Posts filed under ‘coach’

Leaders Must Walk the Two-Way Street of Communication

Leadership involves more than giving instructions to subordinates and measuring how they handle their responsibilities. True leaders want to know how their teams are faring, and how they can improve personally to ultimately improve their teams’ circumstances.

They can only do this if they are communicating effectively and holding themselves accountable as leaders. Things go sour fast when they don’t. I’ll illustrate this with a little story…

The Tale of Gavin the Well-Intentioned Manager

Gavin, a newly promoted store manager, wanted more than anything to exceed the sales and profitability goals that he had just inherited after the recent departure of his predecessor. Although he was new at the job, Gavin understood that he would only be successful with the help and full engagement of his branch team.

So, the proud Scottish immigrant embarked on an aggressive effort to win their hearts in the way he thought best—through their stomachs. Gavin determined that he’d treat the team to his favorite Scottish breakfast every morning. Certainly they’d appreciate this new perk and it would help them get to work early or at least on time every day.

Over the weekend, Gavin labored to replicate the haggis and black pudding recipes his mother had taught him in his native Scotland, and he could hardly wait to share them on Monday morning!

As each employee arrived, Gavin thrust a plate of his proud creations at each of them with complete confidence that they’d love it. Sensing his enthusiasm, his employees feigned appreciation for the meal, but then secretly disposed of it at the first opportunity.

Day after day this scenario repeated itself—the employees growing more and more disgusted by the sheep innards and pork fat and blood-infused foods, but not wanting to offend or irritate the boss.

They pretended to enjoy it. To make matters worse, Gavin never asked or watched them eat to gauge their satisfaction; he just assumed they loved what he loved, and that everyone was perfectly content with the new arrangement.

In time, the employees would get nauseous just thinking about going to work. At first, they were often late and then they began missing days. It never occurred to Gavin that he was responsible for their attendance issues.

Instead he assumed that there was something wrong with his employees, and he began blaming them for their tardiness and absences, even telling his regional manager of their “bad attitudes.” Eventually, Gavin made plans to replace all of them!

A lack of communication is a symptom of a greater problem

So what went wrong? Yes, a lack of communication—specifically, a lack of feedback from both sides contributed. The employees didn’t want to offend or hurt their manager’s feelings, and Gavin didn’t want to have the difficult conversation about their attendance issues, instead taking the easier route of blaming his employees’ “attitudes.”

But the lack of communication was just a symptom of the real problem. The real problem was a total abandonment of personal responsibility and accountability—by all parties.

How to be truly accountable

You see, all success, all progress, all growth, all character development begins and ends with personal accountability. Accountability means being personally responsible and taking ownership of one’s circumstances… especially when it’s hard or unpleasant.

And it’s not just facing up to the obvious—true accountability is going a step further, by seeking out and welcoming (less obvious) feedback from any and all sources. It’s asking, “How have I contributed to the problem?” or “How can I get better?”

That is the ultimate display of true accountability. That is how we get better. That is how we build trust and create alignment with those we work with. That is leadership!

Lead on,

Cliff

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July 24, 2017 at 10:33 am Leave a comment

ENCOURAGEMENT – The Difference Between Night and Day

As a leader, a coach, a manager, or a parent, the most valuable tool you have for lifting and motivating others is also the lowest cost and easiest to use. Encouragement costs you nothing, but its value is priceless! It could be the only thing standing between the success and failure of someone under your charge. Like flipping a switch it can, for the recipient, be the difference between day and night…between engagement and disengagement…between loving and hating their job or challenge.

Encouragement is “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.”   Show me an underperforming worker, student, or athlete, and I’ll show you one lacking encouragement (substantive support, expressions of confidence in their abilities and potential, vision driven hope) from a respected source.

Everyone responds in a positive way to sincere encouragement. And while none of us would intentionally discourage another from doing their best, we actually do it all the time, simply by not offering encouragement! You see, the lack of encouragement IS discouraging! It is, at least by default, withdrawing support, expressing a lack of confidence in, or worse, insulting another thus dashing any hope they might have of succeeding.

