Authentic Leaders Build a Strong Bench

Most Authentic Leaders wear at least two hats. The first of course is the hat of leadership. Leadership focuses on the people in the organization. People are what make an organization what it is. People are important, in fact, absolutely vital to the success of an organization. 

The second hat is the hat of management. Management focuses on the nut and bolts of running an organization. There are a ton of seemingly urgent tasks associated with managing a business or organization. In reality many of them are not all that important. 

But forever, managers and leaders alike have fallen into the trap known as the tyranny of the urgent. Once in that trap they spend way more time handling urgent matters, often, very very often, at the expense of the truly important things. The things that involve their people. 

One of those things, perhaps the most important thing, that gets buried in the tyranny of the urgent is developing the people who will one day lead the organization into the future. These are the people who will either maintain or even grow your culture as a competitive advantage. 

Developing these future leaders requires an intentional and deliberate investment of time. It requires that the Authentic Leader invest a piece of themselves in the success of their people. Authentic Leaders invest time to know and understand their people’s goals and objectives. It’s through that process that they learn about their strengths and developmental opportunities. 

When seeking to build a strong bench of future leaders they look for particular qualities that can grow into Authentic Leadership. They make note of an individual’s ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication means both speaking well AND listening well. It means being prepared to share ideas during a meeting and being able to defend their talking points with evidence and support materials. 

Authentic Leaders want their future leaders to possess outstanding human relations skills. The ability to build solid relationships is critical to any leadership role and ALL relationships are built on a foundation of trust. So today’s Authentic Leaders look for honesty and integrity in their future leaders. 

Leaders help groups of individuals become a focused and disciplined team. Leaders who build leaders observe their people to see who everyone gravitates to. Is there one person who other people consistently go to for help and advice? That may be your future leader. 

Authentic Leaders know that all leaders lead by example, whether they intend to or not. So they look for people who model the culture and values of the organization. They also want their future leaders to possess strong personal values and most importantly, live according to those values. 

They know that everyone makes mistakes. They also know that not everyone recovers from those mistakes. So they look for people who first of all are not afraid to make a decision. They pay particular attention when one of those decisions go wrong. They want to see the level of perseverance in the person and their creativity in fixing the wrong decision. They watch closely for the person’s willingness to accept responsibility for the mistake with integrity. People who attempt to hide their mistakes, or worse, shift responsibility to someone else, will never be an Authentic Leader. 

So, how about you. Are you working daily to strategically develop your “bench” of future leaders? If you’re not then I would submit to you that you’re missing a huge part of Authentic Leadership. That’s the part where you leave your organization in even better hands then when you were first given the helm. 

To make that happen you must keep yourself out of that trap of the tyranny of the urgent. One way to do that is to set aside time each day to work with, get to know, and build relationships with your people. Each day. All the time. It must be a priority. It must take precedence over the urgent things that may add no long term value to the organization. 

Your success as a leader depends a little bit on what you do today. But it is ultimately determined by what the people you leave behind do tomorrow. If that causes you to make developing a strong bench of future leaders a priority today, than the objective of this post has been accomplished. 🙂

Purposeful Planning

Most people don’t plan. They don’t plan because they believe plans “don’t work.” Nothing ever goes according to plan so what’s the point in planning they ask. 

One of the greatest military strategists and tacticians in the history of the United States, President Eisenhower once stated that plans are useless. (He had a little more to say on the subject of planning but we’ll get to that in a moment)

The truth is, most plans don’t work. They don’t work for a variety of reasons. One huge one is that even people who put in some level of effort creating a plan then fail to work the plan. So before we go any further let’s get one thing straight. No plan works if no one is working the plan. 

Planning does not guarantee success. It does however improve your odds of achieving it. 

Another reason plans don’t work is that the people developing them are not realistic. Two critical elements to a solid plan are knowing your starting point and your desired outcome. We call your starting point the “as is.” What is your current situation? What level of effort are you willing AND able to commit to your future success today. 

That’s where many plans go off the rails. The plan includes some pie in the sky estimate about the level of effort a person is willing to commit in order to reach the desired outcome. What we call the “should be.” 

Here’s one common example. People make a plan to get in shape. They are already very busy people but they commit to one hour a day of working out, most likely at some gym or fitness facility. Committing that hour is the easiest part of the plan. The hardest part of making that plan work often never even comes to mind for most people. 

