Are You an Added Value?

Do you add value to your employer or organization? I ask because if you’re not adding value then exactly what are you adding?

Generally speaking, very generally speaking, companies have two types of employees, those who they think of in terms of “why should we keep them,” and those they think of in terms of “how can we keep them.”

It’s never good to be in that first group. Always looking for ways to be more valuable to your company is a great way to ensure you’re in the second group.

But what exactly is this “value” thing anyway. Well the answer to that is, it depends. I know that “it depends” is a really weak answer but the fact is, it depends. Value is determined by the person or group receiving it. What that means is if you want to be certain that you’re adding value you’re going to have to ask. 

If you’ve never sat down with your manager or leader and asked what you can do to add more value to your company or organization then you ought to consider doing that soon. It’s a worthwhile discussion and you’ll very likely learn something that will surprise you.

Without that specific information you’re left to guess at what adding value looks like. That said, here are a few pretty good guesses:

Lighten your leaders load. Whenever you have the opportunity, take something off your boss’s plate. If you can help them get more done then do it but never at the expense of your own responsibilities. Failure to do your job does not help your organization, your boss might like the extra help it at first but it won’t last. 

Learn new things. If you’re not consistently growing and learning it’s unlikely that you’ll continuously add value. Thanks to the Internet it’s never been easier to learn something new every day. Choose your sources well however as not everything you read online is true… I know that comes as a shock to some people but it’s true that not everything online is true. That however is true. 🙂

Share the wealth. Your knowledge makes you valuable, sharing your knowledge makes you value added. If everything you know leaves your organization when you do that’s a terrible waste. Coach, mentor and teach whenever you see the opportunity. If you have the ability to help others grow you’ll always be in demand somewhere. It’s the truest form of job security there is these days. 

It’s your actions that will determine if you’re a “should we” or a “how do we” type of employee. If you want to be a “should we keep them” type then don’t do a thing… you’re probably already there.

If you want to be a “how do we keep them” type then step up, do more, do it smarter,and do it often. 

It’s not just a mindset, it’s a mindset of success!

Do You Have a Problem?

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” – Albert Ellis

The title of this post is a fair question…do you have a problem… because sometimes a problem really isn’t a problem.

Determining whether or not you really have a problem is the first step in problem solving. Trying to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem is a huge cause of unnecessary stress. It also prevents us from using our resources to solve real problems which in turn causes more stress.

Before you try to solve a problem you need to ask yourself if it is indeed a problem. Ask yourself if “this” will matter in 5 years, 5 months, or even 5 minutes. What will the consequences be if you do nothing. It is vital that you don’t lie to yourself when answering these questions. Many real problems are allowed to grow simply because someone lied to themselves about the seriousness of the problem. 

It’s poor leadership to try solving problems that don’t exist but ignoring problems that do exist is leadership at it’s worst. 

When determining whether or not you have a real problem consider the words my dad has frequently shared with me: Never make a mountain out of a molehill.

If you’ve decided that you have a real problem then stop fighting it. Just accept it. In Dale Carnegie’s great book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” he says one way to eliminate stress is to accept our problem and the worst outcome that it can produce. He also adds that once you have accepted the worst you should try to improve upon it. 

When you try to improve upon the worst never forget to ask for help. It’s unlikely that you’re the first person to have this problem so ask around. Ask what other people have done in similar situations. Ask what worked and what didn’t. When trying to solve problems there is no requirement that you go it alone so do what successful problem solvers do… ask for help.

Don’t waste your energy complaining about what is. Invest your energy and resources searching for solutions. Complaining about a problem does not solve it, criticizing the source of the problem does not make the problem go away. So focus on solutions and make your efforts count.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. The problem may be too big to solve all at once so break it into pieces if that makes it more manageable. Sometimes solving part of a problem makes the overall solution come into view. Few problems were created in a day so don’t feel a need to “fix” a problem all at once. 

Virtually every problem brings with it the opportunity to learn and grow. You have the choice to look at problems as a negative or as an opportunity for self-improvement. 

Be aware, if you choose to look at every problem as a negative you may have a much bigger problem than you think.

 

How Many Rules are too Many?

I had the opportunity not too long ago to review an Employee Manual for a company that is owned by a friend of mine. It wasn’t a particularly large company but it was a rather large Employee Manual. 

Some people would call it a handbook, guidebook, employee regulations book, or whatever. These things are designed to help an organization’s employees know what is expected of them, to know what’s right and what’s wrong. 

