Why Would Anyone Follow You?

People are pretty interesting to study. So many people from so many places, so many different cultures, backgrounds, and histories. So many differences.

 

But even in a world of differences there are some things that most everyone has in common, and one of those commonalities is that the majority of people hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves. It’s just far easier to speak your principles than it is to live them. And that’s likely a key reason why most people are not Authentic Leaders. Authentic Leaders, the type that we would all follow, hold themselves to a higher standard than they hold others.

    

Most people have high expectations for themselves but Authentic Leaders do not merely have high expectations, they have high standards too. We may expect much of ourselves but we too often also provide ourselves with many excuses that Authentic Leaders simply don’t need. Authentic Leaders don’t make excuses, they make commitments to excellence.

 

Authentic Leaders are led by their core values and one of those core values is almost always to make certain that their actions match their words. They do what they say they will when they say they will do it. That makes them very easy to trust. 

     

Authentic Leaders know that people tend to “follow up”, that is they follow people they respect and trust or they follow someone they believe sets an example of the type of person they would like to become.  

 

People seldom “follow down”, they don’t follow people that they would not want to be like or people that they cannot trust or respect. When someone with a leadership title or in a position of leadership holds themselves to lower standards than they hold others they lose the trust of their people and they lose the ability to truly lead.

     

Here’s a few important questions for you: Why would anyone follow you?  Do you expect more from others than you expect from yourself? Do you hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself? Do you allow yourself excuses that you would not allow others? Are the majority of your mistakes “excusable” but not the mistakes of others?

    

In order to properly answer those questions you must be completely honest with yourself because if you can’t be honest with yourself you most certainly won’t be honest with anyone else.

     

Excellent, experienced, Authentic Leaders pause from time to time to ask themselves those very questions. They will also ask their mentors and accountability partners. If they don’t like the answers, they take immediate steps to change them.

 

A truly Authentic Leader has no other choice.


Are Your Key Employees a Flight Risk?

For the past several years I’ve been trying to alert leaders to an impending existential threat to their organizations. I no longer feel the need to do that because it’s no longer impending. The danger is upon us and if you still don’t know what it is then frankly there is little long-term hope for your organization. 

 

Hopefully you’re at least in the group who has the feeling that it’s harder to find people than it used to be…what you need to know is that it’s not just a feeling, it’s a very serious threat to the very existence of your business or organization.

 

The threat I’m talking about of course is the significant shrinking of the available workforce. Upwards of 10,000 Baby Boomers a day reach retirement age and they are being replaced by a much much smaller number of millennials. Even with the Centennials, iGen, Generation Z or whatever you want to call them joining the workforce very soon it won’t be enough to replace all the retiring boomers. 

 

With all due respect (if they still deserve respect) to the politicians who are claiming credit for the near historic low unemployment rate in the United States it has little or nothing to do with their efforts. It’s all about demographics.

 

The math is simply and it does not lie. 

 

One of the worst mistakes a leader can make today is to assume that their key people are not vulnerable to offers from other organizations simply because they provide a fair wage and a good work environment. 

 

Everybody, I repeat everybody, wants something and if you’re not working diligently to provide your people what they want then rest assured some other organization will. 

 

I could go through a long list of what your people might want but “might” doesn’t get it done. You need to know precisely what each of your people want and you need to know it before they are offered it by someone else. 

 

That’s why I’m such a proponent of “stay interviews.” Conducting an exit interview to discover why you’re people are leaving is of little use when compared to conducting a “stay interview” to determine how you can keep them. 

 

Sometimes when asked in a “stay interview” your people may say that “everything is fine” or that they don’t really know what they want. If that’s the case then it’s your job as a leader to help them discover what it is that they want, what it is that will help them stay motivated to remain a part of your organization. Then it’s your job as a leader to deliver it to them if it’s at all possible.

 

I absolutely promise you that if you don’t do that someone else eventually will and it’s getting more likely that it will be sooner rather than later.

 

The number of small businesses closing their doors or hanging on by a thread due to lack of an available workforce is beginning to grow. It is already spreading to larger organizations. If you’re in business then you’re in the people business. If you’re in the people business then you’re going to need to fight for your piece of a shrinking workforce. 

 

The fight begins by not losing the people you currently have. 

 

I truly do not have the vocabulary or writing skills to convey how serious an issue this is becoming for all businesses and organizations. The demographics are just crystal clear!

 

There are a limited number of larger companies who had the vision and forethought to get out in front of this threat and develop programs to retain their people and even recruit new ones. While that’s good for them it makes the situation even more critical for those organizations behind the curve. 

