Sticking With What Works

Ya know, there are “things” that just work. But some people insist on trying to make them work better. Why can’t they leave well enough alone?

I vaguely remember, at least I think I remember, seeing an old washing machine in the house where I grew up. Attached to the top of it were a couple of rollers. I don’t remember ever seeing it work but apparently when the washing machine was done you put the clothes through the rollers and it would squeeze all the water out of the clothes. I think those were around for a while so they must have worked at least okay.

Yet somebody decided they didn’t work well enough. So they made the washing machine “better” by adding a cycle where the tub spins around real fast and that somehow forces the water out of the clothes. As I have no experience with the old machines with the rollers I can’t say from experience if the new way is better or not. 

Now most of you are thinking at this point the it’s obvious that the new way of washing clothes is much better than the old way. But here’s my question for you.

If we were back in the day of the old fashioned washing machines how many of you would have taken the initiative to make it better? How many of you would have complained about it every time you washed clothes? How many of you would have said, “somebody ought to do something about this?”

How many of you have ever stopped long enough to realize you’re somebody?

The most successful people don’t ask why. They ask why not. They don’t say “somebody” ought to do it. They say, “I’m going to do it.” The most successful people act on their thoughts. 

Here’s an idea, the next time you see a problem don’t complain about it. Don’t hope “somebody” does something. Make the decision to do something about it yourself. Even if you see something that appears to be working well look a little deeper and ask yourself if it could work better. 

Then do something that most people won’t do…TAKE ACTION. 

Sticking with what works makes sense right up until somebody makes something that works better. Why not be that somebody today?

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month people can follow a part of my Twitter steam that is for subscribers only. It features primarily short videos of me talking about the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page. (You may need to refresh the page to see the Super Follow Button) Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does. 

Frustrating Leaders

Sometimes people get the mistaken impression that the person they work for is not the brightest bulb on the tree. They think their boss may be a card or two short of a full deck. Perhaps they are not the sharpest knife in the set. 

Whatever clichéd insult they choose to use they are almost certainly mistaken. 

When we’re frustrated by the leaders above us in our organization we need to realize that somebody saw something in them. That is why they are in a leadership position. We need to look (sometimes we need to look hard) to discover for ourselves what their strengths are. Then we need to help them maximize their strengths. 

The best way to do that is to use our strengths to fill their gaps. You’re likely already well aware of those gaps. You’ve been complaining about them to anyone who would listen. You allow the gaps of the people above you to ruin your productivity and wreck your attitude. 

You let the shortcomings, both real and imagined, of the people above you in your organization have way more influence on your life than you should. You allow your frustrations to carry over to your personal life and impact those people most important to you. 

Stop that. Stop that because stopping that is completely within your control. When you decide to stop allowing other people’s possible shortcomings to frustrate you then you also decide to have a happier, more productive life. And career. 

When you use your strengths and skills to close some of the gaps of the people above you then you allow them to use their strengths to the best of their ability. Imagine the difference that can make for your organization, for your boss, and especially for you. 

I’m not as naïve as some of you might think. I know that sometimes people get promoted into leadership positions despite having some substantial gaps. Maybe it was nepotism, maybe it was knee pads, but whatever the case they are where they are at so deal with it. Professionally!

You were hired to do a job. You agreed to do that job for a certain level of compensation. If that level of compensation is being met then you have an obligation to do your job and to do it to the best of your ability. 

Allowing yourself to be frustrated by the leader above you negatively impacts your ability to do your job. Sharing those frustrations with co-workers negatively impacts their ability to do their jobs. 

None of that helps anyone. If you have a boss you struggle with then talk to them about it. Ask how you can help them eliminate the source of your frustration. As United States President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your company can do for you, ask what you can do for your company.” (Okay, I know he said country instead of company but you get the point)

Understand that your level of frustration is not determined by how frustrating someone else may be. It is determined but how much frustration you’re willing to allow into your life. 

I’d suggest you allow none!

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month people can follow a part of my Twitter steam that is for subscribers only. It features primarily short videos of me talking about the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page. (You may need to refresh the page to see the Super Follow Button) Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does. 

Are You a Doer Who Over Does It?

I love people who have a “get it done” mindset. Nothing happens until someone makes it happen and I think the world would be a better place if there were a few more “doers” in it.

But I struggle mightily with doers who can’t turn it off and who expect everyone else to be a doer like them. 

Successful organizations need doers. But they also need talkers. Talkers are people who can communicate a vision with the passion to help others make the vision their own. Organizations also need thinkers. Thinkers are people who help create the vision. Thinkers see things that could be and think “why not.” Organizations need planners too. Although doers may not always realize it, the planners provide them with the path to getting things done. 

An organization with too many of any of those types of people will be unbalanced and that imbalance can cause problems.

Leaders are also made up of those four types of people, often possessing more than one of those qualities. But the “doer” mentality is most prevalent amongst leaders. That is often a good thing. Often, but not always. 

