Frustrated Followers

I’ve been fortunate for the vast majority of my career to work for and with leaders who were Authentic Leaders. They cared for their people, they were smart and they knew what they were doing. 

Except maybe for one guy. He was my first boss out of college. He didn’t seem to have a very high EQ and his IQ was virtually nonexistent. (Or so it appeared to me) He was functionally illiterate, his communication skills were subpar to say the least. 

But he was my boss. My boss! I had a brand new Engineering Degree and had been anointed by non other than myself as one of the smartest people on the planet. It was an impossible situation…I was a genius and my boss was not. So I set about fixing that injustice.

I decided, at least subconsciously, to be a “difficult” employee. Difficult might be a bit of an understatement…I was determined to make his life a living hell. I mean how hard could it be for a genius such as myself to chase this knucklehead out of the company. My goal was to do whatever was necessary for this guy to no longer be my boss.

I’ll spare you the ugly details of what I determined “difficult” to be. But he and the company we worked for had incredible staying power. Despite my best efforts they kept trying to find a way for us to work together and it took me two long years to finally reach my goal. 

I quit!

Apparently his 20 plus years at a family run company meant something to the owners. They also valued the skills I bought with me. 

It would be several years after I quit before I’d realize what a terrible employee I was. It was be a few more years before I’d realize what a terrible person I was to that boss. 

I’d made the horrible mistake of not seeing the value in someone different than me. My failure to see the value in another human being caused ME great frustration. I took that out on both my boss and any coworkers who happened to agree with him. 

That the man had certain “gaps” was never in doubt. My mistake was in thinking it was my job to expose those gaps. In reality part of my job was actually to fill those gaps. 

He was not technically proficient, I was. It was my job to help him use his strengths by filling his technical gaps. I failed at that…miserably. 

When your leader isn’t all that you think they should be don’t allow yourself to be frustrated. Don’t focus on their weaknesses, focus on their strengths. I can guarantee you that somebody saw those strengths and that’s why they are in the position that are in. Help them use their strengths by filling whatever gaps you can. 

Whether it’s in your job description or not you should understand that one of your roles is to support the other people in your organization. Especially those above you on the organizational chart. The only exception to that “rule” is if that support would include doing something illegal or unethical.

When you’re feeling frustrated by someone above you in your organization, or even someone at your level, remember this truth: being frustrated prevents you from using YOUR strengths. Being frustrated hurts YOU more than anyone else. 

So don’t focus on the things that frustrate you, focus instead on the things you can control. One of those things is helping the people who frustrate you to not frustrate you. That’s a whole lot more productive than constantly complaining. 

Are You Too Concerned With Your Reputation?

I played hockey from about the time I could walk up until… well I’d play now if I could find the time and a sheet of ice. I played with a friend from Peewees right through high school. He was quite the character, whenever he would score a goal, even at 12 years old, he would yell bingo. So we called him Bingo.

We still call him Bingo today. Being a “character” tends to stay with you. So does actually having character. But only having character truly defines you. 

Lots of people, I’d say most people, are far more concerned with their reputation than they are their character. That’s a mistake. 

Here’s why.

Have you ever heard it said of someone “their reputation precedes them?” That’s often considered a compliment. Then when you meet them you’re surprised that they are not at all what you expected. It turned out their reputation was more mirage than fact. It’s not that their reputation was wrong, it was simply a representation of “what” people think they do, not “who” they are. 

Remember this, your reputation may precede you but your character is always attached to you. 

Your reputation can be more valuable than money, there’s no question about that. I suppose that’s why people focus so much on their reputation. What they don’t realize is that their reputation is built upon the foundation of their character. 

The words they speak and the actions they take come straight out of their character. Reputation is who people think you are, character is who you really are. You may be able to hide behind a good reputation for a while but your true character will eventually show itself.

People of good character have no need to hide any part of their life. They take care of their character and their reputation takes care of itself. Your character is reflective of the core values you hold. 

Character is within you. It is even more important than other factors like race, religion, age, and personality in determining how you react during life’s tougher circumstances. Your experiences in life may influence the character traits you have—but it is your character itself that determines how you act.

