Are you in Control? Really?

So, you’re the boss! You’re the one in charge! You’re in Control!  The buck always stops with you! Well…not exactly.

     

When you’re at or near the top of your organization you have lots of influence, but you don’t control all that much. You don’t control your peoples’ attitudes. You can help them motivate themselves but if they don’t want to be motivated then their motivation is beyond your control. You can’t control what they think. You might be able to prevent them from saying something but you cannot prevent them from thinking it.

     

Somewhere along the way to achieving your leadership position someone might have told you that leadership, or being “the boss” is about being in charge and being in control. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that you can’t make much of anything happen by yourself. In fact, all you can control with any certainty is your own behavior.

     

But there is some good news. Your position likely means that you have boatloads of influence. So, use your behavior, your personal example, to influence the behavior and performance of others. Your team will do what you do far sooner than they will do what you say.  You are the model for their successful behavior.

     

You might also want to keep in mind that your influence goes both ways. If you have a negative attitude then your team will also. If you are not motivated then your team won’t be motivated either. The best way to get more from your team is to give more of yourself.

     

Authentic Leaders do not expect more from their people than they expect from themselves. Authentic Leaders know that the best way to lead is to “show” rather than “tell”.  Authentic Leaders are intentional in their effort; they “show” on purpose and often on schedule. They “self-check” their attitudes and use goals as a way of keeping themselves motivated.

     

Authentic Leaders know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Authentic Leaders are diligent in making certain they do nothing to hold their people back. They do not think in terms of controlling their people, they think in terms of influencing them and influencing them in a positive way.


Remember, control is a manager’s tool, influence is the tool of true leaders. Lead Today!

The Importance of Fun

I’m a big believer in having fun. It doesn’t really make a difference where I am or who I’m with, fun is always better than no fun. 

 

Fun is a choice. 

 

That’s why even when work is really “bad,” or someone has disappointed me, or I’m really really busy, fun is a priority for me. It should be for you as well, along with the people you lead. 

 

I remember visiting a customer several years ago and the moment I walked in the door I could feel it…this was not a fun place. It was as quiet as a library filled with people who looked liked they were attending a funeral. 

 

I tactfully asked the owners about the “atmosphere” of their workplace and they explained to me that “this is a workplace” not a place where you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. Now here’s the thing, these were very smart business owners in almost every way. They were constantly battling low productivity and output from their people and they made the all too common mistake of blaming their employees for that. 

 

Their “solution” to that problem was to simply tighten the screws on their employees. It was actually exactly the opposite of what they should have done. 

 

By the way, I was more than a little taken aback by their constant reference to the people who worked for them as “employees.” While I’m not big into buzzwords like “team members” “guest relations specialists” or even Disney’s famous “cast members,” I get why businesses use them. They use them to change a mindset.

 

The term “employees” is a bit technical and in practice dehumanizing. If you think of the people you’re supposed to be leading solely as employees and not real people then your attitude is going to show itself in how you speak with them and in how you treat them. It might even cause you to think about banning fun in your workplace. 

 

Anyway, back to fun. 

 

Fun as it turns out is a pretty effective business strategy. It increases productivity. People who enjoy what they do for a living and the people who they do it with will outperform people who don’t enjoy what they do. They will outperform them in every circumstance! 

 

As a leader it is better if you build the fun into your organization’s environment. If however you’re not the fun type don’t worry about it, just stay out of your people’s way and they will likely figure out the fun part on their own. 

 

Now, for those of you like me who believe that fun at work is important here’s something else that’s really important. 

 

Getting the work done. 

 

You can have fun before the work gets done, you can have fun after the work gets done or you can have fun while the work is getting done but I don’t care how authentic your leader is, the fun is going to stop pretty darn quick if the work isn’t getting done. 

 

I insist on having fun and you should too. But I have an ethical and morale obligation to earn the money I’m paid by getting the work done and so do you. I may be a little weird and I’m certainly blessed in this regard but for me, getting the work done is in itself a whole lotta fun. 

 

There is a minor league baseball team in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota called the Saint Paul Saints. It’s owned by Bill Veeck and Bill Murray…yes that Bill Murray. There are all kinds of shenanigans going on at their baseball games, from haircuts in the stands and all kinds of contests and skits on the field. They even play a little baseball too. The philosophy  of these two Bills is that “Fun is Good,” Bill Veeck even wrote a book by that title. 


I entirely endorse their philosophy, I hope you do too! 


The Difference Between Managing and Leading

My last post focused on the scourge of micromanaging. In it I noted that there was significant differences between managing and leading. I received a comment from a reader, Michaël Ben-Yosseph that was very kind and had nice things to say about the post. He also suggested that in my next post I discuss not just that there is a difference between managing and leading but exactly what those differences are. 

 

Well, this is my next post. So here we go! 

 

First I would say that the difference is as large as the difference between night and day. We manage stuff and we lead people. Perhaps the biggest single difference is that stuff, budgets, inventories, buildings, etc. don’t have feelings. That alone makes managing a whole lot easier than leading, at least to me.