Being a doer can at times put a leader so far out in front of their people that the people “lose sight” of the leader. When that happens people can’t really follow anymore. The other negative is that the leader can expect their people to always keep up. Even if that means working nights and weekends answering emails and messages pretty much around the clock.

That is not realistic. That burns people out. If you’re leading a thinker then you must give them time to think. If you’re leading a talker then you must at times be silent to give them space to talk. If you’re leading a planner then they will need time to focus and build the plan that will help you get more done. 

I’m all for providing people a push now and then to challenge them to be better and accomplish more. It’s just that if the pushing never stops it’ll start to feel more like a shove and the place you’re most likely to shove them is right out the door.

As they say, too much of a good thing isn’t so good. That includes over doing it and trying to force others to be a doer just like you. 

A Failure to Care

One of the most basic truths of Authentic Leadership is that you can care for people without leading them but you cannot lead them without caring for them. 

Attempting to lead people without caring for them causes the “leader” to actually manage people instead of leading them. Those leaders would tell you that they in fact do care about their people but their choice of words betrays them. 

We manage things. We lead people. We care about things, we care for people. The difference is not merely word games. The real difference is in mindset. The mindset of caring for others is the biggest difference between Authentic Leaders and those who merely have a title indicative of a leader. 

When you consistently demonstrate that you care for people the level of commitment you’re able to gain from the people you lead goes up. Way way up. People are not following you because of your title. They are following you because of what they have seen you do for others and what they have felt you do for them. 

When people feel better about themselves because of you then you are an Authentic Leader. 

I once had a person in a top level leadership position ask me how to fake authenticity. This was during a leadership workshop with his entire leadership team in the room. He said if I knew his people the way he knew his people I wouldn’t care for them either. Again, he said this out loud, with his entire leadership team in the room. I have done literally hundreds and hundreds of leadership meetings like that and I had never seen anything like that before. I’ve never seen anything like that since either. 

He was without a doubt the worst person I’ve ever seen hold a high leadership position. 

But he at least said what he thought out loud. I fear there are more people who think like him and indeed try to fake authenticity. They pretend to care. They think they are fooling people. They believe they are smarter than everyone else and that they will never be found out. 

But no one hides who they really are for very long. No one. People figure it out. If you’re in a leadership position then you must know that the people you’re supposed to be leading are almost always watching you. They are always evaluating whether or not your words match your actions. They want to know if you’re walking your talk. 

As I said earlier in this post, you cannot lead people without truly caring for them. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that you can’t “fake care” for very long. When you suffer from a failure to care then the people you’re supposed to be leading also suffer. They suffer from a lack of true leadership. 

If you don’t genuinely care for people then I would submit that you are not qualified to lead, not even yourself. 

Cascading Leadership

I have written many times about the importance of a leadership “down line.” What that means is, as important as leadership is at the top of the organization it is every bit as important at other levels of an organization. 

The leader at the top of an organization can be a very Authentic Servant Leader but in many organizations, especially large organizations, their leadership must be carried to other levels of the organization by their leadership team. If the team is not made up of effective leaders then the message, and likely the culture, of the organization does not reach very far.

That’s what it’s so important to have effective leadership spread out at every level. The vast majority of leadership comes from the middle of the organization, not the top. The top leadership may set the tone but if mid level leaders can’t carry the tune the broader workforce never hears it. 

Leadership cascades down through the organization. Poor mid level leaders act as a dam that stops the flow of Authentic Leadership. It has been said many times by many people that employees quit their managers, not their companies. That is absolutely true. That’s why even organizations with solid leadership at the top continue to lose key employees.  Employees who could be the future of their organizations. 

It has perhaps never been more important that organizations identify their key employees. They must make certain that they are being led by an Authentic Leader and not being managed by someone who merely holds a leadership position. 

Quality employees will no longer settle for being managed. They insist on being led, as well they should. 

If you’re a leader at the top of your organization then you need to ensure that your future “stars” are working under someone who understands the difference between trying to manage someone and actually leading them. 

Your “stars” need to be nurtured, challenged and informed. They need a leader who can mentor them, help them grow and set forth for them, a clear and obtainable career path. 

As a leader, you can stop the Great Resignation or whatever the heck you want to call it in it’s tracks. But to do so you must make certain that you have authentic leadership throughout your organization. You must especially be certain that your stars, who are the future leaders of your organization are being led and not managed. 

The next time you’re considering the effectiveness of your leadership be sure to consider whether you have “dams” that are blocking your leadership from reaching everyone in your organization. 

That’s important because if everyone can’t feel your leadership then your leadership may be more limited than you think. 

How to Avoid Every Confrontation

Most people hate confrontation. Most people who don’t hate confrontations go into them with the worst of motives. They want to “win” the confrontation at all costs. 