So, how do you do it? How can you offer meaningful and sincere encouragement more often and to more people? Here are twelve suggestions:

  1. Just do it…every day…and to everyone! Remember, it costs NOTHING and has a tremendous impact!
  2. Give praise and compliments. We’re talking simple stuff here. While it must be genuine, it doesn’t need to be about winning an Oscar or gold medal. A simple compliment about the smallest thing goes a long way!
  3. Be specific! Being a “good guy” is a nice compliment, but carries far less weight than the real reasons behind a general compliment.
  4. Express your belief and confidence in the potential of others! If they’re not quite there yet don’t feel that it’s your job to point that out. Instead remind them of what can be…what they can do and what they can become!
  5. Challenge them (to reach higher) in a supportive and affirmative way, offering your personal support along the way.
  6. Express gratitude whenever and wherever you can as you observe progress and as you are personally aided by their efforts.
  7. When introducing them to another person your words of praise and positive reinforcement can work miracles in boosting confidence and encouragement.
  8. Pleasantries and greetings. Yes, even a pleasant “good morning”, “how was your weekend”, or “see you in the morning” can be encouraging – not necessarily for its substance – but certainly, the lack thereof can be very discouraging to those who look to their boss or coworker for validation and acceptance.
  9. Take the cue! When you KNOW someone is hurting or discouraged, that’s your cue. As a fellow human being it’s the human thing to do. Even if there’s nothing you can do, your expression of concern and support is…encouraging.
  10. Write a note! If you struggle eyeball to eyeball…put it on paper!
  11. Get personal. Tell them how they’ve helped or inspired you to higher heights, and how you are better for their example or efforts.
  12. Be there! To continue to cheer, praise, support, and celebrate!

Lead on…

Cliff

June 8, 2016 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Character Matters Most

James Thurber wrote, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.” As a leader it’s important to know the difference and to be able to help others understand as well.

To me, the “glow” that illuminates represents those things that are sure, timeless, and everlasting. Things like truth, trust, and integrity. They are real; they are dependable, breeding confidence, peace and calm. They light the way and warm the soul. They are “the glow that illuminates”.

The “glare”, on the other hand are those things that are temporary, superficial, or meant to deflect, cover up or distract. Things like perfume, styling, presentation, even clothing can be helpful in covering or “prettying up” what otherwise may not, on its own merits, be attractive. The “glare” obscures what we’d rather others not notice.

Both glow and glare have their place and their utility. Interestingly, one can draw the same distinction between character and personality.

Character relates to deeply held values, principles and beliefs, such as integrity, humility, courage, fidelity…and to one’s performance relative to those values and beliefs. Like the “glow that illuminates”, character comes from deep within and is enduring and guiding to the extent one acts in alignment with one’s defining values. They are the “glow that illuminates”.

Personality on the other hand is more external, superficial, and relates to the way one presents himself to the world. The way he dresses, communicates, negotiates, and moves within social and business circles. Much of today’s self-improvement literature focuses on these temporary strategies, skills, and quick fixes aimed at advancing one’s success in any number of settings…by putting on a “better” face. These are “the glare that obscures”.

Again, like the “glow” and the “glare”, character and personality both have their place and value. However, if one compares the resources (time, effort, and money) spent on the one versus the other, there is, it seems, a significant imbalance today. Prior to the twentieth century most literature focused on character development. Since then, the emphasis has tilted heavily toward personality, with nearly all of today’s career development and “self improvement” books, seminars, and programs focusing on behaviors related to personality. Selling more, winning friends and influencing people, getting rich, deal making…

While there’s nothing wrong with improving skills and looking the best we can, there is danger in doing so at the expense of one’s character and those things (values and principles) that are of highest priority. One of the great challenges in life is finding the right balance of character and personality. The secret in successfully doing so lies in [always] putting character first and never compromising one’s character on the altar of personality.

Great leaders encourage others to put character first, even ahead of things that might bring tempting short-term gains. But that’s part of true leadership. In fact the act of encouraging character development over selfish interests itself takes on a glow that illuminates the path for others rather than a glare that may cause them to lose their way.

Lead on!

Cliff

April 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Sailing to Engagement through Communication

Just as “a rising tide lifts all boats”, good communication lifts all “ships”…including effective leadership, courtship, and friendship. In the long run, each of these is buoyed up by frequent, and positive, communication. For the purposes of THIS discussion, we’ll focus on leadership, however the same principles certainly apply to effectively maintaining and sailing any kind of “ship”!

Great leaders know that the wind that fills their employees’ sails, and moves the [engagement] ”ship” forward is clear and thoughtful communication from the leader. Communication answering the questions “Where are we headed?” “Why are we making the journey?” “What’s my role and how does it fit in?” Without these, the ship flounders.

