It’s a big question triggered by an engaging and fascinating conversation I had recently with a friend I see rarely. How do we engage as leaders to make change. And it’s a challenge for everyone…regardless of your level of responsibility or experience. The ultimate leadership test, measured in our ability to rally a diverse group towards a common goal. It’s you, plus others.
On this day, the conversation focused on this very conundrum…the challenge we face of “you + others.” Here’s what I know as a leader. You need to:
Manage EVERY day…Be engaged
- Be accessible.
- Be a student of the business. Don’t assume you have all the answers.
- Create an environment that engages your teams.
- Build Trust with your teams AND the executive team.
- Live up to agreed upon values and hold others to them.
- Business status: Flash Report, Monthly Financial Performance and Strategic Plan/Dept initiatives.
- Solve small issues before they become big…manage conflict productively.
- Insist on alignment with strategic plan and current reality.
- Get commitment within and across departments.
- Service orientation to the field and departments.
Make accountability real…focus on results
- Be clear on roles, goals and deliverables
- Define success and drive work plans to make it happen…finish what we started.
- Thank people for contribution.
- Debrief progress & learn out loud.
And secondly for our teams, can we help them see “The Big Picture”. People will naturally become more passionate about their work when they clearly understand they are part of something bigger than themselves. As a leader, you must be able to answer the five questions team members commonly ask (and they are asking these questions – whether you hear them or not):
- Where are we going? (Strategy)
- How are we going to get there? (Plans)
- How can I contribute? (Roles)
- What is our progress (urgency/accountability)
- What’s in it for me? (Rewards)
Leadership is not for the faint at heart. But the results can be rewarding. As we wrapped up our conversation, it was fun to see the action plan unfold. Can’t wait to hear the update and compare notes. Can you?
It was early, just after 5 in the morning. You could see the colors of the sky beginning to change in anticipation of a beautiful sunrise. A grand celebration for the world to see, that a new day has arrived with all the promise of what is possible.
There was nothing special about this. I knew I had an extra in my pantry.
It wasn’t until a bit later, as I sat and watched the sun come up and enjoyed the AWESOME view over the water, that I began to think about the idea of the “last one.” Is the last one really the last one, or a harkening to the arrival of a new fresh box of filters.
Think about it. We often see endings only in the construct of what has ended. How about we re-frame that view – and see endings as a signal of a new beginning. It’s important to stop and think about this so you can come out of the box ready to begin anew.
For me, it signaled the end of summer. It had been almost 50 days and 8 weeks of no watch, no shoes- only sandals, a dedicated focus on health and wellness and time to read, tell stories with my photography and be in my gardens. Learning to be in the moment and notice the smaller things in life was a gift.
But it too, was time to begin anew, with a fresh perspective to optimize the road ahead. So, I am glad, it was the last one. It charged me up to prepare for the new start of the season and my next chapter. It is going to be awesome. I know yours will be too.
I look forward to comparing notes. How did your “last one” allow you to begin anew? And how is your journey going? I hope you take time to enjoy the celebration of a new day as you ponder your next move. It is a gift that arrives every day and encourages us to impact the world with our best work. The final choice, of course, it yours. Let’s do it together, the world is counting on us.
My love for photography started years ago with my Aunt Anita.
Each time she visited, we explored another chapter from her travel log. Her images and stories were mesmerizing to me as a child. And much to my family’s chagrin, the cause for her late arrival to family functions. You see, there was always something along the way that caused her to pause. A need to capture the moment.
And photography stuck in my life. Much later, I had the good fortune of working with another photography master. You’ve most likely heard me speak of him before. I was fortunate to both work and travel with him. In fact, our time together always felt like a gift because it led to new discoveries. And those discoveries stirred a curiosity that has shaped my view of the world.
Here’s my fascination with the art of photography. Many photographers capture similar images, but none of them look the same. The images are always shaped by the person behind the lens not the people in in front of it. And critical to defining the view is learning to ask the question, “what do you see?” Let’s be clear here, sometimes this difficult question doesn’t have an obvious answer. It is in knitting together the many viewpoints that provide true texture. This is where the depth of life can be explained. It also requires that we don’t assume others can see what we do.
You see, no one sees it like you do.