People can “know” your reputation without really knowing you. Character traits like integrity, courage, honesty, loyalty, and perseverance can only be seen by those who truly want to know you. 

Even people of good character can have a less than stellar reputation because other people’s opinions of you and their biases for you and against you can shape your reputation. That’s how reputations become a mirage, they are often made of opinions. Character is based upon actions.

So which are you more concerned with…your reputation or your character? Focus on the long term by focusing on your character. Your character will eventually build a solid reputation made from facts, not opinions. 

Look and Listen

One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to coach the people you lead. We coach to reinforce positive behavior, we coach to motivate, and sometimes we must coach for corrective action. 

Most often that coaching is in the form of talking. We advise, we suggest, and hopefully not very often, we tell. 

So here’s two pieces of advice for the next time you find yourself in a coaching situation. 

First listen to what you’re saying. I’m serious about that…really listen. In fact, record the conversation and when you play it back listen to what YOU said. Listen to the tone of your voice. Were you speaking in positives and possibilities or were you speaking in negatives and consequences? 

Were you specific in why you’re coaching or did you leave the person you were coaching wondering what the conversation was really about. If you were coaching for corrective action were you very very specific in what needs to change and when? Were you crystal clear in how that change would be measured? Did you leave doubt about your expectations? Any doubt leaves a gray area. Coaching for corrective action requires that you “paint” your expectations in black and white as much as possible.

It’s important to know that when you allow gray areas while coaching for corrective action you give people a place to hide from responsibility. Shades of gray make for a mighty comfortable place to hide from change as well. 

More important than listening to yourself is looking at yourself. As a leader your people will do what you DO far faster than they will do what you SAY. If you’re coaching them towards a better attitude and your attitude sucks then all the words in the world aren’t going to change their attitude. 

As their leader YOU are their model for successful behavior. Whether you realize it or not, YOU are leading by example. If your words do not match your actions then your people will have to make a choice.

Do they do what you say or do they do what you do? They may not believe what they hear but they almost always will believe what they see. 

They will do what you do!

If you’re going to help your people trust what you say then your actions MUST match your words. If you force them to make a choice between “say” or “do” they will choose do and your chances of truly leading them will go the way of the dodo bird.

In both cases, listening to yourself and looking at yourself, you need to be completely honest. Authentic Leaders do not lie to themselves. Do not cut yourself an ounce of slack, if you think your tone was too negative then fix it. If you find that your actions are not a mirror image of your words then change your actions or change your words. 

They MUST match. 

Remember, you may hold a leadership position but your journey to Authentic Leadership never stops. You can and should continue to learn and grow, exactly like the people you lead.

Facts and Opinions

I should warn you right up front…this post is going to contain some shocking information. I won’t leave you hanging wondering what it is, I’ll get it out of the way right up front so you don’t have to wonder what it is any longer.

Not everything you read on the internet, and particularly in Social Media, is true. There it is! I said it! I mentioned the unmentionable! 

That’s not new information by the way, many of the things we see online and in social media have always been a little sketchy. It’s just that it’s so much more prevalent lately. It also has spilled over into the media. It used to be safe to assume that if it was reported in a newspaper or a network news program that it was an absolute fact. That may or may not be true anymore. 

Some of you may say that “my network is absolutely true, it’s the “other side’s” network that promotes lies.” That only proves my point…the facts reported on any network may or may not be true.

Anything you see or read on the internet or social media, especially social media, may or may not be true. 

So maybe we ALL need to apply a little more common sense to our beliefs and a tad bit less emotion. 

If you’re like me you tend to believe what you want to believe. If you’re like me you tend to believe things that are told to you by the people you hang around with…the ones who think like you. If you’re like me then when someone you don’t particularly like says something or tells you something you’re incredibly skeptical. So much so that you almost instinctively know they are likely wrong. Or lying. 

People like me and my friends never exaggerate or “create” a statistic or “fact” that helps to prove our point. Only “other” people do that. 

A study done by the University of Massachusetts found that most people lie in everyday conversations when they are trying to appear likable and competent. The study found that 60 percent of people lied at least once in a 10 minute conversation. 