I highly recommend that every business have one, and that it is clear and unambiguous. I’m no lawyer or HR expert but generally speaking if it’s not in writing you could have problems holding someone accountable for either doing or not doing something.

I also highly, highly, highly recommend that it be as concise as possible. 

The manual I reviewed was nearly 100 pages in length, that just happened to be about one page for every employee. But it wasn’t only the length that surprised me, it was what was written at the bottom of every single page…

Failure to fully comply with each and every rule, policy or regulation above will be grounds for immediate termination. 

Wow!

These guys had rules for their rules. Every policy had a policy on when and how to apply the policy. There was so much bureaucracy in that one little book that I thought for a moment I was looking at a government document.

None of it was designed to limit the growth of the organization’s people. Not a single page was designed to hinder the creativity of the organization. Not one word was intended to cause fear among the employees for whom the book was written. 

But it scared the heck out of the people, it stunted their creativity and stopped their growth. 

There were just too many rules and the consequences for not completely following each and every one were far too severe. 

Rules play a vital role in the successful management of any organization. Rules keep the people and departments of an organization aligned and focused. Every organization needs rules!

Every organization should also constantly be looking for reasons, valid reasons, to break their rules whenever breaking a rule is called for. No one in an organization should be threatened with termination for breaking a rule that when broken, benefits the organization, it’s people and it’s stakeholders. In fact, they should be rewarded. 

Now, before you rule breakers out there get the wrong idea read this next sentence. If you break an important rule solely for the benefit of yourself then you should expect to be shown the door. I’ll even volunteer to walk you out. 

So, how many rules are too many? Well even if you only have one rule and there is not a truly valid reason for the rule then you have one rule too many. 

Your rule, guide, employee (or whatever you call it) book should be under near constant review to get rid of outdated rules and make sure you’re not missing some that need to be there in the always changing world in which you do business. For example, if you have an employee handbook that doesn’t have a Social Media policy for employees then you have an employee handbook with a really big hole in it. If you have a rule on where employees can tie up their horse that may be a bit outdated. (Yes, I know that’s extreme but I wanted to make a point)

If you’re making rules for the sake of making rules or your making a rule where a suggestion would do, then you’re making it harder for your people to prosper. 

That limits the growth of your organization and I’m betting that’s not your goal. 

Any rule that isn’t absolutely necessary is a rule that you don’t need.

The Destructive Nature of Can’t

I remember reading one time that failure comes in can’ts and success comes in cans. That’s kind of clever but it’s also true. People with a predisposition of “I can’t” will have a much harder time finding success than those who have a predisposition of ”I can.”

Can’t is a limiting word. Can is a limitless word.

Less successful people focus on what they can’t do while the most successful people are focusing on what they can do. 

Can and can’t are just two words, little words at that, but which one you allow to dominate your vocabulary will go a long way towards determining your level of success. 

Make certain before you say that you can’t do something that you don’t really mean “I won’t.” Sadly, “I can’t” is an all too easy excuse for not making the effort required to succeed. Successful people have made a habit of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. Successful people don’t really like doing them either but they know their success depends on it so they do them anyway.

It’s pretty tough to just think your way into success but it’s very easy to think your way out of it…just think can’t. Once you decide you can, then and only then will you begin working on the “how” to succeed. 

When we decide that we can’t then we have no reason to try and failing to try is the straightest line to true failure. Never let that little “t” keep you from the future that you deserve if only you’re willing to try. 

You can… and now you know you can!

 

Information is the Enemy of Rumor

I’ve never met a leader who likes hearing rumors flying around the halls of their organization. I have however met many people in leadership positions who somehow believe that knowledge is power. 

Eliminating rumors and believing that holding information closely makes someone powerful are two competing interests. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that knowledge is only powerful when it is shared with those who can act on it. They understand that knowing something that someone else does not won’t make them more powerful. It simply makes them solely responsible to use the information in a productive way.

If you’re a leader who doesn’t like rumors then you should be sharing as much information as is  legally and ethically possible with your followers. Withholding information from your people does not make you a stronger leader but it is likely to make your people weaker and less productive followers. 

Here’s why…. information is the enemy of rumor! 

As humans we have this basic need for information about things that are important to us. Your people may not hold as lofty a position as you in your organization but their job is a huge source of their security. As such they want and need to know what’s going on with the organization that employs them. Absent real information they will fill their need to know with rumor and misinformation. 

When an organization and it’s leadership communicates openly with their people the information void is filled and rumormongering goes way down.

There are few things in business that limit growth and productivity more than rumors. Communication improves productivity.

