You Matter Too!

President John Kennedy said that each of us can make a difference and that all of us should try. The key words in that quote are “all of us.”

None of us can do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs every single bit of all the good you can do. A single act of kindness can change the world of the person receiving it and there isn’t a single person in the world who can’t be kind. 

Despite what some people seem to think showing kindness is not a sign of weakness. It is in fact a sign of strength. But first understand the difference between being kind and simply being nice. 

Being nice is when you are polite to people and treat people well. Some people call that being courteous. Being “nice” is sort of the minimum requirement for being accepted into society. 

Being kind is when you care about people and show it. Sometimes you can be kind to someone even though you aren’t nice to them. What some people call “tough love” would be one example of that. You can be nice to someone but also be unkind. That’s actually pretty common. We are often nice to people we don’t even know but we don’t put in any effort to demonstrate we care about them. 

It costs us nothing to be nice to someone but being kind almost certainly has some type of cost, or as I’d prefer to say, investment. It might be giving some of your time to assist someone else. Being kind might mean sacrificing a little of what you have so someone else can have a little bit of something too. 

Being kind takes effort and intentionality. It can be tiring but the effort is always worth it. Whether the person you’re being kind to realizes it in the moment or not; you know you’ve done the right thing and that feeling has staying power.

But here’s the thing….all that difference making and being kind to others can take a real toll on you. It can wear you down. A little fact that many people miss is that kindness for others is only sustainable if you’re first kind to yourself. Yes, you must put yourself first once in a while. 

If you’re a kind person be sure to invest some time in yourself as well. Focus on your needs. Focus on something for yourself that you never have time for. Make time! 

I know it’s counterintuitive for truly kind people to put themselves first. This is especially true for moms. But honestly, the kindest thing you can do for others is to be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Make time for yourself so you’ll have more time for others. 

You have the time to care for yourself and others too. You just have to change your priorities to sometimes put yourself first. Remember, the people you care for most will benefit from YOU taking care of YOU too. 

The Service of Accountability 

Hopefully you’re holding your people accountable for their attitudes, actions and results. Even though no one really likes accountability everyone preforms better when held accountable. But all accountability is not the same. 

Accountability used as a tool to force compliance with “orders” results in the bare minimum being accomplished. Accountability used as an opportunity to excel results in extraordinary accomplishments. 

When used as a compliance tool the accountability discussion can quickly turn confrontational. So quickly that many mangers simply don’t hold their people accountable. Except for once a year during their annual review. Then they dump of year’s worth of subpar performance on the unsuspecting employee. 

When accountability is provided as a service the discussion looks very different. Authentic Leaders ask their people to hold themselves accountable. If the team member was unsuccessful in accomplishing their tasks then the leader can help. They can provide “along the way coaching” to help the team member succeed.

When the annual review happens there are no surprises. No difficult conversations and no mountains of improvement needed from either party. Because accountability has been established throughout the year the “review” is actually a review. Determining what worked particularly well and what could work even better. 

Many managers do everything they can to avoid conflict with their people. Even if it means allowing them to flounder their way to failure. Authentic Leaders know that one of the best ways to minimize conflict is to help their people hold themselves accountable. 

Authentic Leaders set up annual or quarterly accountability plans with their people. Each team member knows exactly what is expected of them. The required outcomes are crystal clear. Accountability is understood to be an escalating process. If the team member was not able to hold themselves accountable then their leader will serve as an accountability partner to ensure their success. 

The difference between accountability as a method for forcing compliance and as a service to develop people is mindset. 

Never underestimate the ability of your people to ferret out the motives for your actions. If you’re using accountability for your benefit they will know it and fight it. If you’re using accountability to help them grow and succeed they will realize that as well and they will be much more accepting of it. They will in fact commit to continuous improvement. 

Compliant people might get the job done. Committed people will get the job done and they will do it well. Which would you rather have? 

Accountability should never be used as a club to punish someone for poor performance. It should be used as a tool to guarantee success. 

How do you use accountability?

Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Not a single person reading this has ever successfully managed people. That’s because it can’t be done. Human beings resist being managed to the point of being impossible to manage. 

