Posts filed under ‘motivation’

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

Leadership Lessons from a Dirty Double Crosser

Fifteen hours, all alone, crossing the Grand Canyon…twice, is a perfect opportunity for considerable reflection, if not hallucination. My recent Rim to Rim to Rim run across this Natural Wonder of the World and back was the fulfilling of a long held goal to run the 50 plus miles from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim…and then back, in one day. I knew it would be hard, having hiked the entire trail with friends five months earlier, but doing it all, twice, in one shot, running, would be a bit different. I wasn’t flying completely blind however, having completed several ultra marathons in recent years. Still, this would be no walk in the park, covering over 50 miles and climbing (and descending) over 11,000 ft., and with temperatures pushing ninety degrees during the day.

So back to reflection… There is no school better than the great outdoors for learning life lessons. And while some of the best lessons are the result of mistakes, in this case there weren’t many, as I was well prepared. Well, I guess that’s lesson one:If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I’d made a [training] plan, based on previous ultras, I’d faithfully followed the plan, even when it wasn’t convenient or I didn’t feel like it, and all that training and preparation did indeed pay off, allowing me to complete my goal. The formula, plan, follow, succeed just works!

Ok, so not everything went perfectly. I did make a couple of mistakes: At about 15 miles in, I rounded a corner and to my horror there was a 20 ft. geyser coming up from the water pipe that feeds the seven water stations inside the canyon. I suddenly regretted my last minute decision the night before to remove my water purifier from my hydration pack! After all, the Park Service website said all stations were flowing! I still had the 9 hardest miles to the North Rim ahead and this might mean no more water ‘til the top! Could have been a disaster! Fortunately, the fountains were still flowing. Lesson two: Don’t doubt that inner voice!

The second mishap occurred shortly after the geyser where there’s a hill…a nasty annoying hill, that by itself is not terrible, but after several hours of running and anticipating the brutal 7 mile climb to the North Rim that still lay ahead, I was dreading it. Just before the hill there’s a faint path leading off the main trail to what I knew to be Ribbon Falls, a cool place to escape the sun and enjoy the fall’s cool mist for a few minutes. There’s also a sign at that intersection pointing ahead up the main trail to another trail and a bridge over Bright Angel Creek leading to Ribbon Falls. But I chose the first path thinking I could find a better, easier way across the creek and on to Ribbon Falls… Bad idea! After running into an impassable creek and bushwhacking for 20 minutes I came to the humble and a little bloody understanding of why they’d built a bridge. Lesson three: “Shortcuts make long delays” (thanks, J.R.R. Tolkien).

One more lesson – the climb up past Roaring Springs to the Supai Tunnel, and finally to the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim was…REALLY hard! Add to that it was 11:30 am and full sun! Finally, when I hit the top I thought to myself “I’m done…totally spent…nothing left…NOTHING!” But there was this little issue of now being 26 miles from where I’d begun, and a wife on the South Rim waiting hard for my return seven hours later. No cell service, no way to get ahold of her…oh, and I’ve never quit anything before! So, I choked down another PROBAR, refilled and mixed my water, took one deep breath and headed back down…DOWN the canyon wall! If I hadn’t been there, I’d never have believed it was possible, but, and here’s lesson four: When the need is great enough, human potential exceeds all rational limits! A change in direction helps too!

Well, seven and a half hours later, after a beautiful but grueling day and still other lessons contemplated, I dragged myself up on to a now dark again South Rim, right back where I’d started and right into my wife’s arms! Just kidding – she had no interest in hugging this very dusty, dirty double [canyon] crosser!

 

 

December 11, 2016 at 4:07 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

Focus on the G.O.O.D.

Life can be hard, and when it is, it’s easy to get down, lose perspective, feel overwhelmed, even depressed. It may be the poor choices and bad behavior of others, or perhaps our own. Financial, medical, or emotional, strain can also send one for a loop. Life is full of challenges, presenting ample opportunity to shrivel and shrink, lash out, or simply give up, but the results of any of these are sure to bring nothing but more despair.

For BEST results (sounds like medicine?), consider a better choice with an outcome guaranteed to bring greater peace, satisfaction, and success: Focus on the G.O.O.D.! Just looking for the good that surrounds us is by itself good advice in good times and bad, but what I’m suggesting here is to simply focus on the G.O.O.D.: Gratitude, Others, Opportunities, and Doing.

Gratitude – The happiest people I know are the most grateful! Even in the darkest times, there is so much to be grateful for. When your head hurts, be grateful you have one! When the house is messy, be grateful for being surrounded by others. An empty fridge means you have a fridge! A challenging job means you have income. There is ALWAYS something or someone to be grateful for, and just the act of focusing outward (instead of inward on yourself) at all the good that surrounds you, puts things in perspective and changes your attitude from one of scarcity and woe to abundance and wonder.

Others – As Albert Schweitzer put it, ”The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” The very act of focusing [outward] on others and their needs shifts the focus from oneself (inward) and one’s problems. You cannot focus on two things at a time. By centering your efforts on those in need your life takes on greater meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.

Opportunities – No matter where you are, there are opportunities to improve your situation…especially when times are tough. Life is all about learning, growing, and improving, and there is no finish line for any of these. Some of the most inspiring examples of living a full life come from those who appear to have had “nothing” to work with, yet have accomplished amazing things! Opportunities are everywhere!

Doing – “Action is the antidote to despair.” These words wisely penned by Joan Baez are among the truest when it comes to turning things around. Sitting and staring at your problems only makes them bigger…if not worse. Attacking them, or anything for that matter, gets the mind working and the blood flowing, shifting your focus away from the problem to something, more worthy of your efforts.

It is best always to focus on the G.O.O.D., but especially when things aren’t going so well. The most effective people understand and practice this; and the most effective leaders guide their teams to do the same!

Lead on!

Cliff

June 3, 2016 at 9:01 am 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

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