Taking time to ask, value and share your perspective is important. Don’t assume what is clear to you is also clear to others. You will miss the value of discovering the view from another vantage point. And it may be just what you need to make the next leg of your journey.
What do you see? I look forward to hearing your perspective?
In this world of “Big Data” our natural curiosity fuels the urge to seek to understand the essence of every detail, because the data is now available.
Knowledge gives us potential but it is through practice we build mastery. So I just want to say something radical here…not all DATA matters.
We have to ask ourselves to identify the value of knowing. It’s the classic, SO WHAT question. The answers will help us decide if it is worth the doing to know. Big data without a business strategy provides interesting but worthless insight unless the data can drive action.
And sometimes, I have to admit – we struggle for strategic clarity. So we look for the data to help us bring clarity.
But here’s the conundrum: data that doesn’t drive action doesn’t matter. It is important to establish the hard trends separate from the soft trends. The hard trends are those things we know are going to happen and everyone can agree: demographics are getting older, government regulations will increase, technology will continue to enable new ways of doing things which means we will forever be in a state of dealing with legacy systems.
And to be clear, I don’t worry about legacy systems, I worry about legacy thinking as we approach our future. Our view of the future effects how we move forward. And that view is effected by our view of the past.
So learning to identify our position and opinions that shape our view, let us be aware and intentional. Then the hard facts enable us to focus on the things we can do something about. This is truly what makes it possible to anticipate what lies ahead. Are you using both the hard – data and the soft? The data empowers us to predict scenarios and prevent certain outcomes. Without this approach we will forever be in a react and respond mode and unable to lead.
And as we work to fill in the blanks, learning to identify the soft trends with a clear identifier of MIGHT will make it clear what we have left to figure out. It will prevent us from beginning to believe in the reality we have envisioned as REAL. It only lives in our scenario planning. This clarity of the hard, soft and our own opinions allows us to separate the noise from what really matters.
And it is in this moment we lead with clarity and can begin to practice the agility of our leadership and build our mastery of leading in this dynamic world.
I look forward to hearing how you challenge yourself to ask the “SO WHAT” question so you can lead with clarity and the intention to do your best work.
Parking Lots. They come in all sizes and shapes. You see them everywhere. They serve the same purpose worldwide. And yet they are a source of entertainment for me. Watching people find “their place” in this ecosystem is fascinating. Some prefer the farthest spot or take up multiple spaces to prevent door dings on their vehicle. While others circle to find the closest space even if it means waiting. A friend of mine likes to catch those people that take the handicapped spots without the proper sticker. He usually leaves a funny note on their window reminding them to reconsider their choice next time. My husband is a circler. Over the years, I’ve added commentary to the now infamous “parking lot tours” so no one misses the interesting “views” on the right or left. Can you see my husband’s eye roll or hear the laughter from the back seat? It was the biggest source of entertainment during a recent trip. We stopped at Starbucks located in a local strip mall. Time to stretch our legs and take a break from our long road trip. I must admit it felt good to be in the fresh air and sunshine. But finally, it was time to be on our way. As we closed the doors, the driver asked for directions. “Well first, you must get out of the parking lot,” replied the navigator. It struck our funny bone and the car erupted in laughter. Yes, it was funny and still makes me smile. But isn’t that also the advice we need in life. Sometimes it is easy to get stuck circling around the lot. And the first step is deciding it’s time to leave. Take the first step and get out of the parking lot. Your adventure awaits you. I look forward to hearing that you are on your way.
I could hear the passion and growing disgust in the conversation behind me. It was a long day of travel and I was mildly amused that someone else shared the challenges of the day.
Until, I could see the conversation was going no-where. At least no-where productive. You can call me an optimist but even at the end of a challenging day, I like to celebrate some forward movement, no matter how slight even if it is for someone else.
Unfortunately, as the conversation unfolded, it was clear neither side was listening and the endless flow of adult beverage wasn’t adding new insight into the situation. In fact, it was clear to me that the purpose of their trip was about to be grounded before it even began. And sadly, it was an inside job because the people talking were on the same team.
Wow what a waste of energy, time, talent and resource. Have you ever thought of that?