 

People, at least the ones I know, most definitely have feelings. For many of those people those feelings are easily hurt. 

 

That’s why it’s vital for a leader to care about their people. You can care about people without leading them but you simply cannot lead them without caring for them. An attitude of genuine caring will shape every other interaction and communication you have with your people. So will a care less attitude. If you do not possess a genuine caring nature you will struggle as a leader. 

 

Managing is very much about today. It’s a one day at a time kinda thing. Leadership is of course about today but it’s also about tomorrow, the next day, the next week and the next years. That’s why leading requires vision and managing requires tenacity. 

 

Managing is a very specific business, it’s the art of steering the ship on a well-defined course. Managing requires facts, data, and objectives. Leadership is the art of turning the unlikely, and at times the impossible, into tangible, reachable, realistic objectives. Organizations seldom manage their way to success. Organizational success requires leadership. 

 

Managing is an inside job. Managers utilize their internal resources to make things happen and achieve the goals of the organization. Leaders understand the outside as well as the inside. This provides them with the insights required to see their entire business environment and anticipate needed changes as well as understand potential opportunities. 

 

Leaders influence while managers direct. It’s really not always that black and white but it’s almost always that black and white. While leaders focus on what will matter, and on why it will matter, managers tend to focus on how it will matter. 

 

Said another way, leaders decide what to do and managers decide how to do it. Unless of course the leader is also a micromanager and then all bets are off. 

 

Leaders are really the heart of an organization. They inspire, coach, vision cast, create and nurture the organizational culture. They keep the organization moving forward through communication and motivation. No organization succeeds without solid leadership. 

 

No offense to leaders but managers are more like the brains of the organization. They make the rules, set up policies, programs, etc. Managers are about business, not people. No offense to managers but they usually see people as just another tool or asset they can use to get the task completed. No organization succeeds without diligent management. 

 

Frequently the skill sets and the more important mindset of managers and leaders are so different that it’s challenging for one person to possess both. But “things” tend to work better when managers have a heart and a whole lot better when leaders have a brain.


It’s not that one person can’t be both a good manager and great leader, it’s just that it requires effort and dedication that sadly, too many managers and leaders appear unwilling to make. 


The Problem With Micromanaging

Have you ever heard the term microleading? I doubt it but if you have you should recognize it as an oxymoron. Like “I worked all-day one night.” 

 

Micromanaging is exactly what it says it is, microMANAGING. It’s when someone in a leadership position not only tries to manage a person but they manage even the smallest details of that person’s job. 

 

But micromanaging isn’t really the problem, it’s merely a symptom of a much bigger issue. The bigger issue is that there is someone in a leadership position trying to manage another human being. 

 

You see, managing is about stuff. You can manage budgets, you can manage inventory, you can manage buildings and plans but you cannot manage people. Basic human instinct drives us to resist being managed and and also makes us virtually crave being led.

 

Leadership is about people, people and only people. 

 

If you’ve found your way into a leadership position, no matter how you got there, your number one responsibility is to and for the people you lead. 

 

The real problem with micromanaging is not the “micro” part, it’s the managing part. In a weird twist, the “micro” part actually magnifies the fact that the person is being managed and not led. 

 

Managing a person is like asking them to swim laps while wearing handcuffs. They may some how pull it off but you’ll be greatly limiting their effectiveness. Notice I said “you’ll” as in you, the leader, will be limiting their effectiveness. 

 

Most every issue a person in a leadership position has with their people likely stems from the fact that they are trying to manage them. A managed person’s morale, creativeness, willingness to take risks, and motivation to push themselves are all pressured by being managed; when they are micromanaged those same things are crushed. 

 

I might be naive but I don’t think most micromanagers mean to do that type of harm. But there isn’t much difference between intentional harm and unintentional harm. If you’re micromanaging your people your harming them by limiting their growth. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders know that they don’t really grow their business, they grow their people and their people then grow the business. When you limit the growth of your people you’re also limiting the growth of your entire organization. 

 

Trust your people! Unleash their potential by leading them, not managing them. Motivate them, coach them, teach them, and care for them. 


Authentic Servant Leaders understand that their people aren’t assets, they are not capital, and that they are not machines. They know that their people are human beings, real live human beings who have goals and dreams, they know that they are people who need to be led, not managed. 

Are you a Trusted Leader?

Emerson said, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. Their character determines the character of the organization.” (today we would say “person” instead of man but the point remains the same) 

 

So how would you answer the following two questions? Are you the person in your organization that Emerson was talking about? If you are then is your integrity always above reproach? By the way, I should probably point out that you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity at any time. Integrity is not a part time job.

     

If your integrity is indeed above reproach then you have the opportunity to lead others, really lead. Maybe before you answer those two questions you should consider a little research: Only 45% of 400 managers in a Carnegie-Mellon survey believed their top management was always truthful; a third distrusted their immediate bosses. Current research says that 85% of employees across all businesses and industries are actually demotivated by their “leader.” 