Moreover, timely, specific and sincere feedback regarding employee performance, progress, and accomplishment puts your inspired leader-“ship” in full sail! Add to these, the many additional opportunities available to all, but utilized only by the most effective, leaders in engaging their teams, including:

  1. Simple greetings! “Good morning”, “How was your weekend?”, “Have a good evening”. Daily interactions provide simple, but effective opportunities to connect and acknowledge others. Sometimes just not doing this can leave employees thinking “what did I do?” or “why’s he upset?” A pleasant greeting truly lifts morale and increases trust.
  2. When giving instructions or making an assignment, ensure full communication by asking questions. Until you hear your intended thoughts coming out of their mouths, you have not effectively communicated…and they know that!
  3. Listen! Remember, Habit 5 – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood. You can only understand what you truly hear, and EVERYONE wants and needs to be understood.
  4. Thanks!” Never, ever, ever let an opportunity to express sincere thanks for any and all (even the simplest) act of kindness, assistance, or help of any kind. You may think it doesn’t matter and maybe it doesn’t, but to many a simple “thank you” is gold!
  5. Look beyond your team! Kindness, respectful recognition, and friendliness expressed to everyone in your path raises the overall engagement level of everyone within the organization.
  6. Compliments, when issued spontaneously and sincerely lift spirits, show recognition and awareness, and demonstrably increase trust and communication, while reducing barriers of skepticism, fear, or introversion.

Put the wind back in your team’s sails by increasing the quality, frequency, and sincerity of communication to and with them! It is the surest way to increase employee engagement…and have FUN doing it!

Lead on!

Cliff

 

April 3, 2016 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

“Leadership Begins with a “W”

Many managers became managers suddenly and unintentionally. And while it’s gratifying to be tapped out as “the guy” (or gal) best suited to take over the reigns of leadership when there’s a void, it can also be intimidating, especially when one doesn’t feel prepared! After all, how many managers of teams took the “management class” before they were handed the keys? Relatively few, so it’s natural for newly appointed managers to do the natural thing – to emulate their managers…who mimicked their managers…and so on! The problem is that this “legacy” of managing as it’s always been done, often finds its roots in the industrial age. For eons the accepted definition of management was “getting people to do what you want them to do”. That’s it! In the “old days” The typical worker didn’t have many choices and mobility and communications were restricted, so managers could get away with industrial age management techniques – those of directing, threatening, correcting, and controlling.

However, times have changed and so has the world. Today there are more choices: where to work, what to do, how to do it…the possibilities are endless. Add to that an entirely new and different generation of workers. Today, old management attitudes, such as “my way or the highway” just don’t fly! People have more choices, they’re more connected, better informed, and they expect to be respected, want to participate and to matter.

As a result, instead of “management” the focus has shifted to “leadership”, the definition of which is related to, yet vastly different from the definition of “management”. While management was getting others to do what you want them to do, Leadership is different. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do…because they WANT to do it”!

THIS is one of the most valuable lessons a new manager can learn. Unless people WANT to do the work they will not fully engage in the work. It’s a matter of free will (another important “w”). And here’s the second most valuable lesson: Until your employees have a vision and understanding of WHY they’re doing the work – how it helps – how it makes a difference – how it effects the customer, the team, and the organization, they won’t truly WANT to do it. Yes, without these you might get temporary compliance…when you‘re present, but as soon as you’re not, free will takes over and you lose their hands…unless you’ve won their hearts (WANT). The minute a manager thinks, “no one needs to know the plan, the details, or the results but me” he’s already lost!

To truly win the hearts and hands of any organization’s most flexible and valuable resource, the human resource, the effective leader begins with the WHY (the vision). This inspires the WANT (the heart), thereby engaging the will and hands of the team! There is no other sustainable way!

Lead on,

Cliff

February 4, 2016 at 10:09 am Leave a comment

Build a Life with Goals

“I think I’ll build a house next year. I’ll do it when I have time…and can find some materials. No need to plan it or schedule it as that would take the creativity out of the process. But it’s going to be an awesome house! No…really!”

Silly? Yes…but isn’t that just what we do each year? We say we’re going to do any number of things – major things – in the new year…but in the end too often they just don’t happen! We don’t make them happen!