I don’t know this for sure but I’m going to guess that many of those “lies” the study found wouldn’t be considered lies by the person who told them. But they weren’t facts either. They were not supported by any kind of evidence. So if they weren’t facts supported by provable evidence then what exactly were they?

I’m kinda working overtime right now to be more skeptical about the information pouring in from every direction. I’ll eventually decide for myself what’s true or not and I’ll decide with the help of actual evidence, the kind you can see and hear for yourself. I’m working really hard to be okay with being unsure about everything for a day or two until that evidence makes an appearance. If, after a while, no evidence appears then I’ll believe what I want to believe…with the clear understanding that I may be wrong.

That clear understanding that I may be wrong will also cause me to realize that a person who believes differently than me may be right. 

That means someone can be wrong without being a liar. Someone can believe something different than me without being my enemy. Someone can believe something that turns out to be untrue without being an idiot. 

Beliefs without evidence used to be called opinion. We were always told that people were entitled to their opinions but today we act as if there are no opinions, there are only truths and lies. But hanging a sign on a cow that says “Horse” doesn’t make that cow a horse. Believing a different opinion is a lie doesn’t make it a lie either. It’s still an opinion and people are still entitled to their opinions.

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the people who are “different” than me aren’t really that different. We all have far more in common than our differences would indicate. Find that commonality and you’ll likely find a friend as well.

And who couldn’t use a few more friends in these turbulent times.

Privileged Leaders

There are all types of leaders in the world. Cleary, some are better than others. The worst however are what I would call Privileged Leaders. 

Authentic Servant Leaders see leading others to success as a privilege. Privileged Leaders believe holding a leadership position entitles them to “special” rules not available to those they think they’re leading. They live by the old saying “Rank has it’s privileges.” They make that old saying come to life by providing themselves with many privileges not available to the people they claim to be leading. 

Privileged Leaders will never have the commitment of the people they supposedly lead because they don’t think they need it. Without that commitment they simply cannot lead. 

Privileged Leaders are poor communicators because their different set of rules act as a wall between them and their people. They don’t understand the people they try to lead because they don’t care to understand the people they try to lead. 

They don’t value the people they are supposed to be leading because they see value only in themselves. They don’t listen to the people they hope are following them because…well because they don’t listen to anyone. 

Privileged Leaders believe that their title or position is what makes them special. They believe their income level makes them better human beings. 

Authentic Servant Leaders believe they aren’t special at all. They believe it’s the people they lead who are truly special. They value those people and seek out their advice. They listen, intently, to what they have to say. No amount of money, no title or position will ever make them think they are better than another human being. 

You’ll recognize a Privileged Leader the moment you see them. They will have placed themselves on a pedestal so high above the people they think they are leading that those people couldn’t follow if they wanted to. 

Authentic Servant Leaders make certain they stay close to their people. They lead from the front, they lead from the middle and sometimes they even lead from the rear. Whatever the case may be they lead from along side their people and never put themselves above them. 

Privileged Leaders have no way of learning how mistaken they are because they also believe they have nothing left to learn. They “know” every decision they make is the right decision simply because they made it. They don’t question themselves and woe to any person who dares to question their thinking. 

Authentic Servant Leaders know they will never know it all. They also know they don’t need to. They have a wealth of knowledge in the people who are committed to following them. They “tap into” that knowledge bank with great regularity for the benefit of their entire organization. They know that they could be wrong about virtually anything so they value having their decisions challenged. That challenge either confirms their thinking or causes them to change it, again to the benefit of the entire organization. 

If you’re working for a Privileged Leader then fasten your seat belt. It’s gonna be a rough ride. They won’t learn from their mistakes because they will never admit to them. They must either be forced out by an Authentic Servant Leader or the organization they are supposed to be leading will simply go the way of many failed organizations.

If you’re working with an Authentic Servant Leader then count your blessings, which will be many. Working for an Authentic Servant Leader gives you and your organization ample opportunities to grow. Make sure that you make the most of those opportunities.

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Follow-Up”

Congratulations! You have a plan. If you’ve followed the steps we laid out in the previous 7 posts you not only have a plan, you have a plan based on your values and goals. There are not too many people who can say that. So good for you.

