Why Leadership Sucks!

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It’s amazing to me the number of people in leadership positions who say that “the people part” of their job is the toughest. They say things like “my people just don’t care” and “it’s lonely at the top.”

They almost never like my response. I’ve tried to soften my answer, I’ve tried responding to them a hundred different ways. But the answer always remains some variation of this: if your people “don’t care” or you’re really “lonely at the top” then you may be in a leadership position but you clearly aren’t leading.

Leading, truly leading, doesn’t suck, not even a little. Being in a leadership position and NOT leading, well that sucks a lot.

With leadership comes responsibility. Responsibility to make sure your people DO get it. Responsibility to create the type of culture where your people WILL care. Leadership comes with the responsibility to care for your people and to show it frequently and intentionally.

Authentic leaders also accept responsibility for the success or failure of their people.

I’m always amazed to hear someone in a leadership position disparage one of their people. The say something like “the guy is just an idiot”, and then I ask them who hired the guy. They get a kind of quizzical look at their face but they never fully connect the dots.

If you have someone working for you and they are not performing up to expectations then there are really only two possibilities, either you are not giving them the tools and training to succeed or you hired the wrong person. An authentic leader accepts that responsibility while someone merely in a leadership position will shift the responsibility to anyone but themselves.

If you’re an authentic leader, someone leading for the benefit of others and not themselves, then you love leading. You know you’re making a difference in the lives of your people and you know your legacy will outlast you. Obstacles are just opportunities to grow and you relish each new challenge with a commitment to excel.

If you’re an authentic leader you have the kind of relationship with your people to ensure they “get it” and its never lonely at the top because your people are right there with you.

Leadership sucks? Nothing could be further from the truth!

Ya Gotta Break a Few Rules

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I’m not a big fan of rules, I’m even less of a fan of rules that don’t make sense. I actually despise rules when the maker of the rule explains it with the statement “because I said so.”

When I hear “because I said so” I almost automatically translate that into “because I finally have a little power and I want everyone to know it.” People that make rules because they can are the same people that have leadership positions or titles but aren’t much of a leader.

Authentic leaders respect rules and carefully consider the alternatives before deciding to break one. However, an authentic leader is not afraid to break a rule that needs breaking. An authentic leader knows that sometimes if you’re going to succeed you’re going to have to break some rules.

An authentic leader also knows exactly why a rule is required before they make one. The best organizations, the most innovative organizations and the organizations that succeed through challenging times are the ones with the least rules.

The more rules a leader puts in place the more limits their people will feel, whether the limits were intended or not. If you want your organization to grow then limit the number of rules, get rid of as many boundaries as possible, bring down the walls and remove the doors. (I’ve literally seen companies remove the doors from offices and meeting rooms.)

When one of your people breaks a rule don’t make “punishment” a knee jerk reaction. Calmly analyze how, why and when the rule was broken. Most importantly, look at the result. The result may just be an improvement over the result provided by blindly following the rule.

If breaking the rule caused a negative result you know what to do. If breaking the rule provided a positive result then you have yourself a new and better way of doing things and a rule breaker that you can’t afford to lose.

Have you ever broken a rule that needed to be broken? Tell us about your results.

Keep the Change

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Have you ever payed a waiter or waitress, or maybe some other type of service person and as you handed them the payment you said “keep the change?”

I had a co-worker that used to do that all the time, unfortunately he didn’t do that to reward great service. He did it because he thought of himself, and more importantly, he wanted other people to think of him as some kind of big shot.

Even more unfortunately for him, when a mentor or any one else suggested he change his behavior to something less bombastic, he told them to keep the change too.

We worked together for several years and he received a great deal of good advice from people that really wanted to help him succeed. It was suggested to him frequently that he change his attitude. His answer was always the same; keep the change. It was never him that needed to change, it was always everyone else.

I’m reminded of the funny story of a guy who receives a call from his wife as he is driving home. She is calling to warn him of a driver that is driving on the wrong side of the freeway. He frantically responds to his wife that it’s not just one driver, it’s all of them.

