Monday Quick Tip: Do it Well!

Glass Blowing

Image courtesy of worradmu/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” ~ English proverb

This past weekend, I got to attend my first Renaissance Festival (http://renaissancefest.com/).  There were jousting demonstrations, comedy and danger shows and lots of opportunities for shopping.  One of the highlights for me was watching a glassblowing demonstration.

The glassblower formed a beautiful tumbler using a few simple elements: air, heat, a metal pipe, water, and molten glass. What was not simple was the amount of skill he used to accomplish his art.

He made it look easy, but it took him countless hours to perfect his craft. He mentioned during the demonstration that he started glassblowing in 1968.  He was poetry in motion as he combined the right amount of air, timing and centrifugal force to create his masterpiece.  He explained that the incorrect temperature or the wrong timing could shatter the glass.

Developing our craft as leaders takes time.  There is an art to leadership that can’t be acquired in a book.  It is learned through years of well-focused practice.  Leadership as art is not accomplished by the quick fix.

This week, focus on doing leadership well by getting better at just one thing.

What is it for you?

What is the one thing that you could get better at this week with a little focused practice?

A lot has been made about the 10,000 hour rule. That is overwhelming.

Masterpieces are formed an hour at a time here and there. We can do that.

Do it well. It’s worth it.

Do it with excellence, because “good enough” only leads to shattered glass.

 

What will you get better at doing this week? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Whew! That was Close: A Leadership Lesson from a Crash

B1 BomberLiving within earshot of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, it is common to hear fighter jets roaring by overhead.  I’ve gotten used to it.  On Monday, August 19, 2013, Ellsworth was in the national spotlight when a B-1B Lancer Bomber crashed in southeastern Montana.

Fortunately all four people, including the two pilots and two weapons system officers ejected and parachuted to safety.  No one on the ground was hurt.  The aircraft was not so lucky. It was a total loss. Or was it?

For the men who flew the plane, I imagine they were not thinking of having to rocket  themselves out of it on a high powered ejector seat. They were prepared should something happen, but it was to be a routine training mission.  When I saw the news reports I thought, “Whew! That was a close one!  It could have been much worse.”

I thought about the times in leadership when we’ve narrowly escaped a disaster that could have taken us out of the game but didn’t.  For example, when we almost hired the wrong person for our team.  Or when a deal broke down in negotiation and we found out later the other party in the deal was caught cheating.  Narrow escapes and dodging bullets, such is the life of a leader.

Sometimes we get lucky in leadership and that’s okay.  But we need more than luck to be a successful leader.  We need skills to adapt when crisis occurs.

There are times in our leadership life when a seemingly routine event goes wrong.  In those moments, we have to adapt our mode and style.  As Todd Henry says in The Accidental Creative, we need to be “brilliant at a moment’s notice.”

The training mission suddenly changed when the plane went down.  It went from a training mission to search and rescue to recovery of the parts of the plane to an investigation as to why the crash occurred.

Yes, it could have been a lot worse, but it can be a lot more because of what we can learn from the crash.

This is what it means to be a creative leader: when crises occur, we adapt to the changing mission and learn all we can from it so we can be better in the future.

Our mission may change today.  Are you ready?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you have developed your adaptability skills.  Leave your comment below.

Monday Quick Tip: Live and Learn

Image courtesy of   Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You can’t miss the emphasis on back to school this time of year. Sale flyers scream deals on notebooks and pens.  Yellow school buses fill in the gaps on the highway.  Teacher’s Facebook posts proclaim their excitement for the upcoming year while students express their disappointment that summer is almost over.  Back to school is here.

For leaders, back to school never happens because we never left school. Not the formal school with teachers and textbooks, but the informal school of living and learning.

Leaders are learners.  We’re on a quest to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Life has a way of forcing us to learn along the way. To stop learning is to start dying.

Learning is about having our beliefs, assumptions, and methods challenged.

My “Lately Learning List” includes:  Website design, writing for blogs, coping with career transition and becoming more of a giver and less of a taker.

We may be on the verge of a breakthrough this week.  All it will take is a little more learning to conquer that problem or solve that dilemma.

When we are open to learning, we will discover a new way of seeing or doing things that will make us a better leader.

We stand at the threshold of a new week. Life is ready to teach us.

Are you ready?

Live and learn!

What are you “lately learning?”  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How to Lead Followers Who are Different from You

Image courtesy of mack2happy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mack2happy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Leadership is about people. If we’ve led people well, they will follow us and feel good about it. They will sing our praises as a leader.

I’ve become a regular listener of actor, Alec Baldwin’s entertaining and fascinating podcast, Here’s the Thing,  (http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/) in which he interviews musicians, actors, celebrities, sports figures, authors and community activists.  Alec does a great job getting to the heart of the matter with his interviewees.

In a recent episode, Alec interviewed, Martin Horn, former New York City Commissioner of Correction and Probation.  Horn talks about what it was like to work for 7 years with Tom Ridge when he was governor of Pennsylvania.  Horn admits that they don’t agree politically on many issues, but they were able to build a great relationship in spite of those differences.

In the interview, Mr. Horn said he thinks the world of Tom Ridge and says he was the best boss a person could have.  He knew how to be a leader.

