Leaders are not dealers in hope

Leadership

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. 

As I was reading The Culture Engine by S. Chris Edmonds, I came across a few quotes that I felt are powerful. 

“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. 

5 Ways You’re Failing as a Leader

Leadership

We all know a bad leader from a good one.  It’s like a superpower.  We just know.  How well a leader leads can sometimes hinder the culture of the organization and or performance of the team. 

How often do we call out what leaders are doing wrong?  How do we know what to look for?  It’s tough to identify every detail leaders do wrong, but there are some more common than others.  

As a leader you have to evaluate how you’re leading.  The more trust the team has the stronger the team is.  If you were to fall, you would want someone there to pick you up, right?  If you reach your hand out, would your team be there to lift you up? A successful team works together and you are a part of that team.  Here are what I feel are five ways you could be failing as a leader.

You devalue your team members.  Every team is diverse to some capacity.  Each person brings a set of skills and experience to the table.  A bad leader overlooks talent and experience and undervalues their team members.  Teams are not things.  They are people.  You can’t see people as objects.  They hold a different value.  They are the life force of any organization.  Never underestimate the power of your team.  Diversity is a great team asset.  Teams work best when they are used to the best of their abilities.  A great leader values  the abilities of their team members.

It’s your way and only your way.  This aligns with the value of the team.  Plain and simple, not every decision has to be made from you nor does every idea have to generate from you.  Part of a leader’s job is to grow others into leading.  You can’t do that when you’re the only person making decisions or providing ideas.  You have to allow others to contribute as well.  If you don’t use your team you will end up losing your team. A great leader provides the opportunity for others to contribute. 

You don’t listen. Communication is a two way street.  Your team members may have great ideas and solutions.  Sometimes the best solutions come from those around you, but you’ve got to listen.  Listening is crucial to interacting with your team.  Someone may be having a bad day and it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them bounce back.  Listening isn’t just an audible action, it’s also a visionary action.  Body language, moods and performance can be seen and interpreted.  You’ve got to listen to what others are saying even when they’re not actually saying it.  Leaders listen. 

You’re looking out for yourself above others.  Nothing disconnects a leader more as to when they’re only looking out for their self.  Being a leader is putting others first.  Leaders give team members the glory and the recognition.  Your team won’t succeed if you only look after yourself.  Leaders look out and help their team rise to success.

You don’t lead by example. One the most powerful ways to lead is to lead by example.  If you enforce a standard for the team, but you’re not following it, then it just shows that you are above the standard and them.  Just like a child mimicking their parent, a team will mimic their leader.  What you do, they will do.  What you tolerate becomes the normal.  If you have bad habits, they will adopt them because that’s the culture you have allowed to take over.  Before you expect others to act the set standards be sure that you are doing so as well.  Leaders lead by example.

6 Ways to Stay Organized as a Leader

Leadership

Last week I received my new Passion Planner and it helped me realize how much more organized I am with it.  I use Outlook constantly at work to know what’s going on and when things to be completed regarding tasks.  The only bad thing is that I can’t take Outlook with me when I leave my desk since we’re not allowed to sync it with our personal phones.  It’s okay, not a big deal, but my new planner has helped me check things out when I’m not at my computer since I can carry it with me.  Being organized is necessary to balance projects, tasks, time, and resources.  For a leader, being organized is a basic fundamental element to being a leader.  You can’t get things done in chaos.  You have to be organized.  An organized leader shows confidence, great management, increases productivity, helps balance and to include being organized reduces stress, saves time, money and resources.  Here a few tips to staying organized as a leader.  Don’t forget, there are many ways to stay organized.  This is just a few.  What are your ways of staying organized?  Please share. 

Create lists.  Lists will help you prioritize what needs to be done now and what can be done later.  Plain and simple.  As the first of the year began I wrote almost two pages of single bullet entries of tasks to complete through the week.  It took me two full weeks to complete it, but everything that needed to be done accordingly was done since I was able to visually see what needed to be done. I often categorize my lists depending on what needs to be done.  If it’s a few Calendar changes, an Additional Duty task, or even a personal task.  I make sure I can break them down so I know how to prioritize them.  Using a smartphone may help as well.  I’m old school.  I like to write things down.  Either way, list it!

Timelines. If you’re ever on a timeline to get projects done then creating a simple timeline will help.  Use this in line with your list so that you can accomplish what needs to be done.  Even if you draw out a straight line on a paper and put points between that moment and your deadline you’ll be able to see what you need to do in order as the deadline comes near.  Or use your calendar, of course.  

Take notes. Countless times I’ve had someone come into my office and ask about a specific task.  I’d lose track if I wasn’t able to take notes.  My mind just doesn’t remember every detail throughout the week.  Taking notes is a great way to ensure you have the details you need to get things done.  This also helps when creating lists of things to complete.  I don’t leave my desk without my Field Notes.  I always have one on me just in case I need to write something important down.

Teamwork. Throughout the day I ask my subordinate what he’s working on.  At times he’s not working on anything and that’s when I can leverage his abilities.  If he is busy, I will ask if it can wait or if I can help so that we both can get it done faster.   When we do things together we accomplish more and in a quicker amount of time.  If you’re a team, be a team.  It helps reach our goals.

