Archive for November, 2019

YOU Go First

Monday, November 25th, 2019

As a leader, you should never let a focus and commitment to improve yourself get old or become forgotten. In fact, little will improve measurably or sustainably in your organization until you do. While leaders who complain about their boss, team, culture and more abound, those who admit that, “I’m the problem,” “I need to improve,” or “I need to be more prepared” are sadly rare.

A key to building a better culture, growing people better, and bettering your organization is for you as a leader to get better first. Without question, organizational excellence begins with the personal growth, sacrifice, and integrity of the leaders. And while the potential strategies for building a better you cover a wide range of topics I could relate in this space, I’ll present four key areas that, once you work to improve them personally, will dramatically and positively impact culture, people, and results. If you’re struggling with these keep in mind that this perspective isn’t about beating yourself up but picking yourself up and seizing these opportunities to improve.

  1. Control your emotions. It’s embarrassing to see and hear people who’ve been entrusted with leadership positions spend their days reacting, stressed out, and losing it with people because they lack emotional control. Lack of emotional control disconnects you from followers, distracts people, lowers their morale, and breaks momentum. It also isolates you as people are afraid to tell you what’s really going on because they know you’ll handle it poorly. Certainly, there are instances when showing more emotion, rather than pretending all is well when it’s not, can be helpful. However, demonstrating the wisdom to know when to delay, suspend, or display variances in their emotion is a skill many leaders don’t bother to work on.

One tip for controlling your emotions is to practice the discipline to stop doing what comes naturally and behave more intentionally. “Intentionally” means on purpose, and by consciously working to increase the time between a provocation and your response—if even by a few seconds—you can elevate the quality and maturity of your verbal and email responses, tone on voicemails, and more. By paying more attention to timing, what you say, and how you say it (tone), you’ll go a long way in demonstrating emotional control that makes you more approachable, engaging, mature, trustworthy and in control.

2. Control your language. Words matter – a lot; and, coming from a leader their impact is multiplied exponentially. Profanity, insults, sarcasm, gossip, complaining, badmouthing co-workers, other departments, or the competition, and more are – just as lack of emotional control is – a distraction. It also makes you look ignorant, weak, classless, immature, and bereft of common respect, intelligence, and courtesies. If you can’t control your language in areas I’ve mentioned and others like them, you have no business preaching to your people to be more productive. Everything on the list of examples in this point is incredibly unproductive and your engaging in them is leading by example – a terrible one! And if realizing the impact your words have on others, not to mention your own focus and attitude, and resolving to clean it up is too much to ask, then you should get out of leadership and go find something you can do with integrity.

3. Swallow your pride. My guess is that some readers won’t address the first two issues I’ve listed to improve thus far, because they’re incapable of executing this third opportunity for leadership growth: swallowing one’s own pride. Frankly, pride comes naturally to us flawed human beings, which is why an intentional effort to cultivate humility is necessary as a lifelong journey. Often, management failures which are misattributed to other causes have pride at the core. For example, consider how the following four leadership actions all have pride as their root cause:

A. You don’t build a solid and growing team.

Because of your pride/ego/arrogance, you don’t see the need for a team as long as you’re there! You don’t delegate or let anyone else make decisions. You are reluctant to give up any type of power as you feel it will diminish your importance.

B. You don’t listen to others.

Arrogance causes us to overvalue ourselves and devalue others. It manifests in instances like rarely implementing anyone else’s ideas and treating any disagreement with you like mutiny, without even considering the validity of points raised. Failing to listen also causes you to routinely cut people off and finish their sentences for them. In addition, your pride causes you to barely tolerate feedback on your performance and most probably to resent it.

C. You are a know-it-all.

Similar to not listening to others, but egregious enough to have earned its own category, having a “been there and done that” attitude where you believe that you pretty much have it all figured out is pride of Biblical proportions. If this is you, you probably don’t read books in your field, attend seminars or peer group meetings, and treat training like it is punishment.

D. You fail to give away credit or to deflect praise for your performance to your team.

You may rarely ever tell anyone else they do a good job, and are far more prone to let them know how much better they could have done so their success doesn’t “go to their head.” At the same time, you never feel like your own efforts are appropriately appreciated. Thus, when things go well you hog the credit because you’re more committed to building your image than to building your team

4. Shift your focus from success to significance. The primary difference between success and significance is two feet. Here’s what I mean: Being successful is all about you (what you get, how far you go, and the like). To become significant, you must positively impact someone else. Thus, the two feet I refer to are a left and right foot that belong to someone else…someone whom you bring across the finish line with you by empowering, mentoring, stretching, and impacting in a way that changes the course of their career and life. Incidentally, failing to improve the three previous opportunities listed, makes it not only tougher, but highly unlikely, you’ll be able to positively impact others in a manner that will help you become significant as their leader.

