"Be willing to forgo your need for approval, in exchange for staying the course and achieving the right mission."
When we get distracted by the expectations or demands of people who want their agenda to be satisfied at the expense of a greater goal, we slip quickly into the murky waters of potentially abdicating our responsibilities of leadership.
There will be people who treat you with a manipulative disrespect. Don't expend your time or mental focus in attempting to get on their good side. Their good side is a facade - a pit in which they will throw all your good intentions. Politely hold to the direction you know is right and move on.
I have experienced a few unpleasant encounters with whiners, manipulators and passive aggressive controllers during my tenure as a leader. Most of them chose to leave the organization (some quietly, some with fanfare) because they didn't get their way. Was I saddened by the departures and results of the conflict? Yes, in some cases. And no, a couple of times I was truly relieved and excited to see that their departure created a morale boost for everyone who remained. Looking back on those times, I realize that not once did I feel compelled to go after them or attempt to meet their demands. The good of the whole outweighed my personal need to be in "good graces" with the grumpy!
Leadership is not about being popular, it is about being purposeful.
Many people think that the road to success is a paved Super Highway. In reality, it is an off road experience! Here are the 10 Things Successful People Know About the Road To Success:
You won't find a well marked exit ramp. You have to create your own.
You won't find signs that point the way. Usually you discover those when you look back on your journey.
You won't be competing for a space in the flow of traffic, because there are no traffic jams where you are going.
You won’t typically run into detours predetermined by others. Obstacles may restrict your progress, but that’s to be expected. You will reroute and navigate through unfamiliar places.
There won’t be any convenient rest areas. But, it will be important to take advantage of those great “view points” along the way and appreciate the new perspectives you’ve gained. So make sure to take a break and recharge.
You won’t be restricted by a speed limit. Go as fast as you like. Just keep in mind that most successful people will tell you that the journey takes time.
You won’t find a “carpool” lane. However, significant success comes quicker when you include others that share the vision for a more desirable future.
It is acceptable to ask for directions. But make sure you ask people who know what it’s like to have mud on their shoes.
You won’t find a bridge where there is deep water. Don’t wait for the government to provide one, build your own.
You won’t find a well lit tunnel when you come to the mountains that stand between you and the horizon. Just put yourself in gear and start climbing!
Now here comes the reality check:
If you can reach your sales goals in the next 30 days by playing it safe, you’re selling yourself short of your potential!
If your goal is to create a “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”Customer Experience and to gain a long term relationship for your business, you have to do what your competition isn’t dreaming of or willing to do.
If you want to get referrals (word of mouth marketing) from super satisfied customers, you have to go the extra mile for them and then ask for the referral.
It will be uncomfortable and bumpy at times. Do what you already know you need to do, but kept putting it off because your comfortable or concerned about what others might think.
If you want to reach your goals - you have to declare what they are, develop an adventurous spirit and break away from the crowd!
You can make 2016 the best year ever! Make the decisions about where you want to go and who you want to be, take ahold of the wheel and get off the highway.
Have you ever noticed how quickly a conversation can get uncomfortable when someone says something that is rude, insensitive or simply contrary? A cold hush comes over the room or a heated rush to battle makes innocent bystanders want to escape.
What fascinates me is how the offended can so quickly get defensive. Don't get me wrong, I'm not immune to this scenario. I don't like it when someone takes a shot at me and I'm inclined to go into a "let's settle this right here and now" mode. Which isn't always the best approach. And that's what has me thinking today - "What is really going on in those awkward moments and what would be a better approach?"
The way I see it, these moments are similar to what happens in most sports. There is offense and defense. Each has a specific purpose and strategy. The difference however, is that we don't approach conflict with purpose and strategy - we just react or over-react. Let me explain:
When a team goes on offense - the goal is to make a point. The same is true in life. When we are "offended" it is typically because someone made a point that we don't like. Whatever their intentions, we are unhappy.
So we get defensive and try to protect our rights, dignity and pride. We want to naturally "even the score"! But defense is not about making points, it's about protecting our turf and preventing others from making any more points.
