Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Take the Blame

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“A poor workman always blames his tools.”

As leaders we are in the business of making others successful.  I had a boss at General Electric who used to say, “Your success is my success.” His words were backed up by a commitment to meet with me regularly, coach me, guide me and make sure I had what I needed to get the job done. He understood that as leaders we are there to serve those we lead.

We provide the tools and resources for our team members to get their jobs done well.

What do our team members need to succeed? Here is a very partial list:

  •        Tools – Computer, phone, supplies, etc.
  •        A listening ear
  •        An open door
  •        Our presence – Encouragement by walking around
  •        Checking in with them
  •        Following up with them
  •        Offer to help – “How can I help you today?” works wonders
  •        Time off maintain balance between work and family

The art of leadership is figuring out what individual team members need in order to succeed. Each person is different.  For some, all it takes is a listening ear. Others need to see us involved and working alongside them.

The above proverb reminds us that poor workers naturally look for others to blame.  Sometimes, that blame is directed at us because we “didn’t train them well enough” (or whatever excuse they want to use).

However, leaders with integrity do what it takes to set their team members up for success.

If a team member doesn’t measure up, it won’t be because the leader didn’t try their best to set them up for success.

In that case the blame will lie squarely with the team member.  We give them what they need to succeed and the rest is up to them.

What are some things you offer your team members to set them up for success?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Take Down Your Worst Enemy

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have met the enemy and he is us. – Pogo, comic book character

In a recent post I talked about “stinking thinking” that we can fall prey to in our role as leaders.  (Read it here.)  The same phenomenon also happens in our self-leadership.  Self-doubt can grip us in its scaly tentacles and we find it hard to break free.

When I find myself in this state, I know it is time for me to check out “the view from someone outside my head.”  It’s like staying inside the same house all the time.  Our view becomes only what we see from that limited perspective.  Soon we believe that is reality, but in fact it is only our perception.

The voice of self-doubt shouts to us to err on the side of safety. It says:

  • You can’t
  • You shouldn’t
  • You won’t
  • You will never
  • That won’t work
  • You must not
  • That’s too risky
  • What are you thinking?

It’s helpful to pay attention to our emotions when we are caught in periods of self-doubt.  The voice of self-doubt becomes louder during times of stress, exhaustion, risk, and as deadlines draw near.

Our best strategy for silencing the voices of negativity is to listen to our cheering section, our fans, our positive partners and our encouragers.  They give us the perspective we need to break free from the hold of self-doubt.

No one makes it alone.

These treasured people remind us of what we have going for us and how far we’ve come.  Sometimes we need them to come along side to give us a good swift kick in the behind to get us back on track.

Take down the voice of self-doubt. Go find your eagles, so you can soar once again.

Who are your positive partners?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Cross the Bridge Until You Come to It

Image courtesy of Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As leaders we are people of responsibility.

We plan.

We worry.

We take risks.

We think ahead.

We try to stay at least one step ahead of our followers.

I’ve discovered that my “futuristic” strength (See Strengths Finder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath) has a downside in that I can sometimes imagine problems and challenges where none exist. When that happens, my energy is redirected and drained.  I lose focus on the present.

Planning and thinking ahead is important, but we live in the here and now.  We can live in the “there” and miss the “here.”

We can get so far ahead of our team members in our thinking that we miss what is happening in their lives now.

What’s the value in not crossing the bridge too soon?

We can be flexible and adjust as needed.  Conditions change constantly.

Things happen to us that are out of our control.

If we rigidly adhere to a plan, we may take a path that no longer meets our goals or the needs of our team.

Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it is a reminder to be adaptable enough to make adjustments as conditions change.  It’s also a reminder to not allow unnecessary worry to drain our energy.

There are times when leaders are like the captain of a speed boat that takes a direct line across the lake.

There are other times when leaders are like the captain of the sailboat that has no direct path, but adjusts as the conditions change.

What bridges are you crossing that you have not come to yet?

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.

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?

Taking One for the Team

Sea World vendorThe sun beat down on us as we sat in Shamu Stadium waiting for the Believe show to start at Sea World San Diego.  With a few minutes to kill before show time, I watched the vendors hawking toys, over-sized Sea World novelty cups, ice cream and assorted foods.  Suddenly behind me over my left shoulder I heard a commotion and turned just in time to see a red vested vendor dump his entire tray of popcorn bags onto the aisle steps.  A couple bottles of Pepsi he was trying to balance under the popcorn tray toppled over as well.  I felt for him. Blistering heat, big crowds and only a few precious minutes to make a sale, but now any potential profit he makes is bouncing down the steps.

From my right I saw a flash of red making its way up the same aisle steps.  It was another vendor who was working the ground level of the stadium selling Sea World themed toys.  He saw what happened to his fellow red vest and made a beeline towards him.  He urgently excused his way through the crowd.  Still holding his own tray, he bent down to gather the mess of remaining popcorn bags.  When the last bag was back in place on the tray, the popcorn vendor bobs his head in thanks to his fellow vendor.  At first, this mishap seemed like a small thing, but as I thought about it more I realized how extraordinary it was.

We’re taught to look out for ourselves.

We’re taught to compete.  The vendor’s job is to sell stuff to the crowd.  A successful day means sales and profits.  It’s a tough job because the people you are attempting to convince to buy your product have already spent a lot of money to be in the park.  Those same people have a variety of choices when it comes to spending their limited funds.  Rarely will a person buy toys plus drinks plus popcorn plus sunshades plus ice cream before a show. Realistically, people will buy from one maybe two vendors simply because they can’t afford more.  The vendor who came to the rescue gave up his opportunity for sales so that he could help out a colleague in need.  That’s pretty rare, but that’s exactly the spirit and attitude we are trying to foster in the team members we lead.

Create a sense of cooperation.

We’re trying to move those we lead to embrace taking one from the team to taking one for the team. The leader’s job is to create a sense of cooperation among team members in order to fulfill the vision.  Sure, that day the toy vendor probably lost a sale or two, but what he gained was greater in the long run, the trust of his colleague.  Success for him that day was not found in the counting of profits, but in the knowledge that he was a team member who could be counted on to help out when needed.  The day may come when the circumstance is reversed and the toy vendor needs the popcorn vendor’s help.  When it does, it will be the popcorn vendor who can be counted on to help.  When cooperation exists, a team is one step closer to achieving their goals.

“The greatest compliment you can receive is being counted on.” – John Maxwell

As a leader, what are some things you do to foster cooperation among your team members? I’d love to hear your thoughts.