The hardest part is committing to STOP doing something that’s become a habit in your life for one hour a day. When you make your plan you likely know that there are 24 hours in a day. But most plans look as if the act of making a plan somehow added an hour to everyday. It makes we wonder if people think the extra hour they have committed to doing something new is just gonna fall out of the sky. 

A successful plan for any type of self improvement must include what you will STOP doing in order to make the plan work. 

Now about that “should be.” 

Those who know me well know that I think I “should be” King. I don’t know King of what or who. I  do know so many things would be better if I was King. For instance, I would eliminate lines. There would be no more lines for popcorn at the movie theater. No lines for rides at Disney parks. No lines at the grocery store, absolutely no lines anywhere. Think of the time it would save. 

But…there are a couple of little problems there. First, I’ve sadly come to the conclusion that I’ll never be King. Of anything. While apps on Smartphones have contributed to the shortening of lines at theaters and grocery stores I’m afraid lines, lots and lots of lines, at Disney are a fact of life. 

By putting an uncontrollable and unattainable “should be’s” in your plan you demotivate yourself. That leads to the abandonment of your plan and reinforces the belief that “plans are useless.” 

Now, back to President Eisenhower. Yes, he definitely said, “plans are useless” but his complete statement was, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Eisenhower knew that plans seldom work out completely as intended. But he also understood that the act of planning prepared him for the unexpected. He was not surprised by what happened on the field of battle. That’s because all possibilities had at least been considered during the planning process. 

For most of us our “fields of battle” are competitive marketplaces, disrupted supply chains, unscrupulous competitors, and difficult economic conditions to name a few. But planning still pays dividends. I’d say in challenging times planning pays even greater dividends. 

Make sure you know your “as is.” Be honest with yourself. Be realistic with your “should be.” There are of course several more elements to a successful planning process but if you get those first two right you’re well on your way to a plan that will get you to where you want to go. 

Some of you know that I’ve been trying out something relatively new over on Twitter. It’s called SuperFollow. That means I post some tweets that are for subscribers only. The tweets I post for subscribers are video only. I post two each weekday, mostly on leadership but also sales and living a better life in general. I’m also way more available for questions from SuperFollowers than I can be for the million plus regular Twitter followers. The investment to see these “SuperTweets” is $4.99 a month, that’s about 17 cents a day. The videos continue to grow in popularity so clearly a lot of people think they are worthwhile. 

I don’t get to keep the entire $4.99. Twitter of course gets some, Apple, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, gets an even bigger chunk than Twitter. What’s left after that ALL goes to charity. So you can help yourself with solid video coaching and make a difference in the world too. This month the charity is very very close to my heart. All the proceeds are going to help kids with Down Syndrome. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

People are Not Assets 

I can’t even begin to count the number of business leaders who have told me that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. Sometimes they tell me that in response to a question I’ve asked. Many times they volunteer it, in an almost bragging kind of way. 

Gosh I wish that were true. I wish when you watched those business leaders in action you saw that philosophy come to life. That you saw people being cared for, nurtured and developed. That’s what you should do for people. Sadly, most of those business leaders really do treat their people as just another asset. 

But people are not assets. They are people, real life honest to goodness, human beings. 

Back in 2008-2009, during the start of the Great Recession, I had dinner with a friend of mine. He ran one of the best known medical device companies in the world. He often told me that the organization’s people were their greatest asset. He tried at least a half dozen times to hire me, telling me each time what a positive impact I could have on their people. 

The company was formulating a plan to layoff a significant number of people and he seemed genuinely tormented by the idea. I asked if they had considered every alternative to laying people off. He said he thought so. 

I said, “so you’ve ditched the executive perks like company cars, the special section for executives in the cafeteria, fitness club memberships, and the like. His answer belied his “people are our greatest asset” statement. He said those things had indeed been considered but were rejected. He said it didn’t make sense to disrupt the lives of the executive team to save “maybe 10 or 20 jobs.” I’ll bet it would have made sense to the people losing their jobs. 

Somehow I instantly got the feeling that if I had ever taken him up on one of his job offers mine would have been one of those 10 or 20 jobs not worth saving. 