Think about that for a moment. What do we do in a sporting event when the opposing team makes a point? Do we stay in a defense posture? No! We shift quickly into an offense strategy and seek to make our own points. If we play only in a defensive mode, we'd never have control or opportunity to score. A basketball team in defense is focused on preventing a score and getting the ball back. If they succeed in that, they pivot their strategy immediately to offense. Staying in defense at all times would be a guaranteed loss. They would always be running backwards and being pressured by the competitor. Might as well just sit on the bench and let the other team demonstrate their slam-dunk skills.
That's what I see happen all the time in corporate environments. People get offended by a point made by another and in turn they immediately try to defend themselves. Usually by attempting to discredit the other person or by arguing that the opposing view is wrong. That is not an effective strategy.
When you feel offended - get offensive!
Don't attack the person or their perspective. Instead, use this offensive strategy:
1) Shift your thinking. Give thought to how you can best communicate your ideas and make your next point.
2) Stay focused on the facts. Being factual, not emotional is the best game plan.
3) Stand your ground. If there has been a foul or an attack, don't retaliate. I believe that if you stay professional, others will come to your defense and stand up for your integrity.
4) State your position and make your point. Be brief and tactful.
5) Step away. Sometimes after the point has been expressed people need time to think. In other situations, if the "offender" is simply being a bully or trying to instigate a fight - it's time to walk way.
Just one more thought. Don't keep score. It's much more rewarding to work with others for a desired team outcome, then it is to be constant competitors.
Why would a leader encourage members and employees of the organization to say "That is not my job"?
Because, it isn't their job. Not if they work in an environment that empowers them to take responsibility for the outcomes. People are more engaged and invested when there is an intrinsic understanding that the progress and success of the company is directly related to the individual efforts, skills, and ability to problem solve. It is not their job, it is their mission - their cause.
People who have arrive at this understanding are deeply committed and have a greater sense of ownership. In fact, they think and behave as if they do own the company. For example, a young lady approached her boss with a strategy to reduce the time it takes to process a customers request for additional services. Her plan could save employees approximately 20 minutes per transaction. When the boss asked why she had given this so much thought and effort, she responded "I thought that the cost savings for the company would be significant and it would help employees to have time to focus more on producing results and less on process." It was not her job to come up with those ideas. Her "job" was to simply carry out the tasks. And yet, her mission was to make the company stronger and her role became more valuable.
The fastest way you can begin creating this kind of energy and engagement is to:
1) Minimize the rules, and get out of their way.
2) Maximize the recognition and give them the credit.
There are two dangers to keep in mind as you move in this direction - the lines between who is responsible for what can become fuzzy and you may end up doing things that you shouldn't.
You can avoid the first problem by having regular conversations with individuals and the whole team about specific roles and responsiblities. We need to release people to play to their strengths. We also need to remind the whole team that we contribute to each others efforts, but not at the expense of our own duties.
Innovation is the buzz word and expectation in every growing business today. We are constantly striving to generate new ideas and spark creativity. The most common method is to call for a brainstorming session. Gather a group together, present the challenge and expect "earth shaking" results in an hour. But sometimes brainstorming just doesn't work. Could there be a better way?
Dr. Tony MCCaffery suggests that there is no evidence that brainstorming works. He offers a different approach that will generate hundreds more practical ideas in just minutes. Check out his video.
He suggests that the premise of talking through problems and ideas is not as effective as expecting people to write out their ideas, then submit them for others to consider. The written form allows for all ideas to be considered and the introverted personalities gain an opportunity to have their suggestions presented. His research indicates that the ideas are more practical and everyone involved is invested in the process.
I see his point, but disagree that the exercise of talking it out is the reason brainstorming doesn't work. In my experience, talking through the challenges and hearing other perspectives often helps us gain understanding. It also helps us generate greater levels of collaboration and cooperation.
Brainstorming can be effective when you give people time to think, expect them to write out their ideas and read others ideas before they come to a brainstorming session. The time for contemplation prior to the conversation is what makes the process more meaningful.