Building a house is a beautiful illustration of setting and accomplishing goals. Building a home requires a mental vision first, a paper version (blueprint) second, a list of materials and skilled labor, a detailed timeline, and the financial resources to pull it off…to name a few basic requirements.

Building a successful life requires the same. A vision, a written plan, and the resources – carefully accumulated and arranged, and ultimately the discipline to stick to the plan.

Think about the big things you REALLY want to accomplish next year. If you REALLY want to do them they’re most likely linked to your values or one of your roles (leader, spouse, parent, etc.) that you value. If not, stop right there. No need to proceed.

If the things you really do want to accomplish ARE things you really care about, then set a goal – a real goal – a written, detailed goal. Remember, a goal without a [detailed] plan is just a wish!

Take them one at a time. Ask yourself, with pen in hand, “what do I want to accomplish AND by when?” “What materials and resources will I need…and by when?” “What do I need to do NOW to begin and continue the process?” “What are [all] the milestones, approvals, research, and activities required…and by when?” Only with this kind of thinking and then doing, are we assured of accomplishing our most significant goals. But even the most challenging goals are no match for the power of an effectively planned and followed goal.

Last week during our annual business planning meetings I remember a few moments where presenters shared some REALLY big stretch goals. These were received by some in the audience with chuckles and I presume some skepticism. In some instances, where important pieces of their plans were shared I was quite confident that these individuals would pull it off, remembering an old quote, hope in the future gives power in the present! While hope alone won’t produce results, hope and faith in the possibilities and in our own potential, combined with well planned goals ARE powerful! Overwhelmingly powerful!

Whatever your goals, whatever you really want to and earnestly believe you can achieve, is within your grasp…IF you follow the goal-setting process and stick to the plan! It takes character (“the ability to carry out a worthy decision once the emotion of making the decision has passed”), but character is the stuff good lives are built of.

Make 2015 YOUR best year yet!
Lead on!
Cliff

December 17, 2014 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Leading [others] to Greatness

William Shakespeare wrote “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”  While I don’t know about the “born great” or “thrust upon them” parts, we have all seen people who achieve greatness by sheer determination and effort.  But even for them, greatness didn’t have a chance without one fundamental ingredient even more important than the others.  Faith – a belief that it can be done, that it can be reached, that it can be achieved…is the FIRST ingredient of greatness.

Without faith, nothing happens. Without faith that the light will come on, no one would flip the switch. Without faith that there’s promise in the day, who’d get out of bed? Without faith that obstacles can be overcome, no one would make the effort. Without faith that one can achieve great things, who would even try?

Faith in oneself and confidence in one’s abilities are prerequisites for striving for greatness in anything. So where does that faith and confidence come from?  Some would argue that there are those who are born with the drive, but certainly they are the minority.  But for most, and behind every champion, there is a special spark – a friend, a parent, an example, an idea, a feeling that somewhere in the champion’s life helped them to see their potential and gather the faith necessary to carry them to success.

And THAT is where you as a leader come in. Leadership is about helping others discover their potential. As Bo Bennett put it, “A good leader is one who can tell another how to reach his or her potential; a great leader is one who can help another discover this potential for him or herself.” THAT is your opportunity…as a leader, a parent, a friend – to help others see…and believe in their potential! Here’s how…

FIRST, You must believe in their potential. The good news is that all human potential far exceeds our wildest imaginations. We were all designed to reach heights higher than we can envision. The human body, mind, and spirit are limitless when the blinders of life’s experiences and the opinions of critics are ignored. Those you lead are better than they know!  SECOND, help them catch the vision – to “see” their own success and potential in their mind’s eye. Paint the picture. All things are created twice – once in the mind and then in reality.  THIRD, encourage them, support them, and expect them to succeed.  FOURTH, while you can’t remove all obstacles from their path (and shouldn’t), you can make sure you aren’t one of them. Your pure desire for their success will be an unseen strength along their journey.  And FINALLY, always be the example you would hope they’d have. You may not be expert in the thing they are striving to become great at, but your example of being true to the things you do believe and strive for makes all the difference to those, seen and unseen, that are following you…and yes, they are watching!

Leading isn’t always easy, but few things are as rewarding as making a real difference in someone else’s success!  Doing the hard thing is what makes life great. Doing the hard thing is what makes you (and others) great!

Lead on…

Cliff

May 28, 2014 at 11:17 am Leave a comment

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