tagged as I just got to the unit 6 months prior.  It happens, I’ve been tagged with less time on station before, but it got canceled. What do you do when you’re tasked to deploy? You begin to prepare and roll with the punches. 

Four months later I got on a plane and flew out of the US for the first time in my life.  Was I nervous?  Yes!  I wasn’t being tasked with a group of people.  I was alone and I didn’t know what to expect.  After almost missing my international flight, I was finally able to relax on a long 9 hour flight to Zurich and then another 9 hour flight to Muscat, Oman.  You see, this was no ordinary report to an Air Force base and begin your time. There was no base.  There were no dorms. There were no chow halls. There was the Embassy. I was tasked to work at a U.S. Embassy. I didn’t even know such a tasking existed.  No one ever talks about this sort of tasking.  It was going to be interesting.

This was a joint environment. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force.  I was around other branches actively for the first time in my career.  What do you do when you find yourself learning the culture of other branches? You become a sponge and start learning the best you can. Sadly, I just wasn’t up to par on how other branches operate.  I highly respect my brothers and sisters in arms from other branches, but I honestly don’t know much about the other branches.  I was not only about to learn a new position, but I was about to learn how to work with other services on a different level than the usual operations that I was accustomed to in the Air Force.

If you know me, I don’t take part in anything without trying to learn something about leadership.  Thus, after 20 hours of flying back home, reflecting and analyzing what I just did for the last six months I have narrowed down the lessons I’ve learned while working in a joint service environment.

Teamwork makes the dream work.  When you combine multiple cultures into one culture, things can get tough. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different terminology, different skills and everyone had different missions that contribute to the overall mission. We all had our own missions to do, but when someone needed the assistance from someone else, you had their attention. When you have the cooperation of others that agree on the same solution while striving for a shared/common goal, you get success.  I learned that when you need help to make progress, find out who the subject matter expert is on the team so they can bring their skills to the court.  You can’t win alone.  Use your team when necessary.  Leaders don’t lead because they know all of the answers, they lead knowing that diversity is a great team asset.  Teamwork is viable and valuable. If you can’t take another step, someone on your team will be able to help you take it.  Leaders utilize their team members effectively.

The right environment makes a difference.  I was the lowest ranking member in the office.  In fact, we only had three enlisted members in the office.  Everyone else was an officer.  As the new guy in the office learning not only about the job, but the people and their mission, I was a sponge taking in information on a level I’ve never known.  Given that it was a joint environment, the people around me helped me learn, at my pace, how they operated and how they contributed to the mission.  They didn’t get frustrated that I didn’t know certain processes or procedures, but they adjusted as needed to fit my learning needs.  They didn’t expect me to know everything.  They created an environment of progress and learning.  Adjusting to a new position was going to take a little time. Leaders are adaptable.  They are able to change approaches on a whim.  I am thankful for the officers who were patient with me as I learned about my job, learned about them and learned about the whole mission.  They helped me learn effectively and they taught me effectively. The environment, in a way, changed to fit my knowledge, but yet remained in a progressive state.  I believe if I entered a work environment that demanded instant knowledge, instant responses, instant right answers that I would have been overly stressed making the office a place I didn’t want to be in.  I’m thankful to learn the importance of culture in a joint level. An effective work culture contributes to the effectiveness of the office. The people can make that happen and it’s people that should make that happen. Leaders are adaptable and create environments fit for growth.

Communication is key for any team to function.  There were some days where everyone was in the office and some days where only a few remained in the office.  Communication goes a long way and without communication no team can function fluidly.  We had meetings Sunday morning and Thursday afternoon.  Sunday morning was a time to say, hey, here is what is going on this week.  Thursday was a time to reflect on what happened during the week as preparation for the next.  Although, at first, I really didn’t see the need for two meetings a week, but looking back, these meetings were very important. Even though, I had a small role in them, for the big picture, they were crucial. This was the time where we all came together in one room to talk through issues and how we were going to fix them. This wasn’t a time just for updates, but this was a time to communicate.  Communication was the driving force for this.  Everyone had their chance to speak and everyone had a chance to listen, learn, provide feedback, and provide ideas/suggestions.  Without this circle of communication, getting everyone on the same page would take a lot more effort and time.  I’ve been through many staff meetings and some seem like a waste of time, lack purpose and boring.  I began to look at these meetings as the chance to communicate. As everyone had their own agenda during the week and turned many pages, this time allowed everyone to sync up and get on the same page.  Communication was key in making this happen. Leaders communicate. 

You’ve got to have balance! When you’re away from your family during the holidays, it can take a hit on your spirit and your morale. The best thing about this deployment was that when we weren’t at work, we weren’t working. Haha. The people around me would always have something going on that allowed us to hang out, relax, and keep the morale up. Weather it was a camping trip, a hiking trip, a site seeing trip, or even just going out to eat, it was an important time to balance the week out.  Balance is very important even when you’re not deployed.  Although, I wasn’t around my family, we became like a family. We made sure there was a time for fun. It wasn’t forced, like “mandatory fun,” it was genuine fun.  I find that foreign in our culture sometimes. We try to force it with fun runs, BBQs, etc. Sometimes the best thing to do is provide the opportunity and those who want to show up can voluntarily show up.  Balance helped me stay positive and grateful.  I met awesome people and I’m grateful they provided the opportunity to have a little fun while being away from my family. Leaders provide balance.