People insist on being led. If you think managing and leading are one and the same then you may be a manager but you’re most certainly not a leader. 

I’ve written about this before but since it’s been awhile here’s a refresher. 

Managing and leading are two different things. You manage things. Things like a budget, buildings, inventory, property and the like. If it’s an “it” you can manage it. If “it” is not capable of expressing emotion go ahead and manage away. 

But if you’re dealing with a flesh and blood person then attempting to manage them creates nearly every problem the typical manager complains about. 

Leadership is about people and only people. When you attempt to manage people you risk treating them like things…at least they feel that way. That highlights one critical difference between managing and leading. Things don’t “feel” but people always do. 

That makes leading far more challenging than managing. Dealing with our own emotions is tough enough, trying to make sense of other people’s emotions can be more than a little daunting. That’s likely why so many people in leadership positions don’t try. They try to manage their people instead.

Another reason that happens is that over 70% of the people in leadership positions have no formal leadership training. None. Zippo. Zero. They also have had no mentoring from a successful leader. They are put into a leadership position and then expected to fend for themselves. It’s almost as if people think leadership just happens.

Make no mistake about this absolute fact…leaders are not born, they are trained. The training can take on different forms but absent some type of training it is exceptionally rare for Authentic Leadership to emerge. 

That makes for a difficult leadership experience, for both the leader and those they try to lead. 

I wish I could tell you that every company that promotes someone to a leadership position also provides them with the training to succeed as a leader. Unfortunately very few actually do. So be aware that just as it is in much of life, if success as a leader is meant to be then it’s likely up to you to make it happen.

So find yourself a leadership development program to enroll in. Maybe even more important, find yourself a leadership mentor. Someone you trust and admire as a leader and ask them to show you how they do it. 

If you’ve chosen the right person will be thrilled to invest their time to share their insights with you. 

One last point. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m diminishing the importance of solid management within every organization. Poor management is in fact the cause of many business failures. If you’re a great manager then your impact on an organization can be substantial. You are vital to the success of any organization. 

It’s important to understand however that being a great manager does not make you a great leader anymore than being a great leader makes you a great manager. Some people are blessed with both skillsets. Many are not and it’s incumbent upon you to know the difference. 

Questions of Leadership

People in leadership positions tell others what to do. Authentic Leaders ask others how they can help them do it. 

When I’m trying to determine someone’s leadership ability that’s one of the first things I watch for. Are they telling or are they asking. Authentic Leaders seldom wonder what’s going on in the lives of the people they lead. They seldom guess about why their people make the decisions they make. They don’t assume they know what motivates their people. They don’t need to assume because they have asked.

If you’re in a leadership position when was the last time you asked each of the people you lead how you can help them remain consistently motivated? When was the last time you asked them how their job or position was treating them. When was the last time you asked them about their goals or objectives…and not only professional goals but personal goals as well? When was the last time you asked them what you or the company could do to ensure they never feel the need to look elsewhere for employment? 

When was the last time you asked them specifically if they were certain that they were having an impact on the organization? When was the last time you asked them how you could help them be more effective? When was the last time you asked them how you could honor them? When was the last time you asked them anything at all? 

Here’s a question that many people in leadership positions would never think of asking. It’s also a question that Authentic Leaders ask fairly often. “How am I doing as a leader?” 

I’ll never ask someone in a leadership position how they are doing as a leader. It’s hard for any of us to see ourselves in the same way as others see us. So when I want to know how about the effectiveness of a particular leader I ask the people they lead. 

If you’ve established trust with the people you lead they will provide you with an honest answer. If you haven’t established trust with them then you’re not an effective leader. Sorry to be so direct and unequivocal with that but it’s a fact. You cannot lead people who do not trust you. 

I often hear from people in leadership positions that they don’t have time to ask these kinds of questions. Funny thing is I never hear that from Authentic Leaders. It’s not that Authentic Leaders have more time, it’s that they have their priorities in the proper order. They know that their own success is dependent upon the people they lead succeeding. 

They also know it is far easier to help them succeed if they invest the time to really know them. So they ask more and tell less. 