Henry: “Steven, I am really concerned about the changes the company is initiating and how the employees in my division are going to react.” (He rolled his eyes, took a deep breath and continued.) “I came here 5 years ago and we’ve seen 5 new directors come and go during that time. Every one of those directors had a new idea or plan that we had to embrace, only to see all of our efforts thrown out when the company decided to get a new director.”
Me: “Tell me why you’re concerned about the new initiatives.”
Henry: “Well in the past, every decision that introduced a change in our process was made in secret and handed down at the last moment. No time for questions, buy-in or troubleshooting. The morale takes another hit, there is no trust and the complainers get a little louder.”
That conversation sounds too familiar, doesn’t it? I hear the same thing all over the country as I coach leaders in different industries - manufacturing, high-tech, offices, and non-profits. However, on occasion I hear a different story. There are organizations and leaders that have discovered that having an open dialogue and including people in the early stages of change is a successful strategy.
Sharing important information with the people of your organization will generate five significant outcomes.
It provides a foundation for them to understand the issues and decisions that have to be made.
It minimizes the potential for speculation and misunderstandings.
The “power brokers” in the organization that try to generate fear will have their leverage minimized.
It creates opportunity for meaningful discussions and opportunity for people to offer suggestions/ideas on how to make the transitions successful.
And most importantly, it sends a clear message that they are important enough to be trusted with the information.
Remember: You are not leading change, you are leading people.
It was an incredible day - sunny, just enough wind, and a 40' sail boat. This was the first time my wife had been sailing. And it was a big deal. We were not sailing in a little lake in Kansas, this was San Diego and off the coast of Mexico. Why was this such a big deal? She's not comfortable with deep water. But this was her idea. I watched with delight throughout the day as she challenged her fear, transitioning from a tentative seated place in the stern to literally walking to the front of the boat and napping on the bow while we returned to Shelter Island in San Diego Bay. Her comfort and confidence grew as the captain explained the features of the boat and proved his competence.
This got me thinking about our role as leaders. What can we do to help others gain self confidence in the deep waters of change and transition? What do we need to understand about ourselves during times of transition?
Transitions. An intriguing word. The root is "transit." It implies moving from one place to another. Transition is the act of going from one point and arriving at a new point.
Sometimes transitions are the dramatic ending of an experience and the beginning of a new one. At other times the transition is smooth and not at all a conclusion of something, but a quiet shifting of direction.
Whatever the means of your transitions, you are still the same person - same strengths, talents, hopes and fears. Yes, there are times that the condition of the transition affects our lives and we are influenced by the cause of the change. For example: a death, a move, a layoff, a divorce or a birth. These do shape our perspective. And yet, we are still the same.
If you step from a dock onto a boat, are you suddenly a different person? No. You can "transit" your life from a stationary, solid foundation to a new foundation that lifts and pitches according to the waves below. You have not changed, but your physical experience has. Your inner person, the core of who you are, did not stay on the dock. You became fully engaged on the boat. The transition does not change you. However, the new experience brings a new point of reference and an opportunity to learn and grow. That becomes the basis for a transition of mindset, beliefs and behaviors.
What happens on the boat? Your behaviors change. You intuitively begin to adjust your balance according to the shifting of the physical environment. On the dock, your body had no need to focus on keeping balance. But on the boat, the circumstances are in constant change and your actions adjust to those changes. If you remain rigid and make no adjustments to your personal position in relation to the on going changes, you will probably be tossed overboard.
Now, let's "transit" this understanding to our real world of leadership. If we become rigid during times of transition, we're going to get tossed around. However, if we begin to see change as an opportunity to learn new behaviors, the end result will be a greater comfort with new environments and the confidence to stretch a little more beyond our past "dock" experience. The comfort and confidence we model during times of transition will become inspiration for those we lead - encouraging them to "transit" from the dock into new directions and understanding. You and I will not be able to model that if we don't step off our own dock once in a while.
"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Picasso
Challenge my own apprehensions.
Help others overcome their apprehensions by informing them of the features and proving my own competence.
See change as a transition, not a conclusion.
Be willing to adjust to the circumstances and learn new behaviors.
Now it is your turn to step aboard. What challenges are you seeing in your leadership environment? What changes are you having to lead others through?