How often do we embark on a trip, not fully grounded in a broad perspective so we can build a unified front to solve any issue? It is really easy to do in this dynamic fast paced world, isn’t it? We need own the foundational discipline of being grounded on the same facts, the same reality and the same consequences if we wish to work together towards a better future. And learn to embrace the power in different perspectives to truly uncover the best solution. Rarely does anyone hold the key to the perfect answer. The power comes from embracing our differences, uncovering the truth and getting insights for the best future path.
It doesn’t cost anything but our time and undivided attention. And of course the willingness to truly listen, add value and work together towards a common goal. Sounds simple. And it is, but that doesn’t make it easy.
How many times have you jumped to conclusions in the spirit of being efficient only to miss the point? What have you learned about your approach and more importantly how to be more effective next time? Because there will be a next time. And your effort to think about how you would optimize your approach next time will help others see what is possible.
And isn’t that what leadership is all about?
During workshops and talks, I’m often asked what to do when you hire someone who just isn’t measuring up. Sometimes people actually tell me the person they hired is an idiot.
I tell people don’t be so hard on yourself.
And they usually get a bit of a surprised look on their face because, of course, they didn’t intend to be hard on themselves. They intended to point out that, in their wisdom they, apparently for some reason, purposefully hired an idiot.
The first problem of course is thinking that one of your people is an idiot. Once one of your people knows your low opinion of them they are unlikely to exceed your low expectations. Never ask or expect less from your people than you need or want them to deliver.
I believe that leadership comes with certain responsibilities. If you actually have the audacity and courage to accept the mantle of leadership then you must also be willing to accept the wide range of responsibilities that come with it.
The responsibility to put people in their strengths zone is one example. If you’ve hired someone and they are not getting the job done there are only two possibilities.
And by the way – you are not going to like either one.
The first one – is that you simply hired the wrong person. Yes, you simply hired the wrong person. If they truly cannot get the job done, then why did you hire them? If they didn’t have the skills, knowledge, and experience to successfully complete the requirements of their role then why in the world did you hire them? You just hired the wrong person.
The second possibility is that you did hire the right person but you’re not giving them the tools they need to succeed. You, as their leader, may not be teaching them the additional skills required to truly excel.
Either way, if you’ve hired someone who is not succeeding, the issue is yours and not them. And ultimately, it’s your responsibility 100% of the time.
When you accept 100% responsibility for the success of the people you’ve hired, you’ll no longer be so quick to dismiss them with a “they’re an idiot” flick of your tongue. You will stop “spending time on” and start “investing time with” your people.
Now, let me stop some of you right now. You’re thinking of the “yeah but…” and a million reasons right now why you can’t be held 100% responsible for the success of your people. I’ve heard them all 100’s of times, heck, early on, I’ve used them.
Let me also tell you this: if you allow yourself those excuses, then the chances of one or more of your people failing goes way way up! Don’t tell yourself that you’ll accept 50% of the responsibility but “they” have to give 50% too. I’ll guarantee you that this is not a 50-50 proposition because your people can not and will not succeed without you, their leader, giving a 50% effort in helping them develop and succeed. The fact is, when it’s a 100% proposition, then your people have a great chance at success.
Leadership is a big deal. It’s not just a position, title or concept. It is real, it comes with serious consequential responsibilities. If you can’t handle them, or are unwilling to accept them, then you should reconsider your role as a leader. And by the way, there is no harm in choosing not to lead, leadership is not for everyone. The harm comes from accepting the challenge of leadership without the commitment to accept the responsibility of a leader as well.
Leaders can make excuses or they can make more leaders. They can’t do both. What are you making?
Did you know, 90% of the worlds data was created in the last 2 years? In fact, in 1998, the internet exceeded the capacity of the human brain and by 2025 it will exceed the capacity of humanity.
And we can look at 3 digital accelerators—Moore’s Law, bandwidth and storage as a way of explaining the increase in our rate and pace of change. And all that is all true, but I would say hold on, not so fast.
No, you only go forward.
If you have used Windows 4, 5, 6 and now use 7, 8, 9, 10 the same question applies. Would you go back? Probably not, you go forward. But now ask yourself how many of the tasks you are using? I find this fascinating, in Windows 10, there are 4000 task “shortcuts” or commands. Studies show that most people use only 10-15 tasks and one of the most common questions is how to get back to the “classic view.”
Here’s the sticky wicket – we are on this journey with a one-way ticket to faster.
