Posts filed under ‘communication’

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

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

The Power of Alignment

If you’ve driven a car with even one wheel out of alignment you know what an unpleasant experience it can be. A misaligned car might try to fight you, pulling in another direction, or it may wobble or shake. At a minimum it will wear out or unevenly wear the tires. If left untreated it can cause more serious problems or even result in a catastrophic accident.

On the other hand, a perfectly aligned car runs smoothly, requires less gas, and provides a more efficient and pleasant ride.

Work teams either suffer or benefit from the alignment that they experience.   Poorly aligned teams pull apart and away from the intended results. Team objectives and results are shaky at best, leaving the team worn and uneven in their performance. Left unaddressed team misalignment may even result in catastrophe or disbandment.

A well-aligned team however, runs smoothly, efficiently, and provides a much more pleasant experience.

Team alignment, is critical to success, whether with your crew, on the sports field, the boardroom, or at home. With shared vision, common goals, and united efforts a well-aligned team is nearly unstoppable. And behind every great team is a good leader who not only values and applies the principles of alignment to his or her team, but also to himself. Great leaders live and lead in alignment with their heads and their hearts. They act consistent with their beliefs. As a result, they enjoy the confidence and credibility necessary to inspire and be trusted by those they lead.

Credible and inspiring leaders then create alignment within their teams by applying the following five principles:

  • Share the vision (what, where, when, how, and why) – with everyone on the team.
  • Involve the team in planning – You need their perspective, experience, and most of all, buy-in!
  • Clarify roles and expectations – Nothing kills alignment like a lack of clarity, and fuzzy expectations! Empower a man, clear the path, and define and agree upon the expected results. Then prepare to be dazzled!
  • Provide a feedback loop – Communication solves everything. Ask for and give constant, open, and honest feedback. Feedback IS the breakfast of champions (and well-aligned teams)!

A leader who is well-aligned with herself first and the principles that guide her, and who then creates alignment within her team, will enjoy the power and benefits of a smooth running, highly efficient, and very productive team. Even an unstoppable team!

Lead on!

December 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm 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

Carpe Diem

Life’s greatest lessons come not from text books or the halls of academia. They come to the unsuspecting, from the unexpected experiences of life. They come to us individually as we solo our personal climbs through life, and they come to families and teams as they together face the challenges and opportunities that are simply…part of life.

Many of my work friends and I suffered the sudden and very sad loss of a co-worker and friend this week.  We all experience similar losses.  So what can we learn from heart-breaking events such as these?  So many things… but three in particular rise quickly to the surface:

First, the incalculable value of time. Unlike other precious resources, time is finite. There is only so much – sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, three hundred sixty-five days in a year. We can’t save time, make time, or even find time. It just ticks by, and so, due to its finite nature it is more precious than any other thing. What’s more, none of us know how much of it we will have, so every minute counts! As the French essayist Montaine wrote, “The value in life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them.”

We learn to “seize the day” and to treat every day as if it’s our last.

Second, the importance and value of heartfelt expressions. How many of us, after the loss of or separation from a dear one, yearn for one more chance to hug, smile, thank, encourage, lift, or love. How many have thought “if only I’d have known…”? What would we have said or done to let them know how we feel, how much we appreciate them, or how great we think they are? It’s often the things not said that leave the greatest pain. So, don’t hold back.

We learn to say what’s in our hearts whenever it might lift, encourage, or cheer another.

Third, some things ARE more important than others. And as it turns out, people are most important. In the busy-ness of life we often lose this perspective; too often we allow an event, a task, or some other undertaking to overshadow what really matters. When asked what are the most important things in life, everyone freely admits: family, friends, or loved ones. However, when viewed through the lens of the choices we make and the way we spend our time, our resources, and our energy, do we walk the talk? Too often we allow the urgencies of life to crowd out our real priorities, or the emotions of the moment to endanger a relationship. People really do matter.

We learn that people and relationships are what makes life worth living.

Thank you Kristie, for the lessons learned this week.

April 27, 2015 at 1:17 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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