Businesses are predicted to face significant headwinds in 2023. My advice to many business leaders would be to dial back the “people are our greatest asset” line. Because when push comes to shove those assets may be the first thing you decide to do without. That’s not a great look. 

Of course, there may be a chance that your organization is one of the many (thankfully) that still chooses to behave as if your people truly matter more than anything else. Your actions match your words. Not only do your people hear that they matter, they feel it. 

You lead your people rather than manage them. You invest in them. You develop them. You provide them with the best job security of all. You grow them into people who will always be in demand, even if circumstances prevent them from remaining a member of your team. 

As an Authentic Leader you know that words matter. You know that thoughts matter. You know that if you think of your people as an asset, like your building, a computer, or inventory, then that’s how they will be treated. Your thoughts and words shape your actions. That’s how it works for everyone. 

So you see people for what they are. Human beings. That makes a difference in every decision you make. It means that when things get tough you’ll ditch the executive fleet of cars and drive your family Chevy to the levy, even if the levy is dry. 

It means that when you get to the last resort of having to separate with some of your people it will truly be a last resort. Because you know that you don’t actually run a company, you lead people and they run the company. 

How to Lead and How Not to Lead – one more in a periodic series

Communication is way overrated. At least for people who don’t want to be considered leaders. If you fall into that category then it’s important that you keep in mind the basics of poor communication. 

First, communicate in a fashion that you understand. If other people “don’t get it” that’s their problem not yours. Give the people you’re supposed to be leading your directions and let that be that. As someone practicing the philosophy of not leading you know that it’s up to your people to know what you mean. That’s true no matter how crappy the directions you give might be.

Never ever allow people to ask questions, say, “I told you what to do, now go do it.” You can even throw in an occasional, “or I’ll find somebody who can” comment at the end. It’s possible that some of your people may even have some ideas of their own. In worst case scenarios they may even try to share some of those with you. 

It is imperative that you shut those down immediately. As someone deciding to not lead, you’re all about getting things done. Not necessarily getting the right things done the right way, just getting something done quick. Whether or not it adds value in any way is not the concern of someone like you. That stuff is for an actual leader. 

When your people come back with concerns about something not working you must send them packing ASAP. Order them to follow your poor directions. If is doesn’t work out it’s not gonna be your problem. You have already decided who you’ll be throwing under the bus when things go bad. 

When communicating with the people you’re supposed to be leading always be as vague as possible. You don’t want to get yourself pinned down with facts and statistics. Use as many “waffle words” as possible, words like “probably” and “maybe” are always good. As you advance into your crummy leader career you could begin to use “waffle phrases” like “could be” and “maybe yes and maybe no.” Those are particularly effective at confusing people. 

When communicating in writeing remember that typoes and misspellling can be your friend. People tend to focues on those and miss the entirely message. Don’t forget, spell checks and proper grammar is both for actual leaderers, you don’t need to mess with them details. 

Or…you could choose to Authentically Lead. That’s actually easier. All you need to do is consider who you are communicating with. You also need to consider what message you want to convey. 

Once you’ve said what you wanted to say then ask a couple of questions to make certain what you said and what was heard are in complete alignment. 

Ask also if there are any questions from the person or people you’re communicating with. Solicit input and ideas. LISTEN to what your people are telling you. Adjust your communication accordingly. 

Authentic Leaders know that one of the biggest mistakes they can make is assuming that actual communication has taken place. As an Authentic Leader you know that even if you believe your message was clearly stated, how it was received is what truly matters.

The most effective leaders are exceptional communicators. They accept 100% of the responsibility for the effectiveness of all of their communications. They adjust their communication to their people and never expect their people to adjust to them. 

They are even more careful with their written communication. They know that “tone” is easily misconstrued so they choose their words carefully and with consideration for how they will “sound.” 

As always, if you’re in a leadership position it’s your choice as to whether or not you choose to actually lead. Understand if you choose to not lead, you’ll be the one responsible for the vast majority of issues, problems and failures within your organization. 

You can choose to lead and avoid almost all of that. 

So… what you gonna choose?

What ALL Successful People Have in Common 

There are many things successful people have in common. Most have positive attitudes. Successful people possess the perseverance to push past obstacles that less successful people see as insurmountable. Others possess uncommon skills or strengths that give them an edge over other people. 