Let me tell you something, get ready because you’re not going to like this. If lots of people around you think that you have a bad attitude, then you almost certainly have a bad attitude. The odds are overwhelming that they can’t all be wrong.

Change is often hard, it’s hard for many reasons. When it involves personal change it can be even harder because it means “losing” what we were or want we did. It can also mean acknowledging that we were failing in what we were doing or how we were doing it.

Let me tell you something else that will be much easier to accept: Successful people change all the time. They accept change as a way of life. They will readily ditch their own idea or their own way of doing something if they see a better way, a way that is more likely to lead to success. They know there is not an ounce of shame in admitting they can do better or that someone else was doing better than them.

So, look at your life. Look hard. Be honest. What areas of your life could you change for the better? What things can you do differently that would lead to better results? What will you have to “lose” to successfully implement the change?

Decide to make that change and then ask someone who cares about you to hold you accountable to make it. Ask them to check up on you once a week for a month. There’s a good chance that after 30 days you won’t notice a difference but there is a great chance that the people around you will.

When it comes to making an improvement in your life, the last thing you want to say is, “Keep the change!”

Your So Called Life

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Life! It’s a treasure, it’s one thing all human beings on the planet have in common, we all have a life.

Another thing we all have in common is that we were all created equal. That’s a true fact! Here’s another true fact; in many ways, we don’t stay equal very long. The world quickly divides it’s human inhabitants into the “haves” and “have nots” and into the “privileged” and the “not so privileged.” Or does it?

I don’t really think it does; I think we do it to ourselves. Understand what I mean by that, I don’t mean someone else does it to you, I mean you do it to yourself. More than any other single factor, you decide if you’ll be a “have” or a “have not.” You make that decision frequently, every single day.

That decision will impact almost every other decision you make.

Do yourself a favor and get a couple of blank pieces of paper (okay use your computer, tablet or even your phone if you don’t have paper) and on the top of one write “things in my life that I control.” On the top of the other one write “things in my life I that don’t control.” Over the next few days jot down all the things that fit in the appropriate category on each piece of paper.

Take some time to study each piece of paper, pay particular attention to the paper with the “don’t control” stuff. Next, copy the stuff on the “don’t control” paper onto the “do control” paper and throw the “don’t control” paper away. Physically throw it away, burn it, bury it, however you do it, just get it out of your life.

It’s your life! Don’t give control of any part of it to someone or something else.

Your lot in life is much more dependent on your thoughts and actions than anything else. Your circumstances and environment play a role but in many instances we even control those factors.

Make a plan to control all of the “don’t control” stuff that you moved over to your “do control” list. Ask for help, network with people that already have control over those things, do what they do. Ask for some more help, but remember, “help” means help, it doesn’t mean do it for me. (some of you are already saying “I can’t” and to you let me say that at the top of the list of the things that you do control you need to write “my attitude” and you need to review that list every morning)

It’s your life and you deserve to live it that way. A tiny percentage of the world’s population ever actually have control of their life taken from them but a rather large percentage gives it away.

Successful people never give control of their life away. You’ll have a real tough time being a “have” if you hang on to that “don’t control” paper, even if you just keep it in the back of your mind. Get rid of it and really live YOUR life!

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

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In 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of history’s most famous and remembered speeches – the Gettysburg Address. It was 273 words. It took 2 minutes to deliver. The main address that day (the one Lincoln followed) was given by Edward Everett (known to be one of the greatest speakers of the time) and lasted 2 hours. His note to Lincoln on the event…“I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

If you’re making a presentation, any kind of presentation and your audience is only hearing blah, blah, blah then YOU have a problem.

Are you a Lincoln or an Everett? Let me ask that another way; how long was your last presentation? How could it have been shorter without losing impact? (I’m assuming it had impact.)

Over the next couple weeks invest some time examining the length of your presentations (both formal and informal versions). For every point and every line ask, “Why is this needed for my presentation?” If you’re unsure of the reason, cut it, lean and effective should be your goal.

If you don’t have it written, planned, and practiced, get that done soon. The chances of a rambling presentation skyrocket without a formally developed presentation.