 

The answer to the question that makes up the title of this post is YES! Your key employees are a flight risk. Even if they are not looking to leave there is another organization out there who will try to entice them to do just that. You need to covet them as much or more than the organizations that don’t have them….yet.


Oh, one more thing before we close this out…. if you have an employee who isn’t key to your organization then what the heck are they doing working for you?

Do You Have a Plan for Success?

I’m sometimes asked for my definition of success. I always start the same way, by explaining success is very personal and my definition is likely to be different than the next person’s. But I’m convinced that whatever your personal definition of success happens to be you’ll be more likely to achieve it if you have a solid plan. 

 

To be sure, a plan does not guarantee success, there are other factors in play as well but a plan, a good, well thought-out plan, can take into account many of those factors and provide you with a level of control over seemingly uncontrollable events. 

 

As I’ve seen again and again through the years the single biggest cause of failed plans is that they are never actually put into action. No plan, no matter how good it may be, will succeed if you never take action on it. 

 

While a plan does not guarantee success not taking action on a good plan virtually does guarantee failure or at least much more limited success than you otherwise might have. The bottom line on plans is pretty clear, if your plan is not actionable then it’s not really a good plan.

 

As we near the end of 2017 I’d like to share with you a planning method I’ve used through the years with great success. It is a simple process for developing an actionable plan; be careful however not to make the mistake of thinking that a simple process makes the execution of your plan simple, success is hard work.

 

I also feel the need here to add another caution; we’re talking here about a strong 2018 but don’t let that lull you into thinking 2017 is over, there’s still time to finish strong. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been for you how you finish it absolutely matters. Finish strong!

    

So, first let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

    

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put in the required effort:

1. Develop a clear picture of your current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

2. Be certain you know your vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

3. Develop short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change and don’t forget, one of the secrets of goal achievement is to break big goals into smaller ones to make the big goal easier to achieve 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important. Be as specific as you can possibly be in this step

5. Determine the investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

6. Set your Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

That’s it, there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me share something else with you: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a solid plan.

     

Don’t think of your plan as work, think of it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. The plan may not always “work” the way you intended but I can promise you the planning always will.

The Value of Differing Opinions

Almost every leader has “The One.” “The One” is their most trusted confidant or advisor. They are trusted above all others and play a key role in most, if not all, major decisions. 

 

That’s pretty normal since leaders are human beings and human beings are naturally closer to some people than others. Humans “click” with some people and keep them close by while distancing themselves (at least emotionally) from those that they simply don’t connect with.

 

While that’s perfectly normal that doesn’t mean it’s perfectly good. It is not!

 

It’s hard not to value the opinions of people who hold the same opinions as you. When a leader has someone who consistently agrees with them the leader feels better about their own thinking and over time values the opinion of that someone even more. 

 

But if you’re a leader you need to understand this absolute truth: if the person or people around you always agree with your thinking then it’s very likely that they are not thinking at all. You must understand that you can sometimes be wrong and that means that someone else could sometimes be right. 

 

While no leader will ever completely eliminate “The One” (nor should they) they do need to hear diverse opinions and different viewpoints in order to make as informed a decision as possible. Even if your “One” occasionally offers an opinion different than your own, a single different opinion is not enough.

 

Every person’s opinions and viewpoints are shaped by the events of their life. Their upbringing, their surroundings, their education, and their experiences all play a role in determining what they think and feel in any given situation. 

 

Now this might be a bit of an over-simplification but in general the greater the variety of opinions a leader receives the better their decision will be. 

 

The world is which business is conducted today is too diverse to consistently value one person’s opinion over all others. It greatly diminishes an organization’s potential and limits a leader’s options.

 

So, if you’re a leader who is relying too heavily on “The One” then begin today to seek out differing viewpoints from a variety of people….before it is too late. 

 

You will know it’s too late when you finally ask for input and receive mostly silence in return. You may be tempted to think that the silence means agreement but that’s a huge mistake. Silence is almost never agreement. 

 

What the silence usually means is that the people who you need to share their insights have determined there is no upside to sharing their opinion. It makes no sense to expose your thinking when you are fairly certain that your thinking will be “out-voted” by “The One.”


When votes don’t count smart people stop voting and it doesn’t take long for smart people to realize their vote doesn’t count. 

The Limits of Good Mentoring

I’ve been truly blessed throughout my life to have great mentors. I knew they were great mentors because every now and then they would say “I don’t know, you should probably ask someone else.” 