But there are a couple of things that ALL successful people do that contribute to their success. 

First, successful people develop the habits of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. Yes, it’s that simple. And yes, it’s that hard. 

Successful people have a goal achieving process in place. They work their way through that process on an almost daily basis. That process begins with setting goals that are clearly written out. Each goal has measurable objectives. It also includes a flexible but not endless timeline along with a specific plan for how they will move closer to at least one of their goals each day. 

For the majority of highly successful people goals have proven to be the key that unlocked their potential. It’s a key that everyone has, the difference is, highly successful people use it. 

But the second thing ALL successful people have in common is tied directly to the first. That “thing” is that ALL successful people got up off their butts and did something. 

That “something” likely began with setting goals. It likely required that they NOT do something they would have preferred to be doing…like sitting on their butt. Lots of people are able to get off their butts but many people find it too challenging and they sit right back down. 

Highly successful people were able to “get their rear in gear” and keep it there because they had the discipline required to motivate themselves. That discipline came from periodically reviewing their goals. But…you can’t review what you don’t have so…

Everyone has the ability to be highly successful. Yes, I understand that some people have more “built in” advantages. But many highly successful people have overcome severe disadvantages. Much of that “overcoming” was accomplished by deciding their disadvantages would not be an excuse for a lack of effort.

They were honest with themselves that while likely unfair, they would need to outperform other people to reach the same level of success. So they outperformed. 

You and every other person reading this can do the same. So can the person writing this, though I need reminding of that fact like most everyone else. 

So consider this a reminder for us all. Now, get up off that cushy tush and do something. 

Consider this too, some of you know that I’ve been trying out something relatively new over on Twitter. It’s called SuperFollow. That means I post some tweets that are for subscribers only. The tweets I post for subscribers are video only. I post two each weekday, mostly on leadership but also sales and living a better life in general. I’m also way more available for questions from SuperFollowers than I can be for the million plus regular Twitter followers. The investment to see these “SuperTweets” is $4.99 a month, that’s about 17 cents a day. The videos continue to grow in popularity so clearly a lot of people think they are worthwhile. 

I don’t get to keep the entire $4.99. Twitter of course gets some, Apple, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, gets an even bigger chunk than Twitter. What’s left after that ALL goes to charity. So you can help yourself with pretty good video coaching and make a difference in the world too. This month the charity is very very close to my heart. All the proceeds are going to help kids with Down Syndrome. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

Listening Days

I speak often on the importance of listening well. I believe that listening well is every bit as important to communication as speaking well. Many would say listening is even more important because listening informs us about how we should speak if we want to be listened to. 

Considering how important I believe listening is you might get the idea that I’m a very good listener. I’m likely better than average but I have a long way to go before I can say “very good.”

But I’m working on it. 

Before you decide that you’re a “good enough” listener you must realize what that means. “Good enough” means you’re settling for something that likely isn’t very good. It also means that it is possible you’re not willing to put in the effort required to be better. Sadly, it means you’re content going through life not really knowing and understanding what is happening around you. It means you’ll become involved in arguments because you missed the intent of a person’s words.

In short, being a “good enough” listener means you’re missing a whole bunch of life. 

But you can work on being better too. 

Your journey to listening better begins by admitting you can be a better listener. Being a better listener requires that we understand hearing is a passive activity and listening is an intentional one. Listening well requires focus. It requires that we linger on the words being spoken to us long enough to understand their meaning and intent. 

Listening well requires that we indeed listen to understand rather than listening to respond. It requires that we acknowledge that we can’t listen and talk at the same time. We can’t even listen and think about our response at the same time. We can’t listen and be fiddling with our phones at the same time. We can’t listen to someone and watch TV at the same time. 

Do you see a pattern here yet? You can’t do anything else and be focused on listening well.

If you think you can then I’m sorry to say you’re not being honest with yourself. 

I’ve started setting aside whole days to focus on listening. The people around me may not realize what I’m doing. The people I’m in meetings with may even think I’m not engaged. What they don’t realize is that I’m completely and totally focused on every word they are saying and how they are saying them. I’d made the decision before the meeting ever started that the day would be a listening day. I will speak only when I have something of absolute value to add. 