While your plan is ready to be implemented, or “launched” it is not yet done. In fact, the best plans are never done. That’s why the 8th and not really “final” step in the process is called The “Follow-Up.” 

Even as you work your way through your plan you should be reviewing it periodically to make sure it still “works” for you. If we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s that life has a not so funny way of turning our plans to mush. 

Mushy plans are not good plans. So constantly be tweaking your plan. 

While tweaking your plan you must keep this undying principle in mind…you plans can, will, and should change as circumstances require. The Core Values upon which you’ve built your plan should remain rock solid. 

Your well thought out and developed plan is a living plan. Do not allow it to die a circumstantial death. As your environment changes, as you change, as circumstances change, your plans must change as well.

The “Follow-Up” step is where you schedule 30, 60, 90, 180 day reviews of your plan. During the 180 day review schedule additional follow-ups as needed. Put these follow-ups on your calendar. Ask your coach, mentor, or accountability partner to review the progress you’ve made towards your plan. They can offer suggestions for adjustments or advise you to stay the course. 

You now have a plan that clearly states who you are and where you are. You have a plan that says specifically who you will be in the future. You have a plan that illuminates the path that you need to follow to arrive at your goals in life. 

Continuously feed your plan with fresh thinking. Provide it with the effort and discipline needed to keep your plan in constant forward motion. 

Your reward will be a life full of the things you earned while working your plan. Pay particular attention to that previous sentence. Your reward will be the things you EARNED while WORKING your plan. 

You have an awesome plan but it will not work for you if you do not work for it. Work your plan and enjoy the life it helps you earn.

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Launch”

The “Launch” is the seventh step in our planning process. It’s also one of the most frequently skipped steps. It is amazing to me how many times I’ve seen a person or a company invest time and in the case of companies, huge amounts of money, to develop a great plan and then do nothing with it. 

Years ago I was working for a company and we were contacted by one of the largest banks in the world. While they were already huge, their growth was stagnant and they wanted a plan to begin growing again. 

We advised them that the first step of developing a plan would be determining where they were at right now…we needed a crystal clear idea of their “As Is.” As I said this was a large bank and the most effective way to determine their current situation was to conduct a needs assessment throughout all levels of the organization. This would a seven figure investment and they would receive an actionable plan that would lead to a return to growth for the organization. 

We delivered the plan to the bank on time, which was four months after the process began. They were a little overwhelmed at the amount of detail we provided but they agreed wholeheartedly with our findings. They were excited to be moving forward. 

We scheduled our first follow up meeting (The Follow Up will be the 8th and final step in our process) for 90 days after they put the plan into action. 90 days later when we called to confirm the follow up meeting they asked to reschedule. They were still preparing to launch the plan “in the very near future.” Remember they paid over a million dollars for the needs assessment and the plan that came out of it. 

The bank NEVER did actually launch the plan. They had the best of intentions. They invested heavily to make certain their plan was actionable and that their desired outcomes would be achieved. But they failed to launch!

The “Launch” is where having a coach or a mentor can make a huge difference. Without someone to hold you accountable you may never begin. Or, you may have a few “false starts” and then never get going again. 

Think of all the time you’ve invested to this point. You likely know more about yourself then you ever have before. You’ve dreamed your dream and made a plan to make it become real. You’ve done the hardest part. 

All that’s left is to implement the plan. 

You need to take that first step. Some of us, okay, most of us will still need a little push. That’s what your coach or mentor is for. If you think coaches or mentors are only for big shots then don’t get one.  But find yourself an accountability partner and ask them to hold you accountable. The only requirement for an accountability partner is that they care enough about you to actually hold you accountable. 

I can’t say that strongly enough…whoever you ask to hold you accountable MUST truly CARE for you. That is a must must must! They need to be willing to keep encouraging you, pushing you, even scolding you in that’s what’s needed. Your accountability partner needs to stay along side of you when you tell them you’re done. They must care enough to not allow you to be done. 

Some people seem to misread the title of this step. After completing their plan instead of going to “launch” they simply go to lunch…and apparently never come back. Lunch can wait, your future will not! Implement your plan ASAP…as in today because in you’re always waiting for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.