Time is money and effective presenters know it as well as anyone.

Tic toc…

That was 238 words, they sure add up fast!

Is Your Mom on Twitter?

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I heard a discussion on the radio the other day about the “marketability” of many of the top Olympic athletes. Some of the top medal winners (or earners as I prefer to call them) stand to make millions off their accomplishments.

I think that’s just fantastic, contrary to what some say, I think that people should be rewarded for their sacrifices and efforts.

What surprised me was a comment from a “media expert” about how much certain statements made on social media from some of the athletes would “cost” them.

They (or their mothers) posted stuff about their personal lives, their feelings and thoughts about their teammates or competitors or just said stupid stuff in general.

It’s as if they thought they were writing in their personal journal. It’s as if they thought their words didn’t matter. It’s as if they thought that no one would notice, even though they were in the middle of the worldwide athletic stage.

As a result of their tweets and Facebook posts they could potentially lose millions in endorsements and various product deals. But hey, they got to tell the world about their sex lives so they have that going for them.

Most people don’t have to be concerned about what they post on social media. It not like anyone who matters reads that stuff. Right?

Wrong!

Mark Twain said a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. Well a tweet or a post is a whole lot faster than that. Once posted, you lose control of the images of the “one fun of night.” Once posted, your words can float around the web forever.

Think before you post!

People that matter DO read what you write. They also look at the pictures you post. Most HR people at least glance at your social footprint before or during the interview process. Do you really want them seeing and reading stuff you would never tell a prospective employer? Remember, your credibility is affected, good or bad, with every single post or tweet.

Think before you post!

Is your mom on Twitter or Facebook? You would be wise to post as if she were and to assume she sees every word and every picture. If you would be embarrassed if your mom saw it then don’t post it cause she just might. A thoughtless, mean spirited or embarrassing post might not cost you millions but it just could cost you something much more valuable. Once gone, regaining your credibility is awfully hard to do.

Think before you post!

Immediate Action Required

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Each quarter The Toro Company hosts what we call Team Talks for all employees. They always have some sort of theme and are usually hosted by Mike Hoffman, Toro’s CEO. A while back we had a Team Talk and Mike themed it “The Untimes.” It was about the times we live in, you know, Unpredictable, Unprecedented, Uncertain, you get it, all the Un’s we face today. The message that we live in untimes was spot on.

People around the world have faced the Untimes before, we know that from history. In fact, given history we should not be shocked by where we are today. Think about that – history teaches us that things are as they should be! We got where we are through our action, inaction, choices, and our connection with life’s uncertainties.

After analyzing your own situation, you might be relieved, or deeply concerned. The key is to know and be honest about your current situation; save the blame or congratulations because both are distractions.

If you are doing well, you could just keep on keeping on or you may even be in a position to help others. If you are in tough shape, it could be time to get serious about prioritizing your actions.

Just remember, it’s easy to get outcomes confused with actions. For example, making a sale is an outcome, while making a sales call is an action. An action is a step you can take on your own (making the call) while making the sale is dependent upon the actions of another. You can’t fully control outcomes, but you can and should control actions.

Are your actions the most reasonable and productive for what must be done today? If you just take care of the next five minutes, the next hour, and the next day, you can take care of your life. Don’t procrastinate on this. No action will be perfect but taking action is mandatory if we’re going to create our own future.

Waiting for someone else to take action is like letting someone else decide your future. We become a victim of the untimes because we let the uncertainties of life paralyze us and then we lose our grip on responsibility. We lose our grip on responsibility for our own future, responsibility for our own success, and responsibility even for our own actions. Without action, personal responsibility takes a holiday.

We may not always like the actions we need to take but we always have a choice. Working from a perspective of choice is vital in tough times. “No choice,” is the mantra of the victim. Our top choice should be easy, “Am I going to be a victim? Or am I going to be responsible for my own success”?

The decision to take action should be stuck to our soul; it should be wrapped around our axel and one of our foremost thoughts. Always!

So…what actions must you take today in order to achieve success tomorrow? Take action immediately and make the future you desire. Who better to decide your fate than you?