Yearning for Some Learning

Successful people have a yearning for learning. The most successful people never stop learning. They know that curiosity might kill a cat but it helps a human being grow. 

A bunch of great things come from learning everyday. 

Consistent learning makes you consistently more interesting to other people. You always have something interesting to pass along. Be aware however that nobody likes a know it all so use your hunger for knowledge to better yourself, not look better to others. 

The more you learn the easier it is to relate to people different than yourself. You’ll find more in common with others. You will value the opinions of others and have more empathy for them. That empathy will make it much easier to communicate with people who you don’t normally associate with. 

Learning helps build self-confidence and self-esteem, two big factors in your success. When you know you can learn anything it’s easier to believe in yourself. It’s easier to believe you can do anything. It’s easier to believe that because if you’re willing to learn it’s a fact…you can do anything. 

If you’re a leader, or hope to one day lead, then consistently learning sets a great example for the people you lead. It’s also a great example for your kids. The people you influence will do what you do far faster then they will do what you say. You have a much better chance of helping them become consistent learners if you’re a consistent learner too. 

People who know more tend to make more…more money that is. The more we know the more we can do. The more we can do the more we can help other people. The more we help other people the more likely it is that benefits follow. The benefit of knowing you did something good follows. The benefit of making a difference in the lives of other people follows. Leaving behind a legacy of caring when you’re gone follows and yes, the benefit of more money follows as well. 

Never in human history has it been easier to learn. The internet is loaded with good information. Much of it is even true but one of the first things you need to learn is that much of it isn’t true so choose your sources of information carefully. 

There are a ton of excellent podcasts. Even more highly informative blogs. TED Talks are informative AND free. 

Plus there are books! Leaders are readers. 15 minutes a day can make all the difference between learning something new and being stuck with old ideas and old ways of doing things. 15 minutes a day. If you have convinced yourself you don’t have 15 minutes a day to read then let me suggest the very first thing you need to learn about is prioritizing the important things in life. 

You have all the time you need, what you don’t have are the right priorities. Once you figure that out you will be unstoppable. Remember, you read it here first

If You Just Don’t Care Then You Just Can’t Lead

I get asked often what the most important characteristic of leadership is. I determined that most people who asked that had already determined what it was. They wanted confirmation that the one of the characteristics they possessed was the most important. 

Many of the people asking were hoping humility wasn’t the most important. 

My answers to those questions put integrity at the top with judgement a very close second. I put integrity first because in my experience it was a lack of integrity that often caused otherwise sound judgement to go off the rails. But there are other almost as important characteristics for a leader to possess. 

A leader who is missing even a few of those characteristics, so long as integrity is present, can still lead. They will have some deficiencies but those can be overcome by strengths in other characteristics. 

But there is another characteristic of Authentic Leadership that doesn’t get the “ink” that it should. That characteristic is a caring heart. 

One of the truest bits of knowledge I know about Authentic Leadership is this… you can care for people without leading them but it is impossible to lead them without caring for them. 

If you do not care about other people then you cannot lead them. If you do not care about other people then you should not pretend to lead them. If you do not care about other people then you cannot lead…anyone. 

When one of the people who you are responsible for leading asks you for help how do you reply? With “I’m busy right now but as soon as I’m done I’ll help you.” Or with, How can I best help you now?” 

Are you willing to complete your work after you help someone else? Does your success matter more than the success of the people you lead? Do the people you lead get whatever time you have “left over” after you’ve taken care of your own needs? Have you discovered their strengths, hopes, goals and objectives outside of work? Do you see them as an individual or simply an employee? Are you more interested in what they can do for you than you are in what you can do for them? 

Have you ever even asked yourself those questions? 

This quote has been attributed to many people so I won’t attribute it to anyone, just know that it isn’t mine. The quote says “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

What are you doing to demonstrate that you care about the people you lead? What are you doing to show people in general that you care about them? One of the surest measures of Authentic Leadership is how the leader treats people who can do nothing for them. 

If you only care for people who can help you succeed then you’re missing the one characteristic of leadership that you must have in order to Authentically Lead.