I’m sure since I’ve started this that people are “wondering” about me. They wonder what is wrong. That kinda makes me smile because the fact is, nothing is wrong. I’m just working hard to make sure I’ve heard everything exactly right. 

My listening days are helping me learn more. I’ve never learned anything while I was talking so talking less increases my opportunity to learn. I’m trying to make the most of those. 

I’ve often said that hearing is a gift from God but listening is a choice He gives us. It’s a choice I’m trying to make more often. I hope you’ll join me in the pursuit of better listening, we will all be better off for making the effort. 

Before you go…some of you know that I’ve been trying out something relatively new over on Twitter. It’s called SuperFollow. That means I post some tweets that are for subscribers only. The tweets I post for subscribers are video only. I post two each weekday, mostly on leadership but also sales and living a better life in general. I’m also way more available for questions from SuperFollowers than I can be for the million plus regular Twitter followers. The investment to see these “SuperTweets” is $4.99 a month, that’s about 17 cents a day. The videos continue to grow in popularity so clearly a lot of people think they are worthwhile. 

I don’t get to keep the entire $4.99. Twitter of course gets some, Apple, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, gets an even bigger chunk than Twitter. What’s left after that ALL goes to charity. So you can help yourself with pretty good video coaching and make a difference in the world too. This month the charity is very very close to my heart. All the proceeds are going to help kids with Down Syndrome. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

Creating Company Loyalty

If this was truly a post about creating more loyalty for your organization it would be done now. That’s because people will never be loyal to a company or an organization. People are loyal to people. They are not loyal to things. Companies and organizations are things.

Some people become “loyal” to a product because it has benefited them in someway. Other people may be “loyal” to a product or service because some famous person they like recommended it. Some of those people feel a sort of kinship with that famous person if they drink the same beer or eat the same food. Seems silly to me but companies don’t use celebrities in their ads for the heck of it. 

But Authentic Loyalty requires some emotional attachment and that requires human interaction. The actual definition of loyal is “faithful allegiance.” 

Loyalty rarely happens by accident. Loyalty is the result of intentional actions. Earning someone’s loyalty means you’ve taken specific actions to show them you are worthy of another person’s faith…hence the “faithful” reference, 

Earning loyalty begins by always doing what you’ve said you would do. When you’ve said you would do it. The foundation of loyalty is built upon trust and reliability. If you skip those, your foundation will collapse at the first sign of trouble. 

You must honor every commitment you make to the people you lead. Anything said in confidence must remain confidential. If you tell even one other person, it is no longer “in confidence” and you have broken a trust. Loyalty floats away on the river of broken trust. 

Judging people is a part of leading. Leaders need to weigh their people’s strengths and weaknesses to make certain they are placing people in roles where they can excel. Leaders with a loyal following make judgments about their people without being judgmental. 

Judging someone is a rational process based on the individual’s performance, both past and present. Being judgmental is rushing to judgment without reason. If you’ve ever said “all” anything or “all” any group then you’ve been judgmental. Because “all” people with tattoos are not the same. “All” republicans and all democrats are not the same. All white people and all black people are not the same. If you want to build loyalty then stop being judgmental and start seeing people for who and what they are. 

Since people can only be loyal to people you need to be the real you at all times. You need to walk your talk. You need to admit when you’re wrong. You need to be okay with admitting you don’t know it all. You must give credit where credit is due. You must hold yourself to the same high standards, or higher standards, that you hold everyone else to. 

Finally you must understand that you can’t do the heavy lifting of building loyalty while you’re holding a grudge. Let past slights and offensives go. To build the loyalty of your team you will need to accept every apology, even the ones you weren’t actually given. Petty grudges and past grievances, real or imagined, put walls up between you and the people you would lead. Walls that loyalty simply can not penetrate. 

Building loyalty amongst the people you lead is not easy. Authentic Leaders work at it because they know absent loyalty they run the risk of disengaged people who do only what’s required of them and never more. Disengaged people have always been around, looking for someone they could be loyal to. The only difference is, these days we call those folks “quiet quitters.” 

If you’re in a leadership position and you have quiet quitters in your organization then maybe it’s a loyalty issue. If it is then that’s on you, not on them. 

So lead. Lead Authentically. Authentic Leadership doesn’t fix everything but it sure does seem like it does. So lead, LeadToday.