 

What does that survey have to do with you?  Maybe nothing, but maybe, just maybe, you could consider it a wake-up call. A call telling you that you must be especially diligent in making certain that you live by the high standards that you expect from those who you hope to lead. Perhaps the survey results can serve to remind you that you have to work every day to earn the trust and respect of your people. You should never lose awareness that your people are always watching to see if your words match your actions. 

     

Consider as well this fact: Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just an image! Before you answer the questions above, ask yourself these questions: Are you the same person no matter who you are with? Do you make decisions that are best for others when another choice would benefit you? Are you quick to recognize others for their efforts and contributions to your success? (In writing?) 

     

You see, image is what people think you are, integrity is what, and who, you really are. Asking yourself these three questions can help keep you on track and ensure that your image reflects who you truly are.

     

Here is one reason integrity is so important for a leader: Integrity has high influence value, if you have the ability to influence others than your ability to lead is unlimited. Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever. Effective leadership is not based on being clever; it is based on being consistent. No one can fool all of the people of all of the time, insincerity can’t be covered up. Leaders who are sincere don’t have to advertise the fact.

   

Integrity is a hard-won achievement, it takes a long time to establish it with your team and you never fully complete the task. Your team expects four things from you on a consistent basis: honesty, competence, vision and inspiration. Those areas all impact your integrity. 

     

Ask something who knows you well what areas of your life they see as consistent (you do what you say) and what areas they see as inconsistent (you say but don’t always live.) If you don’t like their answer remember, you can change, you can become the leader you want to be, but also remember, you will only become what you are becoming right now.

    

So, now it’s time. Go ahead, answer the two questions in the first paragraph and then do whatever it takes to be certain your answer is always, always, yes.

The Two-day Challenge

Are you up for a challenge? I hope so because I have a challenge for everyone who reads this blog and even for the guy who writes it. (that would be me) This is really a simple but not easy challenge where everyone wins (you and those around you). No real risk exists (except for the risk of failing but truly this is the type of challenge where just the attempt makes you a success) and it requires no additional time.

 

Within the next two weeks, set a two-day period to inspire others with your positive attitude – two days where you’ll put on blinders to anything negative and be the one in your organization and family who everyone else can count on for words and actions that inspire and encourage. Two days where you’re the light for other people – your colleagues, your family, your friends and even your customers.

     

Allow nothing negative to enter your head and focus only on lifting up those around you.


Once you set your two days, fully commit to the effort regardless of the inevitable challenges, regardless of the news, the sports scores or any other negative people around you. Fall off the positive wagon at 1:11 on the first day? Get back on at 1:12 – no excuses. No matter how many times you come up short start again until your two days are complete. Two days. Be strong! Stay strong!

     

Remember, you wake with an option for your daily attitude. Challenges will come up regardless. Choose to have a positive attitude at all times and commit to spreading it for two days.
     

Not only will your positive attitude be contagious, it might become a personal habit – a personal habit that motivates you. A habit that motivates others as well. Go for it!


If you accept the challenge let us know in the comments section and then come back when you’ve completed the challenge and let us know how it went. You might be surprised in the difference the choice of a positive attitude can make but I won’t be. 

Are You Keeping Score?

Every year in the United States millions of Christmas Cards are sent through the mail. My mom used to send a ton of them. Each year she would keep track of who she sent cards to and who she received cards from. 

 

I asked her once why she kept track of who we were receiving cards from and she said it was so she would know who to send cards to the next year. I guess I assumed we just sent the cards to our family and friends but it turns out that was only half true. The whole truth was that we sent cards to family and friends who sent cards to us. 

 

My dear mom was keeping score. 

 

Dale Carnegie said, “If you do something for someone else never remember. If someone else does something for you, never forget.” 

 

His point was pretty simple, don’t keep score!

 

If you’re giving a gift with the expectation of receiving one in return then you’re not actually “giving” a gift, you’re making a trade. If you do a favor for someone for the sole purpose of eventually receiving a favor in return then that is not a favor, that’s a barter. 

 

I could write a lot more on this topic but I don’t need to because someone else already did. 

 

To me, the bible on pure giving was written nearly ten years ago by Bob Burg and John David Mann when they wrote The Go-Giver. It is a truly amazing book, really a life-changing book if you’ll give it a chance. 

 

It’s a quick read, it’s a great read, it’s an impactful read, it’s a must read. Few books provide a message with the staying power of The Go-Giver and I’ve never met anyone who read it that didn’t agree. 

 

Now, just so you know, this is about as far away from a paid endorsement as you can get, in fact, the authors have no idea I’m writing this. I just believe this book can help you. That’s all that’s in it for me.

 

If you give only to get then you’ll likely never feel that you get what you deserve. It is by giving without expecting a return that we receive far more than we could ever expect. 


Don’t keep score, just give. Give freely, give purely, and you will discover that you’ve been receiving all along.