Drop the Leadership Lunacy

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

As I continue with the third in a series of articles on the topic of generational leadership it’s important to prioritize focusing less on what makes each generation different, or what makes different generations “difficult,” and instead get back to leadership basics that impact all generations for better and worse. Thus far I’ve outlined important workplace aspects ALL generations want, respond well to, and are more productive as a result of, and will now cover a handful of universal dislikes shared by all. Keep in mind that it doesn’t require a volume of these missteps to adversely affect morale, retention, growth, cultural strength, and results. They all matter and their persistence within your culture can easily offset the positive things you do. Now, look in the mirror and invest your energies into the areas you can control and change.

  • Oppressive work schedules. This is the old school tendency to measure and celebrate people more for the hours they put in than by the quality of work they put in the hours.

It’s both unproductive and misguided to mistake hours worked for effectiveness while working. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting their time off so they can enjoy their families, hobbies, and have a life away from work. Help people from all generations become productive enough so they can get more done in less time and leave the dealership, and they’ll be less-stressed, more fulfilled, and increasingly productive when they are there.

  • Rewarding or celebrating longevity over results.

Tenure is not defined as “loyal,” but instead refers to seniority and longevity. Loyalty is defined as “faithfulness to one’s duties and obligations.” In other words, loyalty is doing your job well. Tenured people can be, and often are, your most valuable and productive people if their leaders create a culture where they can thrive, and don’t take them for granted because they’ve been there so long.

The other side of the coin is that tenure can become a license for laziness, as when someone takes something in life for granted—a job included—they often become lazy there. If you have long-term people who when they officially retire it will be for the second time, you need to address that. Hard working, productive people with less seniority are distracted and disgusted by senior people who are held to a lower standard of values, work ethic, and results.

  • Too many or unproductive meetings.

In a faster-paced society and leaner workplace, people at all levels are spread thinner and more readily resent wasted or unproductive time in many regards, but especially in meetings – particularly high performers. Too many or unproductive meetings are one reason people must work longer to get done at work what they could have achieved in less time, with fewer meetings.

  • Public chastisement or humiliation.

This is a foolish practice perpetuated by leaders who: possess little or unstable emotional control; are plagued by immaturity; or are insecure and/or angry at themselves, and therefore prone to take it out on others. Public chastisement or humiliation beats people down and causes them to mentally check out on you. And it doesn’t matter whether someone is eighteen or eighty; people don’t like this lunacy.

Also note, that while this is an imprudent practice to inflict on anyone, it normally has an even greater detrimental impact on those younger or less experienced, who may feel more vulnerable and be particularly sensitive to being talked down to or disrespected.

  • Inconsistency in practices, processes, and leadership temperament.

Inconsistency in the areas outlined creates tentative and skeptical followers, and tentative and skeptical followers are more prone to play not to lose than to win. The Lombardi adage is true: “It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re confused.”

Inconsistency can result from a lack of commitment, trying to do too much at once, unclear higher-ups, confusion over objectives, the pursuit of instant gratification, and more. Inconsistency in the areas mentioned, and others like them, can result in team members being indifferent, unenthusiastic, and unconcerned about what is new since they don’t expect it to last long anyhow.

  • Leading by a lousy example.

Everyone leads by example. The question is, “What’s the example?” Leading by a poor example covers a lot of ground: being late to work, bad-mouthing other departments, making excuses, not keeping commitments, failing to live values, lack of consistency, and more. Demonstrating this lunacy breaks trust, destroys your credibility and pretty much makes you a running joke among team members of all generations.

  • The endless pursuit of silver bullets and “flavors of the month.”

Failure to commit to, and stick with, processes, programs, or other initiatives because it’s difficult or unpopular, or because an alternative looks easier—even if it doesn’t work as well—is a sure and common way to confuse, frustrate, and create skepticism from the team. At the end of the day, a lack of follow through from management is a momentum-breaker and creates a perception that managers are either clueless, indecisive, or apathetic; maybe even all three.

  • Valuing likability over performance.

Managers lose credibility and hurt morale when people are favored or retained because they “like” a person despite the fact they don’t meet performance and/or behavioral standards. When “who you know” or “who you are friends with” creates more job security than performance, you create a culture of compromise, double-talk, and hypocrisy that presents a persistent distraction for those doing their job well.

  • Valuing performance over integrity.

Tolerating team members who violate values, cut corners, and don’t take care of customers or care about teammates simply because they perform well numbers-wise can destroy your culture and credibility. These toxic achievers hold others down through distractions, drama, and egregious example. Leaders who fail to address the situation look like incompetent, gutless, sell-outs; not the kind of person anyone wants to follow for long, if at all.

There are no perfect leaders so let me take some pressure off you: you’re not the exception. But to lead effectively across all generations you’ve got to clean up lunacy like this in your own culture and within your leadership style or you and your team will continue to miss what could be and should be. Face it, fix it, and get better.