It’s true that for a variety of reasons everything that happens in an organization cannot and should not be shared with everyone. It’s also true that in many organizations far more can be shared than is. 

If you don’t like rumors then block them with information. Ask yourself exactly why you’re holding back information from your people and if you discover you have no valid reason for not sharing it then share by every means possible.  

You’ll have happier, more committed and more productive people as a result. You’ll also have a whole lot less rumors.

 

When Managers Don’t Lead

Few things in business are more costly than a manager in a leadership position. – Steve Keating

Just so we’re clear about this, I have nothing but respect for great managers. They are the essential clue that hold organizations together. They keep things running smoothly, they execute strategies and tactics. Without sound management no organization can survive. 

But… yes you knew there had to be a but… but, simply putting a great manager into a leadership position does not make them a leader. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager but very often a manager is not a leader and sometimes a great leader is not a good manager. 

Managing and leading are two entirely different things. We’re not talking semantics here, we are talking about a difference as large as night and day.

Managers use a microscope and leaders use a telescope. Managers examine the details, vital details yes, but details all the same. A leader not only sees the details they also see the much bigger picture, they see the wide angle view. While a manager sees what is, a leader sees what could be…and what should be.

Managing is about stuff, budgets, inventories, processes, etc. Leadership is about people and it’s only about people. Better management helps a organization survive, better leadership helps an organization grow. 

Successful organizations need both leaders and managers. Which one, managers or leaders, are more important is like arguing which came first, the chicken or the egg. (Just an aside, if you really want to know which one came first read Genesis in The Bible, it’s abundantly clear that the chicken came first.)

When managers occupy a leadership position without actually leading progress slows down. It can slow down so much that it actually stops. Whenever I see a business that is not growing I almost always see a manager in a position of leadership. 

Good managers can learn to lead after moving into a leadership position. The longer they try to manage when they should be leading the less likely they are to ever truly lead. The most successful leaders were leaders before they had a true leadership position. They understood that leadership was more about their disposition than it was about any position they may one day achieve. 

Some leaders have other leadership positions reporting to them. They must be certain that  leaders occupy those positions. 

Putting managers into leadership positions is a common mistake. It a mistake that produces common results rather then the uncommon results that the most successful organizations use to succeed again and again.

That makes it an incredibly costly mistake.

 

Leading You

Before you can lead others, before you can lead even one other person, you must be able to lead yourself.

In large part leadership is about helping others succeed. It may sound selfish but you must help yourself succeed before you attempt to help someone else succeed.

It is a good idea to periodically stop and evaluate yourself in a number of areas to see how effectively you’re really leading yourself. (I know I write about this almost incessantly but this is yet another area where a mentor or coach can make a huge difference for you)

One area you may want to evaluate yourself is how well you’re able to control your emotions. Authentic Servant Leaders are generally passionate people but they don’t use their passion as an excuse to lose control of their emotions. We will all lose control of our emotions from time to time (it’s called being human) but great leaders don’t make emotional decisions. They will delay a decision just a bit to let their emotions settle down enough so that their decision is a sound, realistic, thoughtful decision. 

Leadership is about people, we manage stuff, budgets, inventories, etc. but we lead people. Authentic Servant Leaders frequently evaluate their success in the area of building relationships with their people. They know that every human interaction leaves an emotional wake, people feel either better or worse. There is no such thing as a “neutral” human interaction so the best leaders consider what they want their emotional wake to be, positive or negative. You can leave people feeling better about themselves and the situation or you can leave them feeling worse. It’s a leadership decision that too many leaders never make, they just interact and whatever happens is just how it is.

How well do you choose your words? Your words matter, little changes in the words you use can make a big difference, in how you feel about yourself and in how others feel about you as a leader. Evaluate from time to time if you could have said something more effectively, more positively, or with more impact. Perhaps you said something that didn’t need to be said at all or perhaps you just couldn’t summon up the courage to say something that really needed to be said.

Leading yourself well requires that you understand the power behind your words. If you’re consistently regretting your choice of words then it’s a good bet that you’re not yet ready to lead others.

Do you have the time to lead? People who lead themselves well are almost hyper-conscious about how they use their time. They use time management tools like block time and prioritized task lists to make sure they are actually productive and not merely busy. They control their calendar, they see the use of time as an investment and they invest it in high return activities.

Authentic Servant Leadership at it’s core is about giving a piece of yourself in service to others. Before you begin to give of yourself make sure that what you’re giving is truly worth receiving.