When someone needs to be confronted Authentic Leaders confront them. But they do it with empathy and compassion. Their goal isn’t to “win” a confrontation. Their goals are for both sides to maintain their self esteem, better understand their situation and to build a stronger relationship. 

Those goals are achievable but only if the confrontation actually takes place. 

Avoiding a confrontation comes with great costs, to both sides. The person not being confronted may have no idea what they are doing or saying is an issue for anyone. The cost for them of not being confronted is they lose the opportunity to improve. They lose the opportunity for a closer relationship. They may lose an opportunity for promotion at work or potentially, even their job. 

The cost for the individual who refuses to confront them can be even greater. Their lack of courage to confront someone can result in never ending frustration, poor mental health, damaged relationships and if they are in a leadership position, poor performance on the part of the people they lead.

All confrontations can be avoided by simply not confronting anyone. It’s easy, just do nothing. You do need to realize however that the consequences of avoiding confrontations cannot be avoided. You may think you’re better off not confronting someone but you would be wrong. 

There are ways to make the confrontation beneficial to both parties, but it takes a bit of effort. To confront in the right way pay attention to these key points:

Stick to the facts. Do you understand the facts? How you asked enough questions to understand the situation from all sides? Are you confronting in anger with raw emotion or are you prepared to confront with compassion built on a desire to help? Is there an upside to the confrontation that is measurable? Keep in mind if nothing can change then nothing will change. If you’re confronting someone over a situation that cannot change then you’re actually just “venting.” Venting is very one sided because while you may feel better for a short time it doesn’t help anyone else. 

Know the person you’re confronting. How much do you know about the person you’re about to confront? Unless you know the person well it’s best to begin your conversation with questions. If you begin with a tone of confrontation you risk shutting the other person down. That stalls most progress that may have been possible. If you want the other person to change something about their behavior then don’t start with criticism. Keep in mind, it will be very difficult for you to help someone see a benefit to changing their behavior if you don’t understand why they behave the way they do.

Make the fault seem easy to correct. Never make a situation worse than it is. Do not exaggerate. Your confrontation must be based on documented facts, not opinions. You MUST approach a confrontation with an open mind and be willing to admit that you may be a part of the reason for the confrontation. No matter your title, your role or your level of success, always consider the possibility that the real source of the problem stares back at you from the mirror every morning. 

Move forward towards improvement. Once you laid out your “case” then allow some time for the message to sink in. Ask the other person if they can restate what you’ve said to make certain what you said was understood. Then move forward. An effective confrontation need not be a lengthy conversation. You don’t need to bury the other person with examples, especially old examples from years past. Finish with a compliment. If you can’t think of a compliment then you’re not yet ready for a confrontation. Refer to the second thing to keep in mind. Get to know and understand the person before you confront them.

Above all, don’t think of confrontation in terms of winning and losing. It’s about caring enough to confront with compassion and helping another human being become the best possible version of themselves.

The Will to Succeed or the Will to Prepare

I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to someone who didn’t want to succeed. Even the most negative people, even people who are certain that they can’t succeed, want to succeed.

But most of them don’t succeed. If they all have the want to succeed then why don’t they? I think it’s because they lack the will to succeed.  So is having the will to succeed the “secret sauce” for success? Nope, it puts you in a better place then just having the want to succeed but not by much. 

I think the true key to ultimate long-term success is the will to prepare. 

Preparing means putting in effort, many times a ton of effort, with no immediate return for those efforts. 

A bunch of years ago after a particularly poor round of golf with my dad he convinced me that I really needed to focus on my short game. He was an excellent golfer and offered to help me with it. So one morning I called I said I had some time around lunch to do a little practice. I said “how about we meet at the practice range for an hour?” 

He replied if all I had was an hour then there was no point. He said 4 hours of practice at least a few times a week would be about right. I told him if I had 4 hours to spare I’d use it to play golf, not practice golf. He replied with some carefully worded comment about that might be why I suck at golf. 

He went on to say that every golfer “wants” to be good, but most aren’t “willing” to make the effort required to earn what they want.

I work with lots and lots of salespeople who want to sell more. Some even have to will to sell more, they make more calls, they see more people and they repeat the same mistakes again and again. They refuse to prepare for a sales call to maximize their opportunity with a prospect.  They decline to learn the art of selling, instead focusing on working more instead of working smarter. 

I see many people who really want to make a difference in the world by leading. But want doesn’t get it done. They struggle because that lack the will to make themselves an effective leader. They won’t invest a minute of their time in actual leadership training, many won’t even read a book a leadership. They don’t prepare to succeed as a leader and therefore they don’t succeed. 

What about you? I can safely say you want to be more successful. You may have the will to be more successful but do you have the will to prepare for success? Abraham Lincoln once said “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” 

He had to want to succeed, the will to succeed and most importantly, the will to prepare to succeed. 

Can the same be said about you?