Click on the "comments" link below, share with me and other leaders what is working as you lead others in times of transit.
I mentioned in Part 1 of this article that a key ingredient for personal growth is having the right attitude within you. Let’s look now at the second most important ingredient:
The Right People Around You
I know, this seems obvious! Let me ask you, though - who comes to your mind when you think about the “right” people? Would your list include people who are:
Of course, I’d want to have people like that on my team. However, we have a tendency to surround ourselves with people that we like and agree with our ideas. It could be beneficial to have others on your team that don’t always agree or see things your way. The differing perspective may help to identify a blind spot or divert us from a potential crisis. We may not like it, but we could learn to appreciate the insights. (Note: They may not be someone you would usually like, but they should be likable in their approach.)
The Right People could include:
Experts in subjects/professions outside of your expertise.
Business leaders in different industries.
Mentors / Leaders in your industry.
A friend or family member who is not afraid to point out that you have something hanging from your nose. Honest because they care.
Your potential for developing personal innovation is stymied by solitude. Surround your self with people who have a passion to discuss ideas and avoid those who only want to gossip. Learn from other learners.
Have you ever baked a recipe only to find out while eating it later that you left out an important ingredient? You can tell almost immediately that you didn’t do something right. The same thing can happen to you when attempting to try something new.
There are two key ingredients that have to be included in any process of change:
The Right Attitude Within You & The Right People Around You
The Right Attitude Within You
“This is the way we’ve always done it.”
Those are mental limitations. I know, we usually hear those expressions from other people; but have you slipped into a subtle resistance of your own?
I have always been an early adopter and willing to trail blaze when needed. So, you can imagine my surprise when I suddenly realized that a recent change caused my tolerance needle to bounce around in the “red zone” for a few minutes. I did not like the “new way” and started wishing for the good old days.
“Hit the brakes! Does this mean I’m getting old?”
No, I had just gotten comfortable with my preferences. When we get too busy with life and work, we gravitate to patterns and systems that have familiarity in order to keep a sense of balance. That’s natural. It is also a dangerous, slippery slope that affects our attitudes toward change. Learning something new takes time. It means I have to let go something I’m good at, in order to take hold of something I’m not good at...yet.
Someone jokingly said: “Change will not kill you, the transitions might.”
We laugh, because we know that the growing and learning during the changes is the hard part. But what we learn is what can make us better.
The right attitude within you is evident when you are open to a new experience and willing to act on what you learn.
“Experiments are key to innovation because they rarely turn out as you expect and you learn so much" - Jeff Bezos
What have you learned lately about your openness to trying new things?
Likability, like it or not, is a significant quality in personal and professional relationships. If you have it, you have a greater potential of experiencing a fulfilling life. If you don’t have it, it feels like you’re stuck and you can’t get ahead.
Yes, I know there are people that seem to be naturally easy to like. But, likability is not a trait reserved just for those born with a pleasant disposition. It is a skill that can be learned and mastered by anyone.
Let’s face it - we all enjoy doing business with pleasant people. We enjoy spending time with people we like. And, we politely go out of our way to avoid folks that are negative, obnoxious, self-centered, or just generally grumpy.
Which one are you?
You might be likability-challenged if:
You are having a hard time connecting with others
You have been told that you need to work on your people skills
You attend parties/networking events but don’t mingle well
You leave a conversation wondering why you spent all the time talking about how bored, lonely or angry you are about circumstances.
People avoid you.
You make excuses to not participate in activities or avoid team work.
Now, don’t blow this off and go look for an article that is more comfortable to read. This is a critical component to your professional development.
You can become a likable person.
If you want to get people to like you, start by honestly asking yourself the right questions. The TOP 21 LIKABILITY QUESTIONS include:
Am I easy to talk to?
Am I encouraging?
Do I look happy?
Do I greet others before they acknowledge me?
Am I listening to understand or to refute them?
The answers to these questions will reveal how you perceive your self and give you a great starting point for making the changes that will create a more likable you! It has been said, “If you want to change the world around you, first start by changing the world within you.”