And every day we are making choices that require leadership to manage the consequences. Technology enables us to live life differently and provides equalized access to everyone. Let’s face it, it also increases our stress, adds tension, deteriorates our sustained attention span. Think about this – in 1998, your average attention span was 12 minutes. Today – it’s down to 5 minutes and our focused attention span has also decreased, from 12 to 8 seconds since 2000. We’ve got to know that this interferes with our ability to be in the moment to build relationships and experience life.
So on this one way ticket to faster, are you leading your life to keep technology as an enabler in your life? Or are you becoming a slave to technology that robs you from the richness of living your life to the fullest? Afterall it is a choice. The first step is becoming aware of how technology impacts your life experience. The next is deciding to put technology in the right place. It absolutely takes discipline and practice for sure, but the results are life changing. Try telling your team – no phones in the staff meeting, or your family-no phones at dinner or on Sunday. Try it for a month and see what happens to the focus.
How are you doing on your approach to life with technology? How are you managing your technology so that it doesn’t become the boss of you?
The day finally arrived. Lunch had been on the books for 3 months. I arrived early, as I didn’t want to cut our time together short. It had been too long. And the conversation started just where we left off last time. It’s what I love most about our time together. You can focus on what matters most and walk away with both renewed confidence and a new perspective.
Today was no different.
We were both leading significant strategic change in our organizations. It’s hard work. Learning to meet people where they are is required, but difficult. Especially for the people who find comfort in admiring the problem. And what begins as an effort to understand, causes some to stay at this stage far past its value. It can sometimes attract a crowd who also decides to make it their goal to admire the problem too.
As a leader, it is important to recognize the importance of understanding. But it takes extra care to see why people get stuck. Some people stay stuck out of fear, others because they don’t know how to move forward and yet others who will never leave this stage. Fundamentally, they don’t want change.
The focus of the leader needs to be on the first two groups with the realization there is nothing you can do to help the last group until they decide they want help. And the answer might be never. And that’s OK for them.
It is always a personal choice.
But for you as a leader, your role is to move people forward. Learning to recognize the signs of “admiring the problem” from those who need attention is critical to moving the organization forward.
And it’s important to remember the first two groups might be quiet about their needs because they don’t want to appear inadequate. The group that doesn’t want to move, they will be the loudest. Don’t be fooled and distracted by the intensity of these efforts.
Instead focus where it matters. The momentum of this group will deliver evidence of progress that cannot be ignored, even by those that prefer to admire the problem.
How are you practicing intentional leadership to separate the crowd who are admiring the problem? Your engagement matters!
It was a great welcome home message.
It would have been easy to say no, I was tired and I just wanted to stay home. But I knew this never happens. And I really wanted to catch up. It had been awhile.
Looking for a convenient restaurant, we found a little place — known for their great wine, homemade food and quaint neighborhood feel. Perfect.
We were old friends and as it happens when you haven’t seen someone for a while, our conversation went everywhere all at once. And like the best of friends our conversation picked up where we left off. It was fun to celebrate the moments with each other. And ponder the questions that nagged us. But most of all, it was a great way to recharge your battery.
As we shared our schedules and what was next, she looked at me, shook her head and said, “I don’t know how you do it.”
Last weekend marked the first free weekend for both my husband and I in 4 months. It wasn’t the first time I had received this response. But for me, the answer was easy:
It’s busy, but I know it won’t last forever.
The lives of my family are complex, busy and maybe a bit crazy. But for me, it’s important to figure out how to integrate all life has to offer. I need to be there. That means figuring out how to make the busy lives of my family work together with what matters most.
I’ve always known, the opportunities won’t wait and frankly won’t always fit into a nice neat schedule. If I want to make the most of this life, I had to learn how to be there when things happened. This means accepting sometimes my schedule will be a bit scary. It also means taking advantage of the scheduling opportunities – like dinner with my friend.
Indeed – my life is crazy and full. But I know it won’t last forever. Learning to live in the moment and celebrate what makes this time special, is what’s important. And it’s what makes the journey so much fun, especially knowing you won’t travel this road again exactly the same way.
Let me know how you tackle your crazy life and make it work for you. I don’t want to miss out on what life has to offer, and know you don’t either. Let me hear how you do what you do.