Here are some tips for leading others who are different  from us, gleaned from their experience:

Back up your people

Standing behind our staff or team members shows that we respect them as people and fellow leaders. We treat them as a valued member of our team. The fact that we support them shows that what they do matters.

Hold people accountable

When we hold them accountable it shows that we care about their performance and affirms their value to our team.

Accountability benefits the whole team because the weakest length is not allowed to stay the weakest link for long.

The entire team benefits when each person is held accountable.

Try to be the world’s best listener

We seek to understand where our team members are coming from. The only way to do that is to listen, really listen to their concerns, hurts, fears, joys and events of their lives.

Listening is hard work because we want to jump in and push our ideas and agenda.  Being willing and able to hear our people out demonstrates that we care about them.

Have good values

There is much to be said for doing the right thing.  We won’t follow people we can’t trust to do the right thing. Our integrity as leaders is on display in the decisions we make and in the ways we treat people. Character counts.

Leaders lead with integrity can be trusted to do the right thing for the organizations they lead.

Thankfully we are not all the same. The world would be boring if we were. Life is interesting and leadership is fun because we don’t all agree on everything all the time.

The secret of great leaders is knowing how to navigate the differences and still accomplish the mission of the organization.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you lead people who are different from you. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday Quick Tip: Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This seems like common sense, but sometimes leaders get a “big head” and forget that there is no such thing as a solo leader.

These types of bosses are “glory hogs” who act as if their team’s contributions don’t matter.

When it comes time for praise or evaluations, they take credit for the good things the team has accomplished. They are selfish and insecure. They practice “3D Leadership” that demotivates, demoralizes and demeans their team members.

Not surprisingly, their followers don’t stick around. Who wants to be on a team where our contributions are ignored or where credit is taken by the leader as if it was their own?

This week, pay attention to the people you lead.

How are they doing?

What contributions have they made that you are overlooking?

Thank them for being a part of your team. Reward them for their contributions.

Don’t be a glory hog. Instead, do what your mother taught you: give credit where credit is due.

Be a Leader Worth Following

Image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Focus on getting better, before getting bigger.” – S.Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants.

“If I stop learning, I stop leading.” – Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller in Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life

Leadership titles don’t mean very much if the leader isn’t worth following.

As leaders, we have a bias toward action and we want to see our organizations grow. We want to charge the next hill and accomplish the next goal.

However, like the proverbial dog that chases cars, what are we going to do with it when we catch it?  Do we have the character that can handle the growth we desire?

When our focus is on getting better as a leader, the growth will take care of itself.

Why get better?

We respect leaders who grow.

No leader can be perfect, but we want those who lead us to be trying to grow.  We want them to be constantly improving their character.  As Adam Grant points out in his fantastic book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, the motivation to become better precedes the development of the skills themselves.  Leaders are motivated learners.  Respected leaders are those who know they don’t have it all together and are willing to put in the time and effort required to grow.

We have a harder time following leaders we consider to be “takers” who are only in a position of leadership for themselves.  We expect our leaders to be humble enough to see that they can’t do it on their own but need the help of others and are willing to give to others.

One way we help others is by growing ourselves.

Superman, Iron Man and Captain Kirk are great for comic books and summer blockbusters and it turns out they have something to teach us about leadership when they exemplify honesty and courage. (See http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougguthrie/2013/06/14/looking-for-leaders-settling-for-superheroes/).  These are issues related to our leadership character rather than skills.

How to grow

Growing leaders feed themselves a steady diet of leadership books, podcasts, blogs, conferences and workshops.  Some leaders find coaches or mastermind groups to give them personal attention to areas that need to be strengthened.

We are blessed to live in a time of abundance of information that can help us grow in our leadership character. We can be mentored from a distance by people we’ve never met through books and online resources.

If we are serious about becoming better before bigger we, as author Bill Hybels suggests in Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, will do whatever we have to do to increase our leadership input, because we know it will make us better.

We become leaders worth following by making ourselves better before we get bigger.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways you are trying to get better as a leader.

The Positive Power of Praising People

Image courtesy of markuso/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of markuso/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week I watched Rita Pierson’s powerful TED Talk about her life as an educator. Have you seen it? It’s got more than 1.5 million views. You can see it here: http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion.html. She talks about how we all need encouragers and people who bring out the best in us. In a follow-up interview on the Ted Radio Hour on NPR, she said, “I don’t know why we celebrate failure. We think that by telling you what you didn’t do right it will inspire you to do better, but it doesn’t.”  She goes on to talk about the people in our life who “insist that we recognize the excellence in ourselves.”

It is true in every area of life. Everyone needs a champion.

As leaders, we set the tone for the teams that we lead. A team that is praised by the leader for what they are doing right is in a better position to live up to what the leader believes about them.

We are more motivated to be on a team or in a job where our contributions are recognized and our strengths praised. There is tremendous power in praising people.

The opposite is true. Constantly pointing out what is wrong without balancing it with the positive, drains and demotivates people.

Think about our own leadership journey. Who were the people who meant the most to us? It was the leader who stood with us, praised you and challenged us to do better.

What is your team doing well? What individual team members need someone to point out what they are doing right?

As Ken Blanchard reminded us many years ago in his classic book, The One Minute Manager, catch people doing something right and praise them for it. That’s the kind of leader I want to be. How about you?