Values.  Every leader must live by a set of values that move them and their team along.  To be organized means you can’t be unproductive.  One way to know for sure you stay productive is to perform by values.  Excellence is a value/standard that doesn’t have room for laziness or procrastination.  Values guide your performance and can keep you organized.  Ensure you have a set of values that help your life be easier, productive and organized.  

Clean up.  Get rid of things that shroud, clutter or hinder your organization.  No one can work well when things are messy.  Keep a neat and distraction free area.  Use desk organizers to keep documents in order, pens/pencils in a cup/or similar, keep sticky notes, notepads in one place, etc.  Be neat.  A well organized desk often shows how well the person is organized.  No one wants a disorganized team member or leader.  Clean your area for optimal performance. 

Reviving Core Values

Leadership, Organization

Every day I walk up a flight of stairs to my office where I work as NCOIC, Administration Management. On the first set of stairs, there are three steps that have one Air Force core value written on each of them.  Integrity, Service, Excellence. These core values are burned into the memory of every Airman since day one of basic training. They are meant to guide us. They are meant to be lived. They are meant to be a path of being better, doing better and knowing better. Yet, at times, we, members in the Air Force, undervalue and underutilize our core values. 

Values drive the behavior of any organization, not just the military. Values are set so that the people in the organization have a guiding light, a north star to show which direction to go when we’re lost and to remind us that although, people fail, our values cannot. Values will be rock solid. Values will never fail you. Values will always be there when you need them.

An organization that doesn’t have a set of values setting the behavior of the organization will often fail. It would be as if the organization is walking blindly. Our Air Force core values are easy to understand. Opportunities are birthed every day that allow us to perform our core values. Values are not meant to be used sparingly, they are meant to be used at every opportunity that arises. It’s how we create a culture of positive behavior. We can correlate a core value into almost every decision and every action and if we’re dedicated to actually living them, we’ll never be wrong. Though, we can fail as people and as a leader, it doesn’t mean values have failed you, it just means that you’ve failed at what you’re doing.  Ret. Gen Stanley McCrystal once said, “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”  The same goes for our core values.  Though, you, a person may fail, if your core values are the heart of your actions, you will not be a failure.  It just means you have to try again.

Sure, we hear them, read them and every Airman is given a coin that has them embedded in it, but are we using them to the fullest potential? Even more, are we, as a team and individuals using them at all? Is it even possible to live them constantly every day? I like to think that if we gave a little more effort into living our core values how awesome our leadership would be and how awesome our teams would be. Walking up the steps to my office while reading our core values challenges me to live them. Just like in any busy work culture, it’s easy to overlook our values. I’m guilty of it, I’m sure others are too. Will there be days that you just don’t feel like putting in the effort? Of course, but our core values even address that behavior. 

The Air Force provides a definition for each core value(can be found here), but is that the end all be all to the core values? No. They can mean different things to different people and can be elaborated on.  What do you think they mean?  It’s a question that we, as an entire organization sort of forgot about as we engage in our daily duties and I believe our core values need to be given the attention they deserve. Right? Our culture depends on it.  Lately, it seems we’ve lost sight of our values and that’s okay, we’re human, we forget things, we know life is busy. It’s never too late to revive them and use them to improve our culture. Our core values have unlimited value.

Above all else, values help us be and become better leaders. When we feel our teams slipping in character, judgement and performance, we should always look at our values.  They’ll keep us in line and keep us moving forward.  Values create a work environment fit to thrive and survive.  Here is my personal look at how I apply and see the Air Force core values. I hope over the next few days or weeks you consider writing your perspective on the core values.  Share your perspective with your team, use it as a topic of professional development.  Get to know your Airman’s perspective to see how they view them.

Integrity first –  It’s not just about doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also about holding yourself accountable when no one is watching.   This also includes you holding your team members accountable.  It’s about carrying out your responsibilities accurately and effectively as possible. Show humility when you don’t have the answer. It’s okay to be wrong. Own your mistakes.  Be transparent in what you do. Keep true to yourself and be a person others can count on.  Integrity is about how the team is held together.  Make sure there are no kinks in your line that can jeopardize how the team holds on together. 

Service before self There will be days when you wake up and you just don’t feel like it.  We’ve all had those days and we will have more. What we do as Airman is bigger than ourselves.  It’s bigger than our personal desires.  Service before self is simple.  Your duties come first to include the service of leadership.  It’s about taking care of people as well. People are a part of the service so they must be taken care of so they can take care of the mission. Personal desires can always be put be aside to handle an issue/task/challenge at hand. This is not about you, it’s about the team.  When the team wins, you win.

Excellence in all we do –  My middle school coach used to say, “Go hard or go home.”  That was the standard.  Was it possible to give your full 100% every single football practice? No, but it wasn’t just about your physical ability. It was about your mentality, your heart, your attention, your dedication. It was more than running hard or hitting hard. It was the effort, the approach to the game. We must not only do our best, but whatever we do must be done with the results of great effort.  It’s hard to really measure effort, but people can always tell when you are giving less than what you are capable of giving. Whatever we’re working on, the end goal, must reflect excellence. Don’t commit to something unless you can give your absolute full attention and effort it deserves. One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite runners Steve Prefontaine. “To give any less than your best is to sacrifice a gift.” There is no time for slacking, half-assing, or procrastination.  If you’re going to do a job, do it right.  In the words of Deadpool, “Maximum effort.”