 

I’ve written several times on the importance of having a mentor. No matter your age, your current level of success, your title or your position within your organization, you will do better tomorrow if you have a mentor today. What’s more you’ll be even better off if you have multiple mentors. 

 

Here’s why. 

 

One of the things that make a great mentor is that they know what they don’t know and they didn’t pretend that they know it. 

 

You can have a mentor who is a brilliant business strategist but not so capable with their people skills. You can have a managerial genius as a mentor but that doesn’t mean they are great leadership coaches. 

 

Those “gaps” don’t mean they are a bad mentor. It’s when they attempt to fill those gaps with guesses, rumors, and plain old BS that they become a poor mentor. I suppose there are mentors who do have a vast amount of knowledge across a very wide spectrum of skill sets and situations…..I just haven’t found one.

 

I’d much rather have a mentor, and much much rather be a mentor, who occasionally has the confidence to say “I just don’t know,” and “I don’t want to steer you wrong so I can’t answer that.” 

 

This may sound a bit counterintuitive but if you have a mentor that has an answer for every question and advice for every single situation then it is very likely you don’t have the right mentor for you. 

 

Having more than one mentor helps overcome the limits that all truly good mentors have. When you have multiple mentors you are more likely to have a mentor with deeper experience in the area(s) where you need help. When you have mentors who look at the same situation but view it from different angles you’re provided with a deeper understanding of what you’re dealing with and that makes a successful outcome much more likely.

 

If you don’t have a mentor today then find one today. Find someone who you feel is successful, someone who cares enough about people to share their “library of experience,” and someone who is willing to invest a part of themselves in your success. 


When you find someone with those characteristics then you have found a mentor and when you’ve found a mentor you’re that much closer to finding an even greater level of success.


Unfortunately is More Than a Word

Unfortunately! It’s more than a word, it’s a signal. It’s a signal that whatever follows is sure to be bad. When you’re on the phone with a customer service representative the last thing you want to hear is the dreaded “unfortunately.” You know full well that shortly after unfortunately you’re going to hear the even more dreaded “can’t.”

 

Never tell someone what you can’t do, tell them what you can do. For example, if a friend asks you to help them move on Friday but you can only help them on Saturday then don’t say I can’t help on Friday but I can on Saturday. Just say you can help on Saturday. The psychological difference is huge.

 

“Can’t” gets burned into their memory… You become the person or company who can’t. We think differently about people who can’t and we certainly don’t buy from or do business with people who can’t. 

 

Think about every time you’ve heard the word unfortunately. How many times has it been followed with “you’ve won the lottery?” I’m betting not once!

 

There are a lot of words we would be better off just leaving out of our vocabulary; but, never, and always are just a few. Unfortunately is another one. 

 

Unfortunately is like chewing on an old dirty sock, it may not kill you but it sure leaves a bad taste in your mouth. 

 

If you are in any type of customer service role…I shouldn’t have to say this but somehow I fill compelled; if you are in business or work for a business, regardless of your title, role or job description, YOU DO HAVE A CUSTOMER SERVICE ROLE… do everything you can to avoid using the word unfortunately. 

 

No matter how positive the statement is that you make after using that unfortunate word it will seem like a negative to the person on the receiving end. 


Fortunately with a little forethought you can almost entirely eliminate unfortunately from your vocabulary.  Choices matter, even the choice of the words we use each day. Choose well!

Think About This

If you were to talk with my dad these days he would likely tell you that the world “is going to hell in a hand basket.” Now I’m not certain I know what a hand basket is and I have no idea why the world would need one of those to go to hell but I understand what he’s trying to say. 

 

He’s trying to say that many of the changes happening today are not exactly positive changes. 

 

We seem to have lost the ability to communicate different opinions with anything nearing civil discourse. The “news” is not much more than two opposing viewpoints trying to sway people to their way of thinking. Long long gone are the days of truly impartial news people. 

 

The internet is becoming or perhaps has already become a place where hate goes to grow. I could go on and on…I certainly understand why anyone would think the world is worse off today than it was yesterday, or last week or last year.

 

Except that it isn’t!

 

Imagine if everyday before going to bed you had to express out loud everything and everyone you were grateful for. Upon waking the next day those things and people would be all you had…if you went even one day without expressing gratitude for something you wouldn’t have it the next day. If you went even one day taking a person for granted they would no longer be a part of your life. Just imagine that.

 

And then think. Think about how blessed you truly are. Think about how fortunate you are to live in this time. Think about how amazing the people are who help you make the life you have. 


And if you think this is all Pollyanna garbage then think also of how fortunate you are to be able to hold and express that opinion with no threat of penalties at all.


Just think about it!